American Gigolo | 1980
High-class rent boy Julian Kaye (Richard Gere) discovers the downside of Tinseltown when he’s framed for murder.
Borrowing its striking visual style from Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il Conformista (in fact, it shares the same Production Designer, Ferdinando Scarfiotti), Paul Schrader’s movie was filmed round a cool, slick, pastel Los Angeles – particularly Westwood Village, a one-time exclusive enclave between Hollywood and Bel-Air, where Kaye’s stylish home, the ‘Westwood Hotel Apartments’, is supposedly sited.
The building was actually the Sunset Plaza Apartments, which stood at 1220 Sunset Plaza Drive, Mount Olympus, to the north of Beverly Hills.
The diner where Kaye is questioned by Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo) really was in Westwood, and was the Me & Me, 10975 Weyburn Avenue, in the shadow of Mann’s Village Theatre, the white Spanish-Moderne tower in the background at 961 Broxton Avenue.
It’s on the main drag, Westwood Plaza, that bored society wife Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton) trails Kaye until ‘accidentally’ bumping into him in Tower Records. The white Spanish-domed structure seen here is a Westwood landmark dating from 1929 and currently housing Japanese restaurant Yamato, 1099 Westwood Boulevard.
Westwood is home to the University of California, and the quiet wooded glade where Stratton tells him she’s going away for a while is the University’s Mildred E Mathias Botanical Garden, 100 Stein Plaza Driveway, a seven-acre tree-shaded canyon southeast of the campus, off Hilgard and Le Conte Avenues.
Kaye drives a couple of miles east to Beverly Hills, where he takes clients to legendary ‘Pink Palace’ – the Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Boulevard.
The Mission Revival-style building, dating from 1912, is discretion itself, as befits a place which has housed Howard Hughes, Gable and Lombard, Charlie Chaplin and – reputedly – Marilyn’s liaisons with the Kennedy brothers.
There’s no filming allowed at the hotel anymore, after the heat from a production crew’s lights set off the hotel’s sprinkler system, though you can see its grand entrance again in Saving Mr Banks.
The open air café where Kaye gets an ominous warning was itself on Rodeo Drive, opposite the Polo Ralph Lauren store at 444, but establishments on this image-obsessed strip come and go as fashion dictates.
Further east, in Hollywood, is the gay disco where he has to go to fix up an alibi, A.D. (formerly, and famously, Probe, one of LA’s oldest gay discos), 836 North Highland Avenue, near Melrose Avenue.
The glitzy restaurant where our dishevelled hero gets short shrift when he pleads for help was Perino’s, 4101 Wilshire Boulevard at Norton Avenue. This classic Hollywood restaurant, seen also Mommie Dearest and Dead Again, closed in 1986. It's since been converted into luxury apartments and, though the restaurant has gone, its sign and striking canopy are preserved around the corner on Norton Avenue.
Kaye takes Route 111 east out of Los Angeles for his assignment with the creepy voyeur and his wife, which was filmed in Palm Springs.