NOTE: Okay, this will be a work in progress, but we’ve got to start somewhere. If you have information to add, please do.
Since we are right on the edge of but still within Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone (the TMZ, hence the name of the TV news show) , the Seal Beach-Los Alamitos-Rossmoor area sees a lot of action area when movies and TV shows need a small town look. It also got a lot of action in the silent film days. (Remember the first film shot in Hollywood — the Squaw Man — only happened in 1913, so small film companies were shooting all over Southern California. One of the biggest of the early studios was the Balboa Amusement Company in Long Beach at 6th and Alamitos (where the MOLA Museum is now), and a large amount of films were shot in Orange County (Mainly Balboa, Laguna and the canyons), But Seal Beach’s Joy Zone could stand in for an amusement park (as it did for “Her Circus Knight” in 1916) — with the advantage that it was nowhere near as crowded as The Pike or Venice. By early 1920, bankruptcy and the discovery of oil in Signal Hill drove Balboa and other producers out of Long Beach, and Hollywood emerged as the center of cinema and Orange County locations were used less and less until the rise of natural color film made location shooting once again more attractive to producers.
1915 – The LB Press (precursor to the Press-Telegram) reported that on the evening of October 19, 1915, following the day’s successful vote to incorporate the new city of Seal Beach, Balboa Director Bertram Bracken took advantage of the new town’s celebration (“fireworks over the pier, rockets and roman candles bursting in a shower of stars over the moonlit waters”) to film an “election scene in front of the pavilion, following the fireworks… big bundles? were built and the scene was further illuminated by many torches.” The paper also referred to the filming as “the first scene of its kind ever filmed at night.” This might be just some hype, but our cursory research of some historical film sites could not come up with an earlier instance of night-time filming..
Her Circus Knight (1916, Triangle-Sennett-Keystone) — This Mack Sennett Comedy came out and shot some scenes which took advantage of stunt aviator Joe Boquel doing a record number of loop-the-loops in the background.
1917 – Pathe Newsreel showed a daredevil motorcyclist riding the Derby roller coaster.
The Butcher Boy (1917) – directed by Fatty Arbuckle and starring him and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Seal Beach Bathing Girl’s Parade — (1918) – Fatty Arbuckle plays a featured tole in this documentary about the second bathing beauties parade shot in August 1918. It may have just been distributed locally.
When the Clouds Roll By (1919) – Douglas Fairbanks Jr. A film mainly remarkable for the fact that Anaheim Landing filled in for New York City. Directed by Victor Fleming who is probably best known for his good year of 1939 when he directed both the Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.
Frank Burt, the nationally known theatrical and amusement park empresario, who was brought in late 1915 to make the Joy Zone work finally gave it up in 1920 and moved back to Northern California where he headed up a group that built the Pacific Studios in San Mateo, a few miles south of San Francisco.
Moran of the Lady Letty (1921) – an early film for Rudolph Valentino.
To Have and To Hold (1922) – Anaheim Landing stood in for Portsmouth, England in this film which featured scenes set in three locations.
Isle of Jam (1923) – a Childrens Film, or perhaps a scam. The Isle of Jam company advertised for kids to take part in their filming, and also advertised for people to come watch their filming in their studio owned by the Stuart Mack Company at 15th and Ocean.
The 10 Commandments – (1923) – Yes, the original Cecil B. DeMille classic. Most of the Biblical portion of this movie was shot on the Nipomo Dunes near San Luis Obispo, but a sequence of of the pursuit leading to the parting of the Red Sea was shot in June 1923 on the beaches and sand dunes of East Seal Beach, just south of the Anaheim Landing rail crossing and a few years before the Surf Side Colony was built. (The sand dunes don’t exist any more as they were dredged away so the Navy could alter the inlet to their new station in 1944. The actual parting of the sea was filmed in a pan of gelatin in a special effect processing lab in Hollywood. On some publicity stills photos you can barely make out the Palos Verdes hill in the background.
The Mansion of Aching Hearts (1925) starring Cullen Landis, directed by James. P Hogan, B.P. Schulberg Prod., released Feb. 27, 1925). While shooting scenes for the movie on “the famous Beach” (Seal Beach( the director and star thought they’d get in a little fishing and about a mile off shore, both hooked some good sized catches. or they dad until both fishes were stolenh by a hungry seal. (or so the press release for the film aleged.)
The Wanderer (1926, Paramount) – directed by Academy Award winner Raoul Walsh. The very versatile Anaheim Landing stood in for ancient Babylon this time. With some 0f the homes and cottages on Anaheim Bay getting re-dressed to have fronts resembling the ancient Middle Eastern empire.
Sarah and Son (1929) – an early chick flick and real stomach turner starring Ruth Chatterton and Frederic March. Some of the settings used were Alamitos Bay and the Bolsa Chica Gun Club.
Reaching for the Sun (1941, Paramount) — Joel McRae starred in this Paramount flick which spent a few days shooting scenes at the Seal Beach Power Plant — a place which ironically was built under the supervision of McCrae’s father, Thomas P. McRae, who was secretary of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Company.
Down to the Sea in Ships (1949, 20th Century Fox) – Richard Widmark, Lionel Barrymore and Dean Stockwell. Local legend says that all footage was shot in the ocean a mile or so off Seal Beach and filled in for New England. A newspaper article of the time (probably an AP, but for sure in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette of Jun. 14, 1949, p13) says the movie “was filmed in realistic fashion in Seal Beach which closely resembles a New England harbor.” Produced by Daryl F. Zanuck — and “nearly ten years in preparation” (some delays no doubt caused by World War II)
Lucy Gallant (1954, Paramount ) — Jane Wyman and Charlton Heston in this 1950s chick flick with Wyman as a successful independent woman who builds a career from nothing but finds it’s still nothing without a man — intense, ultra-virile Chuck Heston to be exact. Some of the scenes were shot on the Hill, when it was still vacant.
Endless Summer (1966)
Born Losers (1967, American International) – most notable for being the very first of the four (or maybe 5) Billy Jack films (starring Tim Laughlin as the noble Native American who spreads peace and love by karate kicking the crap out of bad guys). It’s also one of the earlier low-budget American-International outlaw biker flix, a genre popularized by the rise in prominence of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, especially after Hunter S. Thompson’s 1966 book on the gang. The first AIP 60’s outlaw biker flick was The Wild Angels (1966) with Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and that oh-so-rebellious Nancy Sinatra, which spawned three more AIP biker flicks in 1967, including Born Losers which was inspired by news reports of the Hell’s Angels terrorizing a California community. It shows up occasionally on AMC but be warned — this film is awful (we’re talking almost but not quite Ed Wood territory) although it does have some nice scenery in color. While it is worth watching for that fact alone, it’s also got some good shots of Main Street c. 1967. Clancy’s, The Irisher, Conda’s Rock Shop, Raines TV (see left) and a few other angles. The film crew was kicked out of town after shooting a bunch of exterior scenes — including a race up and down Main Street (and a quick unauthorized blocking of traffic) — they didn’t bother to list on their permit application. The rest of the film was shot in Huntington Beach and some nice scenic footage around Big Sur. The budget for this film was $160,000 but during the biker flick craze after Easy Rider, the film took in $36 million and allowed star and producer Tom Laughlin to pursue his more “noble” Billy Jack sagas. People sometimes get this confused with Easy Rider, but alas that classic wasn’t shot here — just the real bad Born Losers. Starring Tom Laughlin (Mister Billy Jack himself) and Jeremy Slate (who also starred in the TV series, Malibu Run and some John Wayne films like The Guns of Katie Elder. A good article on the film can be found at the Poseidon’s Depths website. A little additional trivia — As a cost-saving measure, a stunt scene of a motorcycle crashing into a pond was taken from co-producer AIP’s comedy The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).
Lovedolls Superstar (1986) — Even more low-budget than Born Losers was Lovedolls Superstar, “Punksploitation” film which cost only $10,000 and was shot on Super-8 film to boot — and somehow still earns a review as “one of the greatest music industry movies of the last decade”. Don’t know which scenes were shot around here but Mawr McMahan at You Know You Grew Up in Seal Beach Facebook group says it was shot here so we believe him. Source: Wikipedia; Mawr McMahan
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) — Race track scenes shot — where else? — the Los Alamitos Race Track.
Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) — Another Troma low-budget experience — The Beaches Have Become Battlefields… The Waves Are A War Zone! When the son of a gun wielding woman is murdered by neo-Nazi surf punks in the post-apocalyptic future, this Mama hunts them down for some bloodthirsty revenge. IMDB
Under the Boardwalk (1988) — “a modern day Romeo and Juliet living in southern California, separated by the unbridgeable gulf of their backgrounds and torn between loyalty to their “gangs” and their real desires.” IMDB
Downtown (1990) – A crime drama starred Anthony Edwards (pre-Northern Exposure and ER). The real mystery is – how did they make the bus stop on Electric at Main look like it was set in Philadelphia?
Apollo 13 (1995) — The Times reported that a few of the official looking scenes in this Ron-Howard-directed and To hanks-starring film were shot at the North American Rockwell site on the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station.
Eraser (1996) – Rockwell Inc., Seal Beach- This Arnold Schwarzenegger film about a federal agent who specializes in erasing identities for the Witness Protection Program also shot some scenes at the North American Rockwell (now Boeing) campus in Seal Beach. Wikipedia article.
Trigger Effect (1996) — This film starring Elizabeth Shure, Dermott Mulrooney and Kyle MacLachlan (before he got strange in Twin Peaks) was shot on Burney Court and Baskerville St. in Rossmoor, and follows the downward spiral of society during a widespread and lengthy power outage in Southern California.. source: LA Times. Wikipedia article.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery — when the producers needed some modern looking equipment to look like a cryogenic facility, they turned to the North American Rockwell/now Boeing space facility in Seal Beach.
American Pie II and American Pie Reunion — Main Street Seal Beach stands in for Main Street in Grand Harbor, Michigan. Lots of other Long Beach area locations were used in the film.
As Good As It Gets (1997) – When the Santa Monica Pier charged too much money, the producers decided to shoot their Chesapeake Bay pier scenes at the Seal Beach Pier. Some restaurant scenes were also shot across the moat at Khoury’s in the Alamitos Bay Marina. Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both won Academy Awards for this James Brooks film. Wikipedia article.
Mighty Joe Young (1998) – When you need a remote, sandy beach — who you gonna call? Seal Beach, that’s who. Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton star in this “sequel” to King Kong.
Simpatico (1999) – Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges pull off a scam at a racing track — the Los Alamitos Race Track to be exact. Wikipedia article.
Almost Famous (2000) – Cameron Crowe’s cult classic (i.e., good but didn’t make much money) about growing up in the 70’s. Stars Kate Hudson. Scenes were shot on Main Street and the Bay Theater. (Thank you, Kristie Griffith for the tip)
American Sniper (2014) — scenes from this academy award winning film were shot at O’Malley’s and the Seal Beach Pier. Seal Beach Feels Lucky As Clint Eastwood Comes to Town
Mannix — (1970’s) — behind the apartments on Marina Drive, in the alley (now Marina Palms – then maybe A la Moana Apartments?) (Thank you, Kim Wells, for the tip)
CHIPS – Ponch (Eric Estrada) rides his CHp-mobile up from the 2nd Street Beach and around the bend to off -camera, and the next cut shows him in San Pedro. (tip thanks to Mike Dobkins)
When the Whistle Blows (1980) – this short lived (one season) ABC comedy series about construction workers filmed some scenes in the oil fields Gum Grove Park in Seal Beach. (Thank you for the tip, Kristin Stangeland Layhee.) IMDB. episode on YouTube
Knight Rider (1982- 1986 ) — more than a few episodes of this legendary David Hasselhoff classic were shot on Main Street, and used the pier parking lot as a staging area. Here’s a photo op by a Seal Beach cop posing with Kitt the the car at the scene during filming of the “White Line Warriors “ episode in November 1983. Scenes were shot at Marietta Matheson’s Store at 220 Main Street. The eiposde also featured actress Mary beth Evans (who reportedly used to work at SB’s Taco Bell in the mid 70’s and later became a big soap opera star). Endless Summer on Main Street was used during the “Kitt vs. Karr” episode in June 1984.
Baywatch (1989) – not sure if they ever actually shot anything here, but in Season 1, the plotline for “Armored Car” episode reads “Jill’s former boyfriend shows up as her new volleyball partner to compete in a Seal Beach Pro-Volleyball tournament…” Jill was former Miss USA Shawn Weatherly who “used to be a pro volleyball player but has retired.”
Wonder Years – a 1989 episode titled “Summer Song” had some scenes under the SB pier (tip thanks to Mike Dobkins)
Op Center (1994) – an NBC mini-series based on the Tom Clancy novels. A restored troop carrier, Lane Victory, was towed from San Pedro to just off Seal Beach. The LA Times reported that Residents were advised that nighttime scenes would be filmed with “helicopters and simulated tracer fire.”
Pacific Blue (1995-2000) — a show on USA Network about a team of police officers with the Santa Monica Police Department who so happened to usually shoot their exterior beach scenes in other beach towns – Venice, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, etc. One of the Seal Beach scenes featured former Monkee Mickey Dolenz. North Hall Productions in assoc. with E! TV Networks.
Sunset Beach (debuted Jan 4, 1997) — Despite the title, exteriors for this NBC daytime soap from Aaron Spelling Productions (Charlie’s Angels, Hotel, Hart to Hart, Beverly Hills 90210, etc.) were usually shot in Seal Beach. (The producers loved Main Street, but said the pier was the selling point). The Show’s Java Web cyber coffeehouse was actually Main St. Ice Cream, City Hall stood in for the Sunset Beach Inn, and Elaine’s Waffle House was in reality the Old Town Cafe. source: LA Times, Dec. 22, 1996.
Cougar Town – early episodes of the Courtney Cox sitcom show her shopping at Main and Electric.
Dexter – Road Kill (2009) – scenes shot in Seal Beach, California, USA
Safe Harbor (2009 ) – TV Movie starring Nancy Travis and Treat Williams who are about to set sail on a long trip when they unexpectedly find themselves foster parenting a group of troubled teenage boys. The experience changes their lives for the better, and they decide to stay in town and run the foster home for boys permanently.
Los Alamitos – Rossmoor
The Uneven Match (1916c) – This Balboa serial starring the short, rotund and hilarious Hazel Tranchell was filmed on the “plains around Los Alamitos.” Co-starred Slim Pickett (not Pickens).
Bond of Blood (1919) – this “Western” starring actual bank robber-turned straight but bad filmmaker Al Jennings was shot on the dirt streets of Los Alamitos — Main Street to be exact, about ten years before it was renamed Reagan. The Bank was the old Harmona Hotel. Some of the location shots were the forested areas lining the old Coyote Creek riverbed.
Patton (1969) — There’s a rumor that Patton’s opening speech (so well played by George C. Scott) was shot at the Joint Forces Base theater, but this is a somewhat dubious claim, according to folks who actually worked for many years at the Base — like former airfield commander, LtCol Tom Lasser.
Forever Young – Forever Young with Mel Gibson. Some scenes were shot at the Joint Forces Base (then called the AFRC, Armed Forces Reserve Center).
Crank 2 (a/k/a Crank: High Voltage) (2009) – Jason Statham and Amy Smart wake up at the Los Alamitos Race Track (yes, we know, technically in Cypress) and from the look of the photo to left, Jason’s got some mansplaining to do. Article on film locations. Wikipedia article.
Chef (2014) – Jon Favreau wrote, directed and starred in this film about “a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family,” shot for four days in Los Alamitos, beginning with some scenes at McAuliffe School. Besides Favreau, other stars included Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johannsen, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr. Article in Patch.
Fear No Fruit (2015) – this documentary is about Rossmoor’s Freida Caplan and her journey from being one of the only women company owners in the produce industry to growing a company that is now one of the national leaders in specialty produce. Many scenes shot at her office n Los Alamitos. OC register article.
Charlie’s Angels (1976) – scenes for at least one episode were shot at the Los Alamitos Race Track (which as we all probably know, is actually in Cypress)
Los Alamitos Race Track – (which is now technically in Cypress) has been a frequent guest star on TV shows and movies, more often the former. TV shows shot there include:
- CSI-Miami (CBS)
- Prison Break (Fox)
- Animal Planet — “Jockeys” and “Dog 101”
- Arli$$ (HBO)
- Thieves (ABC)
- The Hulk (CBS)
- Hart to Heart (ABC)
- Charlie’s Angels (ABC)
Queen for a Day – Around 1958, during a national lull in home sales, Ross Cortese got attention for his Rossmoor tract by giving away a home for free on the ABC afternoon game show/sob story show, Queen for a Day. The winner was Shirley Woodlock, a recently divorced lady from Downey who was all excited about winning, and planned to support her family in their new home by doing baby sitting. Unfortunately for her, almost all of the homes in the new tract were either young families with stay-at-home moms or older families whose kids no longer needed supervision. After a number of months in Rossmoor, she couldn’t afford to live here anymore, and sold the house and moved elsewhere. As for Queen for a Day, it would return to the areas, this time taping an episode at Leisure World soon after it opened in mid 1962.
Glee — one of their episodes used a Rossmoor home on Shakespeare around Baskerville. The show’s McKinley HS scenes were actually shot at Cabrillo HS in the LB, which was also used for Cheaper by the Dozen (Steve Martin and Hillary Duff), Jack and Bobby, the TV show on the WB, 7 weeks of Dodgeball with Ben Stiller, David Hasselhoff, Christine Taylor, Vince Vaughn, and Rip Taylor. They filmed Fast and Furious on Santa Fe Avenue. Alvin and the Chipmonks at Wilson HS, Dexter was filmed all over town as well as CSI Miami.
Drew Peterson: Untouchable (2012) – A TV Movie (for Lifetime) Rob Lowe starred as a dirty cop who starts attracting suspicion for the murder of his third wife, after the disappearance of his fourth wife. Scenes were shot around Silver F0x and Edgely in Rossmoor. YouTube clips of movie (around 2:00) IMDB. (tip thanks to Jeff Heeren)
Dexter – this blood-drenched Showtime offering frequently used the East Long Beach area to fill in for Miami Beach. Didn’t CSI:Miami do this as well?
East Long Beach
(for our purposes East LB is Belmont Shores, Peninsula, Alamitos Hts, Los Altos, & east of Lakewood Blvd.)
Gilligan’s Island – some of the title sequences for that fateful three-hour tour that lasted a couple hundred years were shot at Alamitos Bay Marina. Newport Beach also claims this but I say let’s have a Duffy Boat Race to decide this — winner take all. Evidence for the Alamitos Bay connection — 1. California Babylon: Long Beach’s Tropical Port; But the best evidence of all comes from the show’s creator and Executive Producer, Sherwood Schwartz, in the liner notes accompanying the release of the complete show on DVD on its 50th anniversary in 2014. The original black and white show was shot in Hawaii, but for its second season in September 1965, they reshot the title sequence in color — and to do that Schwartz said they shot it at Alamitos Bay marina. The rest of the show was shot at a lagoon built at the CBS Radford Studios (formerly the Republic Studios) in Studio City. They drained and filled in the lagoon a few years later — and built some new studios — I think the Big Brother studio now sits atop part of the old lagoon. Sacrilege.
Other shows shot at the Marinas
- Rich Man Poor Man — the LB shoreline was used to portray the French Riviera.
- Clueless used Shoreline Village
- Queensway Bridge – Knight and Day
- Step Brothers (2008) Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly – Parkers Lighthouse
- Criminal Minds
Chuck — some of the final episodes of this light-hearted spy series were shot on the Belmont Peninsula.
Dexter was filmed all over town as well as CSI Miami.
Alvin and the Chipmunks — Wilson HS,
Millikan HS was also used as East Great Falls HS in American Pie.
Frequently used Long Beach locations
- North Dallas Forty
- Space Jam
- Mr. Baseball
- The Scout
- Angeles in the Outfield
Cabrillo High School — although not in East LB, we included them because they’ve they filmed a lot of movies there in recent years.
- Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin and Hillary Duff,
- Jack and Bobby, the TV show on the WB,
- 7 weeks of Dodgeball with Ben Stiller, David Hasselhoff, Christine Taylor, Vince Vaughn, and Rip Taylor.
- Glee was also filmed for years at Cabrillo. They filmed Fast and Furious on Santa Fe Avenue.
El Dorado Park
- Tin Cup – (Kevin Costner, Rene Russo) EDP filled in for North Carolina
- Nixon – (Frank Langella) filled in for Washington DC
- Clear and Present Danger (Harrison Ford) – tropical Panama
- Defending Your Life (Albert Brooks)
Long Beach Airport
- Ladies Courageous – Loretta Y0ung an exaggerated biopic of the WASPs and WAFs women ferry pilots
- A Stolen Life (1946) – Betti Davis, Glenn Ford
- Red Corner (1997) – Richard Gere
- The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- The Parent Trap (as Queen Elizabeth 2)
- Party Down
- Pearl Harbor
- L.A. Confidential
- Arrested Development
- The Aviator
Vets Stadium — Long Beach City College
- Semi-Tough (1977) Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Jill Clayburgh
- The Rose (1979) – Bette Midler
- Longest Yard remake(Adam Sandler)
- Sugar Daddies (1927) Laurel & Hardy
- Strike me Pink (1936) – Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, William Frawley
In 1939 – Long Beach Radio Station KLON broadcast live updates a couple times a day from Seal Beach Airport during the 30-day record-setting endurance flight Of pilots Wes Carroll and Clyde Schlieper.
During World War II, Bob Hope broadcast his national radio show from Los Alamitos Naval Air Station. He reportedly did it at least twice during the war (both times with Bing Crosby) — and came back c. 1954 and did his show, this time with Rosemary Clooney. He went to television soon after.
During World War II the Long Beach airport was considered the busiest airport in the world. All the planes coming off the assembly lines of all the SoCal aircraft plants — North American in Inglewood, Vultee in Downey, Lockheed and Vega in Burbank, and Douglas with three plants in Santa Monica, El Segundo and biggest of all, Long Beach — had to be delivered to their next destination — and the pilots of the Army’s 6th Ferry Division did just that. Such a big operation required not only 1800 pilots (including over 100 female WASP pilots), it required a huge support cadre — mechanics, clerks, etc. — and a big entertainment unit for them. The 6th Division Band was one of two big military bands — with a lot of top-name Hollywood musicians — who did studio sessions by day and dances and radio sh0ws for Uncle Sam by night. Many of those shows were broadcast across the nation.
Thanks to tips from Mike Dobkins, Nona Rafferty, Jeff Heeren.