Pasadena’s picturesque neighborhoods and old town charm lends itself perfectly to the magic of film. Given it’s proximity to Hollywood, it’s no surprise that dozens of iconic scenes from beloved movies and TV shows have been filmed on these streets. While there have been dozens of films that feature private residences, there have also been countless other that have used places that you can actually go and visit for yourself, as they are open to the public and free of charge.
Pasadena’s City Hall (100 N. Garfield Ave.) is a classic. Fans of NBC’s Parks and Recreation will recognize this massive building as Pawnee’s City Hall. Close ups of the building are also featured in American Pie 2, as a building in Spain where Heather goes as an exchange student. Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator features the hall as the palace of the dictator himself. And speaking of Chaplin…
The Colorado Street Bridge is a beloved landmark for locals and visitors. The bridge features heavily ornamented edges and “Old World” style lamp posts that provide the backdrop for a scene in Chaplin’s The Kid, where a woman is attempting to commit suicide. Countless other films have chosen this as a scene backdrop, including Being John Malkovich, Seabiscuit, Yes Man, even an episode of NCIS (“Hunted”). Fans of the band Incubus will also recognize it from the music video for Incubus’ “Wish You Were Here”.
If locations featuring Chaplin piqued your interest, you may also be interested to know that classics like Gone with the Wind (for the Twelve Oaks scene) and Citizen Kane (the Xanadu grounds) used shots of what remained of Busch Gardens near Arroyo Blvd.
Rose City High School (325 S. Oak Knoll Ave) is practically a movie star in and of itself, as its interior was both the school from Catch Me If You Can, Stuart Little, and for scenes of the TV’s Mad Men. The school’s lecture rooms were also the very same classrooms featured in Legally Blonde, where Reece Witherspoon’s character is supposedly studying at Harvard University. Much of the rest of Harvard’s Campus in this movie is actually made up of scenes shot at Pasadena’s own CalTech.
More recently in 2010, The Social Network used Pasadena’s Museum of History (470 W Walnut St.) for its beautiful sprawling grounds and prestigious looking building interiors. The grounds have also been featured in two Christian Bale films: The Prestige and Newsies.
The Gamble House, (4 Westmoreland Pl) was built for David Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble) and is now a Historic Landmark thanks to its unique architecture. Though its features are beautiful, this location is probably more famous for the fact that it was the home of Doc Brown in Back to the Future.
The best part is that film buffs can make their own walking tour of these legendary places- any day, any time.
photo by David Maurer
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