Through the remarkable eye of first-time film director Greg Reitman, we embark on an armchair adventure through time and nature in this captivating exploration of the romantic history of Santa Catalina Island, Hollywood’s private playground for the better part of a century. The audience experiences the island’s golden era beginning with William Wrigley Jr.’s acquisition of the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919.
Using rare 16mm archival film and vintage black & white still photographs, inter-cut with interviews of longtime island residents, historians and celebrities, Hollywood’s Magical Island chronicles Catalina from the Wrigley era through the present day resurrection of Avalon as a center for art, sports, music, and entertainment.
The movie documents the architectural achievements that transformed Catalina into a modern day state-of-the-art playground, and highlights many of the people who figured into island lore, including Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, the Chicago Cubs, and stars of the Big Band era. The island even played a role in helping to elect a President.
But Hollywood’s Magical Island is not all frivolity and fun. The film also acknowledges the island’s tragedy and heartache, deftly captured in moments that tug at the emotions. Jean-Michel Cousteau, Wrigley family heirs, residents and visitors to the island discuss William Wrigley, Jr.’s dream of preserving Catalina’s natural beauty while providing a magical place for all to enjoy.
The film concludes with footage of Art Good’s Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival, the Fender Catalina Island Blues Festival, and a visual kaleidoscope of modern-day Catalina, an ecological paradise that continues to serve the leisure and entertainment desires of Hollywood royalty and casual weekend visitors alike.