05 May 2015

All right, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up

by Paul D. Marks
Los_Angeles_City_Hall_2013
Los Angeles City Hall - 2013, Photo by Michael J Fromholtz

Or at least Los Angeles’ art deco city hall is ready for its close-up.

In its heyday, MGM’s slogan was more stars than there are in heaven. Well, there’s one movie location that’s starred in just about as many movies or TV shows as there are stars in heaven, Los Angeles’ City Hall.

From the time it was built in 1928 until today it can be seen in dozens, maybe hundreds, of movies and TV shows, including many crime films. One of my favorites is as the Daily Planet building in the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves.
Besides the exterior, the interior rotunda, as well as hallways, offices and the council chambers, have all been used in many movies/TV shows as well.

George E. Cryer, LA’s 43rd mayor, urged the residents of the city to build "a monument to the enterprise and progressiveness of the people of Los Angeles. Let us build a City Hall that will be a credit to the metropolis of the great West.”

LA’s new city hall was completed in 1928, with dedication on April 26th of that year. It has 32 floors and is 454 feet tall. The concrete used is made of sand that comes from each of California’s fifty eight counties and the water to mix it from each of the twenty-one Spanish missions in the state. Until 1964, it was the tallest building in LA, via the city charter.

Supposedly it made its film debut shortly after it was completed in Lon Chaney’s While the City Sleeps. And it’s been a star ever since.

Not only has it played itself in movies, but it’s doubled for the Vatican and New York City, and for a municipal building in San Francisco. In Flags of Our Fathers, director Clint Eastwood doubled up, using one side of City Hall for a building in Baltimore. He used a different side of the building for a scene of a rally in a different part of the country.

It even makes an appearance in the video games, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto V and LA Noire, and others.

Since 1940 it has appeared on the LAPD’s badges. There’s even a scene in the 1960s version of Dragnet where a police officer from another state admires Joe Friday’s LAPD badge.
In 2006, there were about 50 shoots at LA’s city hall. Everything from movies to commercials to TV shows, causing workers to dodge the lights, cameras and action.

Here are some shots from various movies and TV shows “starring” Los Angeles City Hall.

War of the Worlds (1953) – in this one city hall was blown to smithereens by invading Martians – well, okay, they blew up a miniature of it:
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The Black Dahlia
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Gangster Squad
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LA’s City Hall – interiors and/or exteriors – has also appeared in:
  • Adam 12
  • Alias
  • Another 48 Hours (1982)
  • Atlas Shrugged, Part I
  • Barton Fink
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • Black Dahlia, the (2006)
  • Bodyguard, The (1992)
  • Cagney and Lacy and Kojak had it filling in for New York City
  • Changeling (2008)
  • Chinatown had a scene with Jack Nicholson in the council chamber.
  • Crash (2005)
  • D.O.A. (1950 – the good version of this story) – one of my favorite noir films and imho the ultimate in “high concept”
  • Die Hard 2 (1988)
  • Dragnet – where it played police headquarters
  • Eraser (1996)
  • Escape from LA
  • Evan Almighty
  • Eye for an Eye (1996)
  • Get Outta Town (1959)
  • Internal Affairs (1990)
  • Jimmy Hoffa Story, The – where it played the US capitol
  • LA Confidential
  • LA Law
  • Liar Liar (1997)
  • Matlock
  • Mildred Pierce – the 1945 Michael Curtiz/Joan Crawford version
  • Mission Impossible (TV show) (1972)
  • Mission Impossible III
  • Mobsters
  • Naked Gun, The
  • Nancy Drew
  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets
  • Perry Mason
  • Ricochet (1991)
  • Rockford Files, The
  • Speed
  • Straight from the Shoulder (1936)
  • Thorn Birds, The – doubling for the Vatican
  • Usual Suspects, The – substituting for a NY police station
  • V
  • West Wing, The
  • XXX: State of the Union
And this is only a tiny sampling of the movies and TV shows that have been shot at LA’s city hall, Los Angeles’ real movie star.

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Hope to you see at the California Crime Writers Conference
(http://ccwconference.org ). June 6th and 7th.
I’ll be on the Thrills and Chills (Crafting the Thriller and Suspense Novel) panel, Saturday at 10:30am, along with Laurie Stevens (M), Doug Lyle, Diana Gould and Craig Buck.

And please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my soon-to-be-updated website PaulDMarks.com
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6 comments:

Eve Fisher said...

Great building. And congratulations on the Anthony nomination for Best Short Story for "Howling at the Moon"!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, Eve. It's very exciting, but also very unexpected.

Leigh Lundin said...

Cool article! I admire classic architecture.

And congratulations, Paul1

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, Leigh. Re: both the article and congrats.

And LA City Hall really is one cool building where tons of shows are filmed. Probably more than at some studios. Kidding, but barely.

Leigh Lundin said...

Dixon, I didn't have a clue but congratulations to the 'significant others' of your daughter and son.

JIM DOHERTY said...

Just for the record, City Hall didn't just PLAY police HQ. Until the Parker Center (originally called the Police Administration Building) opened in 1956, it WAS Police HQ.

In addition to the 1954 feature-length DRAGNET movie, you can see it in this role in the movie that kind of inspire the created of DRAGNET, 1948's HE WALKED BY NIGHT.