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Friday April 19th 2019

Travel – Los Angeles: South Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Pedro 4


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Warner Grand Theatre, Long Beach
Classic movie palace – Warner Grand Theatre, Long Beach

Much of Stanley Kramer's sprawling 1963 comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was filmed around Long Beach, though redevelopment has removed most traces of its locations. A single palm from the film’s famous ‘W’ remains at Portuguese Bend, but it’s on private property.

Long Beach often stands in for ‘Miami’ (particularly on TV’s CSI: Miami), but for Frank Oz’s Tinseltown satire with Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger, a stretch of Pine Avenue, Long Beach, was transformed into ‘Beverly Hills’.

The bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula are regularly used as a dramatic seafront setting. The tower hideout of villain Knox (Sam Rockwell) was built here for Charlie’s Angels, as was the Governor’s mansion for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, while the Pearl itself sailed just off the coast. The ashes of sad sack Donny (Steve Buscemi) are scattered here at the end of The Big Lebowski.

The windy bluff of Angels Gate Park, 3601 Gaffey Street in San Pedro, is a bracing antidote to the LA fug, with terrific views over the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the west and the busy industrial port of San Pedro to the east. It’s here you’ll find the Korean Bell of Friendship, alongside which the mismatched line-up meet with jewel fence, Redfoot in Bryan Singer’s breakout success The Usual Suspects.

Built within a redwood grove, Frank Lloyd Wright’s awe-inspiring 1946 wood and glass Wayfarers Chapel, 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, all but melts away as the inside and outside blend to form a ‘natural cathedral’. The venue for numerous celeb weddings, it’s where Lt Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) and Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan) get married at the end of Joe Dante’s Innerspace.

The Point Vicente Lighthouse, Point Vicente Drive South, is the ‘Hawaiian’ lighthouse where Rafe (Ben Affleck) complicates matters for everyone by unexpectedly returning, after being presumed dead, in Pearl Harbor.

In fact, a whole stretch of West 6th Street in Long Beach was transformed into ‘Honolulu’ for the movie. Like Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), you can catch a movie at the magnificent Warner Grand Theater, 478 West 6th Street. The cinema shows American classics as well as foreign films, so it’s not impossible that you too might see Chaplin’s The Great Dictator here.

The circular International Tower, Long Beach Boulevard, is the tower block from which the drugged-out woman plummets to her death at the opening of Lethal Weapon, and from beneath which Eleanor, the 1973 Mustang, is stolen in both the 1974 version of Gone In 60 Seconds and the 2000 remake.

The Queen Mary, 1126 Queen’s Highway, is naturally a shoo-in for shipboard scenes (Chaplin, The Poseidon Adventure…) but you may not know that its streamlined Art Deco interior is just as likely to be seen, as a ‘New York’ nightclub in both Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me and in Pearl Harbor, a ‘Manhattan’ restaurant in Barton Fink, and hosts the wrap party for Howard Hughes’s flying epic, Hell’s Angels, in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

This tour ends at San Pedro, which seems only fitting as countless films climax with a chase and shootout among the containers of San Pedro’s docks. Its memorable screen appearances include The Usual Suspects and – although the setting was supposed to be ‘San Diego’ – Southwest Marine is where the ship carrying the T Rex crashes into the pier in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

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