This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The day I visited Bedford Falls, and had a Wonderful Life in the San Fernando Valley


I lived in the San Fernando Valley, which is part of Los Angeles, in my twenties. And it fascinated me to see how much of the magic of movies was created right there. I think that's when I became a "background watcher" of movies, and wanted to know exactly where something was filmed.

The exterior scenes of "A Wonderful Life" showing Bedford Falls (I assume you've seen the movie) were shot at the RKO Encino Ranch, located at what is now the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which most people call Balboa Park, in Encino, California. You know, where the golf course is, and the lake.

Yes of course the snow was all fake, and from what I've read, it was shot in the summer, during a heat wave. You know, typical show biz stuff. I don't remember know how I learned all of this, way before the internet, but I did. I've been a big fan of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" for a very long time, and apparently a lot of other people are, too.

So one day in 1987, I went there. It's at Balboa Boulevard between Burbank Boulevard and Victory Boulevard. No, I didn't go running through it like Jimmy Steward did, but I stood there. To the people around me, I'm sure all they saw was someone who was looking around, maybe trying to figure out where something was. But I was Jimmy Stewart in Bedford Falls, and it was a Wonderful Life.

George Bailey: [running through Bedford Falls] Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!


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