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  • "Out of the Past" was one of the films made in the area that got that trend started.

  • Steve Schapiro / Paramount Pictures\

    Al Pacino is Michael Corleone in "The Godfather Part II," filmed in part near Tahoe's west shore.

  • Warner Bros. Pictures

    In "The Bodyguard," Kevin Costner's character takes the singing star played by Whitney Houston to his father's cabin in the forest – the forest near Lake Tahoe, at nearby Fallen Leaf Lake.

  • Tilda Swinton starred in "The Deep End," which like other movies made at Lake Tahoe has a suspenseful plot.

Lights, camera, Lake Tahoe: Exploring the region's cinematic history

Published: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11AANDE
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 7:29 am

Filmmaker Tom Dolby started with a prime Lake Tahoe location and planned his debut feature from there.

It's his family's house, already featured in a famous film: the 1951 Elizabeth Taylor-Montgomery Clift melodrama "A Place in the Sun" directed by George Stevens.

"I had written the screenplay to fit the house – we have the ideal set there," Dolby said of his family's vacation home on Tahoe's west shore.

Director-screenwriter Dolby (his father is audio tech pioneer Ray Dolby) and his team recently finished editing his film "Last Weekend," which was shot last fall and does not yet have distribution. It stars indie- movie favorite Patricia Clarkson as a matriarch who has decided to sell her family's lake house but has yet to tell her relatives.

The Dolbys have no real-life plans to sell their house, which has been in the family since 1979. It was built half a century before that, and retains the same distinctive stone exterior as when it appeared in "Sun" as the vacation retreat of rich girl Taylor's family.

Dolby, reached by phone at his home in New York, described "Weekend" as a dark comedy. That makes it lighter than most famous movies shot at Lake Tahoe, a majestic setting that filmmakers – including such greats as Stevens and Francis Ford Coppola – often juxtapose with scenes of crime and depravity.

"It's such a dramatic setting, so I can understand why so many thrillers and crime movies have been set there," Dolby said.

Below are some of the most memorable films shot in and around the Tahoe area. It's not an exhaustive list, because that would include extreme-sports films and resort-set romps such as "Winter-A-Go-Go," a 1965 movie that Kathleen Dodge of the El Dorado Tahoe Film Commission calls a cult favorite.

"It's totally fabulous, with women in bikinis at Heavenly," Dodge said. "It's like 'Austin Powers,' but for real."

"Out of the Past" (1947): In this outstanding film noir, Robert Mitchum plays a private eye who remade himself as a Mono County gas station owner after falling in with a bad crowd.

But the woman who led him astray (Jane Greer) and other creeps from his past catch up to him.

He's summoned to a crime boss's (Kirk Douglas) Lake Tahoe estate, where the views are spectacular but also reminiscent of studio backdrops. It's hard to tell whether Douglas or Mitchum actually made it to Tahoe, but somebody from the production shot those backdrops, so we'll count this as a Tahoe film.

It's too good not to.

"A Place in the Sun" (1951): Clift plays a poor relation who goes to work in his uncle's factory. He woos a fellow factory worker (Shelley Winters) but falls hard for a young woman (Elizabeth Taylor) whose parents have a swank place at Tahoe.

The film's defining event occurs on the lake, and it's far more sinister than shots of people water skiing. The lake scenes take place over a long Labor Day weekend but were shot in chilly October. Crew members reportedly had to hose snow off the ground before a bathing-suit-clad Taylor took a dip in icy waters.

"The Godfather, Part II" (1974): Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) knew it was Fredo in Cuba, but he did something about the betrayal in what's now a private community on Tahoe's west shore. Coppola shot the Corleone compound scenes in "Part II" at Fleur du Lac, the former summer home of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.

"The Bodyguard" (1992): When a singer- actress (Whitney Houston) receives threatening letters and phone calls, her bodyguard (Kevin Costner) secrets her away to his father's cabin in the woods – a setting that, despite its beauty, proves neither restful nor safe. The snowy scenes were shot at Fallen Leaf Lake, about a mile south of Lake Tahoe.

"The Deep End" (2001): This thriller showcases Lake Tahoe's clarity like no other film. But the "Keep Tahoe Blue" people probably did not envision shots of dead bodies under pristine waters when they mounted their campaign. Tilda Swinton plays a mother who discovers a body near her boathouse and tries to dispose of it elsewhere in the lake. She's attempting to cover up what she believes is a murder by her teenage son of his older lover (a sleazeball Josh Lucas, channeling Eric Roberts in "Star 80").

Call The Bee's Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118.. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.

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