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Tuesday March 5th 2024

Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood | 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Alta View Drive, Studio City
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: Rick Dalton's house and the neighbours' gate on 'Cielo Drive': Alta View Drive, Studio City

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Quite a challenge not to give too much away, but here goes…

Set in 1969, period dressing thankfully takes precedence over CGI, and Los Angeles itself provides plenty of authentic locations – though the feel of the era is more important than year-by-year accuracy.

So, lots to see. Rent yourself a ’66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and buckle up.

TV Western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) with his longtime pal and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are neatly introduced in a b&w faux documentary interview on the set of Rick’s TV show Bounty Law.

The Western town set is the old Melody Ranch, 24715 Oak Creek, Newhall near Santa Clarita, a few miles north of Los Angeles.

Opened by Monogram Pictures in 1915, the ranch was the setting for countless Westerns, including most of John Wayne’s Lone Star Monogram titles, as well as early Republic Pictures, such as Tumbling Tumbleweeds with Singing Cowboy Gene Autry, a big star who, in 1952, bought the studio – hence its current musical name.

And, yes, in the Fifties, it was used for the backdrop to television favourites including Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, The Cisco Kid and the classic, Gunsmoke (although not, alas, Bounty Law, which is pure Tarantino invention).

Although the lot was virtually destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1962, it’s since been painstakingly rebuilt.

Did you recognise the main street from Tarantino’s Django Unchained, or as Deadwood, from the TV series?

The Melody Ranch Museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of movie memorabilia, from nine decades.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Parking Lot, Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: Rick meets with agent Marvin Schwarz: Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood | Photograph: Mal Davis

With Bounty Law cancelled, Rick realises his career is in freefall. Agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) even floats the dread prospect of making big-screen Westerns in (gasp!) Europe, at a meeting in one of the movie town’s great institutions, Musso and Frank Grill, 6667-9 Hollywood Boulevard in the very heart of Hollywood.

Opened in 1919, Musso and Frank is the oldest surviving restaurant in Hollywood and, astonishingly, remains virtually unchanged with high ceilings, dark wood paneling, and comfy red booths. The waiters and bartenders dress in the same red coats that they’ve worn since regulars like Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo were served here.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Parking Lot, Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: Rick meets with agent Marvin Schwarz: Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

From the 1930s, Musso and Frank acquired a reputation as the hangout for writers including James M Cain, Raymond Chandler, Nathaniel West, Dashiell Hammett and more. The tradition continued with a new generation led by the likes of Charles Bukowski.

Don’t be intimidated by its reputation. Musso and Frank is an oasis of old-school charm and civility, serving up what many people consider the very best martinis (with chilled sidecar, of course).

The restaurant has two sections and, to get the best photos, I naturally booked a table in the historic older one, only to realise later that the meeting with Schwarz was filmed in the restaurant’s bar, the 1955 addition still referred to as the New Room. Still, that gives me an excuse to go back.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Parking Lot, Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Rick breaks down: Parking Lot, Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

It’s in Musso and Frank’s parking lot at the rear that Nick breaks down as he realises he’s staring failure in the face.

A brief flashback, revealing the truth behind why Cliff is currently driving Nick around town (too many drunk driving tickets) introduces another Tinseltown institution, with the unmistakable neon frontage of The Frolic Room, 6245 Hollywood Boulevard, gleaming in the background.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Frolic Room, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: Rick's drunken shunt: Frolic Room, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

You can glimpse the Frolic again later, alongside Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard (showing Three In The Attic) as Cliff drives Rick home from the studio. A great little dive bar, you can see the Frolic’s interior in L.A. Confidential as Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) pops in for a drink.

An ominous note is sounded when it’s revealed that Rick lives on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, an address that’s etched into Hollywood lore. He’s the neighbour of director Roman Polanski, hot from Rosemary’s Baby, and heavily pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: the turn-off to the Polanski-Tate property: Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon

That hairpin bend leading up to the house, seen several times, is the real Cielo Drive at the junction with Bella Drive.

I assumed this spot was chosen for its visual impact but, visiting to get the photo, I discovered that this turn-really is just a few hundred yards from the site of what was Polanski and Tate’s rented home at the eastern end of the Drive.

The modest, farmhouse-style home, built for actor Michelle Morgan in 1942, was 10050 Cielo Drive. It survived for many years afterwards, eventually becoming home to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails who installed a recording studio.

When he had second thoughts and moved out in 1994, the house was demolished and a Mediterranean villa built on the site. Nothing recognisable was left and even the number of the plot was changed to expunge all trace of the nightmarish events – and to discourage ghoulish sightseers.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Alta View Drive, Studio City
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: Rick Dalton's house on 'Cielo Drive': Alta View Drive, Studio City

Rick’s house in the film is a few miles northeast of the real site. It's 10969 Alta View Drive, off Laurel Canyon Drive near Studio City

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood filming location: Alta View Drive, Studio City
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood location: the entrance to the Polanski-Tate property on 'Cielo Drive': Alta View Drive, Studio City

The house tucked away behind it at 10974 Alta View Drive stands in for the Polanski-Tate home.   |   MORE >>>

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