With its enviable location just 20-odd miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island has long been both backlot and playground for Hollywood. The island has been stand-in for dozens of locations – from the South Seas to the eastern seaboard, from tropical paradise to quaint small town. Every once in awhile, the island even gets to play itself.
Location scouts haven’t been the only ones who’ve had a Hollywood love affair with Catalina Island. The island’s proximity to work and home have made it a perfect getaway for the stars for generations. Many Hollywood stars continue to getaway to Catalina, appreciating both the island’s charms and the nonchalant way they can expect to be treated, but it was during Hollywood’s golden era that Catalina really earned its reputation as a getaway for Hollywood’s elite. Charlie Chapman, Johnny Weissmuller and John Wayne were regular visitors, as were Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and many more. Marilyn Monroe lived on the island for a time, back when she was Norma Jean Dougherty.
Hollywood’s love affair with Catalina Island is the subject of the Catalina Island Museum’s current exhibition, Escape to Catalina: Hollywood’s Biggest Stars on Catalina Island, which is currently on display. This exhibit is the last for the museum’s historic location in the Casino Building – in the summer of 2015, the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building will open on Metropole Avenue.
The Catalina Island Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the ground floor of the Catalina Casino. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for everyone 15 and younger. Annual memberships are available at a variety of levels.