Quick . . . think of a West Coast location where more than 200 movies have been shot. If you're thinking of California, you're right. But if you answered Monterey, about two hours south of San Francisco, then you probably have already taken Doug Lumsden's Monterey Movie Tour. If you're not clued into Monterey's movie history, climb aboard, and let Doug show you how much Hollywood loves Monterey.
Directors and cinematographers have been drawn to this area since 1897, when a cameraman working for Thomas Edison shot the pounding Monterey surf and filmed carriages arriving at the swanky Hotel Del Monte (now the Naval Post-Graduate School). Filmmakers from Cecil B. DeMille to Alfred Hitchcock have flocked to the Monterey Peninsula ever since, seeking the perfect backdrops for their shots.
Monterey has doubled for many famous places over the years, including Marin County's Stinson Beach in "Basic Instinct"; Sausalito in "Star Trek IV"; Louisiana swampland in "The Muppet Movie"; and the 19th-century Baltic coast in budget-movie-king, Roger Corman's "The Terror".
"We're in Movieland," Doug chimes out. He was born in Monterey County, and his father was a friend of Clint Eastwood's dad; they were both in the lettuce industry. Doug's dad also was roommates with Jimmy Stewart in WWII, just after he won the Oscar for "Philadelphia Story". Doug's movie roots fuel his enthusiasm. Not only is he the president of the Monterey Film Commission, but also he's a great source of local history and lore better known as small-town gossip.
Doug is the owner, tour guide, and driver. After 22 years in banking, and seeing customer service go down the tubes, he decided to follow his dad's inspiration and start celebrating his hometown. Doug had been providing generic scenic tours, as if any scenery in Monterey is generic! But in 2003, to honor the new DVD release of Clint Eastwood's "Play Misty For Me", Doug organized a special movie tour. Because "Misty" was filmed entirely in the Monterey area, choosing just a few locations for the opening was a challenge, but the event gave Doug the idea to create a movie tour. If you're like me, and like to go where the locals go, this tour is it.
What You'll See
First, you'll see a comfortable, 32-seat bus with overhead TV monitors and headsets for listening to Doug's commentary and the movie clips he shows. He is terrific at showing snippets just before you arrive at the location. When we first boarded the bus, we watched a scene from "A Summer Place", with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Our first stop was Colton Hall that doubled as Sandra's girls' school. Today, this historical museum was the home of the California Constitution.
Most of the movies made on the Monterey Peninsula were created in the 1920s about 30 films but continued to be recognized at the Oscars through the 1950s in "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935), "Captains Courageous" (1937), "National Velvet" (1944), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), and "East of Eden" (1955). Monterey has also been featured in some real flops, and Doug shows a bit of these just for fun.
Next we drive by the famous Sardine Factory restaurant while we watch a scene from "Play Misty For Me". We parked just where Clint did. Doug has worked "Misty" and about 50 other movies into the tour, and he notes key moments, such as when Julie's psychotic boyfriend steps on her foot and the accelerator, forcing her to careen around 17-Mile-Drive in the movie, "Julie".
"Here they come," Doug says. As we drive up a hill, we see Julie driving down the same road in black and white. "They are passing us right 'here!'," and he points to a curve in the road.
Stretch Your Legs in Beautiful Spots
The three-hour tour winds through the communities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel-by-the-Sea. You'll see the famed 17-Mile-Drive and make three beautiful stops. First is Bird Rock. Doug offers the use of free binoculars, and I suggest you use them. Otherwise, you'll miss the hundreds of camouflaged seals parked on the rock as well as the multitude of birds.
The next stop is The Lone Cypress Tree (tm), the only living thing to be trademarked. One wonders why it is called "lone" since forest, bushes, grandeur, and onlookers surround it. Estimates indicate that the tree will live for only 30 more years, so hurry. Here you can also see the beach where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissed so passionately in "From Here to Eternity". Once you know the water is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you understand that the relationship had to be steamy just to keep the actors warm.
Our next stop is The Lodge at Pebble Beach, formerly The Del Monte Lodge. Many movies were filmed looking across this famous public golf course including, "National Velvet" (where the golf course doubled as Sewells, England), and "The Caddy" with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. While The Lodge is definitely elegant and sumptuous, it is also open to the public, and Doug insists that you must walk through the main lobby to "the best view in the world" out back. If you are a golfer, you can play Pebble Beach because it is a public golf course. However, greens fees are $405, and even if you have four spare C-notes, they won't take them immediately because there is a ten month wait to play.
By the end of the tour, you'll have retraced the steps of Troy Donahue in "My Blood Runs Cold", Rosalind Russell in "Five Finger Exercise", and Tom Hanks in "Turner and Hooch". Such motion pictures are part of a century-old tradition of movie making in Monterey that promises to thrive. Waves will continue to pound the rocks at Point Lobos, and fog will drift lazily through the cypress. We look forward to seeing a new generation of filmmakers looking to make more movie magic in Monterey.
You need a reservation for the Movie Tour, so be sure to call ahead as they fill up fast. Tours run every day. Tours are available in eight languages. Hot Tip: Get there early and sit on the right side of the bus for the best views. Call reservations at: 800/343-6437 or reserve online at www.montereymovietours.com.
Return to Movie Sites
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row, Monterey; 831/648-4888
You can see the outdoor natural pool where the humpback whales were filmed in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home". The tank is just ten feet deep no whales have been kept there. Since the film's release, Trekkies have been coming to the Aquarium hoping for a glimpse of the whales, but they lived in the pool only in movie magic. .
Point Lobos State Reserve
Highway 1, Carmel. 831/624-4909
One of the most photographed pieces of coastline, Point Lobos appears in more than 40 movies.
Finding Old Movies
Can't find the old Monterey movies in your local Blockbuster? Try Netflix. No late fees ever, and they claim to have everything that's been issued on DVD. Netflix is a mail movie service. You create a list (or queue) of movies on their web site. They send you three at a time for $20 per month. When you send a movie back in the postage paid envelope, they will send you the next one on your list. As you rent, their computers keep track of your tastes and suggest other movies. For film research, nothing beats Reel.com.
By Cymber Quinn, Bay Area Correspondent; Cymber is an adventurer, artist, and writer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Jetsetters Magazine feature about The Monterey Aquarium.