New “Location Filming” book includes Malibu’s cinematic cameos in everything from Harold Lloyd films to “Beach Party” movies and “Grease.”
By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times
As long as they’ve existed, movies have been filmed in Los Angeles, including the Malibu area. “Location Filming in Los Angeles,” a new book by Karie Bible, Marc Wanamaker and Harry Medved, available beginning Nov. 29 from Arcadia Publishing, supports this with archival photos.
“There’s something otherworldly, exotic and romantic about Malibu’s beaches that attracts the film industry again and again,” Medved said.
Although “Location Filming” covers all of L.A., the cinematic charms of Malibu figure prominently in chapter three of the book. In a 1921 shot taken along Topanga Beach, with a north view of the Santa Monica Mountains, Harold Lloyd romances Mildred Davis in Lloyd’s first film, “A Sailor-Made Man.” A Rindge family beach house on Latigo Shore Drive (one of many built by the Rindge family that was destroyed by a storm in the 1960s) was the setting for “Mildred Pierce” (1945), starring Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott. Once known as Sequit Beach, Leo Carrillo Beach, circa 1946, was transformed into an Arab chieftain’s encampment for “Slave Girl.” The beach also appeared in the opening sequences of 1965’s “Beach Blanket Bingo” and 1978’s “Grease.” Fans of “The Karate Kid” (1984) will remember Leo Carrillo as the titular hero’s training grounds.
One photo in “Location Filming” shows a line of sexy, bikini-clad women on Corral Beach (also called Dan Blocker Beach) in a 1965 still from the sixth installment of the “Beach Party” series, “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.” The first “Beach Party” was shot at Corral Beach, while filming for “Muscle Beach Party” took place at Topanga Beach.
Wanamaker and Medved are no strangers to film circles and historical societies. Wanamaker, author and archivist of Los Angeles history, has written and supplied photos for myriad Arcadia books. Medved, author of “Hollywood Escapes,” also heads Fandango’s PR department. As for the Texas native Bible, she said, “I used to tell my aunt that I was going to run off to Hollywood. I guess I’m someone who puts my money where my mouth is. I live just up the street from the old MGM studios [now Sony], and a stone’s throw from historic downtown Culver City, where Laurel and Hardy shot ‘Putting Pants on Philip.’”
Makers of the beach party genre were so indebted to Malibu’s shores that, after Leo Carrillo became a state beach in the 1950s, it got a shout-out in the opening credits of “Gidget.”
“Malibu was big in the ’60s, the golden age of shooting low-budget films,” Medved said.
Roger Corman produced so many quickies on Leo Carrillo (among them the 1957 gems, “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent” and “Attack of the Crab Monsters”), “they called it Corman Beach,” said Medved, who appeared with Corman on an episode of “California’s Golden Parks” when its inquisitive host, Huell Howser, spotlighted Leo Carrillo.
Paradise Cove is where a chase scene ends in “Pajama Party” (1964) and the early Jack Nicholson film “Rebel Rousers” (1970) was filmed.
There have been films in which another beach has stood in for Malibu’s. The finale from the original “A Star is Born” was filmed in Laguna Beach. Ditto for beach scenes in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946).
“It’s a misconception that ‘From Here to Eternity’ (1953) was shot in Malibu, it was shot in Hawaii,” Medved said, although spoofs of the famous sandy love-making scene appearing in 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch” and 1980’s “Airplane!” were shot at Point Dume.
While a cafe scene was filmed in Beaurivage’s parking lot for “Big Wednesday,” what was supposed to be Surfrider Beach … wasn’t.
“They actually recreated Surfrider in Santa Barbara [retainer wall and all],” Medved said.
The reverse has often happened, in which Malibu subs for other places. In the 2002 Jack Black comedy, “Orange County,” Leo Carrillo stood in for the OC’s beaches. The beach pops up again in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” where Keira Knightly’s Swann gets Johnny Depp’s Sparrow drunk on rum. Leo Carrillo has served as ersatz Mexico (the first “Sex and the City”), Hawaii (the Adam Sandler comedy “50 First Dates”) and Japan (Ogasawara Islands in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
“They actually imported black sand from one of California’s deserts,” Medved said of the latter.
When Clint Eastwood filmed the 2006 Oscar contender, he was the State Parks commissioner, as Leo Carrillo Beach’s namesake had been.
In last year’s “Funny People,” when Sandler leaves his Malibu mansion to see old flame Leslie Mann, his destination is actually Zuma Canyon doubling for Northern California.
Medved said the two most heavily used beaches of Malibu in motion pictures are Leo Carrillo and Point Dume, the latter famously featured in the Statue of Liberty scene in “Planet of the Apes” (1968). More recently, in 2008, Dume has been home to Robert Downey, Jr. in “Iron Man,” with Tony Stark’s palatial Modernist home inserted onto the landscape via CGI magic. Dume also served as Dr. Evil’s volcanic island in “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” the highest grossing of the Austin Powers series. It was also the beach where John Goodman watches women at the end of “Barton Fink” (1991).
“Fink” filmmakers the Coen Brothers returned to Point Dume when filming Ben Gazzarra’s beach-party night scenes in 1998’s “The Big Lebowski.” However, contrary to some reports, they did not use Malibu in the penultimate scene in which Goodman and Jeff Bridges are scattering Steve Buscemi’s ashes.
“That was shot in Sunken City in San Pedro,” Medved noted.
“Planet of the Apes” alone has inspired a sub-genre of movies “aping” its Point Dume climax, from Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” to “Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back.” “Apes” also led the director of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (2003) to film there.
“[‘Charlie’s Angels’ director] McG told me he loved that beach because it’s very iconic,” Medved said. “There’s something about Malibu that communicates the quintessential California experience.”