Murder, She Wrote and the Blair House
Angela Lansbury with, Blair House Inn owner, Grover Wickersham and son
The popular television series Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury, features the exterior of this Victorian bed and breakfast inn, as Jessica Fletcher’s home in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine.
Universal Studios broadcasted 264 episodes of Murder, She Wrote between September, 1984 and May, 1996. Nine of these episodes were filmed in Mendocino, while exterior shots throughout Mendocino were used in the remaining episodes. Local residents looked forward to the yearly filming, as over a hundred and fifty were chosen to play background parts. A lucky few were cast for speaking roles.
The cast and crew of this series were friendly and casual. It was not uncommon to see Angela Lansbury stoop to speak with a toddler, or for Tom Bosley to sign his autograph on a Glad Bag box, proudly presented by a shopper, stepping out of the local grocery. It is no wonder that Mendocino folks looked forward to the week long filming schedule each spring. While many movies have been filmed in and around the picturesque town of Mendocino, few have left behind such lasting feelings of endearment.
It is estimated Murder, She Wrote brought in over 2 million dollars to the local economy. In addition, generous donations were presented to local service groups and organizations, including local volunteer fire departments, the school district, and the recreation department. The 20 member Mendocino High School band appeared in one segment, and received enough money to fund a field trip.
Many of Mendocino’s early settlers, including Blair House owner Elisha Blair, were from the eastern seaboard. As a result, local architecture lent well to depicting the fictional town, of Cabot Cove, Maine. During filming, local buildings were transformed into Cabot Cove businesses simply by changing the exterior signs. One such sign remains today, at the entrance to the Hill House of Mendocino. One side of their sign still reads “The Hill House of Cabot Cove”.
Quaint architecture, windswept headlands and a pristine coastline has drawn many a movie producer to Mendocino. The area has served as the location for many movies including, Johnny Belinda, East of Eden, The Russians are Coming, The Summer of ’42, Slither, Same Time Next Year, Overboard, The Karate Kid-Part III, Dying Young, Forever Young, Pontiac Moon, The Majestic, and over a dozen silent films dating back to 1904.*