Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Then and Now: Malibu, California

Fun at the Beach!

Jane Fonda in 1965 randommusings.filminspector.com
Jane Fonda is making a dash for the beach, 9 May 1965.
Ever wonder what celebrities do while their movies are being released that make them stars? Well, we have the answer to that for some big names here. At the same time, we're going to get a view into the past and compare that with how things look now and see what kinds of changes the decades can bring.

While this blog usually focuses on New York City because I'm from there and the Big Apple is very familiar to just about everyone, at times we stray further afield. This is one of those times, and we go all the way to the West Coast. Hopefully, though, this will still entertain you because it makes an interesting comparison then and now of Malibu, California.

Malibu in the 1960s

We get a rare insight into the life of celebrities because one of them took the time to record his activities for posterity. Actor Roddy McDowall knew almost everyone who was anyone in Hollywood during the 1960s through 1990s. He also was quite an amateur filmmaker of his own, though his works were done with a consumer-grade film camera and remained in his private collection until his 3 October 1998 passing. One of Roddy's films records a gathering at his Malibu Beach bungalow on 9 May 1965. That puts it squarely within the usual time frame we like to compare against. Let's see what has changed and what is different about the site of this epic gathering.
Julie and Emma Andrews in 1965 randommusings.filminspector.com
Julie Andrews gets a chance to see a Mary Poppins doll at Roddy McDowall's beach house on 9 May 1965. "Mary Poppins" had been released to theaters the previous year, while "The Sound of Music" opened a couple of months before this scene.
Beach parties at Roddy's house were nothing unusual, but this one was special. While there were quite a few luminaries at Roddy's party that day, two of them will help show what Malibu was like that sunny day. The first is actress Julie Andrews, who had just finished filming "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music" back-to-back and had just won the Academy Award for Best Actress a month earlier on 5 April 1965. In the clip below from Roddy's film, we see Julie and her two-year-old daughter Emma Walton leaving the party and driving down the road.
Julie and Emma Andrews in 1965 randommusings.filminspector.com
This clip shows Julie Andrews and her daughter walking southeast from Roddy McDowall's house to her car.
Our mission, as always, is to compare what was with what is. Let's set the scene by showing the road that Jule and her daughter walked down. It is Malibu Colony and it runs from northwest to southeast. In the above clip, Julie Andrews and her daughter are walking to the southeast (toward downtown Los Angeles).
Malibu Colony Road randommusings.filminspector.com
Malibu Colony Road, looking southeast from roughly the same spot, in 2021 (Google Earth).
A comparison shows that the scene hasn't really changed that much despite the passing of almost six decades. Just to verify that we have the exact location (which we know anyway because we know Roddy's old address there, 23560 Malibu Colony Road), the white garage that is visible to the left as the Andrews walk to their car is still there in 2021.
Malibu Colony Road randommusings.filminspector.com
Malibu Colony Road in 2021, showing the distinctive white garage visible in the 1965 film (Google Earth).
The same white garage is there in the center-right of the above photograph. Julie Andrews parked her Ford Falcon station wagon where that white pickup truck is parked over to the right in front of the tennis court. Whereas there were trees there in 1965, they since have been replaced by that tennis court. To the left in the photo, the white picket fence visible in the 1965 film has been replaced by a brick wall.
Malibu Colony Road in 1965 randommusings.filminspector.com
Roddy's video concludes with Julie and her daughter driving away to the north. There's an intersection up ahead where another car is just turning as Andrews is leaving. This same scene appears quite similar today.
Malibu Colony Road randommusings.filminspector.com
Malibu Colony Road looking northwest in 2021, with the intersection up ahead. The top of the white garage is visible center-right in this view (Google Earth).
As can be seen in the 2021 comparison, the house on the left with the angled roof is still there. The same brown house is in the background to the right (minus the TV antenna!), though it is now hidden by trees.
Malibu Colony Road randommusings.filminspector.com
Another angle on Malibu Colony, showing the brown house that is in the background as Julie Andrews drives away (Google Earth).
Our second celebrity is actress Jane Fonda. Her new film, "Cat Ballou," had just opened two days earlier in Denver and was awaiting nationwide release. We see Jane running off of Roddy's deck down to the Pacific Ocean for a quick dip.
Jane Fonda on Malibu Beach randommusings.filminspector.com
While this may seem like a mundane shoreline view, it actually reveals a greater truth when compared to the same scene today.
Malibu Beach randommusings.filminspector.com
Roddy McDowall's old Malibu bungalow, in the center with the curved third floor, in 2021 (Google Earth).
It's easy to see what has changed about the beach (the house actually hasn't changed, at least very much). The beach was much wider back in 1965. As a consequence, at some point in the intervening decades, they added large boulders to protect the houses. The drop from the deck to the beach also appears to have gotten much bigger. These changes give the setting a much different look than it used to have, though, of course, it is still lovely and exclusive. The old-timers who remember what the beach used to be like must be very worried about beach erosion. And that is the biggest change between then and now.

There's a lot to learn from old films, especially amateur clips, if you do a little comparing. I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Please check out some of the other articles!

Below is Roddy McDowall's home movie from which the clips were taken.


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