Seeing Stars: Where the Movies Were Shot (on Location)

  • Remember Bing Crosby as "Father O'Malley" in the 1944 classic "GOING MY WAY"?

    Well, they filmed scenes for that movie inside the church rectory at Saint Monica's Catholic Church, located at 715 California Avenue, in Santa Monica.

  • By now the 1946 movie "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" has become a Christmas classic.
  • There is a key scene in that film where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing the Charleston at the "Bedford Falls High School" prom, when suddenly the gym floor slides open, plunging the dancers into a swimming pool. (Later, when walking home, wearing a bathrobe, Donna gets stuck in the bushes without any clothes on.)

    That dance scene was filmed using an actual covered swimming pool in the gym at Beverly Hills High School (241 Moreno Drive) near Century City. The gym is located on the south side of the campus, near the high school's track.

    As for the charming little town of Bedford Falls (the home town of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed), in "It's a Wonderful Life", alas, it was a temporary town set built for the movie in the San Fernando Valley. The area was part of RKO's movie ranch at the time. The "Bedford Falls" set was torn down soon after the filming ended in 1946, and the area was sold to developers in the early 1950's and built in with nondescript track homes.

    The land is in the city of Encino, just west of the San Diego (405) Freeway, on Burbank Blvd, between Louise Avenue and the Balboa Sports Center park. But all you'll find there now are modern residential homes.

    Click here to see a map of the area.

    But there's much better news about the Martinis' home in Bailey Park.

    You'll remember from the classic film, that George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) defies the man who owns most of Bedford Falls (the dastardly 'Mr. Potter') and uses his father's savings & loan to help build affordable housing for working families. The bright new neighborhood is called Bailey Park, in honor of George's late father.

    In the movie, we see Mr. Martini's family move into the first model home, with much celebrating.

    Later, during George's world-changing angelic encounter, Bailey Park ceases to exist, because he wasn't there to build it. (The neighborhood returns when Clarence restores his past.)

    Well, that model home was just that - a real model home - but it was far away from the rest of "Bedford Falls" (see above). Frank Capra, in an interview year later, couldn't even remember where he filmed the scene, only that it was out in the middle of nowhere at the time.

    Well, today it's actually in the city of La Cañada FlintridgeCA (the home of Descanso Gardens), just northwest of the city of Pasadena, and about 25 miles east of Encino.

    You'll find the actual Martini home, looking remarkably like it did back when the movie was filmed, at 4587 Viro Road, in La Cañada, on the west side of Viro, just two houses south of Belita Lane. (It's about five miles from the start of the annual Rose Parade.)

    [ Warning: This is a private home.  Do not trespass on their property, knock on their door,
    or do anything else that might disturb the residents. ]

    Here is a map of the area.

    Here are some comparison photos, showing the Martini home and the general "Bailey Park" neighborhood,in both the movie and in real life - courtesy of Richard Barnes.  (Thanks, Richard!)

    (Click on the images below to see large versions of the photos.)


In the 1942 classic "CASABLANCA", there is an early scene where French Captain Renault (Claude Rains) meets Major Strasser's plane, when the Nazi officer first arrives at the Casablanca airport. Strasser is there to capture Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), and after Strasser gets off the plane and is welcomed by Renault, he pressures Renault to arrest Ugarte (Peter Lorre). This airport runway scene was actually shot on the east side of the Van Nuys Airport.

(At the end of the film. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) shoots Strasser at the same Casablanca airport, as Laszlo and his wife (Ingrid Bergman) escape aboard a plane.)

The hanger is no longer part of the nearby airport (it's used for storage), and the old runway used in the movie is now a narrow alley called Waterman Drive. You'll find the exact spot on the south side of Waterman Drive, just west of Woodley Avenue. (In late 2007, they began to tear down Hanger #1, a hanger seen in the background of those "Casablanca" scenes, but it was spared at the last moment, when its facade was purchased by Jim Dunn, owner of the nearby Airtel Plaza Hotel. The hanger will reportedly be relocated to the hotel - at 7277 Valjean Ave, in Van Nuys.)

(Some books mistakenly identify the location as the Burbank Airport, since the existing control tower there closely resembles the old Art Deco "radio tower" at Van Nuys Airport - which was torn down in the 1960's). *

  • You can also see the faux streets of "Paris" (where the flashback love scenes of "CASABLANCA" were filmed) during the tour of the Warner Bros Studios The streets are still there on the studio's back lot (at 4000 Warner Blvd., in Burbank.) Remember the line:
    • "We'll always have Paris... "

1920's - 1930's - 1940's - 1950's - 1960's - 1970's - 1980's - 1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996
1997 - 1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007- 2008

2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013

* Locations marked by an asterisk (*) may be located in areas with high crime rates.
Exercise reasonable caution.

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