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  1. 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. 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? 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. 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?
  2. Hello. I'm searching for information regarding the history and current locations of two fertility god statues used in The Prodigal (1955) (and other films) that were up for sale at the 1970 MGM auction. There was an 11-foot statue and a 5.5-foot replica. Here's the 11-foot statue (in a promotional shot for The Prodigal): And the 5.5-foot statue at the auction: Where the smaller statue ended up after the auction is not known, but the larger statue is known to have moved around Delaware for decades and then settled in someone's front yard in New Jersey in the 2000's. Unfortunately, the statue is no longer there, and it is not known where it is located now. Here's the large statue in Lumberton, NJ, its last known location: Would anyone happen to know anything regarding the history of these two statues or their current locations? I have also created a blog about these statues, which you can visit here: https://themissingmovieprops.blogspot.com/
  3. LKitten16 asked if others noticed how the orchestrated drumming of "Prehistoric Man" and "Pass that Peace Pipe" from Good News" sounded similar. Yes, there is definitely a distinctive MGM sound that one can hear in its musicals. That can be attributed to the fact that many of MGM's arrangers and orchestrators worked on the same films, even as their melodies and themes were composed by different composers. And of course many of the same studio musicians performed on the scores. One of my fav moviemakers from MGM's Music Dept. was the FABULOUS Conrad Salinger - a composer/orchestrator/arranger who worked on the music for over 75 films, including BOTH On the Town and Good News, so yes, there is an aural connection between the songs LKitten16 mentioned.A favorite dance number Conrad created was the fabulous "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life" performed by Fred Astaire and Jane Powell in Royal Wedding. The dance's variation in musical rhythms is simply wonderful and gives the dancers so much inspiration to work from. It's a great example of what the MGM orchestras was capable of producing during those many decades. Listen to it and I know you'll agree! Another great orchestration for dance that I love by Conrad Salinger is "A Shine on Your Shoes" - done by Fred Astaire in the film The Band Wagon. You can't watch nor hear that number without smiling so check it out! Side note: 20 years ago, I saw a film "Dangerous Beauty" whose score by film composer, George Fenton literally changed my life. Over the next month, I had my own Fenton Film Festival & viewed 28 of his movies. For some unexplained reason, I found myself writing down who the musical team was and taking thorough notes on the scores. Somehow I felt like I was being "Called" by God to work in the film music biz but since I lived in Nashville then, was poor & had no connections to Hollywood, i had no way to move there. 10 months later, another wild thing happened, I met one of George Fenton's orchestrators online (while he was working on You've Got Mail about 2 people who meet online!) which began a long and interesting association. I'd always loved film music and had 16 years of early music training but hadn't really used it, (except to sing in shows in my 1st career as a dancer.) I noticed that, at that time. there was no websites about film orchestrators (this was 2 years before IMDB) so I created "The Orchestrator's Voice," a site dedicated to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of movie music. This led to me connecting with many of Hollywood's best. Then in another Hand of God event, I was invited by a composer to move to CA and work as his assistant as he aimed to move into film music after creating soundtracks for many of Vegas' big production shows and Carnival Cruise Line Shows. I worked as his Studio Mgr, Marketing Director, Music Copyist and Score Librarian for several years until he decided to move out of state. The next Hand of God moment was in 2002, when I was hired by one of the top two Film Music Agencies in the world to executive assist their Vice President. Helping represent A-list film composers for Film and TV projects was a dream job for me and it truly validated that strange feeling I had had in '98 about being called to work in that field. In 2003, Composer George Fenton conducted his score to Blue Planet at the Hollywood Bowl and I got to meet him backstage and tell him thank you for how his music had changed my life. It was a Come Full Circle moment for sure!
  4. I am starting to flesh out my classic film book collection. And I have been trying to track down the best books on the history of the studio era, Scott Eyman's Lion Of Hollywood has been recommended to me as the definitive book about MGM, and there are others about Warner Bro's I am considering purchasing. I was wondering if anyone here can give me some recommendations, particularly for books about Fox, as there does not seem to be many out there. Thanks
  5. In Kendra Bean & Anthony Uzarowski's new take on the life of movie icon, "Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies" (Running Press), the co-authors shift the focus from the publicity writers' descriptions of her as"the world's most beautiful animal" to her real life as a person who was an imperfect but vibrant human being and working actress. If you would like to learn more about Ava Gardner, the individual, please join us at The Silver Screen Oasis on Sat., July 29th & Sun., July 30th for an online Q & A about the actress' life and career. She was an astonishing beauty when young (and a more interesting one when older). as well as a movie star, and a wife to three dynamic but rather wearying men. As Anthony Usarowksi explains, beyond all that, Ava Gardner “was a real person, and she was an actor as well. There is a legacy there that needs to be looked at. It’s not just image.” The pair have fashioned a beautiful coffee table book that celebrates Gardner's humor, friendships, and vulnerability as well as making a thoughtful inquiry into the contrast between how a woman looks and how she feels in society. Described by critics as "a compelling, photograph-rich portrait of a complex, talented actress," the book can be found at the links below, as can a link to the Silver Screen Oasis Guest Authors Index where you are welcome to post a question (simple registration is required to post queries). All are invited on July 29 & 30. :Please join us in this celebration of all things Ava! To Purchase a Copy of "Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies": https://tinyurl.com/ybjf6as6 The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Authors Series: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewforum.php?f=69 The Authors: Kendra Bean, who visited the Silver Screen Oasis in 2013 to discuss her book, "Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait," is a historian and curator. She runs the popular classic film blog VivAndLarry.com. Her writing has also been published by the British Film Institute and Bright Lights Film Journal, and she has lectured on cinema at the National Portrait Gallery (London), Victoria and Albert Museum, the BFI, the San Francisco Presidio Officers' Club, and the Walt Disney Family Museum. She lives in London. Anthony Uzarowski has an MA in Film Studies from University College London. He has written articles and essays on different aspects of classic and contemporary cinema, with his work published in The Guardian, Film International, and Queerty. He lives in London, where he works at the British Library. A podcast with the authors can be heard here: http://ticklishbusiness.podbean.com/e/bonus-episode-6-interview-with-authors-kendra-bean-and-anthony-uzarowski/
  6. I am starting to flesh out my classic film book collection. And I have been trying to track down the best books on the history of the studio era, Scott Eyman's Lion Of Hollywood has been recommended to me as the definitive book about MGM, and there are others about Warner Bro's I am considering purchasing. I was wondering if anyone here can give me some recommendations, particularly for books about Fox, as there does not seem to be many out there. Thanks
  7. https://bigjohncreations.wordpress.com In 1932, the American Horror Film came into its own as a viable genre. Dracula and Frankenstein had blown the doors off the industry the year before, making overnight stars of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and paving the way for a variety of imitators. Paramount responded with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (starring Fredric March in the roles that would land him an Oscar,) and the similarly literate Island of Lost Souls, which cast Charles Laughton as HG Wells’ overly ambitious Dr. Moreau. Not to be outdone, MGM turned to their silent master of the macabre, Tod Browning, hot of the success of Dracula, to put his carnival background to use. Freaks was an unmitigated disaster and was met with as much disgust from its audiences as the studio that wrought it. But Freaks wasn’t MGM’s only contribution to the genre that year. Director William J. Cowen’s Kongo stars future Academy Award-winner, Walter Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,) as Dead Legs Flint, a cruel paraplegic living deep in the African jungle. He attains great power among the natives by performing magic tricks and pretending to be a God. 18 years earlier, Flint was crippled by his wife’s lover and has spent everyday since plotting an elaborate revenge. Released just before the production code would cast a damp towel on Hollywood, Kongo features some particularly grim scenes, and even more politically-incorrect dialogue. Originally a play on Broadway starring Huston himself, Kongo was previously made into a silent film called West of Zanzibar. This version starred Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney and was directed by none other than Chaney’s longtime collaborator, Tod Browning. Everything’s relative. For this episode of Backseat Filmmaker, I have the pleasure of discussing both versions of the story with film historian and writer, Michael H. Price. Price is the author of such works as Human Monsters: The Bizarre Psychology of Movie Villains (with George E. Turner,) and the Forgotten Horrors series, which has just seen the release of its seventh installment, Famished Monsters of Filmland.
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