Saturday, March 24, 2012

Touring the Paramount Pictures Studio in Hollywood (Part 2)

Please read the first part of our tour at the Paramount Pictures Studio written in my post of March 12, 2012. As I mentioned there Paramount is a huge studio which can be visited by the public. There are regular guided tours of the studio’s back lot. The tickets need to be purchased in advance. Here is one of our tickets below. (Please click on pictures, or on collages then also on each picture to enlarge them - they look so much better.)

Paramount Pictures studio is the longest continually operating studio in Hollywood. By the way, did you know how Hollywood was named? Hobart Johnstone Whitley (1847-1931) was born in Toronto, Canada, and became a US citizen in 1870. In the 1880s he arrived in Southern California as a land developer. During his honeymoon in Los Angeles in 1886 he and his wife Gigi came up with the name Hollywood. Below is a picture of H. J. Whitley and his family (courtesy Gaelyn Whitley Keith.)

Our tour guide gave us some history on Paramount Pictures, the stars and the movies filmed there, then he also gave us some background information on the television part of Paramount. In 1967 Paramount purchased the Desilu television studios from Lucille Ball and by 1969 Paramount studio went into television. Some of their series were quite popular such as: The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68) - Mission Impossible (1966-73) - Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69) - The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) - The Odd Couple (1970-75) - Happy Days (1974-1984) - Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983) - Cheers (1982-1993) - Monk (2002-2009) and more. Below are pictures from Cheers, Star Trek and Monk (courtesy Paramount.)

Some of the television series being filmed there now are Dr. Phil, Glee, Hung and The Doctors. All the shows currently being filmed are indicated on the large map placed near the entrance of the studios.

There was no filming the day of our tour, but we went inside several of the Stages where pictures were not allowed.

Since this was the end of June most of the shows were on break and the stages were closed. On the exterior walls of the Stages a historic panel indicates some of the shows which were filmed inside. In the picture below, The Mod Squad, Taxi and Girl Friends have been filmed in Stage 23. Incidentally, there is no Stage 13 because of long-held superstitious belief.

In Stage 24 Sister, Sister and Families Ties were filmed. Stage 25 had The Lucy Show, Cheers and Frasier among others. In Stage 28 which was constructed in 1930 were filmed Mannix, The Godfather Part II, The Great Gatsby, 1974, and Entertainment Tonight. On Stage 30 some of the productions shot there were The Godfather, 1972, Soul Train, Little House on the Prairie and The Doctors.

The Arsenio Hall Show and the Dr. Phil Show are filmed in Stage 29. We went inside and the guide let us sit in front of the production floor, but we were not allowed to take pictures. Shows were not being filmed at the time, but I understand that free tickets to be part of the audience can be obtained during the filming season. The sets have no hard ceilings, just soft fabric sheets over the top and only fly walls so they can easily be moved. The sets look real on television but inside the studio it is a very different feeling.

One of the highlights for me was to see the backlot which is a replica of streets in New York City. The tour guide told us that the current 5-acre backlot was completed in 1992 at a cost of $1.5 million as the original New York Street was destroyed by fire in 1983. It is a large area featuring numerous streets of New York City. We left our cart and walked around. It felt like we were back East until you looked up and saw the projectors on top of the buildings.

This huge set has large block of mock brownstones on facades that have been used for filming many movies. There is a Chicago section with architectural styles found in the Midwest. The massive New York City backlot includes eight distinct areas of New York: Brooklyn, Brownstone, Financial District, Greenwich Village, Lower East Side, SoHo, Upper East Side and Washington Square.

This backlot can be rented for promo events, corporate events, fundraisers, car shows, concerts, etc. Many advertisements have been shots in these Hollywood streets of New York. This backlot can be rented to other studios as well.

We walked by a set were many “outside” police type TV series shots had been made – right then it was called the Boston Police Department.

It felt strange walking down those streets looking just like downtown New York but so quiet, so eerily empty.

The details in those streets are extraordinary - looking at the sidewalks, there were scuff marks and other openings just like the real thing.

But it was not real. Turning a corner I could see the depth of the building as shown below.

There were real curtains on the windows. It looked like someone could be living there.

The tour guide took us inside one of these buildings. I was amazed to see that the interiors were so totally different inside. The curtains could still be seen from the inside, as in the photo below.

There were projectors, ladders, wood planks, steps, stairs, and scaffolding.

Back on the street, as soon as one looks up the famous Paramount water tower can be seen and the New York illusion ceases.

As we turned a corner we could see a wall at the end of the street. The tour guide told us that Hollywood Memorial Park cemetery is behind this wall. He added that people working on several sound stages, mostly on stages 29 through 32 have reported sighting of spirits entering the studio lot. Footsteps are heard and pieces of equipment turn on and off by themselves.

It has been reported by several guards working late at night that they had seen the ghost of Rudolph Valentino wearing the white Sheik costume in which he was buried in Hollywood Memorial Park.

Hollywood Memorial Park is the resting place of many famous artists such as Douglas Fairbanks. Jean Dujardin the actor from this year’s Oscar winner “The Artist” acknowledged, during his acceptance speech, that Douglas Fairbanks had been a key inspiration for his portrayal of George Valentin, the silent film star in the movie. Below is Douglas Fairbanks in the “Son of Zorro.”

Back in our electric cart, we drove and stopped for a minute at “Lucy Park” which used to belong to Desilu Studios. One of the buildings there was used as a high school in the sitcom “Happy Days.

Then we stopped and entered a small room where all the film reels used to be kept. Now the shelves are empty as they have been digitized or placed in a climate controlled library. The Paramount library includes over 300,000 shots and clips, footage from thousands of movies and TV shows, thousands of shots mastered in high definition and more. The tour guide gave my husband and daughter some empty metal containers of old film reels.

We then went into the Paramount Theatre. It has a giant auditorium and can accommodate hundreds of guests. It is used for screenings, small award shows and fundraisers.

Our cart went all around what is called the “Blue Sky Tank.” Water can flood the sunken parking lot area to be used as a mock ocean. Above it is a large wall painted blue so as to look like the sky.

Our cart drove us back to the front of the studio. We walked around Bronson Park, Marathon Park and went into the Shop where I purchased a couple of postcards and the shopping bags seen on the top of this post.

As an aside, I just read that 2012 being Paramount Pictures 100th year anniversary, they have unveiled a new logo which they will use throughout the year. They are also starting a $700 million property upgrade that will take the next 25 years to complete and is called the “Hollywood Project.” (Picture of the new logo courtesy Paramount Pictures.)

As we walked a last time by the fountain I thought that so many of the big stars of yesteryear are all but forgotten by the young people. They were celebrated in their times and now they are gone. Fame is so elusive.

They are all gone into the world of light,
And I alone sit lingering here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.

Henry Vaughan, Welsh (1621 −1695)

Postcard of Paramount Pictures Studio at night (courtesy Paramount.)


DJan said...

Your posts are always extremely detailed and informative, and these two are no exception. I love the pictures and description of how these sets are used. I went to a show in Hollywood when I was twelve, I think it was the Art Linkletter show but I'm not positive. I remember being in the audience with my grandmother.

Thanks again for another wonderful adventure.

Kay Dennison said...

Glorious!!!!!!! How I envy you these adventures!!!! Thanks so much for sharing them!!!!

French Girl in Seattle said...

Bonjour Vagabonde. Once again, I felt as if I was there, with you, the whole time. Thank you for taking us back to Hollywood today. I am determined to go on a tour of my own soon. As a child, I was fascinated with "Hollywood." I guess a little bit of the old magic is still part of me! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

The Broad said...

That was so wonderful,Vagabonde. You had me mesmerized from beginning to end! A magical tour!

Pondside said...

I've just finished catching up on your last few posts. I've missed a lot!
If I ever get to LA I will definitely take the tour. It seems so worthwhile, to learn all the history and to see everything close up. I did see the light fixture on top of the building in the ad!
Wasn't Elizabeth Taylor a beauty? I don't think there's an actress today to rival her.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a GREAT GREAT Post, my dear Vagabonde...This is my turf, as you know. I have written about "Hollywood Forever" a number of times (The cemetary you spoke of right in front of, OR behind---depending on where you are standing, Paramount/Desilu/RKO Stuios....) and FYI: Before it was Desilu Studio, it was RKO Studio---that was owned, at one time, by Howard Hughes....Many Many GREAT pictures where made there.....

I truly enjoyed this post, more than I can say.

Perpetua said...

You really are a tour guide extraordinaire, Vagabonde. Such an interesting and well-illustrated post to mark 100 years of this historic studio. I rally enjoyed this.

Sally Wessely said...

This post was amazing. Those sets are just spectacular. I bet my husband would love touring Paramount. Thank you for giving us a tour via your photos and great narrative.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Another fabulous post. This is one place I would love to go one day. And the ghost of cool. I've felt a ghost a couple of times while touring places they supposedly were. Guess you just have to believe.

Thanks so much for taking us along.

Wanda..... said...

Great post! I knew of the back lots, but to see the full stucture and details of the 'buildings' was very interesting. Thanks for the tour!

Lonicera said...

I've always been fascinated by the world of illusion, and a US film studio would be the ultimate practitioner of the art... I found myself thinking as I read your post 'Ooh I'd love to see that' - meaning the fabulous fronts and non-existent backs of properties, the extraordinarily different insides, and the illusion of sea and sky. Definitely on the bucket list, thank you.

Jeanne said...

What a great post and love your photos! Looks as if this was such an interesting tour!

Rosaria Williams said...

Just like being there! Yes, indeed, you do provide quite a reportage, with background history and details of each aspect.

We lived in Los Angeles for decades, and never did we take the time to visit any studio!

Arti said...

Thank you for a thorough virtual guide through the Paramount Studio. I remember seeing most of the TV series you mentioned dating back to my childhood days growing up in Hong Kong! Paramount's influence is far and wide indeed. And it's interesting (and I'm not surprised) that Hollywood got its name from a Canadian. There are so many in the entertainment industry who are from Canada, you'll be surprised. ;)

Thérèse said...

What a tour! What an adventure!
Movies come back to mind. Past actors come back to life... smiles emerge.

Elaine said...

A totally fascinating tour! It would be very strange indeed to be on what should be a busy city street and have no one there, a surreal experience. The illusions that the filmmakers create is mind boggling.

Fun that you recognized the name of one of the ice sculptors. As I was typing the names in I was thinking no one will know any of them, but I wanted to show the varied places that they came from. I find the backgrounds of the various sculptors very interesting. It's a diverse group.

Ginnie said...

I love seeing everything through your eyes, Vagabonde! Your attention to detail and history and EVERYTHING does more than justice to wherever you go. THANK YOU.

Dutchbaby said...

Both posts are rich in detail, Vagabonde. I love the photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and the postcard of the water tower is great! My husband, son, and I watched the first few years of Monk on Netflix last year. What an entertaining show that is.

I have been to the Warner Bros. Studio, but not Paramount. I'll be sure to add that to the itinerary next time I'm down there. Thanks for the info!

livininlb said...

Another great post and I was there. I did see the film equipment on the youtube clip. It's funny that this clip was taking in LA on a sound stage - I remember when it aired and I just assumed it was NYC. As for the young, I was recently with my 12-going-on-13 cousin who has never heard of ROBERT REDFORD. Sigh.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, . . . thank you once again for taking me on a tour and teaching me so much about the past. You are a fine tour guide and your photographs enhance your writing. Peace.

Pat said...

What an experience - which I would have loved to have shared - but this was the next best thing.
I'm sure you must have felt the spirit of those long lost great talents.
Thank you for sharing

Sheila said...

Excellent post and so interesting. I find it amusing that the name Hollywood originated with a Canadian from Toronto. These days so often Toronto's streets are closed for filming and are made to represent streets in many large American cities.
Film companies get good tax credits here and that makes it worthwhile.

snowwhite said...

What a great blog it is! I used to watch “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek” regularly.
The opening scene of MI where the tape took fire, and conversations between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, all of them are vivid in my memory.
Not using Number 13 there interests me. Usually in Japan 4 and 9 are not used because they associate with death and sufferings.
You are always a born vagabonde and great storyteller!!

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing all your photos. I had no idea that some of the streets were absolutely identical to those in New York!

Fennie said...

I have two questions: first, what are those New York streets made of? Is it real bricks and mortar, ashphalt etc? In which case how do they get the colours right? Are they painted?

Second - what is the Paramount mountain that appears in the logo? Is it a real mountain at all - the Matterhorn for instance? Or is that, too, something concocted on a sound stage?

Thanks so much for the tour. I always learn so much from your blogs.

claude said...

Je viens juste de visionner vite-fait ce post et je reviendrai demain avec mon autre navigateur pour avoir la traduction car le translator que tu as mis sur ton blog ne fonctionne pas. Quelle chance tu as eue de visiter la Paramount. La petite pochette bmeue sur ta première photo me rappelle quelque chose.
A demain, j'aurais plus de temps.

Vagabonde said...

Thanks to each one of you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I’ll try to visit all your blogs this week.

Fennie – to answer your questions - I guess they painted the streets and stones so they would look like those in New York city. As for the mountain in the back, it is a real mountain. I visited a bloggy friend who lives close to the Hollywood sign and it was quite a hill to her house. Thanks for commenting.

Sheila – I do not think I have seen your name before. Welcome to my blog. I appreciate your visit.

Jeanie said...

This is another great post -- I haven't been to LA in ages. I am always so impressed with the amount of history you include in your visits to such places. I know it must take tons of time. It's worth it!

Kay G. said...

Oh, and I forgot to say belated Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Absolument magnifique! Merci de nous avoir invité à ce beau voyage;
Bonne semaine!

Anonymous said...

I thought you might like to know that the fountain in front of the theatre is meant to look like the Paramount mountain logo from all sides. Pretty neat.

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