The Doors | 1991
The shaman/Native American mysticism of Oliver Stone’s biopic of The Doors' singer/songwriter/poet Jim Morrison somehow never quite gels, but it beats a straightforward fame’n’drugs drama any day.
Getting out of Los Angeles for a couple of scenes, the band visits San Francisco, in its full sixties incarnation, and outrages Ed Sullivan in New York (though Morrison didn’t actually sing “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” on live TV after being ordered to change the line).
In Los Angeles, quite a few of the city’s venerable institutions are seen. The band performs at the Whisky a Go-go, 8901 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, which was repainted vibrant red and had its striped awnings restored for the movie.
The legendary ‘London Fog’ club (now part of rock hangout Duke’s Coffee Shop, 8909 Sunset Boulevard), where The Doors were house band, is played by the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Boulevard, then part-owned by Johnny Depp and, yes, destined to be remembered forever as the spot where River Phoenix ODd in 1993.
The bar, where bad boy Morrison takes a pee against the counter, is Barney's Beanery, 8447 Santa Monica Boulevard, a West Hollywood drinking hole since 1927, when it served up beans to travellers on the old Route 66 into the city. It’s alleged that Jean Harlow used to pick up men here, and it’s where Janis Joplin spent her last evening.
Barney's is enjoyably raucous, and where else but in Hollywood is the karaoke evening likely to end with a movie star turn? Barney's is also featured in Brian de Palma’s Body Double, and the 1986 thriller Out of Bounds, with Anthony Michael Hall.
After his breakdown, Morrison enjoys a drink on the window ledge above the traffic at the venerable Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard, built in 1929 and long a residential hotel for the likes of Boris Karloff, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn and Harlow again. But most famously, it was here in 1982 that another personality programmed to auto-destruct, John Belushi, ODd on coke and heroin. The legendary hotel is seen also in the fabulous car wreck of a movie, Myra Breckinridge, provided the hotel exterior of (and the inspiration for) the ‘Mon Signor Hotel’ in the disastrous indulgence Four Rooms, and was seen in the Mark Wahlberg heavy metal vehicle Rock Star and the location for Sofia Coppola’s 2010 Somewhere, with Stephen Dorff.
The ‘New Haven’ concert, brought to a halt when Morrison is arrested for abusing the cops, filmed in the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, 842 South Broadway, downtown Los Angeles (seen also in Kenneth Branagh’s enjoyably daft Dead Again, Arnold Schwarzenegger misfire Last Action Hero, and used for the premieres of both Plan 9 From Outer Space in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood) and of A Russian Affair in The Artist.
More footage was filmed at the disused, now demolished, Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles.
The desert scenes were shot in Providence Mountains State Park, a 5,900 acre recreation area on a mountain slope overlooking a vast expanse of desert. Way out in the middle of nowhere, take I-40 about 100 miles east of Barstow, then turn northwest on the Essex Road. There was trouble for the movie company when the fake Native American pictographs painted for the movie proved more difficult to remove than had been promised.
The final scene was filmed at Morrison’s grave in Paris’ largest cemetery, the Père Lachaise, 65 boulevard de Menilmontant in the 20th arrondissement. The much-graffitied grave is in the 16th section. From the main entrance, take the Avenue Principale to the Avenue de Puits, turn right and follow the Avenue Casimir-Perier. Other celeb graves seen in the movie include Oscar Wilde (Jacob Epstein’s carved sphinx), Bizet, Marcel Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Balzac and Rossini.
You can also find the tomb of lovers Abelard and Heloise, and the graves of Simone Signoret, Edith Piaf, Gericault, Chopin, Colette, Isadora Duncan, director Max Ophuls, Marie Walewska (Napoleon Bonaparte’s mistress, played on screen by Garbo in Conquest) and of course cinema pioneer Georges Méliès, portrayed by Ben Kingsley in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.