Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Santa Rosa, California - Train Depot Film Locations

Santa Rosa Visitors Center inside the old Train Depot.

With as much of a hassle it has become to travel anywhere these days, with long lines, tough security, and fewer and fewer amenities, I always enjoy watching classic movies and seeing how simple travel used to be, particularly train travel. This is just my romantic notion of train travel. I'm sure in reality I would probably be frustrated for different reasons - no smart phone and taking days to get to my destination - but, nevertheless, I fancy the idea of sitting in a train car, lazily watching the scenery pass by as I'm rocked into a nap. Continuing with highlights from my Fourth of July weekend Northern California trip, this post features our visit to the historic Santa Rosa Train Depot which has been featured in a few films.

The Santa Rosa Train Depot is located in the city's Railroad Square Historic District or the community's "Old Town." In the early 1900s, this depot served travelers going between San Francisco and Eureka, but with the development of highways and rising car ownership fewer people took the train. Today the train depot is used as the city's visitors center.

My main reason for going to the train depot was to walk in the steps of Joseph Cotten, Don Ameche and Steve Martin. The depot appears in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). It's where Teresa Wright's character and her family meet Joseph Cotten when he arrives in Santa Rosa by train. It is also where Don Ameche and Richard Crane see Frances Dee off in the film Happy Land (1943). And it is at this train depot that Steve Martin and one of his sons in Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) are reunited with the rest of the family after the son ran away.

Below are some screenshots from these films and some snapshots I took comparing how the train depot appears today.

Click images to see larger.

The Train Depot as seen in Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

The same view of the train depot as it appears today.

Santa Rosa Train Depot as seen in the film Happy Land (1943)

Santa Rosa Train Depot

Steve Martin walks along the train depot in Cheaper by the Dozen (2003).

Santa Rosa Train Depot

Teresa Wright runs past the depot in Shadow of a Doubt.

Santa Rosa Train Depot

Don Ameche, Frances Dee, Richard Crane at the depot in Happy Land.

The same building in the background is still standing.

Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen.

Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

If you plan to visit Santa Rosa the train depot is a great starting point. Inside are a few Santa Rosa themed souvenirs and literature on things to see not only in Santa Rosa but the surrounding area as well. For someone traveling with a baby it was also great to have a place with a clean bathroom, a changing table and bottled water for sale. There is a metered parking lot out front and if you park here it is easy to walk to all the historic downtown locations.

To read more about our NoCal trip check out:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Santa Rosa, California - McDonald Avenue Film Locations

Robby and Hazel in front of the Santa Rosa home used for Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

This past Fourth of July weekend my wife and daughter and I decided to go on a family road trip up to Northern California. We spent time in three different NoCal cities. Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of the film related stops we visited. One of the locations I was most excited to visit was McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa.

McDonald Avenue, a quiet tree lined street with many attractive Victorian homes, has appeared several times on film, at least as early as 1943. Alfred Hitchcock was one of the first, if not the first, to capture McDonald Avenue on film when he decided to use one of the homes as the primary location for his classic thriller, Shadow of Doubt (1943). At the time Hitchcock made Shadow of Doubt, the country was in the middle of World War II and many supplies used for film sets were being rationed. Instead of building many elaborate sets, Hitchcock chose to shoot his film on location.

Click images to see larger.

904 McDonald Avenue. Shadow of Doubt (1943)

904 McDonald Avenue as it appears as of July 2013.

It's been well documented that the home Hitchcock used for Shadow of a Doubt was a house located at 904 McDonald Ave. It is at this home that Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) visits his sister's family when he needs to hide out from the police. The film stars Teresa Wright, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers, Patricia Collinge, and Hume Cronyn. Other than some landscaping changes, the exterior of the home looks very much the same. 

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten on the steps of 904 McDonald Ave.

Across the street from the house used by Hitchcock is the home used in the made for television remake of Shadow of Doubt (1991), located at 815 McDonald Avenue. The remake starred Mark Harmon and Margaret Welsh in the lead roles and Hitchcock star Tippi Hedren had a part as Mrs. Mathewson.

Shadow of a Doubt (1991) house. 815 McDonald Avenue.

One house south from Hitchcock's Shadow of Doubt home is a house used in the Wes Craven thriller, Scream (1996). The house located at 824 McDonald Avenue was the home of Rose McGowan's character, Tatum. In the screenshot below McGowan can be seen talking with Neve Campbell on the home's porch. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article from 2002, Hitchcock would sit on the same porch at 824 McDonald Avenue and have cocktails with then owner, Judge Donald Geary. Judge Geary's son Bill, who was 13 when Hitchcock came to town for Shadow of a Doubt, said, "He [Hitchcock] used to come over and visit and have a drink with my dad. But Joseph Cotten was a kind of a stuffy guy. He'd have people come light cigarettes for him."

Rose McGowan and Neve Campbell in Scream (1996).

824 McDonald Avenue. Home used in Scream (1996), All My Sons (1948), and where Hitchcock had cocktails with Judge Geary between filming Shadow of a Doubt.

Campbell and McGowan on the porch at 824 McDonald Ave.

Burt Lancaster and Louisa Horton in All My Sons (1948). 824 McDonald Ave in background.

Another film that was made on McDonald Avenue is All My Sons (1948) starring Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, Mady Christians, Louisa Horton, and Howard Duff. The film also includes a young Harry Morgan (famous later for his role in the television show M*A*S*H) who I will bring up again later in this post. and other sources mention that a home was filmed on McDonald Avenue but no source I found mentioned which home. 

Using screenshots as reference while walking down McDonald Avenue, I discovered three homes that can be clearly seen in the film. The first home is the house at 824 McDonald Ave. See the screenshot above with Lancaster and Horton. Yes, this is the same house from Scream and that porch is the one that Hitchcock sat at while having cocktails with Judge Geary while filming Shadow of a Doubt.

825 McDonald Ave. All My Sons (1948).

825 McDonald Ave. as it appears July 2013.

The second home that can be seen in All My Sons is the house located at 825 McDonald Ave. See the comparison above and the screenshot with Edward G. Robinson below.

Edward G. Robinson in All My Sons. 825 McDonald Ave.

The third home that can be seen in All My Sons is the home located at 815 McDonald Ave. See the comparison below.

Horton and Lancaster in front of 815 McDonald Ave.

815 McDonald Ave. home used in All My Sons (1948).

815 McDonald Ave. as seen in All My Sons (1948).

The most prestigious home on McDonald Avenue is the McDonald Mansion (a.k.a. Mableton Mansion) that was built in 1877 as a summer home for the McDonald Family. This beautiful mansion located at 1015 McDonald Avenue was used as Aunt Polly's house in Disney's Pollyanna (1960). The film stars Hayley Mills, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Adolphe Menjou, Richard Egan, Karl Malden, Kevin Corcoran, Nancy Olson, and James Drury. One thing noticeable right away is that the home used in the film is much taller than the actual house. This is because Disney artists used a matte painting to create the illusion that there were two additional floors. See a comparison of the Pollyanna house below.

Mansion from Disney's Pollyanna (1960).

The McDonald Mansion used for Pollyanna. 1015 McDonald Ave.

Me and my little Pollyanna at the gate of the McDonald Mansion.

This last film location is my personal favorite. It's from a little known film called Happy Land (1943) starring Don Ameche, Frances Dee and Harry Carey. The cast also includes Ann Rutherford, Dickie Moore, a young Harry Morgan and Natalie Wood in her film debut. and other sources mention that this film was shot in Santa Rosa, but nowhere could I find where any scenes were filmed, not even any streets. I figured if Hitchcock, Disney, and others all made films on McDonald Avenue that maybe there was a good chance that Happy Land was also filmed on McDonald Ave. Fortunately, my instinct was correct! Before I visited McDonald Avenue, I had used Google Street View to look up and down the street to see if I could find a home that matched the below screenshot. The home of Don Ameche's and Frances Dee's characters is located at 1127 McDonald Ave. I've also found many of the other film locations used in Happy Land that have not been reported anywhere which I will include in a larger post on this movie later.

Don Ameche and Harry Carey in Happy Land (1943)

1127 McDonald Ave. Home used in Happy Land (1943).

A couple interesting facts:
  • Both Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and the Don Ameche film Happy Land were filmed in 1943 within a couple blocks of each other on McDonald Avenue. 
  • In 1943 actor Harry Morgan was in the film Happy Land and then in 1948 he appeared in the film All My Sons which both filmed on McDonald Avenue.
  • Joseph Cotten was originally considered for Happy Land, but instead appeared in that other 1943 film, Shadow of a Doubt.
Wifey and Hazel admire the flowers on McDonald Avenue.

Santa Rosa's McDonald Avenue is a beautiful residential street with gorgeous homes. Even if it were not for all the film related connections, this street would be a nice place to go for a stroll. The film history just makes it that much more fun for movie lovers.

Check back the next couple weeks for more highlights from our Fourth of July weekend trip.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Raw Deal (1948) - Film Locations

There is a lot to like about the film Raw Deal (1948) directed by Anthony Mann. The story is fast paced, the action violent and thrilling and the cinematography is beautifully shot by John Alton. On top of that there is an excellent cast including many noir regulars such as Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, John Ireland and Raymond Burr. Although the story may be a tad slapdash, it's easy to put rationality aside and just enjoy the show.

The story is about a prisoner named Joe (Dennis O'Keefe) who has taken the rap for pyromaniac gangster Rick (Raymond Burr). Rick arranges an escape for Joe using Joe's girlfriend Pat (Claire Trevor), but the whole thing is a setup. Rick plans on Joe either being shot trying to escape or to be put away in jail forever. However, Rick's plan fails and with the help of Pat and a social worker Ann (Marsha Hunt), Joe is able to escape and go on the lam. The story gets more interesting as a love triangle forms between Pat, Joe, and Ann.

Although there are not many real exterior locations we get a glimpse of Malibu during one scene while Joe is on the run. Joe and Ann pull over at a gas station on their way to San Francisco. The gas station looks different from the time of the film, but I easily recognized the building across the street with its distinct arches. The location is the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Rambla Pacifico Street.

Joe and Ann pull into a service station.

Looking across the PCH from the service station.

Rambla Pacifico St. at the PCH

Looking up Rambla Pacifico St. and across the PCH.

Below is another scene at the service station looking north and showing the Pacific coast shoreline in the background. As you can see in the Bird's Eye View below where the yellow box marks the site of the service station, there are many more homes dotting the shoreline where in the film it was an open space with just sand.

The Pacific coast can be seen in the background.

Bird's Eye View of the service station.

A view of the service station as seen in the film.

The service station is now a 76 gas station.

Just to the left of the 76 gas station in what is now a vacant lot was the former site of the Albatross Hotel Restaurant, which can be seen in the wonderful film, Strangers When We Meet (1961), starring Kirk Douglas, Kim Novak, and Walter Matthau.

Raw Deal (1948) is available on DVD, for rent through ClassicFlix, and is currently available for streaming on Netflix.


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