Today I was lucky to be Laura’s plus one on the TCM Movie Locations Tour. Today is actually the first day of the tour, which runs through April 14, so we were in the very first public group to go. We met up at the Chinese Theater around 9am this morning to check in, and were off in our Starline bus with tour guide Michael an hour later.
The tour started in Hollywood, swinging south down La Brea past the Chaplin studios (now the Jim Henson studios) and Formosa Cafe before cutting east towards downtown. We passed several former office buildings and studio lots throughout the Hollywood area, each being illustrated by clips from films, newsreels and travelogues. Michael also read out little bits of trivia and called our attention to the different locations as we passed by. On our way out of Hollywood, we passed the famous Bronson Paramount gate. Paramount is the last major studio, and the only one of the “Big 5″ (Paramount, RKO, MGM, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox) that stayed in the Hollywood area. After Paramount, we headed towards downtown Los Angeles.
In addition to all of the clips that showed the city and locations as they were during the studio-era years and more recent films, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz would also appear in recorded segments to talk about the film history in each of the major areas across the city that we visited.
The downtown area still has many of the old movie palaces, most within a few blocks of each other. Some are used for live performances, some have been converted into stores or churches, while others remain shuttered. Most still have the old marquees, so they are easy to pick out among the shops and restaurants. We made our first stop downtown at the Bradbury Building, where we had enough time to get off the bus and go inside for photos. The Bradbury was somewhere I had wanted to go for a while, having been featured in films like Blade Runner and more recently, The Artist. The staircases and the vaulted glass ceiling are spectacular.
Downtown was also home to Bunker Hill, which was featured prominently in many film noirs. It was interesting to see the film clips from movies like Cry Danger because they show a mostly residential area. Today, the city highrises dot the area, with the Walt Disney Music Hall being the modern landmark. It’s very hard to imagine single family homes there anymore. We passed by City Hall, where all I could hear was the opening to Dragnet: “This is the city: Los Angeles, California…”
From there we drove to Union Station, where we also were able to get off the bus and go inside. We were right next to Chinatown, so we passed through there and headed towards Echo Park and Silver Lake. This was the area where the first movie companies that came to Los Angeles from the East Coast set up shop, filmmakers like Mack Sennett. Silver Lake connects into Los Feliz and Hollywood going west, so we ended up back on Hollywood Blvd completing the tour.
The TCM Movie Locations tour was about three hours long in total, and I really had a blast. Even now being a “local,” it was so nice to be able to relax and just ride along to all of these locations. Having Michael’s commentary and the clips was great as well, just to be able to match up locations or structures I’d seen in films over the years to what the places look like today. It was really an awesome gesture for TCM to offer this tour to fans free of cost in celebration of their 20th anniversary.
Speaking of opportunities, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending my second TCM Classic Film Festival this year as a member of the press. I’m really looking forward to covering the festival, which is one of the most fun movie-watching and social events of the year. Hope to see some of you next month!