Starring the Hollywood Bowl: The storied venue’s 10 most famous film and TV appearances
By Kristina Garcia
May 31, 2022
The Hollywood Bowl — home to musicians, actors, and iconic performances throughout the years.
A Star Is Born (1937)
Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson
This Academy Award-winning (and often remade) classic follows the story of a young actor named Esther (Gaynor) who goes to Hollywood in search of seeing her name in lights. She meets older leading man Norman Maine (March) who later becomes her husband. As her acting career rises, his continues to decline.
With a movie centered around life in Hollywood, it’s only right to include one of its most iconic venues as a filming location. But it wasn’t featured for just any shot — it was used for the scene where Esther sees Norman for the first time at a concert. Norman arrives drunk and stumbles into other guests as he tries to find a seat with the woman he came with.
Shortly after the orchestra conductor walks on stage and starts the show, Norman attracts attention from all angles after he brawls with a photographer who took his picture without consent. Security hurries over to calm the chaos, and a drunken Norman falls back into his seat, then hushes Esther for talking behind him during the concert.
Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Director: George Sidney
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly
In this musical comedy from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, two sailors (Sinatra and Kelly) take their shore leave amid the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. During their visit, they help a young woman try to achieve her dreams of becoming a singer.
The two sailors walk into a sold-out show at the Bowl for Spanish conductor and pianist José Iturbi. A close-up of Iturbi shows him playing the piano onstage as the camera pulls back to reveal 18 grand pianos — an incredible sight with each pianist playing “Hungarian Rhapsody No.2.”
MGM’s animated cat-and-mouse duo Tom and Jerry made cameos in the film (including Jerry performing a dance number with Kelly) in sequences directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny shorts
In each of these Bugs Bunny shorts, the venues are not explicitly identified as the Hollywood Bowl. But the animated locations show a close resemblance to the Bowl’s natural setting and architecture.
Long-Haired Hare (1949)
Director: Chuck Jones
Stars: Mel Blanc, Nicolai Shutorev
Bugs Bunny finds himself tangled up with a snobby opera singer who repeatedly harasses him for singing and performing too loudly as the divo attempts to rehearse.
On the night of the singer’s performance at the Bowl, Bugs sabotages the singer’s performance through a series of tricks and stunts.
For his final gag, Bugs dresses up as famed Philadelphia Orchestra maestro Leopold Stokowski. The rabbit walks through the orchestra as the musicians mumble “Leopold” in child-like amazement. He assumes the position as conductor and has the opera singer hit a note so high that the entire venue crashes on top of him.
Rabbit of Seville (1950)
Stars: Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan
Bugs is chased into the stage entrance of the venue by Elmer Fudd and his shotgun. After Bugs finds his way to the stage, he puts on a show for the audience while tricking Fudd into believing the wascally wabbit is just another character in the performance.
Baton Bunny (1959)
Directors: Jones and Abe Levitow
Stars: Mel Blanc
In this short, the Warner Bros. Symphony Orchestra plays “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna” by Franz Von Suppé. Like any respectable conductor, Bugs bows to his audience and turns to face the podium then holds up a sign that reads “THROW THE BUM OUT!” after someone in the audience coughs loudly.
Bugs begins conducting but ends up focusing his attention on killing a pesky fly with every one of his actions playing perfectly with the symphony.
The archrivals duke it out on the Bowl stage as Tom attempts to conduct a symphony. Jerry comes out to lend a hand, but not without a few tricks and tries to steal the role of conductor for his own.
Right when Tom thinks he’s finally beaten the conniving mouse, Jerry cuts holes into the floor of the stage right underneath every musician.
Tom scurries to the instruments, leaving an empty podium. Jerry takes his spot as conductor and Tom is left scampering around the stage to play every instrument.
By the end of the short, a gleeful Jerry turns to bow to the audience, while an out-of-breath Tom tries his best to sit upright and bow — until falling through a hole in the stage himself.
Director: Robert Greenwald
Stars: Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, James Sloyan
Newton-John sheds her goody-two-shoes persona from “Grease” and trades it for the free-spirited, whimsical (and did I mention, immortal?) Kira in the fantasy-musical “Xanadu.” Kira roller skates into struggling painter Sonny (Beck) — triggering a chain of events as Sonny and his new business partner Danny (Kelly) work to bring the Pan Pacific Auditorium back to life as a roller disco nightclub called Xanadu.
Celebrating the upcoming opening night of Xanadu, Kira and Sonny pop a bottle of Champagne with the Bowl‘s distinctive bandshell behind them.
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Director: Howard Deutch
Stars: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer
In this nostalgic John Hughes-scripted high school-set romantic drama, Keith (Stoltz) finds himself in a love triangle when he asks Amanda (Thompson), the most popular girl in school, on a date after she breaks up with her wealthy boyfriend Hardy (Sheffer). Meanwhile, Keith’s tomboy best friend Watts (Stuart Masterson) realizes that her feelings for him are more than platonic.
This ‘80s romance features a wide shot of the Bowl with Watts atop one of the highest rows in the amphitheater, staring down with glossy eyes as Amanda and Keith sit next to each other on the edge of the stage below.
Keith pulls out a red velvet jewelry box handing it to Amanda, “In this box is my future, every cent I’ve ever earned. It’s for you.” In the box sit a pair of diamond earrings.
Reluctant at first, Amanda takes the gift and the two share a passionate first kiss.
Director: Garry Marshall
Stars: Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey, John Heard, Spalding Gray
“Beaches” tells the story of child entertainer turned famous singer C.C. Bloom (Midler) and rich kid Hillary Whitney Essex (Hershey), who meet in Atlantic City as children and become lifelong friends, staying in touch through the letters they write each other.
The movie opens with C.C. performing “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters on the Hollywood Bowl stage. Accompanied by her band, she rehearses for an upcoming show, singing to the empty seats and strutting back and forth across the stage while the crew sets up around her.
As Midler told The Times in 1989, “I was singing ‘Under the Boardwalk’ during a scene we shot at the Hollywood Bowl and it seemed like everybody on the set really liked it.” Her hair stylist, Barbara Lorenz, suggested she put out a record. “I didn’t think people were chomping at the bit for a soundtrack,” said Midler. “Even when we put it out, I really didn’t have any expectations for it.”
But the “Beaches” soundtrack, featuring the Grammy-winning song “Wind Beneath My Wings,” proved a surprise hit, the biggest of Midler’s career, and sold more than 3 million copies.
Yes Man (2008)
Director: Peyton Reed
Stars: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins
Carl (played by Carrey), a man with an extremely negative attitude, attends a life development seminar and is challenged to act affirmatively on every opportunity that comes his way in this dizzying rom-com. After discovering the power of saying yes, Carl’s friendships, love life and career seem to take a turn for the better. But nothing is that simple and his submissiveness eventually begins to backfire.
The Bowl serves as a key location when Carl and his love interest Allison (played by Deschanel) hop the fence and sneak onto the property late at night. The two walk onto the bandshell’s empty stage and Carl starts singing “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Beatles as Allison sings backup vocals — a nod to the Fab Four’s iconic 1964 Bowl performance. The two share a passionate kiss and Allison says, “You know, I’ve never let anyone drive my scooter before,” to which Carl replies, “I’ve never let anyone kiss me on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl before.” Their romantic interlude comes to an end when they get chased off by security.
CSI: Miami (2010)
“L.A.” — Season 8, Episode 16
Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez
In this episode of the long-running police procedural, investigators Horatio Caine (Caruso) and Eric Delko (Rodriguez) travel to California to clear a colleague. For the climax, Caine meets with crooked LAPD Capt. Chris Sutter (guest star William Forsythe) at the Hollywood Bowl. Caine’s first words in this scene are “The Beatles played on this stage.”
Sutter replies, “I know that. I was here.”
Still trying to figure out why the two met onstage, the captain asks, “Why here?”
Caine says, “I like my privacy,” and pulls out a photograph of the captain tampering with evidence at a crime scene, catching Sutter in his web of lies.
“Let Pinhead Sing!” — Season 3, Episode 17
Director: Alrick Riley
Stars: Tom Ellis, Lauren German, Kevin Alejandro, Tricia Helfer
The Lord of Hell (Ellis) leaves the underworld to own a nightclub in the City of Angels and winds up helping L.A. homicide detective Chloe Decker (German) solve crimes in this supernatural drama series.
In the opening scene of “Let Pinhead Sing!,” the Bowl is filled with concertgoers as superstar Axara (Skye Townsend) makes her way to the stage. But in the middle of performing her routine, an explosive device launched from the back of the crowd strikes the masked singer, killing her.
Only it wasn’t Axara. The singer decided to switch with one of her backup dancers at the last minute, and the Bowl becomes a crime scene for an evolving mystery.