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Locations, locations, locations

In the movies, urban parks aren't just for playgrounds and picnics, they're spaceship landing zones and thug hangouts. A look at how Hollywood has lightened up American parks -- or shot out the streetlights for serious mayhem.

October 30, 2005|DANIEL OKAMURA

Gangster's Paradise

Urban parks provide an unsafe haven for street gangs in "Mi Vida Loca," Allison Anders' 1993 portrayal of Chicana posse life, which was shot on location in Echo Park. New York's Central Park hosts a midnight melee in "The Warriors" (1979), when the namesake gang battles the Baseball Furies in samurai swordplay using wooden bats.

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Sappy Geezerville

In "Forrest Gump" (1994), Tom Hanks invites passersby to take candy from strangers and learn life lessons at an iconic bench, which formerly sat at Chippewa Square in Savannah, Ga. Park benches can bring cross-generational bonding too, as Robin Williams tells Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" (1997) about love that's like "going to hell and back" in the Boston Public Garden.

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Sci-Fi Freakscape

In our first glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Terminator" (1984), his assassination mission from the future starts with a flash and a thud in Griffith Park, when he manhandles some lowlifes. A lavender-and-maroon-clad Capt. Kirk is no less off-putting when he turns San Francisco's Golden Gate Park into a landing pad in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) -- though the scenes were actually shot in Pacific Palisades' Will Rogers State Park. In "Escape from New York" (1981), inmates in the Manhattan Island Prison descend upon Central Park to receive the Feds' monthly airdrops of food.

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The Kings' Castle

What is it with speed-chess-playing curmudgeons and parks? Fast-fingered father figures change young lives in "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993) and "Fresh" (1994), which star black chess masters (Laurence Fishburne in "Fischer" and Samuel L. Jackson in "Fresh"), their grasshopper proteges and New York's Washington Square Park.

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Lurkers' Lounge

Parents would snatch up their children if they saw Jack Nicholson's snooping Jake Gittes loitering there. In "Chinatown" (1974), Nicholson floats on the lake in Echo Park, blatantly photographing a suspected adulterer.

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Romantic Hazard Zone

What could be more lovey-dovey than an idyllic park setting? Ask neurotic writer Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) in "Manhattan" (1979), who lolls his arm in Central Park Lake on a romantic row, only to dredge up a handful of muck. In Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" (1934), a recently fired reporter (Clark Gable) sparks sexual tension when he carries a spoiled socialite (Claudette Colbert) across a pond in a scene shot in Beverly Hills' Franklin Canyon Park.

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-- DANIEL OKAMURA

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