Being a native-Angeleno and lover of cinema, it’s in my DNA to be drawn to great film that uses my hometown of Los Angeles as a distinct character in the telling of a story. If it manages to capture a well-defined period and/or one of the recognizable neighborhoods that make up the vast number in our well-known sprawl, all the better.
One of the very few that met this criteria was the beautifully odd romantic comedy and apocalyptic thriller, Miracle Mile (1988), written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt. My colleague J.D. has given the film its due with a wonderful examination over at his blog, Radiator Heaven:
“It is at this moment that Miracle Mile goes from being a sweet romantic comedy to a white-knuckle thriller as Harry tries to convince the people at the diner that what he heard over the phone was true. This sequence is beautifully staged as some people don’t believe him or don’t care while some take him very seriously, like a woman named Landa (Denise Crosby), who has connections in the government (in a nice touch we are introduced to her reading Cliff’s Notes for Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow). Anthony Edwards anchors this scene so well as we see the realization of what is going to happen register on his face. Harry goes from disbelief to shock to panic and then tries to explain what he was just told to the diner patrons.”
If you haven’t seen this little, somewhat forgotten gem that arrived on scene as the end of the Cold War approached (believe me, we, those around during this time and remember it, never expected that to happen in our lifetime), make an effort to screen it. If you’re a fan, then checking out J.D.’s piece is a must-read.
For those of you who are fans of this film, the filmmakers’ couldn’t have chosen a better location than to start the thriller at the diner located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in the heart of the Miracle Mile. This strip of LaLa Land is well-known to the citizenry and features Art Deco architecture that Fodor’s once described as “…the world’s first linear Downtown, with building designs incorporating wide store windows to attract attention from passing cars.”
So L.A., folks.
Yesterday, since I work nearby, I thought to capture this film location as it looks today. The old Johnie’s Coffee Shop has appeared in the number of films and music videos over the years. It sits right across the street from the equally venerable May Co. department store, “…one of Los Angeles’ best examples of Streamline Modern architecture, on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile”, which will be the future home of The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Johnie’s was closed in 2000, purchased by the 99 Cents Store Only Stores chain (which runs an outlet right next store to the west). It is used as a shooting location rental today. The La Brea Tar Pits, where the film’s memorable finale takes place, is just a few blocks to the east from here on Wilshire.