Sunday, November 27, 2011

Your favorite Christmas films?

Christmas with the Griswolds

Now that Thanksgiving has passed I'm in full Christmas mode. The tree is up, wifey has been putting up decorations, we've both started the shopping madness and now we're ready for a marathon of Christmas movies. Well, my wife will watch a movie now and then and I'll be the couch potato that will watch one right after the next. Thank goodness for laptops and smartphones - I rarely need to get up from the TV.

Every year I like to mix in some of my favorite Christmas films with others I've never seen before. By far my favorite annual film is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). No matter how many times I see this film I always find myself laughing out loud. My brothers and I can practically quote the whole film.

The Griswold Home

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse."

That's Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) ranting after so many things go wrong with the perfect Christmas he had planned. 

I've already got Holiday Affair (1949) with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh in this season. Next up on the viewing list is the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn.

What are your favorite Christmas season films to watch? I'm always on the look out for some lesser known holiday films. This year I'm going to watch All Mine to Give (1957) which I've only heard of a couple years ago and have not seen yet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hollow Triumph (1948) (a.k.a. The Scar) - Film Locations

Hollow Triumph (a.k.a. "The Scar")

Actor Paul Henreid, probably best known as Victor Laszlo in the film Casablanca (1942), gives a thrilling and very different performance in the noir Hollow Triumph (1948), also known as The Scar. Henreid plays brilliant crook John Muller, who with the help of a few friends, attempts to pull a heist on a casino. Things don't go according to plan and Muller must take the money and go into hiding. The casino owner, a tough gangster, will stop at nothing to capture Muller and sends two of his thugs to capture him.

While in hiding, Muller is mistaken on the street as Dr. Bartok, a psychiatrist, who bears a striking resemblance to Muller. Only the real Dr. Bartok has a scar across his cheek. Muller takes a photo of Dr. Bartok and then using the photo for reference, creates a scar on his own cheek. Only the photo lab made a mistake and printed the image in reverse, so Muller ends up with the scar on the wrong side of his face. This doesn't stop Muller from fooling most people into believing that he is Dr. Bartok, including the doctor's tough-minded secretary Evelyn Hayn (Joan Bennett). But for how long can Muller impersonate the doctor before people begin to catch on?

A few of the film's scenes take place in downtown Los Angeles and some of the landmarks that can be seen are the Barclay Hotel, Angels Flight, and the Olympic Theatre. Here are a few of the locations seen in Hollow Triumph.

The first is the Barclay Hotel, located at the corner of 4th Street and Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. In the scene below, the two thugs that are after Muller find him in a hotel/apartment building across the street from the Barclay.

Two thugs after Muller (Henreid). Barclay Hotel in background.

The Barclay Hotel as it appears today.

Although in the film the thugs find Muller leaving an apartment/hotel across the street from the Barclay, the building that stood across the street at the time of filming, the Westminster Hotel, is different from the building seen in the film. The film crew must have shot the building where Muller is hiding out in a different location and then edited the film to make it look like it was across from the Barclay.

Muller leaves the apartment/hotel building across the street
from the Barclay hotel.

This is how the building looks in the film.

This is the Westminster Hotel, the building that was actually 
across the street from the Barclay Hotel.

This is how the same location looks today.

Muller takes off running from the thugs.  He runs up to Hill and Third Street, pass the Belmont Hotel and up to Angels Flight next to the Third Street Tunnel. You will see that this location has changed drastically since the time of filming. Angels Flight was moved a few blocks over, the tunnel has been widened, and all of the buildings have been demolished and replaced by more modern high rise buildings.

Muller runs up to Angels Flight.

Vintage look at Angels Flight and the Third Street Tunnel.

The Third Street Tunnel as it appears today.

The two thugs, standing on Third Street next to the Belmont Hotel,
spot Muller boarding the Angels Flight.

Two old men in 1969 stand at Third Street next to the Belmont.

Looking down Third Street where the Belmont Hotel once stood.

Later in the film there is another chase scene with Muller (Henreid) trying to get away. In this scene we see the historic Olympic Theatre located at 313 W. Eighth Street and the intersection of Eighth and Hill Street. This same intersection was the site of another chase scene with Pat O'Brien and Bette Davis in the film Bureau of Missing Persons (1933).

Muller passes the Olympic Theatre on Eighth Street.

Olympic Theatre (on right) as it appears today.

Rounding Eighth Street onto Hill Street.

Looking down Hill Street at Eighth Street.

Looking North down Hill Street from Eighth Street.


Looking North down Hill Street from Eighth Street.

Hollow Triumph (1949) is available on DVD. It is also available on Netflix as a Watch Instantly title, but under the name, The Scar.

Vintage photos from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Street images (c) Google 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Marilyn Monroe's LA Haunts and Hangouts

Marilyn Monroe

To celebrate the release of the upcoming film My Week with Marilyn starring Michelle Williams as the iconic Marilyn Monroe, the Huffington Post has put together an interesting list of some of the stars's former haunts and hangouts. The list includes restaurants she ate it, hotels she stayed at and her final resting place. Visit the Huffington Post site to read the full article and have fun retracing Monroe's steps.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Impact (1949) - Film Locations

Impact (1949)

I'm going beyond the borders of Los Angeles again, this time exploring the Northern California filming locations for the 1949 film, Impact. This is the second time I've tracked down locations in the Northern half of the state. A few weeks back I did a post on The Lawless (1950) which was filmed in the small towns of Grass Valley and Marysville. That got me thinking about possibly changing the tag line on my blog to something that would include exploring the world of "Hollywood" beyond just the borders of Tinseltown. My focus will remain on Hollywood and Los Angeles, but look for an occasional post outside LA city limits.

Impact stars Brian Donlevy as cuckold Walter Williams, a wealthy San Francisco businessman who's wife Irene (Helen Walker) is plotting to have him killed. When Williams needs to go on a business trip his wife asks if he could pick up her cousin "Jim" on his way and drive her cousin back to his home. Jim is really Irene's lover and intends to kill Williams along the way, but things don't go according to plan. While pulled over on the side of the road to fix a flat tire, Jim hits Williams over the head and rolls his body down a cliff. Jim drives off but he ends up in a flaming car crash and dies. Meanwhile, Williams awakens and lifts a ride into town where he learns that he was set-up. 

Williams stays on in Larkspur, "Idaho" the small town where he was dropped off and gets a job as a mechanic working for Marsha Peters (Ella Raines), a widow who's husband died in the war.  The two develop a relationship and Williams ends up staying in Larkspur longer than he intended - that is until he reveals his past and Peters convinces him to go back to San Francisco to set things straight. When Williams arrives back in San Francisco everyone is shocked to see that he is still alive. The police arrest Williams under suspicion of murder. Peters, with the help of detective Quincy (Charles Coburn) and the Williams's maid (Anna Mae Wong) fight to prove his innocence. 

Donlevy is excellent in the lead role and so is the supporting cast of Walker, Raines, Coburn and Wong. The story is a bit convoluted but this part noir, part crime thriller is an interesting watch.

Filming took place in three different California cities: San Francisco, Sausalito, and Larkspur.

San Francisco Locations

The Williams's apartment building is the Brocklebank Apartments located at 1000, Mason Street in San Francisco. The intersection is Mason Street at Sacramento Street. Below is the view looking out the window of the Brocklebank building as seen in the film and a contemporary street view of the same location.

The view looking out of the Brocklebank Apartments.

Looking away from the Brocklebank Apartments.
Mason Street at Sacramento Street.

Irene leaving the Brocklebank Apartments

The Brocklebank Apartments in San Francisco.

In the scene where we see Irene leaving the Brocklebank Apartments she continues to walk down Mason Street, passing the historic Fairmont hotel and ending at the intersection of Mason and California. 

Irene in front of The Fairmont hotel.

The corner of The Fairmont hotel. Mason at California Streets.

Looking down California Street from Mason Street.

Looking down California Street from Mason Street.

It's amazing how much the skyline has changed since 1949. One used to have a clear view of the bridge. Now only part of the bridge is visible between the tall high-rise buildings that have gone up. The same is true in the next view below looking down Sacramento Street from Mason Street.

Looking down Sacrament St. from Mason St.

Looking down Sacramento St. from Mason St.

Another San Francisco location is the old Hall of Justice building located at 750 Kearny Street. The building has since been razed and replaced by a Hilton hotel.

Former San Francisco Hall of Justice, 750 Kearny Street.

750 Kearny Street, now a Hilton Hotel.

The next two comparisons are views of Kearny Street as seen from Washington Street.

814 Kearny Street in background as seen in Impact.

Looking at a contemporary view of 814 Kearny Street.

The corner of Washington Street and Kearny Street.

The corner of Washington Street and Kearny Street.

Sausalito Locations

The next three locations are located in Sausalito, California. It's at this location where Donlevy's character thinks he is picking up his wife's cousin Jim. We get a view of the historic Hotel Sausalito located at 16 El Portal Street and some of the neighboring buildings.

Looking down Bridgeway at El Portal Street.
The Hotel Sausalito can be seen on the left.

Looking down Bridgeway. Hotel Sausalito on the left.

Looking down El Portal at the Hotel Sausalito. 

Looking down El Portal St. at the Hotel Sausalito.

Looking up El Portal St. towards Bridgeway.

Looking up El Portal St. towards Bridgeway.

Larkspur Locations

The next set of locations are all in Larkspur, California, although in the film the story is supposed to be set in Larkspur "Idaho." The first two comparisons are views of the center of town from the intersection of Magnolia Avenue at East Ward Street.

Williams arrives in Larkspur - walking down
Magnolia Ave from E. Ward Street.

Looking down Magnolia Ave at E. Ward Street.

Williams (Donlevy) stands on E. Ward Street near Magnolia Ave.

Looking down E. Ward Street.

Williams stays at the home of Marsha Peters located at 234 Magnolia Avenue. I actually found this address from a printable historic self-guided walking tour provided by the City of Larkspur. You can view the walking tour which highlights other significant buildings in the town by clicking here.

Raines & Donlevy at the home at 234 Magnolia Ave.

The home as it appears today at 234 Magnolia Ave.

When Williams arrives in Larkspur he gets a job as a mechanic at a shop owned by Peters. I couldn't find the Mobil service station, but just a few blocks down from the Peters home on Magnolia Ave I saw the building below, a hair salon that looks like it could be the same building as the Mobile service station, only remodeled.  Look at the white columns and the basic structure of the building and you can see how it matches up. The building is located at 238 Magnolia Ave.

Donlevy as a mechanic at the service station. 
238 Magnolia Avenue

The service station building remodeled. Now a hair salon.

The last few comparisons take place near the Larkspur City Hall building and the Larkspur Fire Department.

Looking up at Larkspur City Hall, 400 Magnolia Ave.

Looking at Larkspur City Hall on Magnolia Ave.

The Larkspur Fire Dept. next to City Hall.

The Larkspur Fire Department next to City Hall.

Looking down Magnolia Ave from King Street.

Looking down Magnolia Ave from King Street.

A fire truck leaves the Fire Dept. and heads down Magnolia
towards the center of town.

Looking down Magnolia towards the center of town
from the Fire Department.

Impact (1949) is available on DVD and is also currently available as a Netflix Watch Instantly title.

All Street View images (c) Google 2011.

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