Phantom of the Backlots

Phantom of the Backlots

102 posts in this topic

Hi,

I'm new here. But I've got an old story. Hope this is the right place to share. I was lucky enough to grow up in the heart of screen land, which is how Culver City identifies itself - the original MGM Studios. I have autographs from Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, acquired on the set of That's Entertainment, where I spent 15 minutes talking to Gene Kelly... the nicest guy you ever want to meet. This early exposure helped me format a career in the film industry that I just retired from. Now that I'm retired, my plan is to chronicle and share my stories from this magical time. I'd love it if others would share their similar stories, as well! Here is an example of one of my stories:

---

 

I have done it. I have successfully navigated all the Culver City Backlots: MGM, Lots 2, 3, 4, and 5. Now, Desilu is an everyday option. Perfect for a Tom Sawyer hookie day. 

Lot 3, at MGM, is a 67 acre wonderland with exterior sets ranging from multiple western streets; a huge lake and jungle; New Orleans, and France. There are winding roads that appear to go on forever. Cobblestone has that unique sound when wheels or horse hoofs go over it. It's different in here.

One side of the fence is magical. The other side is reality and is far too serious. But you must dare yourself to visit the magic. It is forbidden. Trespassing is what the studio calls it.

Well, what fun is life without risk? I was born ready!

Holes in the fence happen... naturally and artificially. Climbing is easy when you're a kid, so getting in can happen. The rush begins immediately. Generally, you hide... every chance you can. Slow and steady. No clocks here. These lots have movie production prepping or shooting, all the time. Night and day. Weekends are generally just a guard and a big empty lot.

MGM does not use dogs. Desilu was the last backlot to conquer for us because of K-9 patrols. Lot 3 should be patrolled by dogs. It is almost twice the size of all the other backlots. But, thankfully they are not. They leave it up to old men who take turns driving a jeep that carries a salt rock gun. Yes, they shoot you here.

First, they have to find you in this labyrinth; that's why we pick and choose the paths off the beaten trail. There are false fronts, or sets all over. Hiding behind the sets... and in many cases, in the sets, is the key to successfully avoiding unwanted breeches in security. The less security knows, the better. It sounds intimidating and it is. Most people shy away from danger and never see how cool this club is.

That puts security on auto-pilot. We have seen them nap, even. I told you they should patrol with dogs!

I recognize equipment that was on Lot 2. It's now at Lot 3. The backlot world is interchangeable with many moving parts, literally. The Rat Patrol moves their squad back and forth down overland — the public street that connects these Lots, depending on what village or train station they are attacking. Combat did the same, as did Garrison's Gorillas, starring Ron Harper.

1_80bddd581e549abb8e2d1093fcc86fe6.jpg MV5BOTNiNzRlOGItNzFkMy00ZjUzLTg1ZDMtNDUwOWYzYWFlNjRlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpg c6159d867d0babdfea88ecc3bfa7654b--the-rat-patrol-christopher-george.jpg

Combat was canceled in 1967, but the crew jumped on to Garrison's Gorillas. More quality war TV. The Rat Patrol, starring Christopher George, followed that ill-fated but really cool TV show and had a bit more success. J.D. Flowers does special effects for these shows... constantly blowing things up. Safely! I met him when my career started and we talked about MGM days. A toast to Mr. Flowers!

I had a Combat board game, and a Rat Patrol lunch box. I live for this stuff. I even ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my Rat Patrol lunch box... inside the German half-track from the Rat Patrol series. And I drank my Kool-aid out of my Rat Patrol thermos. I live my lunch pails. How many kids do that?

image.jpg

I have yet to be chased here, at Lot 3, and don't want to. I have run into trespassers who warned us this happens here... getting shot at, that is. It hurts badly, I am told. Try to avoid that. Your choices are: keep a lot of distance, cut and run like a jack rabbit, or criss cross... so they can't aim strait. Doorways are your friends, but don't get in a building where you're trapped. Words to live by. 

Jimmy, my best pal, and I, are like Lewis and Clark. Same harsh but rustic surroundings. They dealt with Indians. We deal with guards. Both will scalp ya. But like them, we successfully map this wild frontier.

In fact, this is where you would film Lewis and Clark. Anything you can imagine can happen here. It's where the right side of your brain can enjoy itself. Creative time and space for your mind. Not the dribble you get brainwashed with at school.

There is a Lot across from Lot 3. It is Lot 5. A simple rusted chain link fence tries to contain what is plainly within sight and within reach. It is a field with planes from WW2.

Bombers, and fighters planes... some German ones sit rusting, waiting for their next Hollywood battle. Real planes and real stories... now retired to be MGM props. What kid would not dig this? Planes that once glorified the sky are now littered around the backlots.

12 O'clock High was a Fox TV show; it had its tags on a fuselage, indicating that it was a rental for that production. This is a plane museum. Across the street on Lot 3 is a train museum. A real steam engine pulls passengers half way around the Lot. The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland, capture this in the song "Aitchison-Topeka."

This defining number, sang by Judy, herself, captured for eternity what backlots are about. History goes backwards here, but it's captured on film for us to enjoy today. I still get goosebumps when I see scenes and productions that used my old sets.

"Willoughby, next stop is Willoughby," shouts the conductor. That is a Twilight Zone episode, starring James Daly. In this episode, shot at our little train station at Lot 3, James succumbs to the corporate grind and dreams of of this backlot town, called Willoughby. He wants only to live the simple life that exists inside these fences. This train stops at Willoughby.

07 Willoughby - Homeville.jpgMV5BNzQ1YWQzNzItYjBiOS00ZDdmLWFhZDMtMDEzYTRmMDllMzZkL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDgyNjA5MA@@._V1_.jpg

That episode describes how wonderful my life is becoming. I live in Willoughby! 

Inside these studio fences is an unmistakable sense of history. You feel it, see it, it exists. Magic!

I am catching on, that inside these fences is a time machine of history — created where I am standing. One side of the fence is the harsh reality of school, responsibility, and expectations to succeed. But inside these fences, time merges... not a care in the world.

Time you learn to appreciate stuff not taught in school; a special time that you hope never disappears. So, Put on your tennis shoes and grab your fishing pole... we got a huge lake inside... Are you coming?

 

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
Italics and formatting were messed up.
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Nice read here, PotB. Thanks for sharing these wonderful memories of your SoCal youth.

I grew up just a few miles south from you there in Culver City - in the South Bay/Lawndale/Gardena area - just about the same time.

Looking forward to reading more of these, and how as you said you'd eventually work in the film business and what your job was in it.

(...cheers, and welcome to the boards)

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Well thank you Dargo, much appreciated. This is an easy write for me with well over a decade, of stories. All my childhood sneak-in's preceded what turned into a long career in movies and TV. I lived my dream working on Blockbusters for Universal Studios for over thirty years and was a member of Locals 399/40 that were involved in all production. But, the old "Hole in the Fence" (my boyhood journals) stuff is what I am sharing now... Growing up on these old Hollywood / Culver City backlots. Having just retired, I look forward to more and true behind the scenes, just out of frame, experiences.

Stay tuned!

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Hi, I have always been told I have incredible movie lot stories and should write them down. This is the true story, starting with growing up a block away from all this iconic stuff. Eventually, as I grow up and get a drivers license, all studios are included. Culver City, particularly MGM, is my childhood backyard. It started my passion in a industry I just retired from. Many of your favorite movies and television shows will be mentioned. If you're old enough! Otherwise, it is a history lesson of Backlots from a kid who lived amongst all this magic. 

 

Backlot Beckons

 

It's the early 60's. Gunfire can be heard everywhere. As I play in my backyard, I ask my mom, "where's all that noise coming from?" She answers, "MGM. It's a block away." They film Combatthere. That's what you are hearing." Well, this plants a seed in my young, fertile mind. In the days and months ahead, my neighborhood friends and I will walk the studio fence line, peeking through the holes in the fence, looking for Sgt. Saunders, better known as Vic Morrow, the star. He is my hero.

We can see smoke, hear gunfire and explosions, frantic, disjointed yelling through megaphones, and are completely awestruck. We want so much to see what is happening on the other side of the fence, but this will take time, as we are young, and a bit overwhelmed. We are happy with this experience, for the moment, but can't even imagine what is next...

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3 hours ago, Phantom of the Backlots said:

Hi, I have always been told I have incredible movie lot stories and should write them down. This is the true story, starting with growing up a block away from all this iconic stuff. Eventually, as I grow up and get a drivers license, all studios are included. Culver City, particularly MGM, is my childhood backyard. It started my passion in a industry I just retired from. Many of your favorite movies and television shows will be mentioned. If you're old enough! Otherwise, it is a history lesson of Backlots from a kid who lived amongst all this magic. 

 

Backlot Beckons

 

It's the early 60's. Gunfire can be heard everywhere. As I play in my backyard, I ask my mom, "where's all that noise coming from?" She answers, "MGM. It's a block away." They film Combatthere. That's what you are hearing." Well, this plants a seed in my young, fertile mind. In the days and months ahead, my neighborhood friends and I will walk the studio fence line, peeking through the holes in the fence, looking for Sgt. Saunders, better known as Vic Morrow, the star. He is my hero.

We can see smoke, hear gunfire and explosions, frantic, disjointed yelling through megaphones, and are completely awestruck. We want so much to see what is happening on the other side of the fence, but this will take time, as we are young, and a bit overwhelmed. We are happy with this experience, for the moment, but can't even imagine what is next...

OH, well, I can fill you in on THIS, PotB!

What happens next is that our intrepid squad of American G.I.s amble into another little French village while the Germans lie in wait. A firefight soon ensues.

Now, surprisingly none of the Sgt. Saunders' regular troops get killed or for that matter even sustain a hit. The guest star(I dunno, maybe Sal Mineo or maybe Robert Walker Jr.) however inevitably does sustain a major wound during this conflict. He may or may not subsequently die.

But THEN something miraculous happens. For no apparent reason other than perhaps wanting to get off a better shot at the Americans, one by one a German soldier will stand up or extricate himself from his entrenched position and will then be hit and instantly killed by one of the American soldiers who is a regular on that TV show.

Eventually winning this skirmish, and even though having earlier walked into what was essentially a blind ambush, our intrepid squad of American G.I.s take command of this little French village.

(...and which now reminded ME of something from MY youth...while watching COMBAT! with my WWII combat veteran father back when this series was first run, I once asked him why the German soldiers always do that in almost every episode, and he replied, "Trust me son, those Germans were never THAT stupid when I was fightin' 'em over there!")

;)

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Hi Dargo,The Last Battle ever fought in what I call German village, Lot 2, was in 1979 in a feature called The Stuntman, starring Steve Railsback and Peter O,Toole. It was a WW1 battle with a little WW1 tank crashing through buildings.

This same tank was used in Sgt. Pepper in it opening scenes as the band marches through this bombed out village. I have pictures and stories of both of these movies being filmed, for another day!

As for Combat, the series had worked its way of the air by the mid-sixties and the gunfire was replaced by Garrison's Gorillas. Much the same crew. Then the Rat Patrol carried on the war zone action into the early Seventies.

Thanks for the reply!

 

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
to change a couple words.
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Hole in the Fence

It's a Saturday morning and my best friend, Jimmy and I, are riding our Stingray bicycles along the studio fence line, when...Low and behold! We notice a large eucalyptus tree has fallen overnight and has made a huge hole in the fence. We stare through the hole, dumbfounded. We see entire villages, cityscapes, and even the Great Wall of China. But we have to muster the courage to climb over the tree, and through the newly created hole in the fence.

What will happen to us if we climb through? What happens if we're caught? We're little kids...they can't do anything to us! 

We stare through the hole for what feels like hours...trying to come up with reasons not to go through. Jimmy is more hesitant, but I say, "we're kids, Jimmy! We can outrun them! The temptation of seeing these sets in a way we weren't able to, before, is too much for us to resist. The daunting NO TRESPASSING signs are no match for our budding curiosity. So, we climb over the fallen tree, and go right through the hole in the fence. We suddenly find ourselves hiding behind aged tombstones in the middle of a huge cemetery. We've become explorers...or as the studio would later refer to us, "trespassers."

                                      Bewitching Pool

 

We are extremely scared yet extremely excited. There is no one here. It is empty and silent. A large field separates us from the nearest village. We see a cobblestone road leading up to a French village. But to get there, we have to run across a large open space. We could be seen.

We decide to play it safe and stay by the fence, which leads us to a deep swimming pool, which we immediately recognize, from the TV show The Twilight Zone. The episode is called "the Bewitching Pool. And now that same pool is right in front of us. It is at this moment that realize that much of what we see on our television sets, is right around the corner. Our eyes gaze in amazement.

The world just got smaller.

I would later learn that this pool was built for Esther Williams. It was also used by Elvis Presley. This pool is located in the back corner of Lot #2. It is the closest set to my house.

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
added stuff.
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32 minutes ago, Phantom of the Backlots said:

Hi Dargo,The Last Battle ever fought in what I call German village, Lot 2, was in 1979 in a feature called The Stuntman, starring Steve Railsback and Peter O,Toole.It was a WW1 battle with a little WW1 tank crashing through buildings.

This same tank was used in Sgt. Pepper in it opening scenes as the band marches through this bombed out village.

As for Combat, the series had worked its way of the air by the mid-sixties and the gunfire was replaced by Garrison's Gorillas. Much the same crew. Then the Rat Patrol carried on the war zone action.

Thanks for the reply!

 

I remember seeing that movie upon its initial release, PotB. Very good flick, and one which I believed garnered O'Toole another of his Oscar nominations.

And other than his excellent playing of Charles Manson in the very well done 1976 TV miniseries Helter Skelter a few years prior, one of the few performances of Railsback's in a memorable film.

(...Railsback's name often comes up around here whenever someone has started a thread with the premise of: "Actors who should have been better known but never made the A-list for whatever reason")

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I'm a staunch fan of 'The Stunt Man'. Its one of the great movies about the industry. And it has such an unusual provenance. Three separate motion pictures have stemmed from the source novel: this one, Truffaut's 'Day for Night' and one other I can't recall.

And then there's the saga of how 'Stunt Man' finally got to the screen itself. Legal battles galore. This alone (I think has been the subject of a documentary?) Anyway its epic. Read the production trivia sometime, the whole concept of the film is fascinating. Alex Rocco's involvement, will make you blink. Peter O'Toole called it the best screenplay he'd ever read, and threatened violence unless he could star. He based his performance on David Lean's directing style.

I agree its astounding how Railsback never caught fire. He has truck loads of charisma, looks every inch a star. Superb as Manson and charming as hell, here in 'Stunt Man'.

I've purchased and read the script too; and a lot was left out. For some reason the film just looks ...cheap? I blame the photography, not the story.

:\

p.s. fans of 'Rat Patrol' and 'Combat' have the most street cred ever, when it comes to television audiences That's hardcore stuff. Well before my time, but I heard about it for sure.

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Dargo and Sgt. Markoff, thanks for appreciating the history I wish share and display. On the set of the Stuntman, I was standing next to Peter O'Toole, who obviously played the director, in a key scene where the camera man yelled "cut". O'toole says "Who yelled CUT on my set?" "We have 26 seconds of film left, with 26 seconds of film I can.. etc etc."

Notice in that scene there is a large Hamburger in background. That was a left over prop used in Sgt. Pepper. I love Stuntman, entire concept. Hotel Del Coronado made a wonderful backdrop. Great story and Steve and his character easily reminds me ... of me. Only 2 days of photography on MGM backlot.  

In my life, first I idolized Sgt Saunders aka Vic Morrow, then I spent almost an entire year on Sgt Pepper, and you will hear stories about that set when we get there. You may find this interesting, I had a bunch of Marine guys, older than me, that went to Culver High and lived in my neighborhood. My GI pals would come down from Camp Pendleton in the evenings and I led tours and soldiers around the backlots. I was a teenager leading soldiers sneaking around all these sets. 

On quiet nights with no production, we had crazy BB gun fights as we recreated Combat death scenes on exact spots they were filmed.

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3 minutes ago, Phantom of the Backlots said:

...My GI pals would come down from Camp Pendleton in the evenings...

Not to nitpick here PotB(btw, what's your actual first name, if I may ask?), but seein' as how Camp Pendleton is south of Culver City in the great state of California, didn't you mean they would "come UP" there? ;)

(...enjoying these stories you're telling here...keep 'em comin'!) 

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Joy in the Morning

Its silent, windy, desolate. Bullet holes everywhere. We think a million thoughts as we slowly turn our heads from side to side. Craters from explosionsJimmy, my best friend,  lives just a few houses up from me. As time goes on, Jimmy will be my side kick on these expeditions primarily. We barely slept last night and could not wait to get up and see if the hole in the fence is still exists. Was this just a dream?

We leave much earlier today and plan to spend the entire Sunday inside the backlot. That depends if there is still a tree crashed through a fence. Bingo, it is just how we left it, and still undiscovered or fixed anyway. While walking hurriedly to lot 2, we planned our first move.

We arrive and climb in over the tree and hide to observe who and what is taking place here today. The lot is silent and empty as far as the eye can see. No activity. It's like we own it. We see a bombed out village we know is from Combat. Blown up trucks lie in the outskirts off to the side of the cobblestone rode. A church sits a top the hill in the little French looking village.

We decide today this village gets conquered ! As we run across an open field we immediately duck for cover under an arch. Above us a sign says AutoBahn 2.5 km. We have arrived at the place where we have heard years of warfare.  Eventually these buildings may become are hiding places. Our minds are flashing back to all the Combat episodes we recognize this village from.

The silence is powerful, we tucked under an archway, looking at all the craters and bullet holes. A burned out troop carrier is adjacent to the cobblestone road. Jimmy and I are in amazement. This is the place we have so badly wanted to see. We recognize these sets, the church on the hill. Silently gathering this all in we move towards the church and climb inside.

Blank ammo sits below a window that has had more than one machine battle. It's a strategic window as it looks down on the entrance and exit to this tiny village...

Well, no hurry to leave, time to soak all this in.

We see from the steeple so much more of this lot still to be explored!

All this exists just a sling shot distance away from my home. The world and my television are now connected.

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Dargo, after you complete boot camp you are allowed to leave base as long as your there at morning roll call. San Diego is a short drive to C.C. South to North ... come up is correct. My name is Don.

What happens is these men from all over this country hear studio stories from my pal Brian on base and want to see this place themselves. All were RECON Rangers and even had a Navy Seal come along. Guards could end up cuffed to a pole with there own cuffs. I know it sounds crazy but I had the elite with me and I was their leader. Power trip for me.

There will be a wild story to share with a group of soldiers, about 12. Call them the Dirty Dozen. A splinter force almost get captured on a HOT set, and security fires their side arms. Remember, these guys can't be arrested off base. It was too large a group to stay in a pack so we split into groups and admired an enormous set that as we arrived, they had just wrapped that day's work.

It was a recon mission to see the set of the most expensive show produced that year. I specifically warned the others where not to go for security reasons. But, someone wanted a souvenir and gun shots followed from security.

 That's just a tease of a more detailed night in Heartland USA.  

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On 1/18/2019 at 6:05 PM, Phantom of the Backlots said:

Hi,

I'm new here. But I've got an old story. Hope this is the right place to share. I was lucky enough to grow up in the heart of screen land, which is how Culver City identifies itself - the original MGM Studios. I have autographs from Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, acquired on the set of That's Entertainment, where I spent 15 minutes talking to Gene Kelly... the nicest guy you ever want to meet. This early exposure helped me format a career in the film industry that I just retired from. Now that I'm retired, my plan is to chronicle and share my stories from this magical time. I'd love it if others would share their similar stories, as well! Here is an example of one of my stories:

---

 

I have done it. I have successfully navigated all the Culver City Backlots: MGM, Lots 2, 3, 4, and 5. Now, Desilu is an everyday option. Perfect for a Tom Sawyer hookie day. 

Lot 3, at MGM, is a 67 acre wonderland with exterior sets ranging from multiple western streets; a huge lake and jungle; New Orleans, and France. There are winding roads that appear to go on forever. Cobblestone has that unique sound when wheels or horse hoofs go over it. It's different in here.

One side of the fence is magical. The other side is reality and is far too serious. But you must dare yourself to visit the magic. It is forbidden. Trespassing is what the studio calls it.

Well, what fun is life without risk? I was born ready!

Holes in the fence happen... naturally and artificially. Climbing is easy when you're a kid, so getting in can happen. The rush begins immediately. Generally, you hide... every chance you can. Slow and steady. No clocks here. These lots have movie production prepping or shooting, all the time. Night and day. Weekends are generally just a guard and a big empty lot.

MGM does not use dogs. Desilu was the last backlot to conquer for us because of K-9 patrols. Lot 3 should be patrolled by dogs. It is almost twice the size of all the other backlots. But, thankfully they are not. They leave it up to old men who take turns driving a jeep that carries a salt rock gun. Yes, they shoot you here.

First, they have to find you in this labyrinth; that's why we pick and choose the paths off the beaten trail. There are false fronts, or sets all over. Hiding behind the sets... and in many cases, in the sets, is the key to successfully avoiding unwanted breeches in security. The less security knows, the better. It sounds intimidating and it is. Most people shy away from danger and never see how cool this club is.

That puts security on auto-pilot. We have seen them nap, even. I told you they should patrol with dogs!

I recognize equipment that was on Lot 2. It's now at Lot 3. The backlot world is interchangeable with many moving parts, literally. The Rat Patrol moves their squad back and forth down overland — the public street that connects these Lots, depending on what village or train station they are attacking. Combat did the same, as did Garrison's Gorillas, starring Ron Harper.

1_80bddd581e549abb8e2d1093fcc86fe6.jpg MV5BOTNiNzRlOGItNzFkMy00ZjUzLTg1ZDMtNDUwOWYzYWFlNjRlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpg c6159d867d0babdfea88ecc3bfa7654b--the-rat-patrol-christopher-george.jpg

Combat was canceled in 1967, but the crew jumped on to Garrison's Gorillas. More quality war TV. The Rat Patrol, starring Christopher George, followed that ill-fated but really cool TV show and had a bit more success. J.D. Flowers does special effects for these shows... constantly blowing things up. Safely! I met him when my career started and we talked about MGM days. A toast to Mr. Flowers!

I had a Combat board game, and a Rat Patrol lunch box. I live for this stuff. I even ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my Rat Patrol lunch box... inside the German half-track from the Rat Patrol series. And I drank my Kool-aid out of my Rat Patrol thermos. I live my lunch pails. How many kids do that?

image.jpg

I have yet to be chased here, at Lot 3, and don't want to. I have run into trespassers who warned us this happens here... getting shot at, that is. It hurts badly, I am told. Try to avoid that. Your choices are: keep a lot of distance, cut and run like a jack rabbit, or criss cross... so they can't aim strait. Doorways are your friends, but don't get in a building where you're trapped. Words to live by. 

Jimmy, my best pal, and I, are like Lewis and Clark. Same harsh but rustic surroundings. They dealt with Indians. We deal with guards. Both will scalp ya. But like them, we successfully map this wild frontier.

In fact, this is where you would film Lewis and Clark. Anything you can imagine can happen here. It's where the right side of your brain can enjoy itself. Creative time and space for your mind. Not the dribble you get brainwashed with at school.

There is a Lot across from Lot 3. It is Lot 5. A simple rusted chain link fence tries to contain what is plainly within sight and within reach. It is a field with planes from WW2.

Bombers, and fighters planes... some German ones sit rusting, waiting for their next Hollywood battle. Real planes and real stories... now retired to be MGM props. What kid would not dig this? Planes that once glorified the sky are now littered around the backlots.

12 O'clock High was a Fox TV show; it had its tags on a fuselage, indicating that it was a rental for that production. This is a plane museum. Across the street on Lot 3 is a train museum. A real steam engine pulls passengers half way around the Lot. The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland, capture this in the song "Aitchison-Topeka."

This defining number, sang by Judy, herself, captured for eternity what backlots are about. History goes backwards here, but it's captured on film for us to enjoy today. I still get goosebumps when I see scenes and productions that used my old sets.

"Willoughby, next stop is Willoughby," shouts the conductor. That is a Twilight Zone episode, starring James Daly. In this episode, shot at our little train station at Lot 3, James succumbs to the corporate grind and dreams of of this backlot town, called Willoughby. He wants only to live the simple life that exists inside these fences. This train stops at Willoughby.

07 Willoughby - Homeville.jpgMV5BNzQ1YWQzNzItYjBiOS00ZDdmLWFhZDMtMDEzYTRmMDllMzZkL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDgyNjA5MA@@._V1_.jpg

That episode describes how wonderful my life is becoming. I live in Willoughby! 

Inside these studio fences is an unmistakable sense of history. You feel it, see it, it exists. Magic!

I am catching on, that inside these fences is a time machine of history — created where I am standing. One side of the fence is the harsh reality of school, responsibility, and expectations to succeed. But inside these fences, time merges... not a care in the world.

Time you learn to appreciate stuff not taught in school; a special time that you hope never disappears. So, Put on your tennis shoes and grab your fishing pole... we got a huge lake inside... Are you coming?

 

Your speaking of Rat Patrol made me remember my sister had a big crush on Gary Raymond. By the way, how great it must have been to live in Willoughby. Looking forward to more posts of your experiences on the lot. Thanx for the fine reminiscences.

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15 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I'm a staunch fan of 'The Stunt Man'. Its one of the great movies about the industry. And it has such an unusual provenance. Three separate motion pictures have stemmed from the source novel: this one, Truffaut's 'Day for Night' and one other I can't recall.

And then there's the saga of how 'Stunt Man' finally got to the screen itself. Legal battles galore. This alone (I think has been the subject of a documentary?) Anyway its epic. Read the production trivia sometime, the whole concept of the film is fascinating. Alex Rocco's involvement, will make you blink. Peter O'Toole called it the best screenplay he'd ever read, and threatened violence unless he could star. He based his performance on David Lean's directing style.

I agree its astounding how Railsback never caught fire. He has truck loads of charisma, looks every inch a star. Superb as Manson and charming as hell, here in 'Stunt Man'.

I've purchased and read the script too; and a lot was left out. For some reason the film just looks ...cheap? I blame the photography, not the story.

😕

p.s. fans of 'Rat Patrol' and 'Combat' have the most street cred ever, when it comes to television audiences That's hardcore stuff. Well before my time, but I heard about it for sure.

So glad to see mention of the great film The Stuntman. Do you think Railsback's take on Charlie Manson was limiting to his career, Sgt.?

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Yeah! Isn't it superb? I mean, somehow this just missed being a modern classic. As did Steve Railsback. I am not sure what the heck happened to him there. He was muscular, humorous, affable...rather similar to Treat Williams. If I was more curious about it, I'd look into Steve's casting history and try to see whether there were any gaps in his work history. Maybe his agent bungled? Maybe he had an illness of some kind? It seems like he should have found steady work. What was he doing right before 'Stunt Man'?

Anyway O'Toole gave a really fun performance in this movie. Ranting and raving as only he can. Barbara Hershey is always solid; although to my eyes not the hottest babe of her ilk. I like her best when she portrays Native Americans.

The only consolation for O'Toole I suppose was that right after this semi-'dud' of a film, he excelled in a bonafide big hit, 'My Favorite Year' (the screenwriter for 'My Favorite Year' by the way, is now a writing teacher on the coast somewhere).

Its just shocking that after all the labor that went into 'Stunt Man' it didn't wind up earning more fame.

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25 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Yeah! Isn't it superb? I mean, somehow this just missed being a modern classic. As did Steve Railsback. I am not sure what the heck happened to him there. He was muscular, humorous, affable...rather similar to Treat Williams. If I was more curious about it, I'd look into Steve's casting history and try to see whether there were any gaps in his work history. Maybe his agent bungled? Maybe he had an illness of some kind? It seems like he should have found steady work. What was he doing right before 'Stunt Man'?

Anyway O'Toole gave a really fun performance in this movie. Ranting and raving as only he can. Barbara Hershey is always solid; although to my eyes not the hottest babe of her ilk. I like her best when she portrays Native Americans.

The only consolation for O'Toole I suppose was that right after this semi-'dud' of a film, he excelled in a bonafide big hit, 'My Favorite Year' (the screenwriter for 'My Favorite Year' by the way, is now a writing teacher on the coast somewhere).

Its just shocking that after all the labor that went into 'Stunt Man' it didn't wind up earning more fame.

Let's face it, great films are not always acknowledged. This is why I did enjoy reading Scorsese's list of 800 movies, since I think he seems to have a very unprejudiced nature and included movies which many so-called film experts might balk at, being that they were low budget or unheralded by the majority of people. Scorsese saw merit in them and didn't mind saying so. One does have to see a lot of films though to be able to evaluate other films with any sensibility. I mean, how can you taste test ice cream if you've only eaten vanilla bean and chocolate your whole life. 

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He fits certain difficult parts perfectly. Success sadly creates an image that stereo types that actor or individual. You look for a part to show you're versatile, but what is offered is what already was sold or was "portrayed"

Gene Kelly told me his favorite movie he performed in was, this may surprise you, was The Three Musketeers. When I asked him he said" Im going to surprise you, it is not a musical."

His other non-musical is called The Black Hand. Mafia movie. FYI  

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
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Cross Town... Desilu 40 acres

A short bike ride away from Lot 2 was Desilu studios, located off Ince Ave, named after studio pioneer Thomas Ince. The forty acre backlot was separate from its main lot offices and stages.No stages,few people, but corner after corner of historic streets and villages.

Desilu was different than all the MGM lots. You could look down on it from a hill side above. The same hills also looked over MGM lot 3 and provided a bird's eye view of everything. We could observe film production going on like a giant ant farm below. Even before we started sneaking in, this was how we got our fills...and thrills.

We were young. It was sensational. We learned these two lots extremely well, without ever stepping foot in any of them.....YET!

Lot 2 would have to be explored, one house, one village at a time. We couldn't wait for the excitement of setting foot on private property.

We already knew Batman filmed there. We'd seen them shooting from above: both Batman and Bat-woman. The Green Hornet also filmed there. The show's star, legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee, amazingly lived right behind the studio, in Culver City. And there were other shows: Star-Trek, Hogans Heroes, Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, etc. I even had a Gomer Pyle lunch box, but that was a different lunch box for a different backlot.

 

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Backlot security

It is posted that rules exist and this is off-limits. That makes it all the better. This is not for the faint of heart. Preparation, the same thing I use for tests at school, was necessary. That starts with getting into the backlot property...and what better way, other than to be unseen!

Each lot was entirely different, and that starts with the fences to keep trespassers out. We ignore the warning signs... how climbable and hidden is our entry? We have  wood fences with knot holes to peek through. That's helpful. We have metal corrugated steel fences,with hammer holes, held up by wooden supports, that we could peek through also. They are old and easy to climb. I would boost one guy up and he would reach down and pull the other guy, or guys, up by one arm.

We perfected this boost-up method, after our Hole in the Fence, left by a fallen tree, was repaired and we needed another way inside.We only needed two people and both could be inside, in thirty seconds. This went on for a decade.

Lot 2 was surrounded by a fence that was roughly 70 percent new and very sharp on top. This technique did not work on this style fence. Every fence was different and many styles existed. The rusty, old, chain link style—you know the kind...with three strands of rusted, barbed wire running across the top?—existed around MGM lots 3, 4 and 5...and also, almost entirely around Desilu.

Barbed wire climbs are the worst and you must climb the fence support poles to gain entry. This is impossible to enter or exit while being chased, so running to that style fence with the hopes of escaping is not very shrewd. Know your fences is a rule of thumb.

These fences allowed us to see inside. Often, we could not climb in, due to work going on within view. So, we would go to plan B. The fact is, getting to know the fences was like homework, and sneaking, not only in, but also out, was the pass or fail test.

We learned how to make our own entrances, using the same obstacles that would keep most kids outside of this make-believe world. We added strategic gates to the sharp metal fence. If you can't climb it, secretly go through it!

GetFileAttachment-1.jpg

These fences were the first level of security. The next involves humans with badges and...oh yes, dogs with collars.

Desilu fences have Dog on Duty postings on them. This was truly a scary alternative and it is how Desilu kept us out as long as they did. It took us a couple of years to come up with a courageous plan. But backlot passion was pulsating through my veins and all backlots were to become mine.

GetFileAttachment.jpg

This is the chain-link fence where the stars entered Lot 2. The Red Bronco in the background is the security vehicle that was usually on patrol.

 

 

 

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
formatting writing
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Stalag 13

My first excursion into the Desilu backlot was with a hand - picked group of friends that were willing to potentially deal with a pack of dogs. Volunteers anyone?

Easier than I expected, I recruited five accomplices. We confirmed dogs exist from the hills above, but not that often. When work takes place on the backlot, dogs are not present. We will roll the dice on this night.

Finally, on a Sunday night after the TV airing of Hogans Heroes on network TV, we executed a plan we have rehearsed for over and over. We would go inside under the cover of darkness. Climbing a rusted fence post with a dog picture on it. That put us in a deep grassy hillside lined by large eucalyptus trees. The moon was crescent shaped giving us very little to see. It took awhile for our eyes to adjust to this complete darkness

The camp in its entirety presents itself. All the POW barracks, a water tower, a German shepherd kennel with 6 dog houses. All recognizable in the dark hue. Of course, Colonel Klink's or Werner  Klemperer's office.

We were in no-hurry. The rush was on. We are sneaking into a iconic set that may be guarded by dogs.

We stared down from the hill over-looking the stalag. It was inspiring. We, my 5 friends, and I, were looking for any signs of life in this dark setting. Particularly, curious if the dogs are on duty!

We sat for an hour convincing ourselves that it will be safe to hit the first objective, the guard tower next to the Stalag 13 main gate. There are two at the main gate. A red and white guard shack sits next to the one we picked. Real barb wire surrounds this set from this angle, but the main gate itself is open.

We run down finally from our observation point in the tall grass to the guard tower, one of three overlooking the stalag, and scurry up the ladder. We our just outside the camp fence looking directly at Colonel Klink's headquarters.

We have seen this tower for years from the Baldwin Hills above and beyond the fences below, now we are here. This is a truly satisfying accomplishment. Up in this guard perch we could see more of the camp, and we felt safe from dogs. The worst that can happen up here is we could get trapped all -night until work begins tomorrow on this lot.

We would sheepishly surrender to humans rather than to face a pack of angry shepherds. We ponder now, what move makes sense next, on this backlot chess board? We want to sneak beyond this main gate fortress. Like Bob Crane and his band of merry heroes, we too, plot to break-in to stalag 13.

All our previous exploits were on the MGM backlots so we do have training at this. In other words, this is not our first backlot rodeo. But, MGM has no dogs. It is always fun to explore the unknown. Night-time makes it safer from being seen but... 10 times more SCARIER!

Just a kid living inside the world of his TV.

Edited by Phantom of the Backlots
italics formatting
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On 1/22/2019 at 3:34 PM, Phantom of the Backlots said:

Backlot security

It is posted that rules exist and this is off-limits. That makes it all the better. This is not for the faint of heart. Preparation, the same thing I use for tests at school, was necessary. That starts with getting into the backlot property...and what better way, other than to be unseen!

Each lot was entirely different, and that starts with the fences to keep trespassers out. We ignore the warning signs... how climbable and hidden is our entry? We have  wood fences with knot holes to peek through. That's helpful. We have metal corrugated steel fences,with hammer holes, held up by wooden supports, that we could peek through also. They are old and easy to climb. I would boost one guy up and he would reach down and pull the other guy, or guys, up by one arm.

We perfected this boost-up method, after our Hole in the Fence, left by a fallen tree, was repaired and we needed another way inside.We only needed two people and both could be inside, in thirty seconds. This went on for a decade.

Lot 2 was surrounded by a fence that was roughly 70 percent new and very sharp on top. This technique did not work on this style fence. Every fence was different and many styles existed. The rusty, old, chain link style—you know the kind...with three strands of rusted, barbed wire running across the top?—existed around MGM lots 3, 4 and 5...and also, almost entirely around Desilu.

Barbed wire climbs are the worst and you must climb the fence support poles to gain entry. This is impossible to enter or exit while being chased, so running to that style fence with the hopes of escaping is not very shrewd. Know your fences is a rule of thumb.

These fences allowed us to see inside. Often, we could not climb in, due to work going on within view. So, we would go to plan B. The fact is, getting to know the fences was like homework, and sneaking, not onlyin, but also out, was the pass or fail test.

We learned how to make our own entrances, using the same obstacles that would keep mostkids outside of this make-believe world. We added strategic gates to the sharp metal fence. If you can't climb it, secretly go through it!

GetFileAttachment-1.jpg

These fences were the first level of security. The next involves humans with badges and...oh yes, dogs with collars.

Desilu fences have Dog on Duty postings on them. This was truly a scary alternative and it is how Desilu kept us out as long as they did. It took us a couple of years to come up with a courageous plan. But backlot passion was pulsating through my veins and all backlots were to become mine.

GetFileAttachment.jpg

This is the chain-link fence where the stars entered Lot 2. The Red Bronco in the background is the security vehicle that was usually on patrol.

 

 

 

With your experience defeating security and studio walls, you should submit your resume to Donald Trump as his expert in border security at the Wall, Phantom.

By the way, your mentioning of Colonel Klink, and Hogan's Heroes reminds me of seeing Richard Dawson once on a talk show. He said when he was first hired for the role in the show, he was sitting next to Robert Clary, and noticed he had numbers tattooed on his wrist. Being the wry wit Dawson was, he said to him "Don't you think you are going a little too far for this role" only to find out that Clary had gotten that tattoo due to being actually in a concentration camp in his earlier years, as I recall.

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Hi Gordon, that is a nice side-bar I did not realize about Robert Clary. I met him on Episode 3, Fantasy Island, Season one. Bert Convy, starred in this episode  Produced by Gene Levitt, the same gentleman who produced Combat. This set has been shot -up many times since Romeo and Juliet made it famous.That starred Norma Shearer in 1936.

In Fantasy Island, this same set was now decorated to be Devil's Island. Burt Convy's fantasy was to escape the unescapable. I will not spoil it ...

Note, if he likes to escape so much, he should try hangin' with me. / cheers Gordon   

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3 minutes ago, Phantom of the Backlots said:

Hi Gordon, that is a nice side-bar I did not realize about Robert Clary. I met him on Episode 3, Fantasy Island, Season one. Bert Convy, starred in this episode  Produced by Gene Levitt, the same gentleman who produced Combat. This set has been shot -up many times since Romeo and Juliet made it famous.That starred Norma Shearer in 1936.

In Fantasy Island, this same set was now decorated to be Devil's Island. Burt Convy's fantasy was to escape the unescapable. I will not spoil it ...

Note, if he likes to escape so much, he should try hangin' with me. / cheers Gordon   

Don, I thought most of the outdoor scenes in FI were shot at the L.A. Arboretum in Arcadia. Real close to the Santa Anita racetrack.

(...guess not all of 'em, eh?!)

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