This weekend offers a little something for the wee ones, in advance of everyone’s favorite make-believe holiday, Halloween (when, you know, you can wear stuff like this). Hotel Transylvania features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and CeeLo Green, and it tells the tale of a five-star resort where monsters can go to—get this—be safe from us humans. Hollywood loves to boost its products’ escapist qualities by setting them in get-away-from-it-all locales. From L.A. to Vegas to Thailand, the stops on our list boast some very memorable hotels, which vary in their abilities to accommodate, relax, and terrify.
The Chateau Marmont in Somewhere (2010). Having already perused the halls of a Tokyo hotel in Lost in Translation, jet-set auteur Sofia Coppola keeps her home-away-from-home theme going in Somewhere, which artfully observes the exploits of Stephen Dorff’s Chateau Marmont dweller, Johnny Marco. A child of Hollywood, Coppola coolly conveys the grind of a film-promoting movie star, while capturing the excess of a hard-living playboy in this iconic Tinseltown hotspot. If nothing else, the movie pulls you in as a guest, establishing a vivid and loosely enchanting sense of place.
The Empire Hotel in Vertigo (1958). She’s not quite Madeleine, but the uncannily similar Judy (Kim Novak) will have to do for desperate Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), who finds the familiar brunette living in San Francisco’s fictitious Empire Hotel. Hypnotically shot in this newly-anointed Sight & Sound list-topper, the hotel is a beaut of Americana from the outside, but from Judy’s window, it’s even more fetching, those neon green lights seeping in through her sheer curtains. The shooting location has, naturally, become a popular tourist trap, with visitors hoping for a first-hand taste of Vertigo’s dark brilliance.
The Grand Hotel in Grand Hotel (1932). Adapted by William A. Drake from his 1930 play, itself based on Vicki Baum’s novel Menschen im Hotel, Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel has proved highly influential, its format of multiple characters inhabiting one place leading to everything from The Poseidon Adventure to Neil Simon’s trio of Suite films. The titular Berlin resort hosts an impressively starry cast, which includes Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, and Lionel Barrymore. The screen icons portray a range of variously distressed characters, from an ailing accountant and part-time jewel thief to an aspiring actress and struggling ballerina. Within the hotel’s aptly grand spaces, there’s ample malfeasance, innuendo, and even murder, swatting away one character’s insistence that “nothing ever happens” at the Grand Hotel.
The Regent Beverly Wilshire in Pretty Woman (1990). From the “carpet picnic” of champagne and strawberries” to the hot-tub lip-synching of Prince’s “Kiss,“Julia Roberts’s Vivian Ward all but moves in at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, the tony setting for Garry Marshall’s greatest hit, Pretty Woman. Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) doesn’t give the friendly staff the time of day, but Vivian cozies up to the bellhop, Edward’s driver, and the benevolent hotel manager, memorably played by an on-point Hector Elizondo. Talk about a hooker with a heart of gold.
The Beverly Hills Hotel in California Suite (1978). Herbert Ross’s film version of Neil Simon’s play fills the Beverly Hills Hotel with a motley crew of stars, including Maggie Smith, Richard Pryor, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and Bill Cosby. At the Sunset Boulevard landmark, visitors come from far and wide, specifically Manhattan, Chicago, London, and Philadelphia, the core characters’ native cities that denote the movie’s four plot threads. Smith is a British Oscar nominee, Fonda is a New York workaholic, Walther Matthau is a businessman, and Richard Pryor is a doctor, and their common bond is an unravelling mess of dilemmas that swirls amid room-service orders. The movie went on to do well in awards season, netting an art-mimics-life Oscar for Smith.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn in The Innkeepers (2011). A very recent chiller from maestro Ti West, The Innkeepers is most notable for its beautifully filmed interiors, the actual rooms and hallways of the movie’s Yankee Pedlar Inn, which rests in Torrington, Connecticut. A great provider of moody, old-school atmosphere, the setting (which, in the film, is on its way to shutting down), is as amenable to compositions as it is to supernatural goings-on. Trailing the angst and arrested development of the hotel’s young caretakers, West remembers that all-important rule of the haunted house film: that the building is a character all its own.
The St. Gregory Hotel in Hotel (1967). Hotel unfolds in the fictional St. Gregory, a prestigious New Orleans establishment that plays host to the The Duke and Duchess of Lanbourne (Michael Rennie and Merle Oberon), the fancy Jeanne Rochefort (Catherine Spaak), the professional thief Keycase (Karl Malden), and potential hotel buyer Curtis O’Keefe (Kevin McCarthy), among others. Rod Taylor takes the role of hotel manager, who, true to this subgenre’s form, attempts to keep composure amid a swirl of remarkable events. Directed by Richard Quine and adapted from Arthur Hailey’s novel, the film boils down to whether or not the St. Gregory will be saved, an outcome that changes from book to movie.
The Hotel del Coronado in Some Like it Hot (1959). When Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis assume the identities of female musicians Josephine and Daphne, their on-the-run ruse—sparked by fear of having witnessed mob killings—takes them to Miami’s fictitious Seminole Ritz resort, which was in fact California’s Hotel del Coronado. It’d be the setting for countless classic moments, from the advances of Joe E. Brown’s aging millionaire to the beach frolics of Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane, whom the lead duo observe walks like “jello on springs.” The lavish west coast resort has a long history with pop culture, serving as the setting for L. Frank Baum’s penning of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and appearing on screen again in things as disparate as My Blue Heaven and Baywatch.
The Hotel zur Oper in The Night Porter (1974). Still polarizing after all these years, Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter is a lurid bit of postwar psychodrama, unfolding in part in a Vienna hotel. The famed pairing of Dirk Bograde’s former SS officer and Charlotte Rampling’s concentration camp survivor leads to, among other things, Rampling’s sultry performance of a Marlene Dietrich number, capped off by an unforgettable moment involving a severed head. Bograde’s character goes on to become the night porter of the title, and at his humble place of employment, the sadomasochism between the pair is reinvigorated.
The Hotel Mon Signor in Four Rooms (1995). Coming on the heels of Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough with Pulp Fiction, the anthology comedy Four Rooms (directed by Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell), continue’s the filmmaker’s obsession with hard-edged chattiness, even featuring him onscreen as a verbose and foul-mouthed director. Who else is on the guest list at the fictitious Hotel mon Signor? Well, Madonna appears as a witch, Antonio Banderas shows up as a liberal father leaving his kids in the hotel’s care, and even Kathy Griffin stars as the establishment’s head honcho. The characters are linked via Tim Roth’s bewildered bellhop, a classic, modest straight man surrounded by madness.
The Fontainebleau Hotel in The Bellboy (1960). Directly influencing Four Rooms, Jerry Lewis’s The Bellboy sees its writer-director play a bumbling hotel bellhop, bouncing about through a plotless and largely wordless 72 minutes. Shot at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel, which hosted Lewis nightclub performances while the film was in production, The Bellboy also features Lewis as himself, visiting the hotel and being waited on by his haphazard doppelganger. The movie’s cameo appearances include Milton Berle, Bill Richmond, and golfer Cary Middlecoff.
The Bellagio in Ocean’s Eleven (2001). In the inaugural installment of Steven Soderbergh’s all-star trilogy, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and their pals stepped into the shined shoes and sharp suits of the Danny Ocean crew, who devise an ambitious plan to rip off the vaults of Terry Benedict’s (Andy Garcia) three big casinos: The Mirage, the MGM Grand and the ever -glitzy Bellagio. The latter two resorts are good gets, but the Bellagio is expected to offer a payday of $150 million in the film, which proves mighty tempting for those eleven close-knit schemers. Shot on location, Soderbergh’s slick success captures the mischief and allure of sin city.
The Paradise Hotel in Country Hotel (1957). A little-seen Thai film by Rattana Pestonj, Country Hotel blends comedy and drama as it charts the happenings of the one-room Paradise Hotel, run by protagonist Noi (Prachuap Lukgamdi). The hotel’s sole guest (Chana Sriubon) isn’t keen on the ruffians and musical acts who frequent the establishment, and things grow even more complicated with the arrival of Riam (Sarinthip Siriwan), who, naturally, has nowhere to sleep. Shot on a single set, Country Hotel was somewhat resurrected in 2005, shown at the Pusan International Film Festival as part of the “Remapping Asian Auteur Cinema” program, and released on DVD through the Thai Film Foundation.
The Plaza Hotel in North by Northwest (1959). The Plaza Hotel has made many memorable appearances on screen, from Crocodile Dundee to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but Alfred Hitchcock may have given it the classiest treatment in North by Northwest, a movie with no shortage of iconic landmarks. Playing Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill, Cary Grant is roaming the Plaza when he’s mistaken for one George Kaplan, only to be kidnapped and shuffled off to Long Island. It was a particularly convenient shoot for Grant, as the actor was living in a Plaza apartment during filming.
The Overlook Hotel in The Shining (1980). Is there a more odious cinematic resort than the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining? An oppressively vast and eerily empty getaway, this hilltop, ultimately snow-covered retreat is a literal house of horrors, with visions, apparitions, and one very famous axe always lurking around its well-manicured corners. It’s not just the ghouls and Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) madness that make this place terrifying, it’s a palpable, inescapable loneliness, apparent in the echo of a ball in a massive room, or a tidal wave of blood flooding through an abandoned hallway.
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