Friday, January 30, 2009

Warner Bros. Stage 16

Business was good at Warner Bros. during the 1930s. In this decade Warner Bros. was best known for their gangster pictures such as Little Ceasar, Bullets or Ballots and Public Enemy as well as socially conscious films that found interest from an audience dealing with a major economic depression.

With the profits Warner Bros. made from these films they invested right back into the studio. During the 30s, nine new soundstages, the Mill Building and one exterior set, Midwest Street were built during this time. One notable building constructed was soundstage 16.

Stage 16 is one of the tallest soundstages in the world and is the tallest soundstage on the Warner Bros. lot. The building was completed in 1935 but that same year the entire structure was raised 30 feet to accommodate a colossal musical number from the Marion Davies and Clarke Gable film, Cain and Mabel. William Hearst, the American newspaper mogul and Davies' sugar daddy paid $100,000 to have the roof raised.
The movie's grand finale featured the tune "I'll sing You a Thousand Love Songs," was nine minutes long and cost $400,000 to shoot. The scenes shifted from the canals of Venice to the palace of Versailles. This all built up to a scene with a ninety-foot pipe organ in the background that opened to feature 160 chorus girls dressed as bridesmaids.
Each of the Warner Bros. soundstages feature a plaque like the one above listing some, but not all (Cain and Mable is surprisingly left off the list) of the films that were shot in here. Some of these include Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Big Sleep, My Fair Lady, Ghostbusters, Goonies (remember the pirate ship?), and most recently the latest Indian Jones film. Below is a picture of Jurrassic Park being filmed inside Stage 16. Check out the great website Jurassic Park Legacy for more photos.

Photo from Jurrasic Park Legacy

Above is one of the "elephant doors" to the soundstage.

Soundstage 16 is the last building on the right. You can see that it is taller than the other soundstages.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vintage Warner Bros. Bloopers

Here is a fun YouTube video with a collection of bloopers from older Warner Bros. films. There are some great clips of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson at their not so best:

This weekend I'll be back with a post with some photos I recently took at Warner Bros. Check back for more.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Posthumous Nominations

Last Thursday, Heath Ledger bacame the seventh actor to earn a posthumous Oscar nomination. The actor, who was 28 years old, was nominated for best supporting actor for his stirring performance as the Joker in the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight. If Ledger wins the Oscar he will be one of only two receive the award after death. Peter Finch, nominated for 1976's Network won after his death.

Peter Finch in Network
Others who have received posthumous Oscar nominations include Jeanne Eagels for best actress for 1929's The Letter, Spencer Tracy for best actor 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Ralph Richardson for best supporting actor for 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Massimo Troisi for best actor 1994's Il Postino.
The most famous actor to receive a posthumous nomination is James Dean, who received two! After Dean died in a car crash in 1955, he was nominated for best actor in 1955's East of Eden and then the next award season for Giant.

Right now it looks like the momentum is in Heath Ledger's favor to win a posthumous Oscar. He's already won a posthumous Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award. If Ledger does win, it's still undecided who will go up to accept his Oscar. I guess we'll just have to watch the Academy Awards and see what happens.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Author Presents: The Story of Hollywood

Gregory Paul Williams, the author of "The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History," will be doing a slide show and discussion of his award winning book at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, next Saturday, January 31. The event starts at 2:00p.m.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of this beautiful hardcover book than I recommend racing out to your local bookstore and buying a copy. The price isn't cheap, but for anyone into the history of the town that is Hollywood, this book is worth having in the collection.

The Story of Hollywood contains many interesting facts and stories about the city, but what makes this book even more appealing are the stunning and rare photos of Hollywood. What kinds of photos? You'll see gorgeous black and white photos of Hollywood when it was nothing more than farmland. You'll see pictures of amazing buildings that used to be in Hollywood but were eventually torn down (probably to be replaced with a tacky strip mall!). This book contains images of the Hollywood everyone thinks of.

Greg Williams will also be doing a book signing so, if you live in the Hollywood area, or will be in town this coming weekend, bring your book and get it signed by the author! If no one stops me, I'll try and take some video footage and some pictures to put up here on Dear Old Hollywood. Check back next week and hopefully I'll have more to share on this event for those who can't attend.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Papoo's Hot Dog Show

The very first eatery I had ever eaten at in Burbank, Ca was a tiny 1950s era hot dog stand. I remember driving over the hill from Hollywood into Burbank, on my way to the Disney Studios, and needed an inexpensive place to grab a bite for lunch. I turned West down Riverside drive, heading the opposite direction of the Disney Studios by mistake and saw this old fashioned hot dog hut. By appearance alone I thought the place was worth checking out.

The food is what you would expect. Hot dogs. Lot's of hot dogs, pretty much served with any toppings you can think of. There also burgers and other food from the grill, but the hot dogs are the way to go.

Hollywood history fans will be interested in Papoo's as being one of the locations in the 1956 film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Above is a still from the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers where you can see some of the characters eating at Papoo's Hot Dog Show. I believe then it was known just as "The Hot Dog Show." At the time, Papoo's was an outdoor eatery, but the restaurant has expanded over the years and now includes indoor seating. Here are some pictures of how Papoo's Hot Dog Show looks today:

Papoo's is located only a few blocks from Warner Bros. Studios and just a short drive down the street from the Disney Studios lot, so I'm sure, that over the years many celebrities of the past and present have made a stop at this joint. Bob Hope and Roy Disney both had homes nearby and I wouldn't be surprised if either one of them have stopped by before. Today, many of the Disney teen actors live in the neighborhood, including Hillary Duff, Zac Efron, Miley Cyrus and many of the cast from High School Musical.

Here's a photo of Hillary Duff leaving Papoo's this past summer:

For more pics of Hillary visit here.
If you're coming to visit the Warner Bros. or Disney Studios, Papoo's Hot Dog Show is definitely an excellent and cheap place to grab a bite.

You're thoughts.

Monday, January 19, 2009


In respect to the upcoming inauguration, here is some old fashion HOPE.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Image: Copyright (C) United Artists
On Friday, January 16, the American Cinematheque held a screening of the 1974 Richard Dreyfuss film, Inserts, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. I had never seen this film before but I was curious to see a young Richard Dreyfuss and a young Bob Hoskins (in his first film)acting in a period film set in the 1930s. The movie did not dissappoint.
This X rated film has a pre-"Jaws" Richard Dreyfuss playing the part of "Boy Wonder," a former silent film directing star turned porno film director. When "talkies" started replacing silent films, Boy Wonder refuses to adapt to the changing times. Instead, Boy Wonder confines himself to his Hollywood mansion where he shoots silent porn films.
Bob Hoskins plays "Big Mac," Boy Wonder's producer. Big Mac and his girlfriend Cathy Cake stop by Boy Wonder's home to see how filming is going and to supply Boy Wonder's actress, Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) her payment of heroin. Harlene, to get ready for her next scene, takes her payment of heroin and runs to another room to inject herself. When Boy Wonder gets ready to start filming again, Harlene is found dead on the floor. Big Mac, with the help of Boy Wonder's clumsy actor Rex (Stephen Davies), takes Harlene's body away. Cathy Cake is left alone with Boy Wonder who teachers her some things about "Inserts."
Writer/Director John Byrum had been reading the controversial book Hollywood Babylon at the time of writing the screenplay for Inserts and clearly incorporated many tidibits from the book into the film. Old Hollywood fans will enjoy picking up on the many references to old Hollywood lore, including a running gag about a young Clark Gable. Old Hollywood references aside, the film is also worth seeing for the hilarious performances by Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Davies, and Veronica Cartwright. Dreyfuss especially gives an entertaining performance.
After the screening of Inserts, director/writer John Byrum and stars Veronica Cartwright and Stephen Davies participated in a discussion of the film. Below are some videos I filmed from the discussion.
Here is a video of John Byrum explaing how he got to filming an X rated movie (now adjusted to NC-17):
In this video John Byrum discusses how he got to casting Richard Dreyfuss for the film. Byrum was lucky to get Dreyfuss who was already shooting a big budget film. Watch the video to hear the full story:
Here's a video of actress Veronica Cartwright (The Witches of Eastwick, Alien) telling a funny story about the first time she meet Jack Nicholson:
And here is one final video of actor Stephen Davies explaining the casting for Inserts:
Your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunset Boulevard - Film Locations

Sunset Boulevard, a 1950 film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden is probably one of my favorite films. The film tells the story of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (Holden) who is desperately trying to sell his latest script to a producer at Paramount in order to get out of his dismal financial situation. When Gillis leaves Paramount Studios and begins driving along Sunset Boulevard he is spotted by repo men. Gillis, on the run, pulls into what he thinks is the driveway of a deserted mansion.

At the mansion, Gillis encounters Norma Desmond (Swanson), a forgotten legend of the silent films. Desmond, desperate to get back into pictures, allows Gillis to stay at her mansion if he in returns helps her with a screenplay that will reintroduce her to audiences.

Wilder, wanting to keep his film as authentic as possible, makes reference to many real Hollywood films, people, and places. Below are some images of the places that can be seen in Sunset Boulevard.

Alto-Nido Apartments 1851 N. Ivar Ave
This is the location of Joe Gillis's apartment building.

(Photo: (C) Paramount Pictures)
Holden at his typewriter in what is supposed to be the interior of the Alto-Nido apartments.

This is the entrance to Paramount Studios. The window on the left side of the gate is the old security window. It's here in the film where the security guard greets Norma Desmond. The fountain was not built until the 1990s. During the time of the film this area was still part of Bronson Avenue which is the road the stars drove down to enter Paramount. The new drive-on entrance to Paramount is located on Melrose Avenue.

(Photo: (C) Paramount Pictures)
Above is an image of the Paramount Studios entrance as seen in the film. That's Norma Desmond seated in the back of the automobile. Notice there is no fountain in the foreground.

Stage 18 - Where Cecil B. Demille greets Norma Desmond

(Photo (C) Paramount Pictures)
Cecil B. Demille greets Norma Desmond outside Stage 18

Directly across from Stage 18 is a long 2 story building. It's on the second floor of this building where the writers offices are located in the film.

(Photo: (C) Paramount Pictures)
Above is a photo of William Holden and Nancy Olsen (one of the script girls) inside the writers building across from Stage 18.

(Photo: (C) Paramount Pictures)
Above is a photo of Schawb's Pharmacy. Schwab's was a very popular hangout with the early Hollywood crowd, especially with writers, actors, and other creative types. Holden's character is seen going into Schwab's a couple times in the film.

Schwab's Pharmacy location - 8024 Sunset Boulevard
As you can see in the image above Schwab's pharmacy no longer exists. The building was torn down and a new mall was built in it's location. Interesting enough, the location is changing again. When I took this photo about 3 years ago the main business in the mall was Virgin Megastore. During the last year the Virgin Megastore has since closed it's doors and the mall complex is going through many other changes.

(Photo: (C) Paramount Pictures)
Above is an exterior shot of Norma Desmond's mansion as seen in the film. The mansion was located just 10 blocks south of Paramount Studios. Wilder considered the mansion perfect for his film but it didn't include a swimming pool, so the production constructed one. However, the pool was for show only. It was not capable of operating as a functioning swimming pool.

NW corner of Wilshire and Irving Boulevards
Above is a photo of where the Norma Desmond mansion once stood. Like many historic buildings in Hollywood the mansion met it's demise, just like Joe Gillis in the film.

Your thoughts?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ed Wynn Brings Network TV to Hollywood

Ed Wynn, "The Perfect Fool," was best known as a vaudeville comedian with a distinct laugh who wore silly costumes. Younger people probably remember Wynn more for his comedic film work in many Disney films which include The Gnome Mobile, That Darn Cat!, and the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland; but before these film roles, Wynn would bring network television to Hollywood.

In the early days of television shows were aired live on the East Coast, a kinescope film was made of the broadcast, and then shipped to the West Coast to be aired at a later date. In 1949, Wynn's variety show, The Ed Wynn Show became the first show to air in Hollywood first and then shipped to the East Coast to be aired at a later date.

The Ed Wynn Show
consisted of many of Wynn's vaudeville jokes and gags. The humor was old-fashioned even for its time but audiences still enjoyed Wynn's likable personality. Although stars were nervous to go on live television where anything could happen, the show still managed to feature many guest stars such as Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, and Dinah Shore during its short one season run.

Here's a video of The Ed Wynn Show featuring The Three Stooges as guest stars:
Your thoughts?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Dukes

 Above is a picture from the summer of 2005 of actor and first time director Robert Davi (left) sitting with writer, director, producer, actor, and author Peter Bogdanovich. The location is the set of the film, "The Dukes," Davi's directorial debut.

The film tells the story of a group of men, who in the 1960s were a doo-wop group (think Dion and the Belmonts) that were popular and successful, that now in the present are experiencing difficult times. The guys are now older, forgotten, and broke. When one of the men (Chazz Palminteri) loses his tooth and is forced to go to the dentist, Davi overhears a conversation about a group of dentists who share a large stash of dental gold. Desperate for money, these not-so-young men decide to pull a heist on the dental clinic. The rest is a comedic mess.

Here is the trailer for the film:
I had the opportunity to work as a product placement coordinator on the film and on the day the above picture was taken, the production was about to shoot a scene featuring "Guiltless Gourmet," a healthy snack food company I was representing. This was a hilarious scene featuring all the men dressed up as tomatoes and singing a doo wop song about salsa. The times of the band performing on the late shows are now over and the best gig the band's agent (Bogdanovich) could get is a poor commercial.
Here are some more pictures taken from the set that day.
Preparing to do the tomato dance:

Me (When I was trying to sport a goatee. Yikes!) with Robert Davi.

The film had a theatrical release in 2008. If you didn't get a chance to see "The Dukes" in theatres, don't worry, you will get a chance to see it soon on video and it is definitely worth checking out. The cast is great, the story is a bit different from other heist movies, and you can't go wrong with a soundtrack set to early 60s rock'n'roll.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Peter Bogdanovich is Guest Programmer at the New Beverly Theatre

Director, writer, producer, actor, and Hollywood historian Peter Bogdanovich will be a guest programmer at the New Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles beginning later this month. Bogdanovich, who's work includes "The Last Picture Show," "What's Up Doc," and "Mask" to name a few, has selected films that have inspired him for the New Beverly Theatre to showcase. The theatre will also be showing a selection of some of Bogdanovich's own films.
Some films that Bogdanovich has selected include the Alfred Hitchcock directed, Cary Grant starrer, "North by Northwest," and the Orson Welles picture, "Touch of Evil." I think the highlight will be seeing Bogdanovich's own black & white masterpiece, "The Last Picture Show," which plays January 21 and 22. Bogdanovich himself may even be making appearances at some of the screenings!
To see all the films that the New Beverly Theatre is showing click here.
Here is a video of Peter Bogdanovich on the Dick Cavett show discussing his reason to make "The Last Picture Show" in black & white:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The House on Haunted Hill - Film Location

Welcome to my new blog Dear Old Hollywood! This first blog entry was previously seen on another version of Dear Old Hollywood but I thought it was interesting enough to bring over to the new version of the site. In the next couple of weeks I will be posting many more stories and videos so please do check back. -

On May 8th, 2007, a great fire engulfed 817 acres of the 4,210 acre Griffith Park, a park situated on the eastern portion of the Santa Monica Mountains, located in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Although, Dante’s View and Captain’s Roost were destroyed, many of the parks attractions such as the Greek Theatre, Griffith Observatory, and the LA Zoo were fortunately not damaged by the fire. Another attraction that movie buffs will be relieved to hear was unharmed by the Griffith fire is the Ennis Brown House.

The home, a Mayan themed concrete block building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1927, has been used multiple times in both film and television. Because of the buildings unique design and lustrous views of Los Angeles, it has always been an attractive location for filmmakers. The building’s most famous role was as the title role in the 1959 horror film, The House on Haunted Hill. It is in this mansion that Frederick Loren, played by the always eerie B-movie star Vincent Price, invites his guests to spend the night, locked inside.

Looking at the south side of the home you can see that although the house was unharmed by the Griffith Fire, the structure is still in great danger of becoming extinct. The building is structurally instable and many of the concrete walls and blocks have either cracked or completely fallen out. The house is on the National Trust For Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Below is a photo of the home’s north view. You can see how scorched the whole mountain top is.

If you didn’t see the footage of the fire then take a look at this YouTube video that a spectator has captured. You see that white building at the top? That’s another popular filming location, the Griffith Observatory.

In addition to House on Haunted Hill, the building was also the mansion to Claude Estee, in the 1974 film, The Day of the Locust, as Harrison Ford’s pad in the 1982 film Blade Runner, and more recently as the home of the character Angel on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are numerous other projects that have also used the Ennis Brown House.

Hopefully, this amazing building will be able to be restored so that future generations can view the unique Frank Lloyd Wright building. And, for Hollywood’s sake, to be able to continue using a gem of a film location. If you would like to learn more about the preservation process or general information about the the Ennis-Brown House, you can visit the official website here.

Your thoughts?
Robby Cress


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