Monday, March 12, 2012

Touring the Paramount Pictures Studio in Hollywood (Part 1)

On my last post I mentioned the celebrities who used to live in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. That made me think about the tour of the Paramount Pictures Studio in Hollywood, California, which we took in June 2010 when we visited my daughter who lived in Long Beach. This is on the opposite coast of the United States from Great Neck. I had called to obtain the tickets (reservations have to be made in advance) and purchased the tickets for the 2 PM tour. That day, 20 June 2010, we left early from Long Beach - a 40 minutes drive to Hollywood. Below is a picture of the freeway from my daughter’s Volvo sports car.

We parked the car in the Visitors Parking on Melrose Avenue – in front of the studio’s entrance and went to have lunch at the corner – The Astroburger.

Afterwards we still had some time so we walked on the side street from the Paramount Pictures Studio – it was a warm and sunny day. The famous Hollywood sign on the hill could be seen in the distance.

There were pretty flowers in front of the little houses. One even had a tiny lemon tree.

click on collage then click on each picture to enlarge

We crossed the street and I saw a sign “The Carlos Gardel Square.” This square was named in honor of the King of Tango from Argentina (who was born in France by the way.) What a coincidence – the week before, the 13th June, I had written a post where I talked about him – you may like to see it – click here.

Walking back down the street we passed a large mural near Stage 29 and the Gower Street entrance.

We entered through the Studio’s gate and had time to look at the photos displayed in several kiosks before boarding our tour cart. I recognized some of the stars and movies. As you can see below there was a strong glare on the glass. You may see better by clicking on the collage.

A large panel showed the studio land and other building locations on the sprawling 65 acres lot. On the side of the panel the names of the TV shows being currently filmed were indicated. I recognized “The Doctors” and “Dr. Phil” which I had seen once.

As I looked at this map I thought that it was strange that I would be visiting the Paramount Pictures Studio when two other Hollywood studios had marked my life. Growing up in Paris we lived in the Cité Condorcet – a small no outlet enclosure bordered by tall apartment buildings. When my mother did not take me to the gardens of the Sacré-Coeur to play I would play in the cité. Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Studio owned a property on Rue Condorcet. The camera room had a back window opening to the Cité. It was opened most of the time and we could hear westerns or other films being shown – most often in English. I am not sure what work was being doing there, maybe the dubbing of films into French.

As a small child I would play with my friends Nadia and Serge under this MGM window while hearing the sounds of their films. My father loved movies – mostly westerns. He would rent films for his movie projector and many of our neighbors would troop in our dining room-living room combo and watch movies. This was before the advent of television. Once in a while my little friends and I would be invited into the MGM viewing room and later they would give us little reels or small bobbins to keep as toys. It was a private viewing room. I should have kept these little MGM mementos.(Logo MGM courtesy Tout le Ciné)

When I decided to come to the USA in 1961 I knew that I would have to work if I wanted to stay a couple of years to visit many of the states – for this I needed a “green card” and a US sponsoring family. My father’s cousin in Paris asked his best friend in Los Angeles if he and his wife would sponsor me. I did not know then that Setrag Vartian worked at the Warner Brothers Studios as a film editor. Later on I found out that he had been the first Armenian language filmmaker in the United States. He had produced, directed and acted in two Armenian feature films and documentaries in the 1940s. I stayed with Mr and Mrs Vartian in Burbank for several weeks. During that time we went to some parties in Hollywood. I was not interested in the movie industry and all this scared me a bit so that is why I ended up in San Francisco even though Mr. Vartian had told me he would find me a job at Warner Bros Pictures if I wished to stay. (Logo WBP courtesy Tout le Ciné.)

Well I digress and need to get back to the Paramount Pictures Studio. The tour guide first gave us the history of the studio. Paramount Pictures began in 1912. It is the oldest and the last remaining movie studio in Hollywood. The other studios have moved to Burbank or Culver City. In 1926 Paramount Pictures built a new studio in Hollywood at the current location. At the time it costs $1 million to build and was on a 26-acre lot with 4 large sound stages. Below are two vintage postcards of the studio.

Now the Paramount lot covers an area almost as large as Disneyland. It has nearly 30 sound stages and post production facilities including 8 screening rooms, over 140 editing rooms and 3 million square feet of office space. The historic “New York Street” stage features 10 distinct neighborhood backdrops. The Studio also includes the Paramount Theatre appropriate for premieres, a Foley stage for creating sound effects and 3 small theaters. At peak season the studio employs over 5,000 people. Below is a picture of the Paramount Water Tower which is a Los Angeles landmark (it was used when the studio had its own fire department and hospital) and on the side three views of the lot now and in the 1930s (courtesy of Paramount.)

About 10 of us sat in the tour cart as the tour guide gave us non-stop explanations on what we were seeing while driving up and down all the studio avenues and streets.

Our tour guide listed many of the Paramount Pictures film stars – such as Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Gary Cooper, The Marx Brothers, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, John Travolta, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and many others. Below are pictures showing Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift outside stage sounds on the Paramount lot during the 1951 filming of “A Place in the Sun.” (Photos courtesy Time Inc.)

Then our tour guide gave us another list – of some of the memorable Paramount movies such as The Sheik in 1921 and Wings which was the first Academy Awards for Best Picture. Then there were also Sunset Boulevard, White Christmas, The Ten Commandments, Psycho, The Godfather Trilogy, Saturday Night Fever, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan and many more.

The park bench where Tom Hanks sat during most of the Forrest Gump movie was located at Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia, but was moved to the Savannah History Museum to preserve it. The bench at the Paramount Pictures studio – where my husband is sitting - is a replica.

We drove in front of several historic buildings named for famous film stars such as the Marlene Dietrich and W. C. Fields buildings shown below.

Our tour guide told us that many new actors would walk into the Paramount business office and would come out bearing a new name.

For example Charles Buchinski came out wearing the new stage name of Charles Bronson. He took the name of the Paramount studio’s wrought iron entrance gate which is located at the end of Bronson Avenue and called The Bronson Gate. Below is a postcard showing the Bronson Gate (courtesy Paramount Pictures.)

We will finish the Paramount Pictures studio tour in my next post…..


French Girl in Seattle said...

Ah, Vagabonde, what a fantastic post. Like you, I grew up in France. Like you, I was very familiar with the work of the MGM and other Hollywood studios. I was not lucky enough to live NEXT to a Studio, however (I would have loved that.) It was fun to be reminded of some of my favorite Hollywood stars, and I love those two shots of a young Elizabeth Taylor and her friend Monty Clift. I have never visited the Paramount Pictures studio in Hollywood, so I can't wait until you take us there... Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Shammickite said...

What a marvellous tour around the Paramount Studios.... you are very lucky to have been there. If this was in 2010, how can you remember so many details from your tour?

OldLady Of The Hills said...

My first time on The Paramount lot was the summer of 1947....And I was there again, in 1949, at the Old Gate, signing up to be an "extra" for a picture called "Mr. Music" with Bing Crosby....There is so much history here on this lot----things have changed a lot over the years---The "NEW" Melrose Ave. entrance is so big and I guess easier to navigate than the Old Gate..(Seen in those early pictures you have in your post....)
What is interesting to me, too, is that Rudolph Valentino is buried right behind Paramount in Hollywood Forever...."The Shiek" which you mentioned was one of his HUGE Hits!
Oh, and I can see that Mural from my House...! It is really wonderful, isn't it? I LOVED seeing a close-up of it!
I look forward to #2, my dear....I love that you always cover so much History along with the present....Oh, I so hope you get out here again sometime, though I know that with your dear daughter back East now, the chances are much slimmer....!

Vagabonde said...

French Girl in Seattle – Thanks for visiting my blog. It is true that movies were very important when we were growing up in France. French TV had only two educational channels; there were no computers or smart phones to take our time. You should go to Hollywood some day as there are several movie studios to visit.

Shammickite – Thanks for commenting. You asked how I can remember all these facts. I have a little method for my posts. When I take pictures I always bring a notebook with me and take copious notes. I start a document about the event, trip or occasion I’ll post about then as time goes by, if I hear or see anything interesting on the subject I copy it in my document even if the post is months or years away. I then go back to my pictures and note the dates they were taken and study them well trying to get back to that time and seeing in my mind’s eye what transpired. I also write posts once a week or so, and during the week prior to writing the post I meditate on the post to remember everything that happened. I work on my memory as it is so important. Thanks for asking.

Naomi – I thought about you while writing this post. I knew it would bring many images to your mind. I also hope I can somehow go back to the Los Angeles area. We are planning to go to San Francisco in the fall but that is a bit far to drive. Thanks for stopping by.

Olga said...

This is a wonderful, informative, interesting post. Hollywood must be one of the places that I ought to visit, but I haven't had the opportunity yet.

Anonymous said...

*** En ce mardi matin je passe te souhaiter un belle journée !

Très beau post Vagabonde !!!! MERCI pour ce partage !!!


Elaine said...

Lovely tour! We did the backlot tour of Universal Studios many years ago, but Universal is more of a theme park. It's not a day I'll soon forget though as we had been dropped off in the morning by the tour bus from the hotel and were there for the day--unfortunately that day was a deluge of rain, and many attractions closed down. However, we bought ponchos and just went with the flow--at times there was quite a flow of water! We went on a water ride that splashes water on you, but we were wet enough that it seemed very tame. The irony was the Waterworks exhibit that they had to close down because of the rain. If the weather had been better I would have enjoyed spending more time in the backlot. Who knows, perhaps we'll visit again sometime, but I'm not sure if we would be able to top that visit.

Marja said...

You played in the gardens of the sacre coeur How wonderful is that. You not only lived in great places but met a lot of interesting people as well which could have brought you in the film industry. I guess it is a bit scary. I had no clue how big these paramount studios are. Amazing and well worth a trip. Thanks for being an excellent guide and look forward to the next part

Kay Dennison said...

As always, you have taken me a-wandering to glorious places!!!! Thanks!!!!

Friko said...

You really derive much pleasure from and squeeze every bit of information out of everything you do.

I have not been interested in film for a long time (modern blockbusters are so dreary) but a visit behind the scenes of the studios would interest me too.

Pat said...

Absolutely fascinating - especially for a film buff like me.
I often wonder where Naomi is in relation to the Hollywood sign.
The photographs are great but the ones of Elizabeth and Montgomery are priceless.
Merci beaucoup.

Perpetua said...

Another fascinating post, Vagabonde, so informative and beautifully illustrated. You are rapidly giving me more knowledge and insight about the US than I ever thought I would acquire. :-)

livininlb said...

Love the post and all the memories. THe second sentence made me sad but I will be back in Southern Cali one day...I will!! Looking forward to the next post.

Jeanne said...

Great post on the paramount picture studios! You always have such an interesting commentary, and i always love your vintage postcards. also loved the view you posted of the Sacre Couer. That is such a beautiful cathedral, and in such a visible and wonderful spot. What wonderful memories you have of Paris as a child.

Jeanne said...
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Fennie said...

Another, most fascinating post. I am struck by the light in your pictures. It reminds me of Barcelona. It seems to be of a special quality. Is that why films came to be made in Hollywood? Or was in an accident - like the aeroplanes in Long Beach. As Shakespeare said 'all the Hollywood's a (sound) stage.'

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, I'd love to do this tour! your pictures are fascinating. I think I might like to visit the studios even more than actually seeing the movies (so many of them seem kind of dull these days)

And how strange that you have this "film" type background.

Oh, and I love the way you casually say you went to some Hollywood parties :)

bowsprite said...

warmest greetings dearest Vagabonde! how wonderful to be whisked away each time I visit to--who knows where!? so fun!! i love how you remember details so well. My Le Havre trip is on the drawing board, but even with notes, the details are foggy! eager to see the next part, the next post, and onwards!! bisous! christina

PeterParis said...

Once more... so complete! I was there once (in 1965) but remember so little. Thanks for refreshing! :-)

Pat said...

Thank you for this tour of Paramount. The history of the movie industry is fascinating. Have you seen the movie "Hugo?"

Lonicera said...

Much enjoyed that. Sounds like it was a lot of walking! I remember reading somewhere that Liz Taylor didn't know that Montgomery Clift was gay and made a play for him. (Probably around the time of the photo?) and that she was very disappointed... I felt the same about Rock Hudson - I was gutted that I could no longer imagine meeting him by chance in Hollywood and what would happen next....!!

Dee Ready said...

Dear Vagabonde,
I've visited your blog for only a few short weeks and yet I feel as if I've had an education--a broad education. I've learned about pecan pie and the mansions on Long Island and famous diners and eateries and now here I am in Hollywood at Paramount.

I feel as if I'm in that cart with you. You are my tour guide and I'm finding everything you tell me so interesting and inviting. Thank you.


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

This would be such a fun thing to do. I love the old Hollywood movie stars and their glamour. Thanks for taking us along and I look forward to the studio tour.

Al said...

What a fascinating tour, I should sign up for it next time I'm in LA.

Arti said...

The movie industry as we know it today in N. Am. had its birthplace in Hollywood. Some credits the French film The Artist for paying such a wonderful homage to the American film industry... could well be the reason it won the Oscars. You've given us an interesting and informative virtual tour of a historical place. I fear though for the future of these large studios. Let's wish them all the best in continuing to produce great entertainment for us all!

Sally Wessely said...

I always enjoy reading about your tours and travels. This was really a fun post. i would like to visit Paramount someday.

Thérèse said...

3 million square feet of office space! Such a "dreamy" number!
Fascinant! De bien interessants souvenirs si bien mis en texte et en images.

claude said...

Alors là, tu m'intéresses.
Je n'ai lus le temps ce matin, mais je repasse sans faute demain. Je me régale d'avance.

Jeanie said...

Wow -- there's so much meat in this post that I'm going to have to come back and read it again! It sure makes me regret I didn't do the Paramount tour when I was in LA eons ago. I'm glad you took us on a personal diversion back to your time in France and coming over here, too!

Finally, all your pics are great, but that last one? It's a gem!

Deborah said...

Chère Vagabonde,

I haven't traveled much with you of late, but this was a fine place to jump on board again. What I'm always hoping for in these posts is the personal - to read about your life as a child, especially. The connections between your life then and the one you found so far away are always very interesting.
Imagine renting reel movies way back then! Your father was ahead of his time, definitely.
I was also struck by the photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, how natural they looked. Just two young people who acted for a living (even though by then they were already stars, I guess) with no evidence of the celebrity machinery that is so false.
An excellent post, as they always are. You have such a gift for research and detail - this is what makes your travelogues so very good.

Diane said...

What an interesting post with so much information. Strange that you say that your father loved Westerns. Our French neighbour here will happily watch Westerns all day long! Bon week-end. Diane

Vagabonde said...

Olga, Marja, Kay Dennison, Friko, Pat, Perpetua, linvininlb, Jeanne, Jenny Woolf, Bowsprite, Peter Olson, Dee Ready, Lonicera, Sam @My Carolina Kitchen, Al, Arti, Retired English Teacher, Jeanie, Deborah, Food Fun and Life in the Charente – Thanks friends for having shared this tour with me. I’ll have more on the studio soon. I try to be brief but there is always something else and some little tidbit to share. Thanks for commenting.

Elaine – So sorry to hear that it rained when you visited Universal Studios. It rains so rarely in that area. You must have been so disappointed.

Fennie – yes the light that day was bright and so clear. It was a lovely day.

Nancy, Therese, Claude – Merci pour votre visite. J’aurais bien aimé que vous soyez avec moi pour cette visite qui était si intéressante.

Pie Lady Pat – yes I have seen the movie Hugo. I really enjoyed it. It was taking place in a fantasy station based on the Gare du Nord, which I used daily to go to my family suburban house – it was a special movie.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for all the beautiful photos and descriptions you shared with us.

Ginnie said...

I just love how you can take anything, Vagabonde, and spin a story out of it...and still have so many connections to YOU and your most interesting life!

Unknown said...
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