It is not hyperbole to say that no other Los Angeles property has appeared on screen more often and in more iconic productions than the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The historic Beaux Arts-style structure, which was designed by architects Leonard Schultze and S. Fullerton Weaver, opened its doors to the public on Oct. 2, 1923.
Hollywood’s love affair with the grand hotel began almost immediately. Over the years, the hotel has played host to such show business royalty as Walt Disney, Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers, Cecil B. DeMille and Clark Gable. Not only have eight Academy Awards ceremonies been held on the premises, but legend has it that it that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself was first established during an event held at the Biltmore in 1927.
Its greatest connection to Tinseltown, though, is its long history as a filming location. Virtually every square inch of the place has appeared on screen at some point, which is not surprising being that the hotel is one of the most beautiful spaces in L.A. Every corner of it is a virtual work of art. The Biltmore is also incredibly versatile - parts of it have masked as everything from the White House (on Scandal) to a Las Vegas casino (Beverly Hills, 90210) and a boxing facility (Rocky III). Read on for ten areas of the hotel that have lit up both the big and small screens.
The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is flanked by West 5th Street to the north, South Olive Street to the east, South Grand Avenue to the west and the PacMutual complex to the south. The majestic arched entrance located on the Olive Street side, which initially served as the hotel’s main entry, boasts Renaissance Revival design elements, towering columns, ornate relief carvings, and tall glass doors with wrought iron detailing. Just outside these doors, Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) learns that his new girlfriend, Madison (Daryl Hannah) is a mermaid when mad scientist Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy) dramatically sprays her with water in the 1984 comedy Splash. 1984 proved to be a very popular time for the Olive Street entrance. That same year, Hanks shot another scene for a different film in the exact same spot. It’s there that his character, the newly-engaged Rick Gassko, valet-parks his school bus at the beginning of the raunchfest Bachelor Party. And in Beverly Hills Cop, which also premiered in 1984, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) humorously orders room service delivered to Det. Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sgt. Taggart (John Ashton), who are parked directly across the street from the Olive Street entrance, in front of Pershing Square.
Located just past the Olive Street entrance is the Biltmore’s original lobby, which is known today as Rendezvous Court. The breathtaking space features a dramatic vaulted ceiling, a marble fountain, travertine walls, and an elegant double stairwell that was modeled after the Golden Staircase at the Burgos Cathedral in Spain. The grand alcove functioned as the hotel’s lobby until a 1984 renovation moved check-in facilities upstairs to the former music room. Today, the area operates as a gathering space and weekend tea room. It also boasts a small café that serves espresso drinks and pastries.
Rendezvous Court has appeared onscreen countless times over the years. It was there that Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) memorably – and rather lewdly - checks in to the fictional “Beverly Palm Hotel” under the guise of being a Rolling Stone reporter in Beverly Hills Cop. The court has also been utilized in episodes of Revenge, Mad Men, NCIS, Glee and 90210, as well as in the movies Blow and Daredevil.
Though the Biltmore’s limousine/VIP ramp, a small indistinct access way situated between the hotel and the PacMutual complex, might seem like an unlikely film “star,” it has been utilized in numerous productions over the years. In the 1974 classic Chinatown, it served as the exterior of The Brown Derby restaurant where, while waiting for a valet to retrieve their cars, J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) informs Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) that her husband was murdered due to his knowledge of an elaborate Los Angeles water scam. The ramp also masked as the exterior of the Washington, D.C. country club where Owen Wilson is kicked out of an engagement party – and gets beat up by Bradley Cooper – in the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers. Other productions that feature the ramp include Junior, Dave and Se7en.
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! So sang Ray Parker Jr. in the phantom film’s titular song. And that is just what the manager of the Sedgewick Hotel did when a specter threatens to ruin the Eastside Theatre Guild Midnight Buffet in the 1984 hit. Though Venkman, Stantz and Spengler do wind up trapping Slimer (aka a Focused Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm, aka a Class Five Full-Roaming Vapor), they destroy an ornate Sedgewick ballroom in the process. In real life, that space remains intact and, though it originally functioned as a ballroom known as the Music Room, it currently serves as the Biltmore's lobby. The elegant chamber is best known for its ornate frosted glass and wrought iron paned ceiling and for the fact that it served as campaign headquarters for John F. Kennedy during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
One of the most pervasive legends about filming at the Biltmore is that one of its back staircases was used in the 1958 noir Vertigo. Though the hotel’s stairwells, which tower over a hundred feet in length, are definitely vertigo-inducing, they never actually appeared in the Hitchcock classic. The stairway that caused James Stewart so many problems in the film was actually part of an elaborate set built at Paramount Pictures. The Biltmore stairs are no stranger to the big and small screens, though. The steps were most notably featured in an extensive dance sequence to the Marina and the Diamonds’ song “How to Be a Heartbreaker” in the Season 4 episode of Glee titled “Feud.” They also masked as part of the Shandor Building in Ghostbusters, as a back stairwell at the Monroe Hotel in Dave, and as steps leading to the rooftop of a Beirut resort in the Season 7 episode of The Mentalist titled “Orange Blossom Ice Cream.”
The Biltmore’s Fitness Center, which houses an exquisite indoor pool, workout facilities, a dry sauna, a Jacuzzi, and a steam room, was designed in 1926 to resemble the gyms in upscale cruise ships. The stately room features Old Roman detailing, dazzling blue tilework, tall columns, and teak wood deck chairs. The Fitness Center was most famously featured in 1999’s Cruel Intentions, in which it masked as the private country estate pool where Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) attempts to seduce Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon) with a late-night swim. In the 1991 biopic Bugsy, Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty) confronts Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel) while at the Biltmore Fitness Center, which played itself. Deranged super-fan Gil Renard (Robert De Niro) also confronts – and then kills – Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro) there in the 1996 thriller The Fan. The Fitness Center, which is easily one of the Biltmore’s most gorgeous spaces, also doubled as a Moscow nightclub in the Season 1 episode of Alias titled “So It Begins.”
The Biltmore boasts a wide array of elegant, stately ballrooms, most of which flank an equally grand 350-foot hallway named the Galleria. Situated on the Galleria’s 5th Street side is a gilded ballroom that has regularly appeared onscreen. Known as the Gold Room, the split-level space, which originally served as a dining area, is marked by arched openings, a large stone balustrade, coffered ceilings, wood paneling, and crystal chandeliers. In the 1973 caper classic The Sting, the elegant room portrayed the upscale Chicago restaurant where Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) “convinced” Kid Twist (Harold Gould) to let him invest in his bookie scheme. The Gold Room was also transformed into a Las Vegas casino for the Season 4 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 titled “I Did It My Way”; was the site of a San Francisco pharmaceutical convention in Junior, and was where Owen Wilson attempts to crash Rachel McAdams’ Washington, D.C.-area engagement party in Wedding Crashers.
The hotel’s ornate Gallery Bar and Cognac Room, located just off the lobby, is both a popular gathering place and a popular film location. The stately watering hole, which boasts coffered ceilings, a granite bar and an abundance of Old Hollywood ambiance, was where Jennifer Aniston timidly asks Kevin Costner if he is her father in Rumor Has It. (Spoiler alert – he’s not.) It was also at the Gallery Bar that Diane Krueger meets with Ed Harris to discuss newly-found pages of John Wilkes Booth’s diary in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Ali Larter tries to seduce Idris Elba in the grand space while eating the “best burger in town” in Obsessed. And the site also portrayed the Washington, D.C. eatery where Huck teaches new gladiator Quinn how to work a reporter in the third episode of Scandal. The Gallery Bar has also appeared in Alias, Mad Men, Along Came Polly, 24 and Monk. One of the bar’s signature drinks, the Black Dahlia Martini, was named in honor of slain actress Elizabeth Short, aka the “Black Dahlia,” who was last seen walking out of the Biltmore on Jan. 9, 1947. Though her body was found six days later, her killer never was, and the case remains one of Los Angeles’ most infamous unsolved mysteries.
The Biltmore is such a prolific filming location that even its elevators have appeared onscreen – numerous times, in fact. They most famously popped up in Bachelor Party. In the 1984 romp, the Biltmore masked as the exclusive Park View Hotel where Rick Gassko’s (Tom Hanks) epic bachelor party is held. Though Room 10-1002 was just a set, much of the movie was shot on location at the Biltmore, with Rick and his buddies wreaking havoc on many areas of the property. The hotel’s elevators appear in several scenes, but most memorably in a segment involving a donkey that overindulges at the party and winds up hooves-up in an elevator car, much to the hotel manager’s chagrin. Though the dead donkey was a fake, the interior of an actual Biltmore elevator was used in the scene.
The Biltmore’s most famous – and striking – events venue is the Crystal Ballroom, an exquisite two-story space featuring a domed hand-painted ceiling, chandeliers made of Austrian crystal and three towering arched windows. Thanks to its beauty and opulence, the room has long been a favorite of location managers. Though the exterior of the Kings Manor hotel, where Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer perform in The Fabulous Baker Boys, was the oft-filmed Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, interior scenes were shot at the Biltmore. It was in the Crystal Ballroom that Pfeiffer, clad in a form-fitting red dress, famously sings “Makin’ Whoopee” from atop a piano in one of the movie’s more memorable scenes. The cavernous space also played a White House ballroom in the Season 1 episode of Scandal titled “Hell Hath No Fury” and the boxing facility where Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) trains in Rocky III. An actual boxing ring was brought into the ornate room for the filming of those scenes. The Crystal Ballroom was also the location of the prom in Pretty in Pink and where Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger famously tango at the end of True Lies.