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In on the act

With the Academy Awards upon us, a hotel group is helping movie fans tread in the footsteps of stars, finds Mark Footer

 

An inspired marketing device to promote the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW; now in its 85th year) was launched ahead of (tomorrow's; HK time) 85th Academy Awards ceremony: a list of 85 movies shot at least in part in one of the hospitality consortium's member hotels.

LHW represents about 430 properties worldwide, so many of the most obvious hotels made famous by Oscar-winning movies, such as the Park Hyatt Tokyo ( Lost in Translation) and The Roosevelt Hotel, New York ( Wall Street), do not appear on the list - and many of the films that are on it did not win awards (Academy or otherwise). However, that is part of the list's charm: included alongside Hotel Le Bristol ( Midnight in Paris, an Oscar winner last year) and The Pierre, New York (1993's Scent of a Woman; best actor award for Al Pacino's performance) are some lesser-celebrated gems of the hospitality and/or film industries.

LHW was established in 1928 as a reservation service for independent properties under the name Luxury Hotels of Europe and Egypt. It initially had 38 members, including the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (which is featured in the list, having provided a set for 1960 Oscar winner Exodus) and Le Negresco, in Nice, France ( La Cage aux Folles II; 1980).

If nothing else, the LHW list (www.lhw.com/inthemovies/) is an entertaining, if selective, look at world cinema and the hotels it has inhabited. Included are:

 

The Quiet Man(1952)/Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland.
The film: Retired boxer Sean Thorton (John Wayne) returns from America to set up home in the Irish village in which he was born. His courtship with fiery local Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara) sets off a chain of events involving property deals, secret weddings, dowries and obstacles in the form of traditional social rules. The Quiet Man won two Academy Awards, including that for best director.
The hotel: Director John Ford, who had Irish roots, enlisted the help of local peer Lord Killanin to find locations for filming. Many parts of Ashford Castle and the nearby village of Cong, were used, although interior scenes were shot back in Hollywood. The main stone bridge leading to the hotel can be spotted in the opening of the movie and several scenes, including the climactic fight sequence, were shot in the castle grounds, much of which remains unchanged. The cast and many of the 80-plus crew stayed at the hotel during filming, with Wayne in Room 500 and O'Hara checking in to Room 408 (as she did again in 2011, during 60th anniversary celebrations for the film).
Says the GM: "We always make sure to have The Quiet Man on demand in the bedrooms as we find that a great many guests enjoy watching it while staying with us," says Paula Caroll. "We can also help organise a visit to Cong, where there is The Quiet Man Museum and a tour available."

 

The Barefoot Contessa(1954)/Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare, Portofino, Genoa, Italy.
The film: Recounting the turbulent life of Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner), this drama begins with veteran director Harry Dawes' (Humphrey Bogart) invitation for Maria to star in a film of his. Once a huge success, Maria is courted both by an abusive movie producer and a wealthy Latin American playboy, until a fight lands her in the arms of her true love: Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini (Rossano Brazzi).
The hotel: Popular with stars of the Hollywood Golden Age, Hotel Splendido and its nearby sister, Splendido Mare, were a natural location choice for the Italian scenes of The Barefoot Contessa. Filming took place along the exterior of the hotel, in its grounds and on the terrace. The hotel appears as itself - and is mentioned by name in the film - and Brazzi, Gardner and Bogart (with his wife, Lauren Bacall), stayed here during the shoot.
Says the GM: "We have an incredible amount of actors come to stay and have the Golden Book, with all of our VIP guests' signatures from the 1940s onwards," says Ermes de Megni. "In it you can find the signatures of Rossano Brazzi, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and, of course, Ava Gardner. Since then, we have also had John Malkovich, Tonino Guerra, Wim Wenders and Sophie Marceau stay at the hotel, for the shooting of the movie Beyond the Clouds (1995). Guests can visit the parts of the hotel that have been used in movies, including the Ava Gardner Suite."

 

Love in Disguise(2010)/The PuLi, Shanghai, China.
The film: Directed by and starring singer Wang Lee-hom, Love in Disguise became, on release, the highest-grossing Chinese-language film by a first-time director (thanks mainly to Wang's involvement). Wang plays a pop star who masquerades as a number of people as he tries to get to know a university student. The bulk of the film was shot in Shanghai and also stars Yifei Liu and Joan Chen.
The hotel: Opened in 2009, not long before the movie was filmed, Shanghai's "first luxury urban resort" was a natural choice to serve as a location because of its reputation as a stylish, hip hangout. Filming took place in some of The PuLi's deluxe suites (one served as the main character's room), a meeting room, the main restaurant and the enclosed swimming pool. The hotel is referred to by name in the film.

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)/The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland.
The film: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) agrees to write a family history for wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Focusing on the disappearance of Vanger's niece, Blomkvist works with the dark and driven computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), and together they uncover immense corruption and violent secrets in the Vanger family's past. The film won the Oscar for film editing last year.
The hotel: Filming took place over two days in December 2010. Featured areas including the façade and driveway, the reception, a guest-floor corridor and the Masina Suite; the latter having to be transformed, with the living room sofa and pool table taken out to make room for a bed. As the hotel is non-smoking, the shots of Lisbeth puffing away in her suite were added digitally in post-production. In one scene, the receptionist (played by a real-life hotel employee) says, "Welcome to The Dolder Grand" when Lisbeth checks in.
Says the GM: "We have had an increase in interest in our property since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit the cinemas in 2011," says Matthias Kasweber. "Many of our guests ask our staff about the filming of it. When The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was first released, we offered a movie-related package to celebrate, which lasted over a year. The Masina Suite is available for booking."

 

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