Movies Filmed in Palm Springs
100 Years of Lights, Camera, Action
The desert vistas of Palm Springs transport moviegoers to a sun-drenched oasis and our signature architecture towers in the minds of film buffs and matinee connoisseurs. Let’s roll back the years and go on location to see how our humble hometown has spun some of Hollywood’s greatest yarns…
The Early Days
It’s hard to pinpoint the first known film shot within our city’s limits because location scouts were often stealthy and sensationalistic in their missions. Preservationist Joseph Smeaton Chase once wrote, “Those nuisances the motion-picture people have seized on Palm Cañon for their antics, with the result of setting fire to some of the finest of the palms.” Perhaps the crews were filming action sequences for lost films such as The Lone Star Ranger (1919) or maybe the charred palms were stand-ins for burning bushes to create the biblical epic Salomé (1918). Either way, the desert provided a vast canvas upon which early productions could paint a cinema-scape of excess, decadence, and exoticism.
The lure of Palm Springs earned it a reputation as “Hollywood’s Playground” – an upscale destination far enough from Los Angeles to be secluded but close enough to stay connected. Film actors were becoming (in)famous on a global scale, prompting luminaries like Harold Lloyd and Al Jolson to seek refuge in our discreet Movie Colony neighborhood.
The Orphan – 1920 (stars William Farnum) – Palm Springs
The Sheik – 1921 - Rudolph Valentino followed suit, falling in love with Palm Springs as only he could. In between filming and its eventual sequel here, Rudy became embroiled in a scandal much louder than his silent film legacy. He was charged with bigamy for marrying his second wife in Palm Springs because his previous divorce was less than a year old. Seems quaint by today’s standards, but gossip was already a prolific byproduct of the film trade.
Follow Thru – 1930 – El Mirador Hotel
Under the Texas Moon – 1930 – Palm Canyon
Captain Blood – 1935 – (stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland) - Palm Canyon
Desert Gold – 1936 – (stars Buster Crabb) – desert scenes
Under Two Flags – 1936 (stars Claudette Colbert) – Palm Canyon
Lost Horizon – 1937 - Frank Capra proved this assertion with his Oscar-winning. The characters in this film discover Shangri-La in Tahquitz Canyon.
Her Jungle Love – 1938 - (the first jungle film in Technicolor) presented a scantily clad “native” Dorothy Lamarr, who was perved-upon by shipwrecked outsider Ray Millan. Hollywood felt it was necessary to decorate the 15-mile long Palm Canyon Drive with $330,000 worth of transported vines and foliage to create an authentic “tropical rainforest.”
Sahara – 1943 - Humphrey Bogart got in on the Palm Springs action in this war epic in which the Coachella Valley doubles for the sands of Libya.
A Night in Casablanca – 1946 (The Marx Brothers) -
The Damned Don’t Cry – 1950 - Tise gloriously tawdry film noir stars Joan Crawford as a gangster’s moll who hides out at her boyfriend’s estate in “Desert Springs.” Palm Springs’ modernist architect E. Stewart Williams designed the masterpiece midcentury property featured in the film, which was owned by Frank Sinatra. He was rumored to have hosted many of his own mafia friends as houseguests there. Sinatra reluctantly allowed filming of The Damned Don’t Cry at his Twin Palms Estate in Palm Springs’ Movie Colony neighborhood. Other Palm Springs locations included Lone Palm Hotel (demolished)
711 Ocean Drive – 1950 – The Doll House restaurant (demolished) at 1032 North Palm Canyon Drive
Desert Rates – 1953 (stars Richard Burton)
Palm Springs Weekend – 1963 – Riviera Hotel, Indian Canyon Drive, CA-111, 200 S Civic Dr. (police station), The Ocotillo Lodge
The Cool Ones – 1966 – Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Wild Angels – 1966 – Tahquitz Canyon, riding on Hyw 111, party in the desert
The Wrecking Crew – 1968 (stars Dean Martin) - Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
James Bond dazzled audiences in the 1971 spy thriller Diamonds Are Forever. 007 discovers two bikini-clad female gymnasts inside the 2,400 square-foot Elrod House (a stunning circular house built into a mountainside, a structure Playboy magazine called “the ultimate bachelor pad”). The exclusive 2175 Southridge Drive retreat was designed in 1968 by architect John Lautner. There was also a poolside scene at Kirk Douglas’s former Palm Springs home.
Kotch – 1971 - Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
3 Women – 1977 - The Sunbeam Inn (291 Camino Monte Vista – no longer there), a small Palm Springs hotel which becomes the gaudy Purple Sage Apartments; the Joseph M. Shapiro Eye Center of Desert Hospital which had opened in 1971 (Desert regional); the Palm Springs Greyhound bus station (was last Woody’s Burgers).
Hanging by a Thread – 1979 - Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
She’s Dressed to Kill (TV movie) – 1979 – Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
American Gigolo – 1980 - As Palm Springs was becoming synonymous with lavish lifestyles experienced at full velocity, movie studios took note. Richard Gere took a decadent detour to our hometown revealing film shot partially at the Rheimans House. This geometric 3,300 square foot wonder simmers and stuns at 2389 South Yosemite, a spare gem tucked away in the verdant confines of Indian Canyons Golf Resort. There was also a road scene on I-10 by Whitewater and CA-111.
Fraternity Vacation – 1985 – Palm Springs airport, many downtown locations, Tahquitz, Casa Verde Condominiums at 1150 Amado Road
Heaven – 1987 (documentary by Diane Keaton) – Palm Springs
Less Than Zero – 1987 - Future Marvel superhero/villains James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. crash at the Hyatt on North Palm Canyon.
Rain Man – 1988 – (stars Tom Cruise and Dustan Hoffman) The convenience store in the movie is located at 60490 Overture Dr in Palm Springs.
Mulholland Falls – 1996 - 2201 E. Smokewood Ave.
Bounce – 2000 – (stars Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow) – water park scenes are in Palm Springs
Circuit – 2001 - Hunter's Video Bar, 302 East Arenas Road, Palm Springs Marquis Resort, 140 South Calle Encilia
Ocean’s Eleven – 2001 - The Rat Pack put Palm Springs on the map in the swinging midcentury, so it was only fitting that the all-star remake of Ocean’s Eleven was filmed partially in our stunning backyard. The 2001 release features a scene in which George Clooney and Brad Pitt are overshadowed by the handsomeness of the Reuben Rishkoff home at 999 North Patencio Road, with its 6,300 square feet of pools, palatial grounds, and a mirror-and-stone lined living room.
The Scorpion King – 2002 - Speaking of stones, The Rock brought his searing brand of action to Anza-Borrego State Park to film The Scorpion King back in 2002. Dwayne Johnson’s celebrity was still on the rise, as was the sweltering heat of the barren landscape that served as a backdrop to the burgeoning champion of virtually every blockbuster franchise to follow.
Constantine – 2005 (stars Keanu Reeves) – A car gets stolen - the parking lot at 17729 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Mission Impossible III – 2006 - Cruise was in the windmills for the high-flying action of helicopter chase sequence.
Alpha Dog – 2006 (stars Gena Rowlands, Justin Timberlake) - Koerner House on S. Calle De Maria in Deepwell, Burgess House (also known as The Bougainvillea House), Caliente Tropics Hotel
Phat Girlz – 2006 – in and around Palm Springs
Into The Wild – 2007 – The cable car scene is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Eating Out: The Open Weekend – 2011 – Triangle Inn
Defcon 2012 – 2010 - 123 North Palm Canyon Drive
Behind the Candelabra – 2013 - Our Lady of Solitude Church, 696 North Via Monte Vista
A Star Is Born – 2018 - Director Bradley Cooper chose the Palm Springs Convention Center to shoot part of his Oscar-winning opus, and then the entire cast and crew dropped in on the nearby Stagecoach Festival. That’s where they filmed one of Lady Gaga’s most memorable scenes, but she only had eight minutes to nail her performance because Willie Nelson was about to take the stage.
Palm Springs truly is a dream factory, and the films that were shot here resonate beyond the boundaries of our city limits and into the annals of cinematic legend. A visit to our hometown will immerse you in star power, making you feel like the A-list celebrity you were born to be.
By Kevin Perry and Randy Garner