The First Street Bridge

by C. M. Albrecht

In Los Angeles there’s a bridge. It has the colorful name of First Street Bridge. Nothing spectacular really, just a concrete bridge crossing over the (usually) dry Los Angeles River. If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles, I doubt this bridge was high on your go-see list. It’s not likely to turn up in travel brochures and I can’t remember anyone ever saying: “When you get to LA be sure to go see The First Street Bridge.”
But even if you’ve never visited Los Angeles, it’s almost certain that you’ve seen this bridge, or one just like it; there are others. You’ve seen it in countless movies and you’ve seen it in countless commercials for automobiles and such. You’ve seen it from the top. You’ve seen it from both sides, from underneath, from one end and from the other end. You’ll see it in about every fifth movie that emanates from Hollywood. The action takes place on the bridge and then they drive under the bridge and then you see the bridge in the background and then they’re back underneath or on top of it. Bridge bridge bridge, ad nauseam. But why?
What is the Hollywood fascination with this bridge you ask? I have absolutely no idea. Many other cities have much more interesting bridges. But no need to go out of town. Some budget-conscious producer is said have to opined: “A tree’s a tree. A rock’s a rock. Shoot it in Griffith Park.”
But the question in my mind is not why Hollywood is so stuck on that particular bridge, nor why the production companies hesitate to go on location if they need a bridge. After all, they often go on location for any of a number of reasons. Often it’s because they can film more cheaply in some Canadian town than at home in Hollywood.
But all that is moot. My question is: Why do they use a bridge at all? In my recollection there has never been one cogent plot reason to bring the bridge into any of these films.
Okay, in Terminator 3, John Conner dropped an empty beer bottle from it, where it landed on humanoid skulls below, but he could’ve thrown the bottle into the Pacific at Santa Monica just as well.
This little tirade isn’t exactly to complain about the use of this (these) poor overworked bridge(s). When Dirty Harry wasn’t sure how many slugs he had left in his .357, the bank robber said: “I has to know.” Well, I’m like that bank robber; I have to know. Every time I see the Bridge Scene it hits me all over again: Why? What is Hollywood’s fascination with action on a bridge over a dry riverbed?
And don’t even get me started on the Third Street Tunnel. That’s the one Hollywood stretches out to about ten miles.
Maybe nobody knows the answer to all this, but one thing I know: if the bridges ever go, Hollywood may be next.