Beyond the incredible four days packed with screenings and awe-inspiring events, my recent trip to Tinseltown for the TCM Film Festival included much more. I traveled out to Hollywood and bookended my trip with a couple of extra days to take in more than just the mad dash of the official fest (…like the mad dash of sightseeing!) Perhaps if I squeezed in more time to explore the sacred hallowed grounds of Old Hollywood along with my fellow TCM pals, my post-fest melancholy would be less painful? Yeah right, but nice thought.
WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO, aka the “FAKE” TOUR:
Our pal Matt Patterson of Warner Archives is a generous soul who agreed to give my good friend Aurora aka @CitizenScreen a private tour of the Warner Brothers Studio campus/backlots. Annmarie of @ClassicMovieHub, Jeannelle of @NebraskaNellie and I happily tagged along, on my very first day in Hollywood.
This was my first-ever film studio tour. I was in awe. I clung to every word Matt said and even in a few instances when he didn’t immediately recall to mind all the films and/or TV shows that a particular building or front purposed, I carefully squinted my eyes and envisioned its history.
As we walked all over this vast sprawl of buildings of every make and style, I took in all the sights and smells. The building front of what was once Cafe Bella from CASABLANCA looked quite different now but it made me goosepimply all over to ponder its former face. The formal building with wide cascade of steps and large roman columns was once Comissioner Gordon’s HQ in the 1966 Batman. The “Embassy building” with white stone blocks and a regal black iron fence was Daddy Warbuck’s ‘mansion’ in ANNIE. A sparse area of grass with a simple, curving sidewalk and a backdrop of trees was Central Park?? There was a fake ‘L train’ that looked more like a rusted and abdoned project and a fake subway entrance with boxed-in concrete walls that greet you at the bottom of the stairs.
With faux brownstones we paused to rest on the steps for a ‘Bronx via Hollywood’ moment. At one point I grinned as I couldn’t help but picture that infamous scene from BLAZING SADDLES as I peered across a row of many false store fronts like an empty ghost town, built to decieve us onlookers.
As we peeked around (ever so carefully) inside a few of these hollowed buildings, I deeply took in the smell. I was transported back in time to the same smell of the Kansas City Museum I visited as a child. It was an “old smell” of aged wood, antiques and grand ole dame homes forever frozen in time. You could imagine all of these false structures being used in countless films and TV shows. The fronts and the productions may have changed countless times over the years, but that vintage scent revealed its ‘good bones.’
But there was more. The WB cafeteria. The recording studios for shows like Conan and Ellen. A memorial to all the WB folks who served in WWII. Rows and rows of enormous sound stages with a plaque on each massive hangar indicating its pedigree of filmography from its earliest days onward. These simple yet gigantic buildings are where the magic happended. Films like… all within the same footprint of where I stood. Again, I shuddered to think.
After a quick review of the WB employee ‘shop’ where you could buy anything from a logoed teeshirt to hardware, we ended our tour with the Warner Brothers Museum. This was a hodgepodge mix of new and old movie relics. Hats from MY FAIR LADY, sheet music from CASABLANCA, and a vast collection of costumes from the various and multiple BATMAN films just to name a few. Apparently the theme rotates the collections out from vault to this mini museum periodically and we just happen to visit during a Batman phase.
Many thanks to my pal Aurora for including us in her invite and special gratitude to Matt from Warner Archives for the tour and GENEROUS donation of his time. I’ve never been so thrilled to be “faked out”!