Scene It Before: The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome from “The Sting”

The historic beachside carousel was home to grifter Paul Newman in 1974’s Academy Award Winner for Best Picture

SantaMonicaCarousel2When I first landed this CityThink gig, I compiled a list of iconic Los Angeles filming locations to feature in the weekly columns (after pinching myself numerous times, of course.) One of the locations that made my list, the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, was used prominently in The Sting. At the time I had yet to watch the 1973 caper classic, but I was bowled over when I finally did. Not only is the movie timeless (I was on the edge of my seat for the duration), but also the locations absolutely blew me away. While set in Depression-era Chicago, The Sting was filmed almost entirely in 1973 Los Angeles.

The Looff Hippodrome, which is located at 276 Santa Monica Pier, is where Newman’s Henry Gondorff lived and worked, operating a carousel, with his girlfriend, Billie (Eileen Brennan) in the film. The Chicago cityscape seen in the background is actually a matte painting on glass created by two-time Academy Award-winning artist Albert Whitlock.

The two-story Hippodrome, which features Byzantine, Moorish and Spanish Colonial design elements, was constructed in 1916 by master wood carver Charles I.D. Looff and his son, Arthur. It has housed three merry-go-rounds over the years. The one currently on-site, Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #62, was built in 1922 and transferred to the Santa Monica Pier in 1947. It features 44 hand-carved wooden horses that spin around an original 1922 Wurlitzer organ.

Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.