The “Mad Men” Finale, Part I: Don Draper’s Childhood Home

June 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

What's Wrong with this Picture?/Courtesy AMC

Don and the Kids Confront His Past/Courtesy AMC

Sunday night’s season finale of “Mad Men was compelling for many reasons, but most of all for its amazing last scene in which (spoiler alert!) Don Draper boldly takes his three children to see his childhood home, a crumbling Victorian brothel operated by his uncle. “This is a bad neighborhood!” Bobby pipes when they stop, and Sally gives Don a look that contains enough dialogue for an entire episode.

Though the house is supposed to be somewhere in Pennsylvania, the location isn’t, and neither are any of the other places pictured in the show, for “Mad Men” is entirely made in Los Angeles. The interiors are filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios, the former Union Oil Company headquarters at the western edge of downtown. The complex, still modern-looking after 53 years, is by Pereira and Luckman, the firm that designed LAX’s Theme Building and other mid-century classics. LACC’s exterior can be seen in “Fight Club” and countless other movies and TV shows. Other locations include local theaters, clubs, bars, restaurants and private homes built between the 1880s and 1960s. Here is a guide to some of them:

So much for the tired idea that Los Angeles is a “new” city. Even if creator Matthew Weiner had wanted to, he couldn’t have shot “Mad Men” in New York, as many of the real locations have been altered or demolished. As much as it surprises New Yorkers, downtown Los Angeles contains many more authentic early to mid-20th century exteriors than Manhattan, which is why so many movies set in New York are shot here. The array of styles in the houses alone–Don and Betty’s Scarsdale colonial, Betty and Henry’s brick Victorian pile, Anna Draper’s Craftsman, the jet setters’ Palm Springs modern–proves that Los Angeles is unmatched as an architectural treasure trove.

But back to the whorehouse. From its style, elevation and stone walls, I knew it had to be located in Angelino Heights, just north of downtown, but where? Having just toured Carroll Avenue, Angelino Heights’ most famous street of Queen Anne houses, the week before, I knew that most had been restored. Here’s a photo of one of the best:

Victorian House on Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights/Hope Anderson Productions

Victorian House on Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights/Hope Anderson Productions

As for the unrestored houses, even the worst didn’t look as bad as Don’s childhood home.

Yesterday the mystery was solved by a friend, who led me to this link:

The house is on Carroll Avenue, but was heavily manipulated in post-production. Not long ago, it wouldn’t have been hard to find a house in Angelino Heights that needed no special effects to look decrepit, but gentrification has transformed Angelino Heights to the point where”Mad Men” had use CGI.

Next time: It’s the Light.

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