Market from “Mother”Feb 22nd, 2017 | By Lindsay | Category: Michael's Guest Posts
I absolutely love surprises! So I was thrilled to receive an email a couple of days ago from my friend Michael with the news that he had written yet another guest post! For those who don’t read IAMNOTASTALKER regularly, Michael is a frequent contributor. His body of work is now so large, in fact, that I have added a category titled “Michael’s Guest Posts” that can be found on the right side of my site, as well as a “Michael’s Guest Posts” tag in each column in order to easier find his articles. His latest locale is a rather poignant one. So without further ado . . .
The sad circumstances of late found me reminiscing about one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds movies, Mother. Although it was released in 1996, I end up laughing at it just as heartily now as I did twenty years ago. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Debbie Reynolds stars as the film’s titular character, sharing top billing with Albert Brooks who plays her son, John. After his second divorce, John moves back home in an effort to try and dissect his relationship with his mother—an experiment he hopes will help him get to the root of his chronic misfortune with women.
Although most of the movie takes place in the Bay Area, the majority of it was filmed in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the cast and crew did travel to Sausalito to obtain some establishing shots of the town, along with footage of Reynolds and Brooks driving.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie has Beatrice and John critiquing each other’s selections at the grocery store before (literally) bumping into a neighbor. The sequence begins the in the store’s parking lot where, to John’s frustration, Beatrice is inadvertently blind to the only available spot.
As the camera pulls out, the store’s name is revealed: Mollie Stone’s Market. The grocery chain, founded in 1986, has a scattering of Bay-Area locations, and as the film would have you believe, the actors were indeed parking outside the Sausalito store.
This summer when I took the ferry over from San Francisco to check out the Too Close for Comfort house, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to finally have a look at Mollie Stone’s. As I walked up, I was excited to see that the exterior of the store and parking lot, while updated, were still recognizable from the film.
But, when I ventured into the store, I was surprised to find out that the interior scenes had been filmed elsewhere. I hadn’t done my usual amount of due diligence and had just assumed that they’d filmed the interior when in town for the parking lot scene. Had I originally looked just a little closer, I would have noticed that the roof, windows, and doors differed between the interior and exterior scenes.
Pretty certain that the Sausalito Mollie Stone’s wasn’t used for the interior, I started to focus my search on Los Angeles-area stores, where the remainder of the movie had been filmed. I re-watched the scene frame-by-frame hoping for some hidden detail that would betray its location, but there wasn’t much to go on. Battling with a hotel’s questionable Wi-Fi, Lindsay came to my digital rescue and helped scour the clip for clues to the store’s real location.
Lindsay noticed what looked like palm trees outside the doors, which could suggest a Southern California locale. And that the green Mollie Stone’s carts used by the principal actors didn’t match the rest of the store’s blue carts, helping confirm that they hadn’t filmed in a real Mollie Stone’s location.
I, in turn, was able to make out what looked to be a Googie-style sign across the street, which I thought might be a Norms Restaurant, since they have similarly designed signs.
The other thing that jumped out at me was a coin-operated toy machine —with a hen that spins around and clucks before “laying” a prize-filled egg. Admittedly not a clue, it was a welcome bit of nostalgia that I haven’t seen since I was little.
Thinking the store looked a little dated to have been one of the major chains, I tried researching as many independent markets as I could find, but unfortunately hit a dead end.
Stymied but not defeated, I decided to “cheat” and get in touch with someone involved in the production of the movie. Fortunately, he was kind enough to respond and remembered exactly where the store was located.
The Mar Vista Market, appropriately located in Mar Vista, a neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles, on Venice Boulevard at Grand View, was used to film the interior scene.
Sadly, the market was demolished in 2000, and in 2004 a post office was built on its footprint.
According to “Distant Vistas,” a wonderful history of Mar Vista written by S. Ravi Tam and posted on the Mar Vista Historical Society’s site, the market, originally owned by Nate and Allen Arnold, opened in 1939 as Arnold’s Super Ranch Market, and by 1947 it had changed owners and names to the Mar Vista Food Center, before finally remodeling and reopening as the Mar Vista Market in 1949.
A 1984 piece in the Los Angeles Times further explains that Dave Simmons originally bought the store’s produce department in 1945, and by the 1950s had taken ownership for remainder of the entire 23,000-square-foot market.
Remarkably, the building across the street from the market, whose distinct sign I had noticed through my fuzzy Wi-Fi connection, is still there. The sign, originally created for the Mar Vista Bowl, has been removed, but remains immortalized in a mural painted on the exterior of the building, which still houses a bowling alley.
Apparently, I wasn’t too far off in thinking it might have been a Norms Restaurant. Mar Vista Bowl was designed by Armet and Davis, who also designed a spate of Googie buildings, including Norms on La Cienega Boulevard.
Now with the name and address of the market, Google linked me to a MacGyver filming location page that noted a scene from the episode “Split Decision” was filmed in the market’s parking lot.
As expected, the door and window placement match what’s seen in Mother. And, you can even make out part of the enter/exit signs above the doors in the film.
Another touchpoint revealed in the MacGyver footage is a group of utility poles near the door which can be seen through the window in Mother, and one of which is still standing today.
And there you have it, the market from Mother, only 400 miles from the parking lot to the fancy jam aisle.
Big THANK YOU to Michael for yet another fabulous – and timely – post. Don’t forget, you can check out the rest of Michael’s articles here.
Stalk It: Mollie Stone’s Exterior from Mother is located at 100 Harbor Drive in Sausalito. USPS, aka Mar Vista Market (razed), aka “Mollie Stone’s Market” Interior from Mother is located at 3826 Grand View Boulevard in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles.