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Reused sets


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Anyone notice when a mansion set is reused in a studio's other films? Or when a courtroom set appears in another production?

 

There are a few repeated sets that really stand out to me, probably because of their expense and the fact that they cannot easily be redressed.

 

For instance, the elaborate staircase set in MGM's YOLANDA AND THIEF is reused for Gene Kelly's swashbuckling in THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It's a gorgeous set and I don't mind seeing it again.

 

Also, the Senate floor set used in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (a Columbia film) is used by MGM for that scene in BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST when Greer Garson's character goes to Congress. These films were in production around the same time. Plus, it looks like it is reused a few years later for HEAVENLY DAYS, an RKO film in which Fibber McGee and Molly visit the nation's capitol.

 

What have you noticed?

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During the studio era, this was a common practice at all the studios. Especially during times of budget cutbacks, the studios would see which standing sets could be revamped for other productions instead of starting from scratch. For B productions, it was almost always the case to use what was at hand.

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It's fun to spot the reused/redressed sets. In the case of the Senate floor set, it would seem that studios shared sets.

 

I wish there was a way to verify this.

 

And we do know that many of the clothes were reused. Nothing was thrown out. That's how Debbie Reynolds was able to buy so many of them for her museum.

 

I am sure that most of the sets have long been dismantled, though I would not be surprised if pieces of furniture are still being reused at the Culver City studio and at Universal.

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*And we do know that many of the clothes were reused. Nothing was thrown out. That's how Debbie Reynolds was able to buy so many of them for her museum.*

 

I have noticed this twice with my favorite actress, Linda Darnell. In HANGOVER SQUARE the first outfit she wears, while performing at a music hall, is worn by an extra in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE; Linda even sidles up next to her at the bar. And in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, an strapless gown she wears at a country club ball is worn by an extra at a ball in WITH A SONG IN MY HEART.

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One of my favorite bar scenes -- and opening scenes -- is in the film *One Way Passage*. It's an incredible tracking shot of a huge bar in Hong Kong, which has several parts to it -- an Italian bar, a Russian bar, a British bar, a French bar, and an American bar. I saw the scene re-used in another, lesser known film recently, on TCM, but I forgot the film! But it was definitely the same scene.

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"The Climax" (1944) reused the sets in "The Phantom of the Opera" (1943). Waste not want not. :)

 

What about movie props as well, how often was Robbie the Robot reused for different movies. If anyone thinks it no big deal then how would it feel if C3PO or R2D2 were reused for movies outside of "Star Wars"?

 

rrobot.jpg

 

Edited by: hamradio on Nov 1, 2010 9:15 PM

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*I am sure that most of the sets have long been dismantled, though I would not be surprised if pieces of furniture are still being reused at the Culver City studio and at Universal.*

 

Parts of the Paris Opera set from Lon Chaney's version of *Phantom* still stand on the Universal lot and is said to be haunted.

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}

> One of my favorite bar scenes -- and opening scenes -- is in the film *One Way Passage*. It's an incredible tracking shot of a huge bar in Hong Kong, which has several parts to it -- an Italian bar, a Russian bar, a British bar, a French bar, and an American bar. I saw the scene re-used in another, lesser known film recently, on TCM, but I forgot the film! But it was definitely the same scene.

>

Other films with long tracking bar shots are

THE LOCKED DOOR (1929) - UA

The "Shanghai Lil" number in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) - WB.

 

Could you be thinking of one of those?

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> What about movie props as well, how often was Robbie the Robot reused for different movies. If anyone thinks it no big deal then how would it feel if C3PO or R2D2 were reused for movies outside of "Star Wars"?

>

I have a feeling Robbie was very expensive, so he necessitated use in several pictures to recover the investment. And he probably became a sort of cult figure in movies for awhile, and they could use pictures of him to sell a new movie in advertising.

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> Parts of the Paris Opera set from Lon Chaney's version of *Phantom* still stand on the Universal lot and is said to be haunted.

 

That sounds really interesting. I am sure people who work at Universal have stories to tell!

 

On another note, I was watching a clip of Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) on TVLand a year or so ago. According to Arngrim, a lot of the furniture in Little House on the Prairie was reused. When NBC cancelled the show, Michael Landon blew up the town in the last episode. Arngrim claims that Landon dynamited everything, because he did not want anything from the sets to be reused in a future television production. In his next series, Highway to Heaven, there is no standing set. He and Victor French just travel from town to town.

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> The elaborate sets for Cecil B. Demille's 1923 *Cleopatra* were found buried in dunes 170 mi. from LA, and are now recognized as an archaeological site. That's reuse, in a way... :)

 

That is a different sort of reuse. I would love to walk around that set. I am sure it's exciting to see all that. Imagine what it was like for the person who rediscovered it in the sand.

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> In *Mildred Pierce* (1945), I noticed that the set of Mildred's Restaurant is the same as the set where Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson hook up in *Roughly Speaking* (also 1945). Way to go, Warner Bros.!! Great recycling! -- Mary

 

That doesn't surprise me. They were both made in 1944/1945. So they probably went from one production to the next.

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> I think the ornate indoor stairway that was in The Magnificent Ambersons was used later in the apartment house scenes in The Cat People.

 

That would make sense, since they were both produced at RKO around the same time. The AMBERSONS set was very costly. And since AMBERSONS did not turn a profit, they would have to cut corners on future productions to save money. Plus, isn't a grand looking set worth reusing? I think so.

 

Incidentally, I have spotted "lost" footage from AMBERSONS in another RKO production. So not only are we reusing sets and costumes, we are reusing actual film footage.

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One thing worth mentioning, since it has not been stated in this thread yet, is that a lot of classic film sets and costumes were reused on television in the 50s and 60s.

 

In 1957, Desilu acquired RKO, which happened to be the studio where Lucy and Desi first worked together. In the hour-long episodes of the The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour you can see a lot of the old RKO items. The episode with Tallulalh playing a next-door neighbor is a good example of this, especially with the set they use for her home.

 

In the 60s, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet moved over to the Culver City studio for its last season. They did a painstaking job to preserve everything from the old location and duplicate the main set as closely as possible (and incidentally, the Nelsons' TV home was a replica of sorts based on their actual home). But there are new sets used in the last season, like Dave and June's apartment as well as Rick and Kris' home. These were reused sets that probably appeared in old movies.

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*What about movie props as well, how often was Robbie the Robot reused for different movies.*

Actually Robbie was only in one other movie: THE INVISIBLE BOY.

Later appearances (as in GREMLINS) are a replica. Robbie did a lot of TV appearances, however. He was on TWILIGHT ZONE several times (once with a different head) and quite a few other shows.

 

*I think the ornate indoor stairway that was in ?The Magnificent Ambersons? was used later in the apartment house scenes in ?The Cat People?.*

That set is in several of the Lewton films (it?s also the old lady?s house in CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, the school in THE SEVENTH VICTIM). It?s in EXPERIMENT PERILOUS and a number of other RKO films as well. I?d say it?s tied with the Great Hall set from THE WOLF MAN for re-use (that set is also in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, NIGHT MONSTER, just about every INNER SANCTUM film). It?s important to remember, too that in the first half of the 1940s wartime restrictions of materials came into play. Studios didn?t merely recycle sets for economy but also because the construction materials weren?t available. The cost of the sets for KISMET were shared with LOST IN A HAREM, for instance (and the set resurrected pillars that I?ve seen adorning the set for a Garbo silent film).

But essentially the practice was put in place for cost effectiveness and to cut down on the time needed to build sets before production could begin. Carl Laemmle apparently was the first to realize, back in the early 1920s or late 1910s that if sets were built sturdily enough they could be reused for years & thus the concept of the back lot was born. The village sets built (I think) for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT became a standing set that shows up in just about all of Universal?s horror films and was still standing until only a few years ago when a fire demolished it.

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Realize that a backlot and a standing set on a soundstage are two different things. But the idea to reuse them is essentially similar.

 

When I was listening to Robert Wagner's audio commentary recently, he mentioned doing a scene for WHAT PRICE GLORY on the 'Bernadette Street.' He said that is what it came to be called, having been originally built for SONG OF BERNADETTE. Seven years later, Fox was still using this street as part of its backlot.

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*Realize that a backlot and a standing set on a soundstage are two different things.*

Not always...

Backlot sets aren't necessarily erected to be permanent, though they sometimes become so.

Then there's the 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The interior of the Paris Opera House was constructed (slightly reduced in scale) in a soundstage built specifically for that purpose. In what is, I'm sure, a unique situation, no other set has ever occupied that soundstage. Anytime a theater appeared in a Universal movie from THE RAVEN to THE MAD GHOUL to TORN CURTAIN, that's the old PHANTOM set. And it's still standing (as noted above). Kind of like an indoor backlot...

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