Hollywood celebrates most of its best players during awards season—from actors and directors to makeup artists and sound-effects engineers. But one category of performers tends to get shut out, even though they have been known to steal the show over the years: the cast of California hotels, most of them not too far from Tinseltown, which has provided gorgeous, colorful, or just quirky settings for dozens of great films.
Some of those hotels have embraced their roles in movie history—and others are just waiting for their next close-up. Here are our nominees, listed from south to north, for California hotels deserving of their own statuettes.
With its red-turreted roof and expansive beach, this Queen Anne–style hotel on Coronado Island held its own alongside Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, the 1959 classic with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. The grande dame, open since 1888, still embraces its connection to the Hollywood icon. “Guests come here year after year to play in the sand where Marilyn did, and see the Dragon Tree, made famous in the film, that still stands at the resort's entrance,” says Sara Baumann, the hotel’s public relations manager. The hotel also sells Marilyn memorabilia in the gift shop (though one of the hotel’s other legends, a temperamental ghost, supposedly knocks Marilyn items off the shelves with some regularity).
The downtown hotel’s mirrored-glass cylinders make a great exterior shot, but its elevators took center stage in two films. The best may have been with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he rode a horse into the elevator during 1994’s spy flick True Lies. But another Hollywood icon, the perpetually sneering Clint Eastwood, also gets credit for chasing John Malkovich into the hotel elevators during an assassination attempt in 1993’s In the Line of Fire. The hotel also played a bit role in 1988’s Rain Man (Tom Cruise’s character turns down a big deal while lounging by the pool).
This iconic Beverly Hills hotel, a plush Four Seasons property sitting at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, was the setting for most of 1990’s Pretty Woman. But don’t ask to book the same suite where Julia Roberts took her bubble bath: The actual hotel scenes were shot at another L.A. hotel (which no longer exists); in true Hollywood style, that other hotel got a makeover to look like the Beverly Wilshire.
Even so, the hotel still plays along. “We've always enjoyed our relationship with the movie and consider it to be a bit of fun,” says Ben Trodd, regional vice president and general manager of the Beverly Wilshire (A Four Seasons Hotel). “We have many different offerings that invite guests to get a sense of the glamour of Beverly Hills.” For instance, you can book the Pretty Woman for a Day package, with a shopping consultation and picnic at Greystone Mansion; watch the movie while getting your nails done in the salon; or order Pretty Woman-themed cocktails at the hotel’s bars (She’s Not My Niece, offered in Sidebar, features bourbon, Aperol, and amaretto).
Based on Neil Simon’s Broadway play, 1978’s California Suite follows four couples and their respective vacation antics while staying at the famed “Pink Palace,” as the hotel is known. Maggie Smith plays one of the vacationers, who is also an Oscar-nominated actress; in real life, Smith went on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this performance. The hotel’s Polo Lounge has made its own cameos, meanwhile, in films such as Shampoo (1975), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
This palatial Pasadena hotel is the backdrop for most of Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta! (2012), and the starring pooches spent much of the film indulging in the hotel’s luxurious amenities (meaning their human costars toiled away in roles as hotel staffers). The hotel still lives up to the Hollywood hype: Its Doggie Program package includes a pink porcelain pet bowl, a pink doggie bed, and a gold, bone-shaped mat for keeping dinner tidy.
In 2004’s Sideways, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church’s characters are traveling on a budget when they check in at this Central Coast motel off U.S. 101, as an easy launchpad to Santa Ynez Valley wine country. But with its kitschy windmill out front—and easy access to the irresistible Pea Soup Andersen’s across the street, as well as lots of Pinot Noir down the road—the hotel proved itself to be a road-tripper’s delight. Since the movie was filmed, it’s gotten some nice upgrades, including flat-screen TVs.
This Nob Hill hotel used to be the Empire hotel in the 1950s, when Kim Novak’s character stayed here during half of the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo. Even though the interior scenes were shot on set, they were modeled after rooms 501 and 502, which tended to get a green glow from the neon sign that used to hang outside. Today, the renamed hotel’s orange-and-cream décor and its spiral-themed mirrors are nods to the film’s posters, and the black-and-white film plays on an infinite loop in the lobby. “One feature that was not in the movie but captures the true essence of the film is our stairwell,” says Nick Dalisay, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “A view from the top of the 8th floor, looking down, will certainly give the bravest of guests a feeling of vertigo!”