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Arboretum a Favorite With Movie, TV Productions : Exotic Locations Close to Home

October 19, 1986|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

The scene features Lee Stetson, hero of the television series "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," running through a grassy wooded area outside Washington, D.C.

But Stetson, played by Bruce Boxleitner, actually is running through the Australian section of the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia.

"We chose the arboretum because the area looks like the kind of foliage found in the East and because we don't have to pay on-location costs," said Barry Jones, location supervisor for the adventure comedy, which stars Boxleitner and Kate Jackson.

Avoiding Extra Pay

Had the scene been filmed more than 30 miles away from the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, the 65-member crew would have been eligible for extra pay.

In addition, the arboretum, just off the Foothill Freeway, offers a wide variety of settings, including a lagoon and a jungle, and "the people are wonderful to work with," Jones said, making it a popular place for movie, television and commercial filming.

And there are not many other choices for simulated jungle settings. The Valencia area is popular but not as lush, according to those in the industry, and the Huntington Gardens in San Marino does not encourage filming there.

Since it was founded in 1947, the arboretum has provided a setting for more than 100 films, including what the Arboretum Foundation, a private, nonprofit support group that oversees any filming, calls "a number of Hollywood greats and almost greats."

As Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller swung through the arboretum trees in five films. Dorothy Lamour walked the "Road to Singapore" along the Arboretum Lake with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. And Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Madeleine Carroll's paddle wheel boat accidentally sank in the same lake during the filming of "Safari."

"The area where the jungles are is popular because we can duplicate any jungle in the world, and they are green all year," said Joan Malafronte of the Arboretum Foundation.

"We have a year-round waterfall and a lagoon, and we do permit boats on the water. People have even tried to get alligators in the lagoon," she said, adding that such exotic species would be allowed provided they were accompanied by a trainer.

Studios are charged on sliding scales, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 a day, depending on how many are in the cast and crew and the number of vehicles required, Malafronte said. Studios also must get a county use permit, which costs $400 a day, and a city use permit, which costs another $90.

Some Restrictions

Although the arboretum welcomes filming because of the money it brings in, it does impose restrictions.

"The Queen Anne Cottage is popular, but we don't allow interior filming," Malafronte said.

The cottage was home for the television series "Fantasy Island" for five years until the studio constructed its own replica.

Excessive noise also is forbidden, Malafronte said, because it disturbs the wildlife at the arboretum and the horses at Santa Anita race track across the street. Night filming is not permitted.

No Noise

"What deters companies is the cost or their necessity for noise," she said. "If they want to use helicopters, they go to the Valencia area."

The Huntington Gardens has much the same scenery on a smaller scale, but the charge there is $4,200 a day and filming is allowed only on Mondays, when the grounds are closed to the public.

"We haven't had much filming in the past three or four years," said Katherine Wilson, head of public relations.

"Earlier there were a lot of World War II films, so our Japanese garden was popular. A few years ago we did it on a more consistent basis, and it usually worked out well because the film people were cooperative.

"We don't seek business but we are happy to have them," she said.

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