10 great places to check into movie-hotel history

They may not receive any awards at Oscar time, but real hotels are often used as "supporting players" in notable films. On the eve of this year's Academy Awards, Tony Reeves, author of The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, nominates 10 of his favorite silver-screen hotels for Tim Smight for USA TODAY.

Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles

Opened in 1923, downtown L.A.'s grand hostelry has been associated with moviedom for decades. In the 1930s and '40s, its ornate ballroom played host to the Academy Awards ceremonies. "The Biltmore has also been a familiar screen presence over the years," Reeves says. "Among other roles, it served as the 'Beverly Palms' in Eddie Murphy's blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop and became New York's 'Sedgewick' in Ghostbusters. The Biltmore is also where Michelle Pfeiffer vamps it up in The Fabulous Baker Boys." 213-624-1011; millenniumhotels.com/millenniumlosangeles

San Domenico Palace Taormina, Sicily

Built on the site of a 15th-century monastery and incorporating some of its original structure, the luxurious San Domenico sits on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean. "It's a gorgeous setting that's featured in Michelangelo Antonioni's classic 1960 film L'Avventura," Reeves says. "The film ends with a famous scene on the hotel's terrace, with the peak of Mount Etna visible on the horizon." www.sandomenico.thi.it

Hotel Alfonso XIII Seville, Spain

"This palatial hotel's courtyard stands in for the 'Cairo Officers Club' in David Lean's 1962 epic Lawrence ofArabia," Reeves says. "Star Wars fans will also recognize the Alfonso as the exterior of Princess Amidala's 'Naboo Palace' in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones." hotel-alfonsoxiii.com

York Hotel San Francisco

Located in the heart of San Francisco a few blocks from Union Square, the York recently completed a major renovation. "The hotel is now much grander than it appeared in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock suspense classic Vertigo," Reeves says. "As the 'Hotel Empire,' the York is where — in the eerie green glow of its illuminated sign — Kim Novak was transformed into the 'dead' Madeleine in the film." 800-553-1900; yorkhotel.com

Sidi Driss Matmata, Tunisia

" 'Iconic' is an overused word when it comes to film locations, but if any place deserves the term, it's the Sidi Driss," Reeves says. The unusual sunken hotel — a traditional Berber underground structure of "cave rooms" radiating from a large central pit — was used by George Lucas in the Star Wars saga. "Most memorably, the Sidi Driss served as Luke Skywalker's subterranean home on the desert planet of Tatooine," Reeves says.

The Plaza New York

Overlooking Central Park, the distinctive Plaza — built in 1907 and currently undergoing a $400 million renovation — is a familiar movie star. "Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee figured out the function of the bidet here, and Dudley Moore entertained working girls in the hotel's famous Oak Bar in Arthur," Reeves says. "But my favorite Plaza scene is the abduction of Cary Grant from the hotel's lobby in Alfred Hitchcock's classic North by Northwest." 212-759-3000; fairmont.com/theplaza

Columns Hotel New Orleans

Built by a New Orleans cigar magnate as his palatial home in 1883, the Columns is located in the Garden District — a short streetcar ride from the historic French Quarter. "The splendid interior of this grand structure became the elegant bordello in Louis Malle's controversial 1978 drama Pretty Baby," Reeves says. "This is the film in which a young Brooke Shields shot to stardom." 800-445-9308; thecolumns.com

Timberline Lodge Mount Hood, Ore.

Nestled on the flanks of Oregon's spectacular Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge was built by unemployed craftsmen hired by the federal Works Progress Administration in 1937. Fashioned from mammoth timbers and native stone, the lodge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978. "The Timberline is an ideal place for a stressed writer to get away from it all," Reeves says. "But if you've seen Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, you'll remember that Jack Nicholson's relaxing winter break goes somewhat awry there." 800-547-1406; timberlinelodge.com

Cardozo Hotel Miami Beach

Owned by singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, the Cardozo sits amidst the shops, restaurants and nightclubs of Miami's vibrant South Beach area. "It's an art deco gem with great ocean views," Reeves says, "and it's been employed in a host of notable films." Among them: The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane; Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday with Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx; and Frank Capra's 1959 comedy A Hole in the Head, starring Frank Sinatra. "The Cardozo is also Ben Stiller's hotel in the raunchy comedy There's Something About Mary." 800-782-6500; cardozohotel.com

Oakley Court Windsor, England

Set on 35 acres of landscaped gardens on the bank of the River Thames, the Oakley Court was built in 1859 as an estate for a British nobleman. The Victorian Gothic country house was transformed into a hotel in 1981, but during much of the 1960s and '70s it stood vacant. "Right next door was Bray Studios, where many classic British horror films of that era were made," Reeves says. "The Oakley was used regularly as the lair of Dracula, Frankenstein and various Cornish zombies. In 1975, it achieved screen immortality as the castle of Frank-N-Furter in the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show." oakleycourt.com

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