Sunday, May 17, 2009

Double Indemnity: Film Locations

Double Indemnity (1944)
If you look at any lists of best film noirs you are likely to find that many people place Double Indemnity (1949) at the top. It's easy to see why. Billy Wilder's classic is dark, steamy and thrilling from beginning to end. Fred MacMurray, cast against type, gives a perfect performance as the insurance salesman who turns into a scheming killer. And not to be outdone, Barbara Stanwyck is one of the most seductive femme fatales to appear on screen. For me, an added point of interest is that so many of the scenes were shot on location around Los Angeles. Here are some of those dark and gritty locations as seen in the film and how they appear today.

In the opening scene we see MacMurray racing through downtown Los Angeles on the way to his office building. In the first shot MacMurray drives down Fifth Street, passing the Biltmore Hotel and then crossing Olive Street. In the comparison below, you will notice that the Biltmore Hotel is still standing on the left side of the image. On the right side of the image all of the buildings have been replaced by modern glass buildings.

MacMurray races down 5th Street near Olive St.

5th Street at Olive Street. Biltmore Hotel on left.

In the next shot we see MacMurray's car whiz down Olive Street coming towards Fifth Street. One of the buildings we see is the Philharmonic Auditorium built in 1906. In 1938 the facade of the building was remodeled and given a more streamlined look. The building has since been demolished.

MacMurray drives down Olive St. towards 5th St.
The Philharmonic Auditorium building is in the background.

Olive at 5th Street in 1984. The Philharmonic Auditorium is still standing.
Photo from USC Digital Archive, (c)2004, California Historical Society

Contemporary view of Olive at 5th Streets. The Philharmonic Auditorium is now demolished. In the background is the Subway Terminal Building.

Dietrichson House, 6301 Quebec Drive, Hollywood Hills
Above is a scene of Fred MacMurray leaving the Dietrichson house where Barbara Stanwyck's character lives. Below is the same house today.

Dietrichson House - 6301 Quebec Drive, Hollywood Hills

Dietrichson House

Dietrichson House
Getting to the Dietrichson house can be a little tricky. To get to this home located near the top of the Hollywood Hills you must drive up a series of very narrow and winding streets. Some are one way only because the streets are so narrow. Once you get to the top you will have a beautiful view. Below is a screenshot of the view from the Hollywood Hills and a picture of the view today.

View from Hollywood Hills

View from Hollywood Hills

Fred MacMurray's Apartment, 1825 N. Kingsley Drive

Fred MacMurray's Apartment, 1825 N. Kingsley Drive, Hollywood

Fred MacMurray's Apartment

Newman Drug Store
Above is a screenshot of the Newman Drug Store. The building is still standing but the Newman Drug Store is long gone. When I rewatched this film I recognized the drug store from the book, The Story of Hollywood, which shows many Hollywood buildings as they used to be, as well as many buildings that no longer exist. This building is located at the Southwest corner of Hollywood Blvd and Western Avenue.

Hollywood Blvd and Western Ave.

Hollywood Blvd and Western Ave
One of the main points of action in the film takes place at the Glendale Station located at 400 W. Cerritos Ave, Glendale, CA. Below is the shot of the station in the film and how it appears today. Not too much has changed. It's here where MacMurray's and Stanwyck's characters dump the body of Mr. Dietrichson.

Glendale Station, 400 W. Cerritos Ave, Glendale, CA

Glendale Station, 400 W. Cerritos Ave, Glendale, CA

During the movie, Lola Dietrichson (Jean Heather) and MacMurray visit the famous Hollywood Bowl located at 2301 North Highland Avenue. Like in so many other movies, Heather and MacMurray don't go through the entrance, but instead climb up the back hill and watch from the top.
Heather and MacMurray at the Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl as it appears today.

If you're looking to track down these locations yourself I recommend starting in downtown Los Angeles early in the morning before traffic gets too bad and then working back towards Hollywood.

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