Mar 2021

Though he was nominated five times for a Best Director Oscar, Alfred Hitchcock never received one—a surprising slight that is partly redeemed by the fact that the Master of Suspense is the only film director to enjoy his own national holiday (March 12). Although the reason for the date remains murky—his birthday was August 13—it might reference his first Hollywood contract, signed around March 12, 1939, to helm Rebecca. To recreate the novel’s Cornish setting, Hitchcock traveled to Central California near Carmel, a bit of geographic plausibility that became one of his cinematic hallmarks. Here, we look at notable settings in five classic films, which visitors can still view today. As he once said, “You should go to the location first, and then put it in the script.”

Credit: Alamy

North by Northwest (1959)

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

This film hurtles from the Eastern Seaboard to South Dakota’s Black Hills, pausing at New York’s Plaza hotel and Grand Central Terminal, Chicago’s Ambassador East hotel and a certain Indiana crop field. Its finale finds Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the face of Mount Rushmore, where they dangle off presidential profiles.

Credit: Paramount Pictures Photofest

Vertigo (1958)

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The scene in which James Stewart rescues Kim Novak after she jumps into San Francisco Bay was shot at Fort Point, a 19th-century fortification built to guard the estuary; since 1937 it has stood underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, allowing visitors an excellent view. Stunt doubles did the film’s cold work, however: Novak and Stewart recreated the wet moment in a studio tank.

Credit: Paramount Pictures Photofest

Frenzy (1972)

Tower Bridge, London

For one of his final films, Hitchcock returned to London, where he began his career 50 years earlier. The film’s bravura opening sequence sweeps over the Thames toward Tower Bridge, before alighting on a crowd (encompassing Hitch) in front of County Hall. Naturally, a body is soon discovered floating in the water. Other landmarks in the film include Covent Garden.

Credit: Alamy

Saboteur (1942)

Statue of Liberty, New York City

This espionage thriller begins in a California airplane factory and concludes with a dizzying standoff atop the Statue of Liberty. After a failed attempt to destroy a battleship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the villain is pursued to the statue’s torch, with the New York skyline shimmering in the distance. As was studio custom at the time, a full-scale replica of the statue’s hand and torch was constructed on a Hollywood lot.

Credit: Alamy

The Birds (1963)

Bodega Bay, California

Where else to set an avian nightmare but in a bucolic coastal town in California’s Sonoma County? Pristine Bodega Bay was the birds’ prime target, but one of the film’s iconic scenes occurs when children flee the Potter Schoolhouse, constructed in 1873 a few miles inland. As you can see, the birds were inserted in postproduction.

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