Monterey in the Movies

Two of the earliest films ever made, "Surf at Monterey" and "Hotel Del Monte," were shot in Monterey in 1897. The area's spectacular scenery and friendly locals have drawn filmmakers to the area ever since. Films such as the Oscar-winning "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "Rebecca," as well as "Basic Instinct," "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" and many more have used Monterey County as their backdrop.

Hotel del Monte, from Edison Films. This 21-second film is one of the first two shot in Monterey.

Nearly 200 films have been shot in Monterey County, but locals still thrill to see the area on the silver screen.

"From Here to Eternity" and Other Surprises

Films set in Monterey County like "Cannery Row," "East of Eden," "Play Misty For Me" and "Turner and Hooch" have been shot here, but filmmakers have also loved the area for its resemblance to more distant lands. Parts of Monterey County stood in for Scotland in "Lassie Come Home," England in "National Velvet," Ireland in "Dr. Dolittle," Vietnam in "We Were Solders," Louisiana in "The Muppet Movie" and Maine in "A Summer Place."

Monterey County has even substituted for other locations in California. The beach at Garrapata State Park in Big Sur appears in "Basic Instinct" as Marin County's Stinson Beach. The Monterey Bay Aquarium doubled as Sausalito's fictional Cetacean Institute in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." In the film, the character Spock swims with humpback whales (inserted via special effects) in the Kelp Forest exhibit. For years after, visitors to the aquarium asked about the celebrity whales.

The most famous scene in "From Here to Eternity," filmed at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur.

Monterey County's most surprising stand-in moment, however, was in one of the most famous movie scenes of all time - the beach love scene in "From Here to Eternity." Though the entire film had been shot in Hawaii, Doug Lumsden of Monterey Movie Tours says, "Director Fred Zinneman did not like the beach scene that they had filmed over in Hawaii." Rather than take the crew back to Hawaii, "where they ended up was Pfeiffer Beach" in Big Sur, says Lumsden who quipped that Big Sur's legendary frigid water may be the reason that the characters only have a brief clinch in the surf, racing to a blanket for the rest of the scene. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton later romped on the same beach in the film "The Sandpiper," which also shot scenes at legendary Big Sur restaurant Nepenthe.

Cinematic Time Capsule

"What's wonderful about having movies filmed in your area is that they actually capture buildings in the background of their scenes," Lumsden says, giving viewers a chance to see the area as it once was. His favorite "time capsule" film is Marilyn Monroe's "Clash By Night," made just four years after she was crowned Queen of the Castroville Artichoke Festival. It's not just the chance to see a young Marilyn Monroe in one of her first co-starring roles, he says; the film has some of the only existing footage of Monterey's sardine industry at its height.

Another great portal into the past is Clint Eastwood's "Play Misty For Me." The movie was filmed throughout the Monterey area, frequently at venues still open today such as the Sardine Factory. The four-minute sequence filmed at the Monterey Jazz Festival is a special delight for both fans of the area and jazz enthusiasts.

Silent Film Star: Point Lobos

During the silent film era, the area that is now Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was a popular location with filmmakers. An entire Monte Carlo-style chateau was built at Sea Lion Point for the film "Foolish Wives." Locals were enthusiastic about the filmmakers' work until 1929 when, while shooting the film "Evangeline," producers burnt a village they'd built above Headland Cove. The ensuing fire also burned trees, brush and grassland, and scarred Point Lobos for almost 20 years.

A scene from 1924's "Foolish Wives." The large chateau stands on Sea Lion Point at Point Lobos, and the Carmel Highlands coastline can clearly be seen behind Erich von Stroheim as he fires his gun.

Aghast locals fought to ensure that Point Lobos would be protected from danger in future film shoots. The damage was used as one argument for incorporating Point Lobos into the State Park system. The new restrictions did not dissuade producers from filming at Point Lobos, however, which has featured in films such as "Rebecca," "Edge of Darkness," "Lassie Come Home," "The Graduate," "The Sandpiper," "Blind Date" and "Turner and Hooch."

If you're visiting Point Lobos, you can learn more about its cinematic past at the Whalers Cabin and Whaling Station Museum at Whalers Cove.

Touring Monterey's Movie Locations

With over 190 movies filmed in Monterey County, a dedicated visitor could spend an entire vacation doing nothing but visiting spots where films were shot. The Monterey County Film Commission provides a map (click here to view in PDF) that visitors can use to arrange their own self-guided tour.

For a tour that's packed with fascinating tidbits and trivia, hop on an interactive and exciting Monterey Movie Tour bus. This tour is a can't-miss for anyone who would like to see the scenic beauty of the area through the eyes of Hollywood. Click here to reserve your ticket online at the Monterey Movie Tours website, or call 800-979-3370.

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