With its swaying palm trees, sleek architecture and neat rows of cookie-cutter condos, Palm Springs is the perfect setting for Olivia Wilde’s elliptical thriller about a young woman seemingly trapped in a Modernist paradise. This prefab oasis in the Californian desert has long been synonymous with Hollywood, having once been a favourite spot of some of its biggest stars. But Don’t Worry Darling is the first film to peer beneath the pristine surface of this alluring yet eerie place.
Here is our guide to six of Palm Springs’ most famous locations, as featured in the film.
Canyon View Estates
If you asked someone to picture the quintessential post-war American suburb, it would look something like Canyon View Estates. Designed by architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel in the early 1960s, this development of luxurious low-rise villas in Palm Springs’ south end district combines floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed stone cladding, and geometric rooflines. Doubling as the fictional company town of Victory, it’s here that Florence Pugh and Harry Styles live out their utopian fantasy in the shadow of a highly secretive corporation.
A few hours’ drive north of Palm Springs on the edge of the Mojave Desert lies one of California’s most iconic landmarks. What looks at first glance like a flying saucer protruding from the top of a mountain, the 150-ft-wide, dome-shaped Volcano House was the brainchild of acclaimed architect Harold James Bissner Jr and was formerly the home of American TV host Huell Howser. In the film, it stands in for the Victory Project’s mysterious headquarters, where Florence Pugh makes a shocking discovery about the true nature of this idyllic community.
Designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 for the department store magnate Edgar J Kauffmann, this five-bedroom steel-glass masterpiece is the best-known residential property in Palm Springs and one of the finest examples of Modernist architecture in the region. Blending clean lines, luxury living and unrivalled privacy, it’s no surprise that Wilde chose it for the Victory Project’s charismatic, cult-like leader, played by Chris Pine. Previous residents include the singer Barry Manilow, and according to the NY Post, the house recently sold for $13.06m in an off-market deal (around half its initial asking price from autumn 2020.)
Palm Springs City Hall
With its instantly recognisable corrugated steel portico pierced by three enormous palm trees, Palm Springs City Hall makes a brief but memorable appearance in Don’t Worry Darling. Located on East Tahquitz Canyon Way in the city’s downtown area, this kitschy municipal building was designed by Swiss-born architect Albert Frey and built between 1952 and 1957. The missing section from the front entrance can be found at the rear, propped up by four concrete columns and adorned with the motto ‘The People Are The City’ in a mid-century typeface.
Palm Springs Visitor Center
Backdropped by the snow-capped San Jacinto Mountains, this is another Palm Springs icon bearing Albert Frey’s unmistakable signature. Originally opened as the Enco Tramway Gas Station in 1965 before being converted into an art gallery in the 1990s and more recently a tourism bureau, the Palm Springs Visitors Center is renowned for its slanting, sail-shaped roof, which overhangs the main entrance by several meters, providing shade from the harsh desert sun. It remains one of the first sights to greet visitors arriving by road from Los Angeles.
La Quinta Resort & Club
This 45-acre sprawl of 600 guestrooms and 100 private villas was designed by Gordon Kaufmann in the 1920s. Situated in the heart of the Coachella Valley, about 30 minutes from downtown Palm Springs, La Quinta is Spanish Colonial Revival in style. Still, its long palm tree-lined entrance makes it well-suited to Wilde’s film (indeed, it’s where most of the cast and crew stayed during filming). Frank Capra wrote the screenplay for Lost Horizon here in 1937 – another film about a group of wayward souls who find their Shangri-La in an otherwise desolate landscape.