HOLLYWOOD AT LITTLE RIVER INN
Hollywood “discovered” Little River Inn in 1939 when Myrna Loy and her husband happened to be driving up the coast on vacation and stayed at the Inn. But the first film cast and crew to discover the Inn was that of Frenchman’s Creek, starring Joan Fontaine. The year was 1943, and legend has it that Ms. Fontaine preferred caviar, champagne and filet mignon to the choices on the menu, none of which was readily available in a small town during war time. The irascible Ole Hervilla, the Inn’s founder, dutifully reviewed her demands with the film’s location manager, who sent someone to San Francisco to purchase the items, then told Ole to charge her double to teach her a lesson. When presented with the bill she called Ole all kinds of names he was surprised to hear from a lady, but the bill was eventually paid by Sid Street, the location manager.
In 1947 the cast of Johnny Belinda was staying at the Inn and it was Jane Wyman and her husband Ronald Reagan who bellied up to the bar. One evening Reagan got down on the floor and showed everyone his football moves; on another night, Jane convinced Ole to let her tend bar as a break from the rigors of acting. She didn’t know how to make change so she just stuffed bills in the register - and Ole made a whopping $900 in one night. She then went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in the film.
Given the legend that’s grown up around James Dean it’s hard to imagine that someone in a small town would have the nerve to “86” him from a bar. However, when Dean was staying at Little River Inn while filming East of Eden in 1954, Ole had no trouble teaching the young kid some manners. One evening when Dean was relaxing in Ole’s Whale Watch Bar he made the mistake of getting a little too comfortable and stretched out his legs - on top of the table. Ole took one look and that was that - Dean was tossed out and told not to come back.
Ole’s niece, Connie Reynolds, who still works at the Inn, has a different perspective on Dean’s visit to Mendocino. Not only was she among the numerous local extras on the film (she remembers being grossed out when she saw him blow his nose “like a lumberjack”) she has some pretty wonderful bragging rights - Dean once slept in her bed. Apparently he came down with a bad case of poison oak - how and why remains unknown. None of the other cast members were willing to share a room with him, so Connie, only 8 years old at the time, was relegated to her sister’s room and Dean stayed in her bedroom.
Another East of Eden star, Julie Harris, endeared herself to the locals while staying at the Inn. When she overheard a phone conversation Ole was having with a waitress who called in sick on busy night, Julie told Ole she had worked as a waitress during college and offered to pitch in. She later said she had the time of her life “acting natural.”
Of the many talented personalities in the cast of The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1965), one of the most memorable has to be Jonathan Winters. One night Winters held forth in the bar with a three-hour, non-stop monologue that had people literally rolling on the floor with laughter. Norman Jewison, producer-director of the film, was interviewed when filming finished and had this to say: “The cooperation of the people here was without precedent … I can truthfully say it is the first location I have hated to leave. Keep your marvelous country the way it is. Please don’t change a thing.”
Thanks, Norman. And please let Hollywood know we’re ready for our next close up.