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Sonoma County on film

  • Tippi Hedren starred in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds", filmed in areas of Bodega and Bodega Bay in 1963.

When you settle down at 4 p.m. Sunday to watch the 84th annual Academy Awards, you'll see the ceremonies broadcast live on ABC from the Kodak Theatre.

That's in Hollywood, the fabled center of the moviemaking universe. But movies aren't always made in Hollywood. The people of Sonoma County have known that for a long time. For almost a century, the hills, forest, towns and vineyards of our region have served as popular locations for major film makers.

Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola all have brought their cameras and crews here. And while not every film made here was a classic, nobody's going to forget Hitchcock's “The Birds” or Wes Craven's “Scream.”

Press Democrat archives and Sonoma County Film Commission archives show some 100 feature films that co-star Sonoma County. Below are some of the most notable.

There are no Oscar winners for best picture on this list, but it might be surprising how many Academy Award nominees there are. You'll even find a few winners in lesser categories.

1914 — “Valley of the Moon.” Author Jack London played a bit part in this film version of his autobiographical novel, shot in Glen Ellen and at Wolf House, now part of Jack London State Park.

1943— “Shadow of a Doubt.” Director Alfred Hitchock froze Santa Rosa in time with his World War II era thriller about a young woman (Teresa Wright) who suspects her favorite uncle (Joseph Cotten) of being the infamous Merry Widow serial killer. It offers a look at Old Courthouse Square when the courthouse was still there, as well as the old ivy-covered library. Writer Gordon McDonell was nominated for an Oscar. (The movie was remade for TV in 1991 with Diane Ladd and Hark Harmon. Scenes were shot on McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa and downtown Petaluma.)

1943 — “The Happy Land.” This wartime family drama, starring Don Ameche, is more or less forgotten, but there's an important footnote. The director discovered a new actress, a local five-year-old girl named Natasha Gurdin, who had come to watch the filming with a relative. She grew up to be Natalie Wood, and went on to star in “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “West Side Story.” It also was the film debut of Harry Morgan, later a TV star on “Dragnet” and “M*A*S*H,” who liked Sonoma County so much he bought a ranch here.

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