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Re-creating World War I in Corona del Mar

A century ago, America went to war. Men from Orange County and across the nation heeded the call to service during World War I.  By the end of the war, 4 million men served, half of those going abroad to fight.  More than 100,000 American “doughboys” lost their lives in World War I.

In 1917, Corona del Mar was a peaceful rural enclave, — as far from the battlefields in France as one could imagine. So, it might seem ironic that a decade after the end of the “War to End All Wars,” movie makers arrived in Corona del Mar to recreate World War I. In fact, the Academy Award winning All Quiet on the Western Front, included battle scenes filmed in Corona del Mar.

In 1928, Erich Maria Remarque published All Quite on the Western Front, which immediately became an international best seller, selling more than 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first 18 months after publication. Hollywood filmmakers took notice, and before the year was out, began production of a film version.

Filming of All Quiet on the Western Front began in November, 1929 at a variety of locations, including Universal Studios, RKO-Pathe in Culver City and Laguna Beach. The battlefield scenes, however, were staged in a Corona del Mar field, bordered by present day MacArthur Blvd, San Miguel Dr., San Joaquin Hills Rd., and Crown Dr.

Universal Pictures hired about 150 World War I veterans through the American Legion posts in Los Angeles and Santa Ana. They also bought 250 real World War I uniforms, complete with rifles and field kits for $29,000. The battlefield included trenches, craters and denuded trees.

All Quiet on the Western Front was filmed at the time that the industry was transitioning to “talkies.” In September 1929, the Ritz Theater in Balboa even announced that it would only show “talkies” from then on. The movie went from the start of production in November 1929 to its Los Angeles premier on August 24, 1930. All Quiet on the Western Front won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930.