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.


Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Fantastic post, I loved this tour, and it answered a few questions. Best wishes to you and your lovely family for many more such fun trips.

Laura said...

Robby, this is utterly fantastic! I love all the research and location hunting you did, especially the detective work you did on HAPPY LAND. That's a movie I've got to see, given that favorites Frances Dee and Ann Rutherford are in the cast. I'm looking forward to your coming posts.

Best wishes,

Desiree Cherisse said...

I didn't realize there was such history here in Northern California. Santa Rosa is just a short drive away from where I live. I'll be making the drive soon. Thanks for sharing. :)

rocket9 said...

"Shadow..." is one of my fave Hitchcock films. LOve the performances and the house really was another character in the film. Great to see it still standing! Thanks have to really love film to do what you do.

Silver Screenings said...

WHO KNEW this house and this street were so famous! Thanks for filling us in. :)

Robby Cress said...

My reply comments keep disappearing! Let's try this again.


Thanks! I can't wait to plan our next family trip!


I think you will enjoy HAPPY LAND. It's a simple story, a bit corny by today's standards - but charming.


You must make the drive! I really enjoyed Santa Rosa and can't wait to get back to spend more time there.


"Shadow..." is one of my faves too and apparently it was a personal favorite of Hitchcock as well. That film is strong on many levels.

Silver Screenings,

Yes, it's surprising how much this one street, so far from Hollywood, has been used for filming!

rocket9 said...

I've enjoyed this blog so much since discovering it with a Google search. Fascinating to see locations of movies I've long admired. The era from the silents to around the mid 60's is so rich. The stars were bigger because the MOVIES were bigger. That's almost gone now, at least in terms of everyone watching the same movie. But there still is a large and I might hazard a guess and say , GROWING, interest in classic era film. It has a magic that can't be duplicated. Different times now..the middle class is decimated and that sense of optimism is lacking, It's one of the reasons film impacted me so hugely as a young person: movies made you feel anything was possible.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing post! Thank you so much for all of your hard work! I live in Santa Rosa and will be revisiting McDonald Avenue soon with a printout of your beautifully researched and photographed post in hand! Thank you again!

Depression Baby said...

Hitch selected this home for Shadow and paid the owners for the use of it ahead of time for all the upcoming film work. The owners checked into a local motel and then. . . .using Hitch's largess had the house painted before filming and Hitch was not happy because he liked the home's original presence.



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