Long before Hollywood existed, Santa Barbara was home to the largest movie studio in the world. In honor of the star-studded International Film Festival, which opens Jan. 31, here are a few local cinema landmarks.
Flying A Studios
Founded in 1910, Flying A Studios produced over 1,200 silent films, mostly shorts running less than 30 minutes. It covered two blocks of Mission Street, from Chapala to Anacapa streets. The only remnants are a lovely small, white building, privately owned and not open the public, at Mission and Chapala streets. Visit the Santa Barbara Historical Museum to see artifacts, such as a hand-cranked 35 mm camera.
Charlie slept here
Charlie Chaplin and some pals built the Montecito Inn as an upscale getaway in 1928, and his image once graced their logo. It was a hangout for Norma Shearer, Carole Lombard, Marion Davies and other Hollywood luminaries. A chic shopping area has sprung up around the inn, filled with bistros and boutiques. Montecito is still a home to the stars, including Oprah, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Carol Burnett. (1295 Coast Village Road)
San Ysidro Ranch has always been a destination for Hollywood elite looking for privacy and luxury. Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were married in the gardens at midnight Aug. 31, 1940, with Katharine Hepburn as maid of honor.
The recent Thomas fire came dangerously close to this beloved and beautiful location, and the hotel portion is closed until February. Restaurants are slated to reopen soon, which is great news, as the delightful Plow and Angel pub has one of the best burgers in town, and the famed Stone House Restaurant is a culinary gem. Check availability before setting out. (565-1700, www.sanysidroranch.com, 900 San Ysidro Road)
Andy Garcia plays twin brothers in “Steal Big, Steal Little” by filmmaker Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive”), but Santa Barbara is really the star. Garcia can be seen walking down State Street during the Solstice Parade, at the County Courthouse and in Montecito.
“The Pelican Brief” has a scene beneath the State Street clock, at the corner of Haley Street. State Street also plays a big part in “Cutter’s Way,” though many locations were razed during the building of Paseo Nuevo.
Mission Santa Barbara is a familiar location for classic-movie fans -- it’s even in “Sunset Boulevard,” starring Gloria Swanson.
The mansion bought by Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in “Scarface” is actually here, as is the Farmers Market that Meryl Streep visits in “It’s Complicated.”
'You dirty (wharf) rat!'
Stearns Wharf, built in 1872, was purchased for $200,000 in 1945 by actor Jimmy Cagney and investors who wanted to turn it into an amusement park. The deal went south after they discovered that repairs would cost more than the purchase price -- and take 10 million board feet of lumber. It wasn’t until 1955 that new pilings arrived, and by 1972 the owners had spent $1 million.