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Byline: Evan Henerson Staff Writer

To Harry Medved, a family excursion often means a trip to the movies.

But instead of stepping into a darkened room with a tub of popcorn, Medved uses road maps and carefully researched film archive data and heads to the bright outdoors.

A lifelong movie buff, Medved has now created a guidebook, ``Hollywood Escapes,'' to put the spotlight on the many Southern California locations that have served the film industry and to get movie watchers out to visit them.

Pop a DVD into a player, and chances are the city of Los Angeles unfolds before you. And in many cases, L.A. isn't ``playing'' itself.

``We do have a joy and love for knocking down old buildings, unfortunately,'' says Medved, an author and the publicity director for Fandango, a movie-ticket Web site. ``Too often, the house you've seen in a movie is something that was on the backlot for a few weeks and was knocked down.''

``But if you're talking about a movie like `Planet of the Apes,' you can pretty much do the entire `Planet of the Apes' tour of Malibu and Malibu Creek State Park, and you're seeing the whole movie,'' adds Medved, referring to the 1968 film, not the Tim Burton remake. ``All that landscape is pretty much the same.''

The selection of Malibu Creek State Park as an ``Apes'' location was hardly an original one. The property off Las Virgenes Road -- formerly called the 20th Century Fox Ranch and, at the time, owned by the studio -- has also played roles in ``M*A*S*H,'' ``How Green Was My Valley'' and ``Pleasantville.'' Medved will be conducting a walking tour of some of the park's film locations on Jan. 28 (see sidebar), one of numerous tours he has set up since the publication of ``Escapes'' last summer.

Get out

The 410-page ``Escapes,'' co-authored with Bruce Akiyama and published by St. Martin's Griffin, takes cinehounds across some 1,000 flicks and over nearly as many locations throughout Southern California, from mountains to beaches, from deserts to vineyards. The book carries the paradoxical subtitle ``The Moviegoer's Guide to Exploring Southern California's Great Outdoors.''

Moviegoers? Outdoors? Absolutely, says Medved who maintains that exploration -- not couch-potatoing -- is the name of the game.

``I just find that more and more people in L.A. are getting tired of the hassles of airports, the costly roadtrips and the rising price of gas,'' says Medved. ``They're looking for alternative vacation plans. What I'm trying to promote is that you really don't have to go far from L.A. to find some sort of exotic adventure. You can see the world and stay at home.''

Medved has spent the past several years doing precisely that. A movie lover since childhood and the co-author of a pair of previous books about bad movies, Medved witnessed numerous films shot in or around his alma mater, Palisades High School. When people would move to Los Angeles, he would be the one enlisted to show them movie sites.

Some six years ago, his burgeoning tour-guide skills would come in handy again when he began dating a woman who had recently emigrated from South Africa. Medved found himself introducing Michele Barishman (who he would later marry) to sites such as Ojai and Death Valley, using film clips as a pre-trip primer.

``Oftentimes, we would look at movies on Saturday to figure out where we were going to go on Sunday. Southern California is one of the few places you can do that, especially if you're looking at classic movies,'' Medved says. ``Now that we have two little girls, we do the same thing.''

An area code away, an adventurer can find the surf where Gidget frolicked (that would be at Leo Carrillo State Beach), ``Heidi's'' Bavarian alps (Lake Arrowhead), ``The Sting's'' Chicago streetscape (Santa Monica) and the moors where Heathcliff and Cathy fled in ``Wuthering Heights'' (Wildwood Park).

Valley in the frame

The San Fernando Valley's cinematic past gets its ``Escapes'' close-up in chapters on the Angeles National Forest and the movie ranches of the Santa Susana Mountains and the Simi Hills. Paramount Canyon and Wildwood Park are also in close Valley proximity (see sidebar). Griffith Park has its own chapter, as does one of filmdom's more recognizable landmarks: the Hollywood sign.

Moving out of town, a location hunter can check out Route 66, the waterfalls of Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Want to visit the site of Cecile B. DeMille's 1923 version of ``The Ten Commandments''? Head west of Santa Maria to the Guadalupe Dunes. And bring a shovel. After production wrapped, the sets were buried under the sand, where they remain.

``It takes a lot of painstaking work to put together a project like that,'' says Marc Wanamaker, film historian and president of the preservation-oriented Hollywood Heritage. ``Harry had to kind of figure out the historic places and balance it with the more contemporary places so it relates to people now.''

Medved limited his endeavor to Southern California, figuring a separate volume could easily be assembled for the Bay Area and its surrounding region. A location made its way into ``Escapes'' as long as there was something to actually see on the excursion. (``There's nothing more unsatisfying to me than going to a movie location that doesn't exist anymore,'' Medved says.) Accompanying hike, restaurant and lodging suggestions bolster historical data. Numerous end-of-chapter references cite the specific DVD scene in which a given location can be seen.

It's the scope and breadth of the author's research that has impressed film historians. Wanamaker recalls manpower hours spent trying to locate a specific beachside house from the Tom Cruise movie ``Top Gun,'' and the ``Eureka!'' moment when Oceanside's historical society was finally able to confirm its location.

`` `The movies' are perceived by most people not in the business as existing in another dimension,'' says Valerie Yaros, a historian with the Screen Actors Guild. ``Harry's book illustrates the tangible reality by showing readers how they can enter this other dimension, in part, by visiting the very real locations.''

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651


Upcoming ``Hollywood Escapes'' related tours:

Jan. 28: Malibu Creek State Park, Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas. 1 p.m. walking tour of locations from ``M*A*S*H,'' ``How Green Was My Valley,'' ``Planet of the Apes'' and ``Pleasantville.'' 5 p.m. book signing at Barnes & Noble, 4735 Commons Way, Calabasas.

Feb. 11: Santa Monica's Palisades Park. 2 p.m. book signing and film clips at Fairmont Miramar Hotel (101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica). 4 p.m. walking tour of locations from ``Point Blank,'' ``Lords of Dogtown,'' ``Cisco Pike'' and ``The Truth About Cats and Dogs.''

March 11: Venice/Santa Monica Bay Bus Tour. 2 p.m. meet at Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley at Ocean Front Walk. RSVP to

For more information, visit

-- E.H.

Where they shot in the Valley

How often has a cinematic landscape -- classic or contemporary -- looked more than just a little familiar? Well, in many cases, film crews traveled just a few miles down the freeway to a nearby canyon or a working movie ranch to get that supposedly exotic look.

A few local examples highlighted in ``Hollywood Escapes'':

The place: Big and Little Tujunga, Angeles National Forest.

The films: ``White Oleander,'' ``Memento,'' ``Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle,'' ``Stargate.''

Medved's view: ``There's plenty of rich movie location history in the Tujunga Canyons, including Big Tujunga Wash where Jack Nicholson inspects the `dry-as-a-bone' L.A. River in `Chinatown,' and suburban cowboy Ed Norton hides from the law in the 2005 indie `Down in the Valley.' And although there's no classic movie location ranch in the Tujunga Canyons, you will find the former ranch of legendary director Cecil B. DeMille just a mile away from the Oak Spring hiking trail in Little Tujunga Canyon.

The place: Paramount Ranch, Agoura.

The films: ``Bwana Devil,'' ``The Virginian,'' ``Must Love Dogs,'' ``The Love Bug,'' TV's ``Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.''

Medved's view: `` `Dr. Quinn' fans can still find the Western town buildings, train tracks and barn at the ranch today, which was a partial location for the upcoming Eddie Murphy comedy, `Norbit.' ''

The place: Upper Las Virgenes Canyon (Ahmanson Ranch).

The films: ``Gone With the Wind,'' ``The Grapes of Wrath,'' ``Mission: Impossible III.''

Medved's view: ``Thanks to the efforts of locals and filmmakers like Rob Reiner, this vast landscape of classic movie history has been saved for future generations to explore and enjoy.''

The place: Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks.

The films: ``Wuthering Heights,'' ``Spartacus,'' ``The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.''

Medved's view: ``You can still hike along the park's Santa Rosa Trail to the secret Castle Rocks meeting place for the lovers in 1939's `Wuthering Heights,' and at the top of the ridge you'll be rewarded with a view of the orange grove area seen in `Chinatown.' ''

-- E.H.


4 photos, box


(1 -- cover -- color) On location

`Hollywood Escapes' takes you where the `action!' is

(2 -- 3 -- color) Harry Medved, far right, displays clips from TV and films that have used the caves at Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park. Above, an original prop from the 1953 film ``Robot Monster,'' which was filmed in the caves.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) no caption (``Hollywood Escapes'')


Where they shot in the Valley (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 17, 2007
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