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The other side of L.A.: Westwood, movies and Marilyn Monroe

MoviesMarilyn MonroeDean MartinRodney Dangerfield

LOS ANGELES — Great L.A. theaters and intriguing gravesites.

With the Academy Award nominations out, thoughts of movies turn once again to Hollywood. The Oscars will be held at the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard on Feb. 26.

But when I want to treat friends from out of town to a classic Los Angeles-area movie experience, I'm more likely to head to Westwood, on the west side of the metropolis. Westwood was a planned community near the University of California, Los Angeles, launched just as the stock market crashed in 1929, and movie theaters were part of the master plan. There are many theaters in the area, but the highlights are a pair of classics across the street from each other. Right now, each is showing Oscar-nominated films.

No matter what is playing, the theaters are worth the visit. Hurry while you can. One of the other great theaters in the area, the Majestic Crest, built in 1941, closed in October and is up for sale.

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WESTWOOD VILLAGE

This is the best historic theater in the area and one of the two or three best in Southern California. It was called the Fox Village Theater when it opened in 1931 with an art deco-meets-Spanish-revival style. Its landmark, 170-foot tower still features the historic Fox name in lights. The theater is often the site of splashy premieres, complete with stars strolling up the red carpets and searchlights sweeping the skies.

The 1,400-seat theater is usually open all day, every day. I've had the place almost to myself during a Tuesday matinee. The women's bathroom still features a "powder room" area with plush seats and flowers in vases. It's now part of the Regency Theatres chain. 961 Broxton Ave., 310-208-5576 or regencymovies.com.

Now showing: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

Tip: There's a Starbucks in the Westwood Village's old arcade that features photographs of the theater's construction.

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THE BRUIN

If you don't like what's showing at the Village, cross the street to its younger sister, the 670-seat Bruin. Opened in 1936, the Bruin lacks the angular beauty of the Westwood Village, but its wraparound, art deco-inspired marquee is one of the signature images of Westwood. Renovations haven't always been respectful — the glow-in-the-dark murals in the interior disappeared long ago. It's also now a Regency Theatres property. 948 Broxton Ave., 310-208-8998 or regencymovies.com.

Now showing: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Tip: Across the street is tiny Stan's Donuts, one of the best doughnut spots in Southern California. Try the maple bars. 10948 Weyburn Ave. stansdonuts.com.

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Side trip: Marilyn Monroe's crypt. Within easy walking distance of the theaters is Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. It's tucked behind a row of skyscrapers on Westwood Boulevard. It's tiny, but packed with famous names. Others buried there include movie stars Natalie Wood and Burt Lancaster, singer Dean Martin, rock guitarist Frank Zappa, movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck and author Truman Capote. It's also a place that allows humor in headstones. TV host Merv Griffin's says, "I Will Not Be Right Back After This Message," and comedian Rodney Dangerfield's says, "There Goes the Neighborhood." But Monroe remains the main draw, with fans coming for a memorial service on the anniversary of her death, Aug. 5. The staff is used to the curious, but this is still an active memorial park, so be respectful. Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, 1218 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles. pbwvmemorialpark.com. A good site for grave information is seeing-stars.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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MoviesMarilyn MonroeDean MartinRodney Dangerfield
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