Seeing Stars: Where the Movies Were Shot (on Location)


To Live & Die in L.A.
filming locations

The 1985 movie, "To Live & Die in L.A.", is one of the quintessential Los Angeles films, shot almost entirely in the L.A. area, with dozens of different filming locations around the southland, from the L.A. River to the San Pedro harbor.

However, one of the problems with doing a locations report on a 1985 movie is that many of the filming locations have disappeared in the intervening years.

But fortunately, quite a few of them remain.

Click here for a Live Local map of the locations.

[ Warning: Due to the gritty nature of the movie, many of the filming locations are
located in potentially dangerous parts of L.A.  Exercise reasonable caution. ]

  • The movie opens with a shot of the Presidential motorcade, as it heads towards the hotel where the President will stay in Los Angeles.

    The motorcade is seen driving west (southwest) on Santa Monica Blvd; as they pass Century Park East and the towers of Century City on their left side.

    ( Ironically, driving west would actually take them AWAY from the Presidential hotel... )

  • They wind up at the hotel where the President is staying, and where our hero, Secret Service agent 'Richard Chance' (William Petersen), does his job of protecting him.

    This hotel is actually Merv Griffin's
    Beverly Hilton Hotel, located at the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvd, at 9876 Wilshire Blvd, in Beverly Hills. The motorcade turns down (what is now) Merv Griffin Way and winds up at the hotel's circular entrance way (which has changed a bit over the years).

    Chance finds a terrorist in the hotel and corners him on the roof, where the terrorist blows himself up.

    That scene was actually shot on the roof of (the main building of) the Beverly Hilton (the southeast side of that roof, to be exact).

    (If you look closely at the background, you can see the steeple of the Mormon Temple in the distance).

  • The green bridge that Chance jumps off of is actually the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.

    The bridge links the mainland of the Los Angeles Harbor with Terminal Island.

    ( Quite a few of the scenes in "To Live & Die in L.A." were shot down near the L.A. harbor docks, in this general Wilmington / San Pedro area.)

    ( As Chance bungee jumps, you can see behind him the S.S. Princess Louise. Built in Canada as a passenger ship, the Princess Louise was retired in 1964 and was transformed into a popular floating restaurant, docked in the L.A. Harbor, across the channel from Ports O'Call Village. Unfortunately, she sunk around 1990. )

  • At Rick Masters house, we see Masters set a painting canvas afire and watch it burn.

    The house in this scene is located near the border of Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades & Brentwood, at 
    757 Kingman Ave, in Santa Monica.   (Thanks, Aaron!)

[ Warning: This is a private home.  Do not trespass on their property,
knock on their door, or do anything else that might disturb the residents. ]

It turns out this house has a real-life Hollywood history of its own.

It was built in 1930 as a home for early screen legend Dolores Del Rio and
her husband,
Cedric Gibbons (who won 11 Oscars for art direction at MGM).

(Thanks, Pascal!)

  • The Longshoreman bar, where Chance gives his partner a fishing rod as a retirement present, was actually Utro's Cafe, which, in 1985, was originally located (on Beacon Street?) in San Pedro. But the original location was torn down, and the Cafe relocated. It is now located in the parking lot of Ports O'Call Village, in San Pedro.

  • The desert warehouse, where Chance's partner, Jim Hart, goes snooping around and is murdered by Masters' men after he discovers counterfeit money thrown away in the trash bin behind the warehouse.
  • It is located at 40038 170th Street E, in the desert community of Palmdale, about half a mile north of Lake Los Angeles. That's about 80 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

    It appears to be (or have been) a feed store called “Hitching Post Feed & Pet Supplies”.

    170th is the street towards which the cars head away at the end of the scene (see the photo below).

    But the best view is seen looking west from 171st Street, just south of Glenfall Ave. Here is a good Google StreetView of the building and the familiar rock formations behind it, seen from that spot.

    The area, which looked completely undeveloped back when the movie was filmed in 1985, has filled in a lot in the intervening decades.  There are homes now on the other side of 170th. But as of 2009, the barn-like building itself is still very recognizable (although they appear to have added a porch to the north side).

    ( Major congratulations to Chas Demster for tracking down this particularly obscure location. Thanks, Chas! )

  • We then get to see Chance and his new partner at his house on the beach, talking about how Masters killed his original partner and how Chance is out for revenge.

    The condo is actually located right on the beach,
    at 22664 Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu, about 760 yards east of the Malibu Pier.

[ Warning: This is a private home. Do not trespass on their property,
knock on their door, or do anything else that might disturb the residents. ]

  • The airport scenes, where Chance spots a counterfeiter passing bad bills at the counter, chases him down, and corners him in a restroom, were shot at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport).

  • The church, where the cops staked out Waxman's law office across the street (for surveillance purposes) is actually the First Congregational Church, at 464 E. Walnut Street, in Pasadena, CA. (The door in the photo above is located on the west side of the church, and faces N. Los Robles Avenue.)  
  • Waxman's law office, which was across the street, is gone now, replaced by the Westin Pasadena Hotel, part of the larger Plaza las Fuentes, which was built in 1989 (four years after the movie was filmed).

    (The ARCO service station, seen in the scene to the left (north) of the church, is still there.)

  • On the way to Ruth's house, we see Chance driving along a curving road at dusk. On his right side are two places with big signs reading "BAIT" and "BAIL". On the left side is the harbor. This was shot on the Wilmington/San Pedro border, down by the docks of L.A. Harbor. The bend in the street is where John S. Gibson Blvd is renamed N. Pacific Avenue, They are driving southeast as they take that turn, and are headed towards the Vincent Thomas Bridge.  *

    Ruth's (Darlanne Fluegel) hilltop house was located atop the small but steep Knoll Hill, in San Pedro, just west of the Vincent Thomas Bridge (you can see the bridge in the background as Chance walks to the door).

    To reach the house, Chance turns up the steep
    Knoll Hill Street, then turns left on Center Street at the top of the hill, and appears to end up at the east dead-end of Viewland Place. Alas, most of the homes that used to stand atop this small hill are now gone, including the one where they filmed these scenes. But the view of the bridge and harbor below remains the same.

    ( My best guess is that the home was the duplex that used to stand at
    255 Viewland Place, in San Pedro, now the right field of a brand new baseball diamond on the south side of what was that Viewland dead end - the middle of three such diamonds up there. The dead end no longer exists. With the addition of the new park, Viewland east now ends at Center St. )

1920's - 1930's - 1940's - 1950's - 1960's - 1970's - 1980's - 1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994
1995 - 1996 - 1997 - 1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007


* Locations marked by an asterisk (*) may be located in areas with high crime rates.
Exercise reasonable caution.

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