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.
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…..