Thursday, February 5, 2009
y theories on the Monterey Movie Tours don’t survive past the opening credits.
I figured it was a gimmick – no great movies or stars came together here. The seat covers brightly displaying the names of Tinseltown actors who have worked in Monterey – Tom Hanks, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Marilyn Monroe, Mel Gibson and Elizabeth Taylor, just to name a few – dispel that quickly.
I felt confident it was just for tourists – then watch as a local family, including three generations and nine people, get on the bus behind me. (No tourists in sight.)
“It’s a small group today,” Doug Lumsden, MMT owner and operator explains, welcoming me aboard. His role in this feature is clear: the all-American nice guy (who knows a ton about the area). Wearing unwrinkled khakis, a pinstriped blue oxford, and a Monterey Movie Tour sweater vest, he peppers his language with phrases from a bygone age: By gollys and terrifics flow from his lips like he’s a character in Annie or The Music Man.
Introducing the tour, Lumsden gives an overview of our scheduled stops, and drops tidbits of movie trivia into the lineup. Eastwood’s Gran Torino is brilliant even though “the language gets a little rocky at times”; Clint’s next film will feature Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and “if God ever speaks to me, I want him to have to voice of Morgan Freeman.”
Funny, but Lumsden, too, seems to have an omnipotent voice, and sure enough, he’s a local radio personality. Raised in Pacific Grove, he’s got the credibility required to lead a KRML radio show called “For Locals Only.”
This tour is his other show. With an encyclopedic knowledge of movie history and a Rolodex of county trivia, Lumsden built the Monterey Movie Tour from scratch. He began running the “Scenic Tour of the Monterey Peninsula” in 1999, but the movie tour didn’t take off until 2003, after Lumsden was asked to do a tour commemorating Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut in Play Misty For Me (1971).
The popularity inspired Lumsden – “I could have done 20 of those tours” – and Monterey Movie Tours was born. With the assistance of the Monterey County Film Commission, Lumsden was able to locate tasty clips from some 200 films shot in Monterey County. Today, the MMT hits all the must-see scenic spots and integrates film footage from an impressive repertoire of films (that show on several TVs in the cabin) along the way.
The tour begins at Colton Hall… or should I say the Briarwood School for Girls? Colton Hall sat in for a Boston boarding school in A Summer Place (1959). We then venture down to Cannery Row, where a 25-year-old Marilyn Monroe flitted across the screen in Clash by Night (1952). Just outside the bus window, Monroe walks across the street with her boyfriend eating a chocolate bar outside San Xavier Fish Packing Company, near present-day Steinbeck Plaza.
Lumsden was even on set when Turner and Hooch (1989) rolled into his hometown. We watch a clip of Turner (Tom Hanks) driving down Lighthouse Avenue with Hooch attached to a pole outside the car. (Note to SPCA: No dog was harmed in the filming of this scene.) As children called “Hooch!” from the sidewalk, the professional actor-dog maintained attention and followed script. Nonetheless, “Hooch was a character – and you’ll have to take my word on that,” Lumsden says with a laugh.
As we drift from movie set to set, it becomes clear that Lumsden is the man you send out-of-towners to when they visit. Not only does he know everything about the films made on the Peninsula, he also drops dozens of not-so-celluloid factoids. Famous Pebble Beach author: Robert Louis Stevenson. Little-known affordable day of golf in Pebble Beach: Peter Hay Golf Course, $25 for an all-day pass. Then more movies. Famous film made in Pebble Beach: One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Marlon Brando’s only stab at directing. In one of those Hollywood blooper moments, a scene shot at a house near Spanish Bay accidentally shows the golf course in the background.
After Pebble, as the tour heads through Carmel before swinging back to Monterey on Highway 1, a realization surfaces: It’s nice to see familiar surroundings with first-time enchantment. As William Carlos Williams wrote, “A new life is only a new mind.”
“For locals, the tour is about seeing the Peninsula in a different light,” Lumsen says. “It’s your Peninsula, but seen through the eyes of Hollywood.”