Santa Paula, Calif., gets a 1950s movie make-over Improvements: Film crews have spruced up the city and pumped money into its economy as they prepared to shoot a feature based on the old TV series 'Leave It To Beaver.'

June 23, 1996|By Sherry Joe Crosby | Sherry Joe Crosby,LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

Using gallons of paint, elbow grease and imagination, Universal Studios has transformed the city of Santa Paula, Calif., into 1950s Mayfield, the fictional hometown of Beaver Cleaver.

Film crews, in town to make a movie based on the popular TV series "Leave It To Beaver," have placed flowers along downtown Main Street and painted eight buildings, including the historic clock tower which overlooks the city of 30,000.

The residents think it's swell.

"They really dressed up our downtown. It's such a positive effect they have on our local economy," said Bill Nash, film liaison for the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce.

By this week, city officials estimate that filming from "Leave It To Beaver" will have pumped $250,000 into this town 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, boosting local restaurants and hardware stores.

Workers outside Santa Clara Valley Hardware were busy last week affixing a giant-sized cup of steaming coffee to the shop's facade.

In the movie, star Cameron Finley will become stuck in the cup, similar to his TV counterpart's mishap with a giant soup bowl atop a billboard decades ago.

This year, film and TV studios used the city's historic railroad depot as a backdrop for commercials featuring Honda cars and Red Dog beer. And for the past two months, Saban Entertainment has been taping a new children's show in the city.

Filming has not always been free of friction in Santa Paula. According to Jayne Cooper and John Tompsen, owners of Santa Paula Hardware, past filmmakers have hurt local businesses by eliminating parking, closing down streets and diverting traffic from downtown stores.

But they said Universal is different.

"This is the first film company that's been good and is working with us," said Cooper, who praised the studio for supporting local businesses, sprucing up the city and for its generous compensation fees that range from $200 to $1,500 a day.

"We would like to use them as an example of how other cities can work with film companies," Cooper said.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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