A movie studio backlot is one of those mythologized locations that often receives all the credit when just some of the credit is due. Why? Well, not every film turns to these city-like recreations, with their false-front buildings and empty streets. Quite often a production goes on location and employs a real structure or skyscraper or house or ballpark, and quite often these productions result in movies that get nominated for an Oscar (or twelve!) The best part? So many of the places seen in the most acclaimed films of the last eight-and-a-half decades can be visited today. Here are a few of our forever favorites…
The Majestic Theater: Thousands of theater-goers have enjoyed extravaganzas like “Phantom of the Opera” at this historic Broadway stage, but C.C. Baxter of “The Apartment” wasn’t having quite the fun night. Mr. Baxter, as played by Jack Lemmon, was waiting on his crush Miss Kubelik outside The Majestic and feeling some stress over their non-relationship. No stress over this, though: Billy Wilder’s beloved comedy-drama won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1960.
Doheny Memorial Library: “The Graduate,” a 1967 Oscar nominee for Best Picture, is rife with locations that still stand, save a rather famous one: The Ambassador Hotel, where Benjamin – Dustin Hoffman, of course – contacted Mrs. Robinson about their amorous assignation. While the Wilshire Boulevard landmark met the wrecking ball a few years ago, fans of the Mike Nichols’s masterpiece can still visit the Doheny Memorial Library at the University of Southern California. That’s where Benjamin awaits his beloved Elaine (though, of course, things aren’t quite so lovey at this point in the dark comedy).
Philadelphia Museum of Art: If a day passes where a visitor to this Pennsylvania institution doesn’t pause at the top of its steps, fists in air, to pose like Rocky Balboa, well. Well, such a day does not pass, and hasn’t since 1976, when “Rocky” won Best Picture. No, you don’t have to don sweaty workout clothes, but don’t pass up doing the iconic victory pose. Shouting “Adrianne” a few times is totally up to you.
Castle Green: The former hotel and current apartment building is one of those locations that seems to pop up in every sixth film or television show. Reason? Well, the Pasadena pile is historic, gorgeous, and boasts a refined air of the early 20th century. “The Sting,” which was named Best Picture in 1973, filmed at Castle Green, as well as along the back alleys of Old Town Pasadena, which is a short walk away. A fan of Newman and Redford could have quite the “name the scene” stroll through this storied section of the Crown City.
The Formosa Café: “Titanic,” the 1997 winner for Best Picture, is often thought to have been filmed on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. (It was not.) But a nominee from that same year sports plenty of Southern California cred, as its very name reveals: “L.A. Confidential.” Want to see the scene with Lana Turner, in the old-school bar? That happened at this cozy, oh-so-red watering hole that still serves up strong mai tais on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
The Plaza Hotel: Call it one of the scariest staircase scenes in history: Javier Bardem appears behind Woody Harrelson on a hotel stair in “No Country for Old Men,” the 2007 Best Picture winner. We know Anton Chigurh, as played by Mr. Bardem, has bad intentions in his heart. The stairs, however, have led to happier times for thousands of vacationers; they’re located off the lobby in an 1882 inn located in Las Vegas, New Mexico.