Western Trips

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Film Locations / Sonoma County California Classic Movie Set Locations

There are many areas of Sonoma County California that have been used as film locations. Several of our most classic motion pictures have been shot all or in part in beautiful Sonoma County California. Out of all the classic movies shot in Sonoma County, Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 production of The Birds and the 1963 production Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, starring many star actors and actresses such as Jonathan Winters, Spencer Tracey, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Edie Adams, Peter Falk and several others.
schoolhouse in birds movie
Old Potter School
To be sure, there are plenty of fun things to do in Sonoma County whether on an extended vacation or weekend road trip.

Sonoma County wineries, historic sites, B & B's, coastal beaches and rivers make this part of northern California a vacation and weekend trip destination for many. Adding a few of these old film locations can be fun additions to your Sonoma County California vacation planner.

Hitchcock's The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was a typical Hitchcock production. The storyline is somewhat based on the 1952 book The Birds by author Daphne du Maurier.

The setting for Hitchcock's production was Bodega Bay California. Bodega Bay is on the California coast almost due west of the city of Santa Rosa. Scenes for this film were shot in Bodaga Bay and also in the town of Bodega, about 5 miles inland from Bodega Bay. The film had a different plot line than du Maurier's story but the basic concept of unexplained bird attacks stayed the same. Stars in this production included Tippi Hedron, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney,Suzanne Pleshette and others. As a side note, The Birds represented Tippi Hedron's first acting role.

potter schoolhouse in bodega california
Road to Potter School. Bodega, CA
The Potter Schoolhouse sitting very prominently up a hill from the main highway was used during filming. The 150 year old Potter School behind St. Theresa’s Church in Bodega was vacant at the time of the filming. After Hitchcock’s crew repaired the exterior it was used for several scenes. Today it is a private residence and is sometimes open for tours.

The old schoolhouse is located at 17110 Bodega Lane. In the film, the schoolhouse which is inland appeared to be just a road on a hill in Bodega Bay. Other scenes were shot at the Tides Wharf and Restaurant in Bodega Bay directly on the water. The Tides Wharf and Restaurant is still there although looks quite different. This is the location in the movie that many of the townspeople sheltered themselves against the bird attacks. Fortunately you can still get a very good meal there. It is directly on Hwy 1 passing through Bodega Bay.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

bodega bay california
Bodega Bay, CA
Another classic movie, Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was shot in many locations, but of special interest is an airport hanger which a stunt pilot flew directly through in a scene from the movie.

You might remember the exact scene which had Mickey Rooney and Jim Backus trying to control a plane. The hanger is still there and looks fairly the same as it did when the movie was shot. The hanger is at the Charles Schulz Sonoma County Airport just a few miles northwest of Santa Rosa California.

Santa Rosa is about 65 miles north of San Francisco on US Hwy 101. The aircraft used for the movie stunt was a Beech Model 18-D. The pilot was stunt flier Frank Tallman who worked in several films during his career. Reportedly, Tallman did three practice runs just flying over the top of the hanger each time. The final approach had Tallman flying the Beech right through the hanger just under the roof. It was an amazing aerial stunt of which Frank Tallman was famous for.

Other film credits for Tallman included The Carpetbaggers in 1964, The Wrecking Crew in 1969 and The Thousand Plane Raid in 1969. Tallman was also aerial supervisor for the movie The Great Waldo Pepper. Frank Tallman was killed in 1978 during a regular ferrying flight between Santa Monica California and Phoenix Arizona. The hanger shown below at the Sonoma County Airport is adjacent to the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

movie stunt hanger sonoma county airport
Hanger at Sonoma County Airport
Sonoma County California situated on the northern California coast has very diverse scenery and as such was used as movie sets often. Another classic film shot there in part were the 1947 film, The Farmer's Daughter, starring Joseph Cotton and Loretta Young. Scenes from this movie were shot in Penngrove and Cotati which are located between Santa Rosa and Petaluma to the south.

Sonoma County also was used as a location for some of the very earliest of films. These include, Salomy Jane in 1914 and Broncho Billy Anderson in 1915. Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson acted in over 300 short films and was a partner in one of the earliest movie studios. These were truly early productions.

Salomy Jane scenes were shot in Guerneville and Monte Rio which are located on River Road and on the Russian River between Santa Rosa and the Pacific Coast. A part of Broncho Billy Anderson was shot in Monte Rio California. Both Guerneville and Monte Rio are great summer vacation destinations with canoeing and kyacking on the beautiful Russian River. They're excellent additions to an extended Sonoma wine country trip.

As a side note, a scene in the 1976 television film, Amelia Earhart, was shot at Goat Rock Beach California. This is a popular beach on the Sonoma coast just north of Bodega Bay on Hwy 1.

Two additional interesting articles regarding old movie filming sites are Hollywood on Route 66 and Who Made All Those Old Westerns.

Also see our California Gold Rush driving tour of CA State Route 49.

You'll no doubt have plenty of  interesting things to do while touring Sonoma County and adding a few of these old famous classic movie sites to your trip planner might add to the fun.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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