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.