John Marshall High School
This high school in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, California is notable for the many famous names among its alumni, as well as its appearance in countless films and television productions over the years. Named after the former Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall High School was established in 1931 and initially served around 1,200 students. In keeping with the judicial theme of the school's namesake, the school adopted Johnny Barrister as the official mascot.
The school continued to expand in the subsequent years as its student base continued to grow. It suffered from severe damage following the San Fernando earthquake of February 9, 1971, which shook with a magnitude of 6.6 and killed 65 people. The damage caused some of the buildings on campus to be condemned and the cafeteria was torn down. In addition, it was found that the campus's Main Building did not meet earthquake code standards. Due to the efforts of the Los Feliz community, it was saved from a similar fate of that of the cafeteria when in 1975 it was briefly closed down for structural strengthening to bring it up to code.
The Collegiate Gothic style of the Main Building has become something of an iconic image for John Marshall High School, which has drawn the attention of nearby Hollywood. Over the years the school has seen several of its alumni achieve a level of public acclaim and has even grabbed its own level of recognition through countless movie and television productions that were shot on campus.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its close proximity to Hollywood and the moviemaking capital of the world, John Marshall High School saw many of its students move on the world of movies and television. The names include such notables as Leonardo DiCaprio, Julie Newmar, and Warren Miller. Outside the world of film and television, John Marshall High saw alumni go into the world of professional sports (Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid), journalism (CNN's Carol Lin), and music (Michelle Phillips of the Mama and the Papas), among countless more.
Some of the alumni even made a name for themselves, either famously of infamously, in the world of crime and justice. Among them was Judge Lance Ito who presided over the "Crime of the Century" - the O.J. Simpson trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Another student went on to become the famous "Hollywood Madam," Heidi Fleiss, whose arrest for running a prostitution ring was said to greatly unnerve several of her famous clients. Finally, L.A.'s infamous "Red Light Bandit," Caryl Chessman, was a former student of John Marshall High School. Chessman was a convicted robber and rapist, whose execution became worldwide news and made him something of a poster child for those wishing to ban the death penalty.
In Films and Television
Given the main building's Collegiate Gothic appearance and extremely close proximity to Hollywood, John Marshall High School has been the setting for countless movies and television productions over the years. Perhaps most famously, it doubled as Dawson High for some of the interior sequences of the classic James Dean film, Rebel Without a Cause. The school's football field played host to the carnival finale at Rydell High in Grease. It was also the children's school from the three television series, Growing Pains (in which alumnus DiCaprio would play a recurring role), The Wonder Years, and Boy Meets World. The dark comedy, Grosse Point Blank, used it as the setting of its high school reunion. Other productions to use the school include The Young Stranger, Zapped!, Pretty in Pink, Can't Hardly Wait, Book of Love, Midnight's Child, and many more. There have been several well-known genre productions that made use of the school as well.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Probably one of its more notable genre appearances occurred in 1984 with the release of the Wes Craven horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film involves a group of four friends that are being stalked and killed in their dreams by a former-child killer. The man, named Freddy Krueger, is seeking revenge for his own murder at the hands of their parents who implemented their own form of mob justice.
John Marshall High School appears as the school the four teenagers attend in A Nightmare on Elm Street. It is only used for the exterior shots, while the interior scenes were reportedly filmed at the John Burroughs Middle School nearby. The front entrance is predominately featured in the film as the friends arrive for school and again when the character of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) flees the school after being attacked by Freddy (Robert Englund) in a nightmare as she napped in class. It is outside John Marshall High that she notices the burn on her arm that carried over from her dream and begins to realize that things that occur in the nightmares are carried over to real-life.
The scene mentioned above is actually a combination of three locations in the greater Los Angeles-area. The classroom and hallway sequences were shot at Burroughs Middle School and the boiler room sequences were shot in the basement of the historic Lincoln Heights Jail in East L.A. Finally, the scene wraps with Nancy running out of John Marshall High. The high school did not have a name during the film, as even the city went unnamed in A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was not until A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge that the town was named Springwood and the main characters attended the fictional Springwood High. However, the filmmakers for the sequel opted to use another school for their film.
It is also worthy to note that John Marshall High School is under five miles away from North Genesee Avenue near West Hollywood. That particular street doubled as "Elm Street" in several scenes in the movie and is also where Nancy's house is located (see Cahuenga Branch Library, Los Angeles, CA).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
John Marshall High School doubled as Hemery High School in the 1992 horror/comedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The film involves the character of Buffy (Kristy Swanson) as a flighty teenage high school student who is suddenly conscripted into fighting vampires after she learns her destiny is as a vampire slayer. Although unhappy with how his screenplay was adapted to film, the movie was the introduction of a character created by Joss Whedon, which he would later move over to tremendous success on a television series of the same name.
The school appeared in multiple scenes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and apparently included both interiors and exteriors sequences. A lot of the action takes place on the school grounds, although the gym that Buffy trains in is actually the ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel. In the second season of the television series run, the episode Becoming, Part One featured a flashback of Buffy (now played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) during her time at Hemery High School. For this sequence, the school is actually the famed courthouse and clock tower seen in the Back to the Future films on the back lot of Universal Studios. The high school that doubled as Sunnydale High in the TV series was Torrance High School, which is almost 20 miles to the south (see Torrance High School, Torrance, CA).
Aside from Swanson and Luke Perry (who portrayed Pike in the film), it is interesting to note that the actors who portrayed students at Hemery High in Buffy the Vampire Slayer also went on to achieve acclaim. Probably most notable was Buffy's friend, Kimberly, who was portrayed by two-time Academy Award winner and star of 2007's The Reaping, actress Hillary Swank. Pike's friend Benny was portrayed by David Arquette, who aside from writing and directing the 2006 horror/comedy The Tripper is well known to genre fans as Deputy Dewey Riley from the three Scream films. Other actors that appeared as students are Natasha Gregson Warner (Modern Vampires, Vampires: Los Muertos), Michele Abrams (Troll 2), Randall Batinkoff (Ring Around the Rosie, The Stepford Children), and Sasha Jenson (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Ghoulies II). Perhaps most surprisingly were two names that appeared in uncredited roles - actor Ben Affleck (Phantoms) and actress Ricki Lake (Skinner, Cecil B. DeMented).
The School Today
John Marshall High School now serves around 4,500 students today and continues to operate in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It also continues to be an attractive location for both movie and television productions and makes frequent appearances in both. However, as it remains an active school, it is closed to anyone that is not a student or staff member. It is recommended that any visits to the school's campus be limited to off-school hours and viewing the building from the outside.