From the M*A*S*H Library 20: “Three Magical Miles”

What is it?

Rooney, Brian. Three Magical Miles: L.A.’s Amazing Historical Neighborhood, Fourth Edition. Canada: Friesens, 2018.

Why should M*A*S*H fans care?

Rooney’s book offers a glimpse into the history of the area surrounding Malibu Creek State Park and what was the Fox Ranch. The book explores the area’s M*A*S*H connection in addition to the history of how the Fox Ranch came to be.

As a M*A*S*H fan, what part(s) should I watch?

It is a fascinating read from cover to cover, but if you are only interested in M*A*S*H, then pages 155 – 158 are for you. However, I recommend reading at least the section on the 20th Century Fox Ranch, which is about 40 pages.

TL;DR Review

Rooney offers a fascinating history of a seemingly small area in Los Angeles that has a large contribution to the history of film, television, racing, and the allure of Los Angeles itself. Learn more about historical homes, buildings, healing springs, a race track, an amusement park, and film sets that make the “three magical miles” truly a unique area.

Full Review

Los Angeles is perhaps most famous for being the home of Hollywood. Actors, movies, television shows and more have come out of Los Angeles, but there is more to Los Angeles than just Hollywood. In fact, Hollywood is just one relatively small area in Los Angeles, and many shows and movies are made outside of Hollywood. Brian Rooney’s Three Magical Miles: L.A.’s Amazing Historical Neighborhood explores one area of Los Angeles that is home to many popular movies and television series, including M*A*S*H.

Being a M*A*S*H fan, I was well aware of the 20th Century Fox Ranch, now Malibu Creek State Park, and some of the other films that were made there. I was not aware, however, of the rich history of the “three magical miles” surrounding the park. Rooney explores the history of the area surrounding Malibou Lake, which was the home of the early rich and famous. Long before Disneyland, this area was the playground for the rich and families alike as there was a country club, mineral springs spa, amusement park, and a race track. The area is also home to the oldest house in Los Angeles having been constructed in 1863. It is hard to believe that all of these historical areas are so close together!

Of course, M*A*S*H is featured in the book since it is probably the most famous television series produced at the 20th Century Fox Ranch. Rooney discusses the full history for the ranch, including the fact that the property was a working ranch owned by President Ronald Reagan. The book features photos from the M*A*S*H and behind the scenes photos of the series being filmed at the ranch. Rooney gives a great history of the series being filmed at the ranch and the challenges that were presented in production given the extreme heat and the difficulty of bringing equipment to the remote filming site.

Rooney spends a fair amount of time on the history of the 20th Century Fox Ranch. M*A*S*H fans know the ranch as the backdrop for Korea, but the Malibu hills have served the film industry well. There were a surprising number of movies made at the ranch including How Green was my Valley (1941), Love Me Tender (1956), Dr. Doolittle (1967), Planet of the Apes (1968), and many westerns. I was unaware that there was also a Paramount Ranch in the area that was home to many other well known movies including The Virginian (1929), The Plainsman (1936), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938). Several well known television westerns were also filmed there including Gunsmoke and The Cisco Kid. Rooney says that well over 200 films were produced in the “three magical miles.”

Rooney has a close connection with the M*A*S*H site in particular. In a recent interview with the M*A*S*H Matters podcast, Rooney discussed how he cleaned up the M*A*S*H site at Malibu Creek State Park and developed it into what it is today. You can visit the site, and it is no longer overgrown and has several signs offering context. There is even a replica of the famous signpost at the site. This is all thanks to Rooney’s dedication to keeping the M*A*S*H site well maintained and having the replica signposts created. We can visit the site today due to his hard work and dedication to preserving the history of M*A*S*H and the area surrounding the park.

This book is a well written history of an often overlooked neighborhood, and it is rich in visuals with hundreds of historical photos. I really enjoy a book that is able to combine a strong narrative with great photography, and Rooney succeeds. History books are a labor of love and this is no exception. I learned a lot about the area that I did not know before, and I am even more impressed that M*A*S*H is a part of the history of the “three magical miles.” My copy of the book is the 4th edition, but a 5th edition of the book is set to be released in the summer of 2023. You will be able to order a copy directly from Rooney’s website once it is available.

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