Whether it was down the road or fifty miles up the coast, by the mid-1920s, the Hollywood brand became very prevalent across Southern California.
In Oxnard, it happened with the filming of “Bound for Morocco” starring Douglas Fairbanks and then increased in notoriety a few years later with Rudolf Valentino’s 1921 blockbuster, “The Sheik.” The film sets were built atop the dunes on 80 acres of Leon Lehmann’s beachfront ranch at Oxnard Beach. But even though the dunes were the draw for the filmmakers, it was the promise of a serene coastal lifestyle combined with the Hollywood connection that motivated the real estate developers.
The Hollywood Beach subdivision just north of the ranch was established in 1924, and a year later, the Silver Screen Tract (Silverstrand) was built just to the south. Ironically, Hollywood-by-the-Sea’s development promptly drove away motion picture productions, where the dunes represented the desert-like landscape desirable for the films. But those two films put Oxnard’s beaches on the radar of Angelenos. Once here, they could purchase a lot for a vacation home, stay in a 40-room hotel, or just camp on the beach.
The scene has changed dramatically over the years as houses eventually rose on vacant lots and Hollywood-by-the-Sea, Hollywood Beach, and Silver Strand are now billed as affordable alternatives to Malibu. Or as the New York Times article called the area in 2007, “un-Malibu“. The other big change came with the construction of Channel Islands Harbor in the 1960s, which split the community in two. Today Channel Islands Harbor is the established centerpiece for all of Oxnard’s beaches, including Mandalay Shores (Formerly Oxnard Shores) furthest to the north.
It took a blockbuster movie for Angelenos and others to even become aware of our beaches. To this day, they remain one of the better-kept secrets on the Southern California coast. But then, maybe it just comes down to preference. If you are looking for the energy, activity, and accessibility of an urban beach lifestyle, then Malibu, Santa Monica, and Los Angeles are likely a better choice. On the other hand, if you dream of a beach lifestyle that speaks more to the Central Coast’s solitude but still provides access to the city, then Oxnard may provide that alternative you hadn’t considered.