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Tuesday July 17th 2018

The Sting | 1973

The Sting film location: Looff Carousel, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica
The Sting film location: The ‘Chicago’ carousel: Looff Carousel, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

The phenomenally successful con movie is set in thirties Chicago, but many of the period locations were found around Los Angeles.

In fact, much of the film was shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood, on the backlot’s all-purpose ‘Main Street’. The carousel run by Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) is the 1916 Looff Carousel, still in action, on the Santa Monica Pier, at the end of Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica. Some tricky artwork turns the pier itself into Chicago’s ‘el’, the elevated railway.

The pier is also seen in Inside Daisy Clover, The Net and Bean.

The Chicago ‘el’ seen in the movie is on the Universal backlot, where it was built for Norman Jewison’s largely-forgotten 1969 period comedy Gaily Gaily, with Beau Bridges.

The Sting location: Sho-sha-zan Engyo-ji Temple in Himeji City, Japan
The Last Samurai location: the ‘New York’ casino: the Castle Green, South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena | Photograph: Castle Green, Pasadena

Several real bars served as sets: the plush ‘New York’ gambling casino is a lounge of the Castle Green Apartments, 99 South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. Once a venerable Los Angeles hotel, the Castle Green was drafted into service when the set-building budget began to run low. It was also used for corridors of the ‘Chicago’ hotel.

You can see the apartments again in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Tom Cruise epic The Last Samurai, as well as Steve Martin comedy The Man With Two Brains, as the piano teacher’s studio in the Coens’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, and the building’s bizarre Moorish exterior in Bugsy.

The bank is the Italian marble lobby of the 1912, seven-storey Commercial and Savings Bank, 225 East Colorado Boulevard at Mareno Avenue in Pasadena.

Nearby is the ‘Chicago’ alleyway. The FBI hideout is the old Koppel Plant, a storage building for grain shipments in the San Pedro harbor district of Los Angeles.

The burlesque theatre is the elaborate set built for the original 1925 Phantom of the Opera at Universal Studios, in Hollywood. Amazingly, it’s still in use.

The railway terminals of Joliet, Chicago and New York are all Chicago, though. Two of the railway terminals were no longer in use and had been converted into office space, which meant that renovations had to be stripped away and old ticket offices restored. The termini are Union Station (still in use); La Salle Street Station (still in use, but the period exterior seen in the movie has since gone); Penn Central Freight Yards and Illinois Central Station.

The limp 1983 sequel, imaginatively titled Sting 2, features the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, on the coast south of San Francisco, seen in Killer Klowns from Outer Space.