California Is Everywhere: Where the International Locations Are Shot for Hollywood

California's varied landscape has stood in for half the world in Hollywood movies. Here is Paramount Studios' 1927 map of international filming locations, all set in California.

The film industry’s move to Hollywood, early on in the 20th century, was not entirely an accident. Out west, good weather was more constant, the light better and the scenery more varied than on the East Coast. Hollywood, then still a sleepy hamlet 10 miles north of Los Angeles, was conveniently central between the bustling city and the natural splendour further afield.


Depending on how far afield you’d want to carry your tripod, that splendour could be a stand-in for a surprisingly wide swathe of the world.

  • The mountainous areas adjacent to Lake Tahoe in the north have doubled for Siberia, the French Alps and Switzerland.
  • The Sacramento River has stood in for the Mississippi, the southern Bay Area apparently passes for Alaskan river country, while further inland bears a strikingly enough resemblance to New England.
  • The New England coast, meanwhile, is located immediately south of San Francisco, not far from the Nile River valley (appropriately north of Africa, but confusingly close to the Swiss Alps, a bit further inland).
  • Santa Barbara is good Spanish California country, while the Ventura/Oxnard area passes for the Coast of Spain. The Palos Verdes peninsula has been the cinematographic double of Wales.
  • Venice, Italy is adequately rendered by the area not too far from Venice, California. Holland, incredibly, is located a bit more to LA’s south, while the Channel Islands have stood in the South Sea Islands’ stead. Further south are Long Island Sound, the Malay Coast and, just north of San Diego, again, Spain.
  • South to north, inland, are the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea and South Africa (all adjacent to the Salton Sea), Sherwood Forest, the Kentucky Mountains and, close to the Nevada border, Wyoming Cattle Ranches.
  • This map, apparently produced by Paramount Studios in 1927, does not mention the corresponding films. Can anybody suggest any of the movies these locations refer to? The map does mention, without further context, the 19th-century Californian poet Bret Harte.

    Strange Maps 465

    Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

    Many thanks to Brian Kavanaugh, Lee Breisacher, Noah Feehan, Jim Eikner, Ben Jefferies and Dan Beaver-Seitz for sending in this map, found here on Flowing Data.

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