Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Facts of Life (1960) - Film Locations

The Facts of Life (1960)

Larry (Bob Hope) and Kitty (Lucille Ball), both middle-class Pasadena suburbanites, are becoming bored with their predictable lives and their marriages. When Larry and his wife, Kitty and her husband, along with another couple plan a future trip to Acapulco, unforeseen events cause Larry and Kitty to spend all their time on the trip together without their spouses. A romance between Larry and Kitty ensues.

When the trip is over Larry and Kitty try to break things off feeling they have made a mistake, but when they return home they continue to try and see each other. In the end, after a little sneaking around together, Larry and Kitty realize that they still love their spouses. The two break things off for good but still continue to be friends.

I visited a few of the locations featured in The Facts of Life, but unfortunately, many of the sites seen in this film from 1960, no longer exist. Below are a few of the sites as they appear today.

Lucille Ball's Home

Corner of Forrester Drive & Monte Drive, Los Angeles

Above is the home of Kitty, Lucille Ball's character. The home is still standing and other than the addition of a fence and large tree, looks mostly the same as it does in the film. The house is at the corner of Forrester Drive and Monte Drive, not too far from the 20th Century Fox studio lot.

Olympic Drive-In Theatre, Los Angeles

Olympic Drive-In 12109 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles

On one of their dates, Hope and Ball visit the Olympic Drive-In Theatre which used to be located at 12109 Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Olympic Drive-In Theatre has since been demolished, but it is still the site of many cars. The location is currently the home of a car dealership. Above are screenshots showing the drive-in theatre and below is a photo of the car dealership that is there today.

Former Location of Olympic Drive-In Theatre

During another night out Hope and Ball drive to a motel. As they are driving we see them pass many great mid-century motels lit by their neon lights. I've tried to find these motels but I'm sure they have all been torn down and replaced by tacky strip malls. One in particular I have wanted to locate is a "Topper" motel. The sign is shaped like a large top hat. There is one Topper motel in the Inglewood neighborhood, but the architecture of the building does not match up with the one in the film. I've also seen photos of a Topper motel that used to be on Ventura Boulevard in the Studio City area, but again, the architecture doesn't match up. If anyone knows more about these motels seen in the film, please share.

After Hope and Ball end up at a motel where they plan to "talk," Hope steps out to pick up some food to bring back to the motel. Hope stops by Johnie's Coffee Shop. Johnie's was located in Downey, California at 7447 Firestone Blvd and operated from 1958 until 2001. From 2002 until 2006 Johnie's was a used car dealership until it was illegally demolished in 2007. Since then, Bob's Big Boy has taken over the property and rebuilt the restaurant using original blueprints. Below is a screenshot of Johnie's from the film and photos of the rebuilt restaurant that is now being operated as a Bob's Big Boy.

Johnie's Fat Boy Restaurant

Johnie's "Fat Boy"

Johnie's "Fat Boy" logo was modeled after the Bob's Big Boy character.

The rebuilt Johnie's Broiler, now Bob's Big Boy

Our very friendly hostess.

Looking down one of the lunch counters.


The menu is now the normal Bob's Big Boy menu, so it is your classic diner fare. The atmosphere is like stepping into a time warp. You can see what the restaurant would have looked like when it opened in 1958 - not after decades of wear and tear. Like the Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, it looks like the Bob's Big Boy Broiler has special events on different nights, such as Hot Rod Cruising.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Anita Race Track In The Movies

Santa Anita Park in California

Since Santa Anita Park opened back in 1934, the horse race track has been featured in numerous films, including A Star is Born (1954)Bob Hope's The Lemon Drop Kid, the Marx Brothers film A Day At The Races and National Lampoon's Vacation to name just a few. To celebrate the race track's many appearances on the silver screen Santa Anita Park, on opening day, December 26, 2010, will be giving away a free wall calendar featuring films that have used Santa Anita as a film location. The calendar is free with paid admission - and guess what - admission is only $5! What a bargain.

Santa Anita Park has not only been popular with Hollywood as a film location, but as a destination for relaxation during time off. Fred AstairePat O'BrienLouis B. MayerHarry Warner, the Marx Brothers,  Jack BennySpencer TracyErrol FlynnBing Crosby and of course many others would come here to enjoy the races - many of whom even owned their own horses.

The grounds around the race track are absolutely beautiful and very nice to stroll around between races. At just $5 it is such a bargain to come see the grounds, watch the horses, bet (or not) on the races, enjoy some snacks and just relax like the Hollywood stars.

Lately, the new HBO television show Luck, featuring Dustin Hoffman, has been filming at Santa Anita Park.  The race track is a primary location for the show.

Below is a home video I made last year when I was at the Santa Anita race track for a friend's birthday. It gives you an idea of what the grounds look like.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Nethercutt Collection: Antiques, Vintage Cars, Mechanical Instruments & More

Me in front of Fatty Arbuckle's 1923 McFarlan Auto

To kick off the month of December and get into the Christmas spirit, a friend of mine invited my wife and I to the Nethercutt Museum for a special holiday themed organ concert. When I heard that the concert was to be performed on a Wurlitzer organ, an instrument one does not regularly get to hear, and that the amazing Rob Richards (probably most well known for being the house organist of Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood) was going to perform, I knew we had to go.

What I didn't know at the time was how amazing of a place the Nethercutt Museum is. I had never heard of this gem located just north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California. The main building of the museum is four floors containing antique automobiles (some previously owned by Hollywood greats such as Cecil B. Demille and Fatty Arbuckle), "Mechanical Musical Instruments," antique furniture, clocks and other items to tantalize the eye.

The most exclusive of the antique autos are housed in what looks like a grand ballroom with marble columns and floors, lighted by crystal chandeliers and covered by painted ceilings. The room seems rather appropriate for the classy cars of the 1910s, 20s, and 30s found in this room. Some of cars in this room include Maybach, Duesenbergs, Renault, early Cadillacs and so many other exotic brands that are no longer.

The Grand Salon

As you work your way through the Grand Salon and up the stairs to the next level, you pass large display cases containing a vast collection of hood ornaments. These ornaments are so spectacular that they look more like trophies, something perhaps that would be handed out at an award ceremony - not something you would have on the hood of your automobile. 

Above the Grand Salon is a more cozy room with plush carpet and dark walls. All around the room are what are various mechanical musical instruments including self playing pianos, phonographs, cylinder music boxes, and what I thought were said to be European Orchestrations. These European Orchestrations are about the size of an average armoire and some are so large they cover an entire wall. Think of these like the 19th century version of a jukebox. These contraptions contain actual instruments built inside - drums, xylophones, piano, bells, violins, accordions, etc. - that will play music when turned on. Apparently these were popular in hotels and dance halls in Europe as they could mimic a full orchestra without needing all the musicians. 

Stairs leading to the Mezzanine Level

Looking down at the Grand Salon

Walking pass antiques and the hood ornament displays.

Carpet in the Music Room

Top of a European Orchestration

A European Orchestration

Antique Watches

After checking out some of the cars, antiques, and mechanical musical instruments, my wife, friend Dave and I took our seats for the organ concert. Rob Richards performed on the museum's restored Wurlitzer organ, accompanied by Alex Zsolt on piano. The two played mainly Christmas tunes - some popular and some a little obscure. Between songs Richards and Zsolt really hammed it up for the audience as they explained the songs, cracking jokes like true entertainers.

In addition to the holiday music Richards and Zsolt played a few other tunes to show off the splendor of the Wurlitzer. As a special treat for Disney fans, Richards performed the music from the 1978 Disney animated short, The Small One. The website has the following synopsis for The Small One: "A young boy must sell his undersized donkey to raise money for food. But instead of being sold to the local merchants, the donkey is destined for a very special passenger on a very special journey." That special journey was the journey of Mary and Joseph. I vaguely recall seeing this short when I was a kid but I would not have seen it since. The short was directed by legendary Don Bluth and according to the book "Disney A to Z," by Dave Smith, "this was the first Disney production created exclusively by the new generation of animators at the studio, except for 'old timer' directing animator Cliff Nordberg, to prove their ability to create a success."

Up out of the trap door floor came the organ, but the massive amount of pipes of all sizes, of which there are over 1,500, were located behind the walls. There were two walls that were see through so you could get a glimpse of the stunning pipes.

The Organ

One view of the organ pipes.

Antique Clock

Looking into the Dining Room

Cecil B. Demille's Car


Demille Car

Fatty Arbuckle Car

Me checking out the dashboard.

I saw some of the museum by attending the holiday concert, but you can visit the museum most anytime and tour the exhibits. Check out the museum site here. The collection has become so large they had to expand to another building. I plan to go back to see the rest of the exhibits.

And if you haven't had the opportunity to see Rob Richards perform on a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ you can usually catch him by seeing a movie at Disney's El Capitan Theatre. Richards often performs on the theatre's Wurlitzer before the feature - Disney songs of course.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spencer Tracy at Ciro's Nightclub

Spencer Tracy

Most every classic movie fan is aware of Spencer Tracy's long running affair with fellow star Katharine Hepburn, but Hepburn wasn't the first woman Tracy was involved with outside of his wife. Like Hepburn, who was involved with many men prior to Tracy, including the mogul Howard Hughes, Tracy was involved with many women prior to Hepburn. Some were young starlets while others were notable stars.

Ciro's Nightclub, Hollywood, CA

The Comedy Store, Formerly "Ciro's"

During the early 1940s, Tracy was a regular at Ciro's, the famous Sunset Strip nightclub located at 8433 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. In fact every major star of the 40s, 50s and 60s went to Ciro's including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and Frank Sinatra to name a few. In late 1940 early 1941 Tracy would sometimes bring his wife Louise to Ciro's but most often he brought along a young starlet. One night he brought Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart's regular date. Another night he brought the 18 year old actress, Judy Garland.

Rumors began to spread that the Tracys would separate, but of course, they never did. Even when Tracy's relationship with Katharine Hepburn got serious, Tracy still remained married to Louise.

Another view of The Comedy Store

Above are photos showing how Ciro's appeared around the time Tracy would have been a regular and how the nightclub appears today. The building is now and has been since 1972, the home of The Comedy Store.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

CBS Radio Days with Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead is probably best remembered as the meddling mother and witch, "Endora," on the hit 1960s television series Bewitched. But, long before Moorehead's memorable role on TV, she had a successful career as a stage, radio, and character film actress. 

Moorehead was one of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre performers on radio - one of the most infamous radio groups. When Welles went to Hollywood to film his iconic first picture, Citizen Kane, Welles cast Agnes as Kane's mother. Welles then cast Moorhead in the major part of "Aunt Fanny" in his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, long considered one of Welles's forgotten masterpieces. This led Moorehead to many stand-out character parts on film. After Welles was ostracized by Hollywood, Moorehead would always stand up for him.

In between making films, Moorehead continued to work on the stage and as a star radio performer. During the 1940s, Moorehead starred alongside Lionel Barrymore on the hit radio show Mayor of the Town. First aired by NBC, Mayor of the Town, later moved over to CBS, broadcasting from their studio located at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower in Hollywood.

CBS Studios, Hollywood, California (1950s)

Former CBS Studios Site (2010)

Mayor of the Town was set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springdale and dealt with everyday issues. Barrymore played the tough on the outside, soft on the inside mayor, and Moorehead played his housekeeper. 

On Thursdays, the actors would get together to do a read through of the script which would be followed by a second read through with microphones and to time the sound effects. The show aired on Saturdays in front of a live studio audience. As was customary for the day, the actors performed the show at 6pm to be live for the east coast at 9pm, then the actors would perform the show a second time at 9pm to be live for the West Coast listeners.

Brittingham's Radio Center Restaurant (1940s)

Former Brittingham's Radio Center Restaurant Site (2010)

In between shows the cast would do whatever they wanted to do. Often they would run to Brittingham's Radio Center Restaurant located on the lower level of the CBS complex. CBS Studios no longer operates in this complex and the Brittingham Restaurant no longer exist, but fortunately, because of some vocal preservationists, the building still stands, although vacant at the time. 

The vintage photos above are from my postcard collection and I always like reading the messages on the back of the old postcards. Here's the message from the back of the CBS postcard which was sent to a Mr. & Mrs. Blake in Seattle in 1955:

"Hi Kids, Having a fine time and enjoying some nice weather [this was written in January]. After a quiet spell of not so good. Spent yesterday in Hollywood and saw some radio and T.V. programs put on the air. Will be leaving here tomorrow to go to Arizona. Expect to see your folk in just a few days. Love from us both, Mora & Ward."

I wonder what radio and TV programs Mora and Ward got to see back in 1955!


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