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El Cabrillo from “L.A. Story”

Jan 16th, 2014 | By | Category: Movie Locations

L.A. Story apartment building (6 of 8)

Last April, in the midst of my slightly-obsessive L.A. Story location-finding mission, fellow stalker Owen, of the When Write Is Wrong blog, tracked down a couple of the movie’s crew members for me, one of whom was extremely helpful.  After he assisted us in the finding the crash intersection from the flick, I inquired about the garden where Harris K. Telemacher (Steve Martin) and Sara McDowel (Victoria Tennant) turned into children in one of the movie’s more fanciful scenes.  I was actually under the assumption that the locale was most likely a set, but the crew member advised me otherwise and responded that the scene was shot in “a famous old Hollywood courtyard building.”  Well as soon as I read those words, I knew exactly where filming had taken place.  It was a spot I had even stalked and blogged about before!  As it turns out, Harris and Sara’s garden is the courtyard of El Cabrillo, the condominium complex from both the television series Chuck and the 1997 romantic comedy ‘Til There Was You.

El Cabrillo, which was constructed in 1928, was designed by prolific husband-and-wife architecture team Arthur and Nina Zwebell.  (The couple also designed Villa Primavera from In a Lonely Place and the Chaplin Court apartment complex.)  Legend has it that Cecil B. DeMille commissioned the structure as housing for travelling actors.  The two-story, ten-unit building features a central courtyard, a tiered Moorish fountain, wrought-iron detailing, carved fireplaces, Catalina tiling, and wood-beamed ceilings.  Luminaries such as singer Stevie Wonder, director Lowell Sherman, actress Ann Harding, costume designer Kent Warner, makeup artist Perc Westmore, and playwright John Willard all called the property home at one time or another.  In 2005, the building was renovated by designer Xorin Balbes and turned into condos.  A gorgeous, albeit small (if my calculations are correct, it measures 462 square feet) one-bedroom, one-bath unit (with no parking!) sold for $430,000 ($41,000 over asking price!) last June.  You can check out some pictures of it here.  The place may be tiny, but it is absolutely idyllic.

L.A. Story apartment building (11 of 16)

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Sadly, El Cabrillo is gated and its gorgeous interior courtyard is not visible from the road.

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I did manage to snap the picture below via a crack in the gate, though.

L.A. Story apartment building (1 of 8)

Even from the outside, El Cabrillo is an idyllic little spot.

L.A. Story apartment building (4 of 16)

Check out that balcony – what an oasis!

L.A. Story apartment building (4 of 8)

In L.A. Story, Harris and Sara are shown walking into a neon-lit store window on Melrose Avenue (you can read about that location here).  The window then turns into a magical garden, complete with flowers that bloom in an instant, statues that move, a sparkling waterfall, and the power to transform Harris and Sara into children.  Very little of the garden is actually shown in the scene, which is why I believed it was a set.

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In the 1997 romantic comedy ‘Til There Was You, El Cabrillo masqueraded as La Fortuna, the bucolic apartment building where Gwen Moss (Jeanne Tripplehorn) lived.  And while the exterior of El Cabrillo was shown several times in the flick . . .

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. . . I am fairly certain that the courtyard was a set.  As you can see below as compared to these photographs, while sharing similar elements, El Cabrillo’s courtyard is significantly smaller than the one that appeared in ‘Til There Was You.

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El Cabrillo’s central fountain is also more ornamental than the fountain shown in ‘Til There Was You.

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El Cabrillo was also where reluctant spy/Burbank Buy More employee Chuck Bartwoski (Zachary Levi) lived in the television series Chuck.  According to a 2007 The Hollywood Reporter article, Chuck producers were looking for a courtyard apartment complex “reminiscent of old Hollywood/Echo Park” for their hero to call home.  They ultimately decided on El Cabrillo.  Location manager Kelly Harris is quoted in The Reporter as saying that the Cabrillo “offered many interesting textures — concrete blocks, wood-spindle balconies, private balconies, an impressive interior courtyard turret and a courtyard fountain and provided an amazing background for our characters to interact.”  And while the pilot was shot on location at the actual complex, a replica of the building was constructed on a soundstage at Warner Bros. Studios for the remainder of the show’s run.  I got to see the set once on one of my many WB visits and it was absolutely amazing how real it looked.  The screen captures pictured below are from Chuck’s pilot episode and show El Cabrillo’s real life courtyard.

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These screen captures are from the second episode of Season 1, titled “Chuck Versus the Helicopter,” and show the soundstage re-creation that was used throughout the remainder of the series.

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A commenter on Hooked on Houses’ fabulous post about El Cabrillo stated that the building was also where Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) lived on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I never watched the series, but fellow stalker Ashley, of the Drewseum, was a die-hard Buffy fan and had done some investigating on Giles’ apartment a few months back.  She was nice enough to share her findings with me.  As she discovered, the exterior of Giles’ building was actually El Pueblo in Los Feliz, the very same apartments used on Melrose Place, and the interior was just a set.  Ashley also sent me several screen captures of Giles’ pad and I almost fell over when I saw how similar it was to the El Cabrillo condo that sold in June.  Check out those matching arched stairways!  I have a feeling that the set of Giles’ apartment was modeled after a real life El Cabrillo interior.

Buffy Set

For more stalking fun, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Los Angeles magazine online.  And you can check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic, here.

Big THANK YOU to fellow stalker Owen, from the When Write Is Wrong blog, for helping me to find this location.  Smile

L.A. Story apartment building (11 of 16)

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: El Cabrillo, from L.A. Story, is located at 1832-1850 North Grace Avenue in Hollywood.

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2 comments

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  1. Sara says:

    Hey Lindsay, it’s alway great your blog and even if I live on the other side of the world I always check on the map where my favorite movies/tv shows are set. You know, I love cinema and I love LA :)
    A hug from Switzerland
    http://all-kaythoughts.blogspot.ch/

  2. Ashley says:

    Yay! Glad to have the record set straight on Giles’s place finally :)


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