If you enjoy movies and TV, you've probably caught a glimpse of the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif. - even if you've never actually been there. Strikingly white, red-roofed and with castle-like towers, the Del is a star herself.

Remember Tony Curtis (imitating Cary Grant) in a millionaire's yachting uniform wooing Marilyn Monroe (as ukelele-strumming Sugar Kane) on the beach in the classic 1959 comedy "Some Like It Hot"? That was at the Hotel del.Recall Peter O'Toole as a capricious and seemingly tyrannical director, with Steve Railsback as his pawn, in the 1980 flick "The Stunt Man"? The Hotel del Coronado deserved billing in that one, as actors and their doubles cavorted over, around and through the landmark building.

The filmmaking tradition stretches back to the silents ("The Flying Fleet," with Ramon Navarro) and into the television age (for episodes of "Hart to Hart," "Simon and Simon" and uncounted commercials).

There's a literary tradition, too. Dorothy's Oz, in at least its movie incarnation, is said to owe more than a little for its inspiration to the Del - which doesn't seem too outlandish a claim, considering L. Frank Baum wrote some of the books in his Oz series while living in Coronado. Check out the crown-shaped chandeliers in the hotel's cavernous Crown Room; Baum designed them. The movie "Somewhere in Time" was shot at another classic hotel, but the book upon which it was based - Richard Matheson's "Bid Time Return" - is set at the del Coronado.

The hotel, and Coronado itself, are the creations of railroad executive Elijah Babcock and businessman Hampton Story. In the 1880s the site was virtually an island, as the narrow Silver Strand to the south was overswept by the sea at high tide. North Island, now occupied by the Navy air station, was an isle unto itself, separated from what is today Coronado by a shallow channel called the Spanish Bight.

Babcock, Story and others would take a boat over to the spot to hunt jackrabbits, which numbered in the thousands on the scrubby coastal lowlands. But with the railroad said to be coming cross-country to San Diego, Babcock envisioned something more on the spot: " `The finest watering spot on the Pacific Coast'; i.e., a good place for a resort," says Gerry MacCartee.

The two men bought the land for $110,000, laid out the streets for a town, brought water by pipe under the bay from San Diego and cuttings by barge to landscape the would-be city. They auctioned off parcels, made a mint and used it to begin building the Hotel del Coronado.

As it turned out, the railroad didn't immediately come to San Diego - it veered north to Los Angeles, "and we had the Great Bust of 1887," MacCartee, of Coronado Touring, explains. Babcock borrowed money from John D. Spreck-els, heir to a sugar-shipping fortune, to finish the Del.

Spreckels became the driving force behind Coronado and, to a degree, San Diego.

After opening in 1888, "The Hotel del became enormously famous," MacCartee says, "so much so that in `This Side of Paradise,' (F. Scott) Fitzgerald could write of `that hotel in Coronado,' " without further designation, and readers would know whereof he wrote.

At the turn of the century a tent city grew up on one side, featuring 500 tents and thatched-roof cottages. The cost: 50 cents a day, fully furnished with electricity. Open only in the summer, the tent city even had its own daily newspaper. The hotel's canvas "suburb" died during the Depression when, Coronado decided, the wrong element had started to settle in.

In its first half-century the rich and famous came to the Hotel del. Besides Baum, Charlie Chaplin played polo there - and legend has it that the Prince of Wales may have first set eyes on Wallis Simpson in Coronado, possibly during a reception at the hotel. She lived in a bungalow nearby, while married to a Navy man, and the prince visited in April 1920. Fifteen years later he abdicated as king of England to marry her; he became the Duke and she the Duchess of Windsor. Fourteen presidents, from Benjamin Harrison to Bill Clinton, have visited.

The Hotel del Coronado virtually closed down during World War II, when the Navy leased 90 percent of it. After the war, the resort had a tough time returning to glory. Over the past 20 years, under the direction of current owner M. Larry Lawrence, more than $80 million has been pumped into it, upgrading the building and infrastructure, adding convention facilities, shops and more rooms.

Today the classic Hotel del again has the aura of a star.