A Pasadena Film Parade


E ver since Thomas Edison filmed the Rose Parade in 1898, Pasadena and the surrounding communities of Altadena, Arcadia, Eagle Rock, La Canada Flintridge, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena have been popular locations to shoot movies and television series, from Charlie Chaplin’s “Great Dictator” at the Pasadena City Hall to Jim Carrey’s “Liar Liar.” Over the last century about 525 features and 105 TV shows have been filmed in the area, including “The African Queen,” “The Sting,” “Bugsy,” “Father of the Bride,” “Dynasty” and “The Nutty Professor.” (As it happens, the new Fox drama, “Pasadena,” is produced in Vancouver.)

A new exhibition at the Pasadena Historical Museum, “Hollywood Comes to Pasadena,” celebrates the bond between Hollywood and the Pasadena area. The show, which begins Sunday and continues through Jan. 6, includes props, wardrobes, production equipment, videos and photos from films and TV shows shot in the area.

Among the highlights is Edison’s film of the Rose Parade, as well as the works of Oscar-winning special-effects expert Dennis Muren, Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, production designer Henry Bumstead and costume designer Bob Mackie. Video displays feature a clip from a Keystone Kops comedy shot on the Colorado Street Bridge and aerial scenes from various films.

Exhibition curator John Gregory recently discussed “Hollywood Comes to Pasadena.”


Question: Why have Pasadena and the surrounding cities been such a popular location for both films and television?

Answer: We started with the premise that it was the architecture and location being fairly close to many of the studios, plus the variety here. If you want a jungle scene or a European capital [you can shoot it here]. We picked up a couple of interviews with a producer [Kathleen Marshall] and a director [Tony Scott], who were asked that question. They said it was the variety of the scenery. Instead of going to Minnesota, you can create a snowstorm here.

Q: What was one of the first movies made in Pasadena?

A: The Fenyes Mansion, which is on Orange Grove, is actually the first residential property to welcome film crews back in the D.W. Griffith age. The Fenyes family found it fascinating to allow a number of films to be shot there, and the first one was called “When Kings Were the Law” by Griffith. That was 1912. That wasn’t the first film shot in the area, but as far as actually on a residential property [it was].


Q: How did you acquire the items in the collection?

A: First, there is a nice central database called the Internet Movie Database. You can look up where locations were, listed by the studios for various films. Then we dealt with a lot of the different properties in our eight communities. We began to get their lists [of what has been shot there], like from the Arboretum and from the Morton Estate, where many, many movies have been shot. “Dynasty” was. Plus, we dealt with all of their historical societies and then, beyond that, we put the word out. There were some articles that came out in local papers where we asked people to become celebrity sleuths. Some said: “I’ve got some footage.” Someone from DreamWorks has given us a little piece of film from a Mack Sennett Keystone Kops movie [shot in Pasadena].

We have had a lot help from the community. All together, the exhibit team is about 60 people--we include the help we have had from the studios and from the film permit people at various cities. They have given us a lot of their information. Some journalists have been helpful too. I sent an e-mail [to Times staff writer Ruth Ryon] of the Hot Property column, and she gave me [the names of] about seven or eight people who live in the area. The exhibit is not just about films but also about people here.

Q: Stars who live in the area?

A: Those who live in the area, went to school here, died here. I have counted 303 people in the entertainment industry that this exhibit has researched. “Bronco” Billy Anderson spent his last years here. Frank Capra went to Caltech and lived in Sierra Madre.

Q: Would you describe some of the props featured in the exhibit?

A: We have received more than 50 props and probably 12 wardrobes. [Designer] Bob Mackie is donating some costumes for the exhibit. From Universal we have all kinds of stuff, props from “Back to the Future,” like Michael J. Fox’s tennis shoes and skateboard, and Christopher Lloyd’s headset. From “Liar Liar,” we have Jim Carrey’s wardrobe. From “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” we have medical equipment, wardrobe, and we have a dinosaur model from Steven Spielberg.

Q: Are there any rare photos?


A: We have tried to get as many as we could of somebody on the set rather than just a stock photo. There is a photo of William Holden talking with Billy Wilder off the set [of “Sunset Boulevard”], but in some cases we have not succeeded. Our sources went all the way to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. We sent somebody there to look up D.W. Griffith and Edison [material]. They came back with a lot of really cool photos of D.W. Griffith shooting a movie in Sierra Madre.

Q: The exhibition also has a “Star Trek” booth.

A: Some booths have videos. Some booths have some props. All of them have photos and other imagery. The “Star Trek” booth, for example, we are going to feature the actors who live there who have been in the series--Michael Dorn, Robert Picardo--and then also the films and episodes of the series that were shot in Pasadena and the surrounding communities.


“Hollywood Comes to Pasadena” at the Pasadena Historical Museum, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena, Sunday through Jan. 6. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission, $6; students and seniors, $5; children under 12, free. (626) 577-1660 or