By Dylan SYLVESTER
Movie lovers and history fanatics alike would be surprised by some of the historical movie treasures that are hidden in local neighborhoods. At this month’s meeting of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, held at the Center for Spiritual Living, some of these sites were revealed. Presenter Craig Durst, a movie and history enthusiast, offered the audience a presentation titled, “Our Hills and Hollywood.”
He said the title seemed appropriate given that in some of the old Hollywood movies filmed in the Crescenta Valley the only giveaway that the production ever saw our neck of the woods were the local rolling hills in the background.
It all began with Griffith Ranch, purchased by David Griffith in 1912. Griffith was a pioneer of silent films and used his land to film many early silent westerns. Where this ranch used to be now stands a marker at the intersection of Foothill and Vaughn in San Fernando.
Residents could see directors begin to move deeper into the local community and begin filming, including at Sunland Park where the classics “It Happened One Night” and “The Mark of Zorro” were filmed six years apart, the first in 1934 and the following in 1940. Only two years later, John Wayne brought his production of “In Old California” to the Tujunga Canyon, where a railroad was built so that the derailing of a train could be filmed for the movie. It is said that Tujunga residents gathered together to watch the derailing of the train first hand.
Verdugo High School has also been a popular film location, hosting movies such as “The Craft” and “Rivers Edge,” featuring Keanu Reeves and Crispin Glover, both filmed in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Some more shocking stunts have been performed in the local community as well, such as cars racing along the bottom of Hanson Dam in “The Italian Job” featuring Mark Walberg, and Will Ferrell streaking down Honolulu Avenue in the Montrose Shopping Park in the film “Old School.”
As presenter Craig Durst wrapped up his presentation, he addressed the audience, saying, “I drive around and think, ‘Ohh that’s where that was shot.’ It’s changed my whole perspective.”