Few movie and TV locations are as eternal and easily accessible as the Bronson Caves. Just two miles northeast of Hollywood & Vine in a canyon on Griffith Park's western edge, the caves have served for almost 90 years as a set for everything from oaters to outer space serials.
"We all know and love Bronson Canyon," says DGA member and film historian Rudy Behlmer. "Just a few blocks from residences, super A productions, B Westerns, many serials including Flash Gordon (1936–38), music videos and commercials have all been shot there. It's not just the caves but the whole canyon, like a gulch chopped out with mining equipment, that makes a great film location."
George Stevens made unique use of the canyon location for his 1939 Gunga Din. "Late in the film the Scottish bagpipers regiment is marching to save Cary Grant. They needed an open ambiance and bounce for a clean track of the singing and bagpipes," Behlmer says. So Stevens brought the singers and bagpipers to the area surrounding the Bronson Caves to record just that audio track.
"For [Ross Hunter's 1973] Lost Horizon, they blanketed the whole canyon in white to make it appear like the Himalayas," recalls Behlmer, who happened upon this scene while scouting locations for a commercial. "I can see it all now. It was like they reversed the polarity of the negative."
The canyon had been dressed in mountain white at least once before. For Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962), soapsuds were used to create a sense of the melting snow of the High Sierras, where Peckinpah and his crew had begun shooting the Western. When the weather there turned bad, the production was relocated to the Bronson Caves area and it was turned into a makeshift Gold Rush town.
So peaceful and loving, the canyon is always ready to offer a peace of mind for those that seek a minute of pure oxygen in the City of Angels.