Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Music Man (1962) - Film Locations

On Wednesday, August 28, Turner Classic Movies will be playing films starring actress Shirley Jones as part of their Summer Under the Stars series. One of my personal favorites, The Music Man (1962), will be showing at 8:00 PM EST. I grew up with this film. My mom loved musicals, so films like The Music Man, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music were regularly being played on the VHS player. Certain images from all of these films always stood out to me. In Seven Brides it was the exciting barn raising dance. In Sound of Music it was the dance in the rainstorm by the gazebo. And in The Music Man it was seeing all the kids marching through town in their colorful uniforms. I later even participated (briefly) in a middle school marching band (until I ditched the school band to form a rock band which seemed like the cooler thing to do). 

As part of the 2013 Summer Under The Stars Blogathon hosted by the blog Sittin' on a Backyard Fence, I've put together a special film locations post highlighting the colorful town of "River City, Iowa" featured in The Music Man.

River City, Iowa is a fictional town based on Mason City, Iowa, the hometown of playwright Meredith Willson. Although the story is set in the Midwest, the film was actually made at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California. Some sets were constructed inside large sound stages, but most of the town scenes were filmed on the Midwest Street backlot which is still standing (although remodeled several times since). 

Click images to see larger.

The back side of the chapel as seen in The Music Man.

Contemporary view of the back side of the chapel.

One can imagine how many films and television shows have been filmed on the Midwest Street backlot over the years. I've covered a few here on Dear Old Hollywood in the past. This same area on the back side of the chapel can also be seen in No Time For Sergeants (1958) with Andy Griffith and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970) starring Tony Curtis, Brian Keith, Ernest Borgnine, Suzanne Pleshet, Tom Ewell and Don Ameche.

Robert Preston passes the River City bank.

The bank facade on the left. The pool hall facade on the right.

Above is a comparison of the facades that are used as the River City bank building and the pool hall. Remember that scene where Preston tells the town folk, "Ya got trouble, my friend right here, I say, trouble right here in River City...Trouble with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for pool!"

Preston and Buddy Hackett sit in front of the pool hall.

Looking towards the pool hall facade.

Preston with the town folk in front of the River City City Hall.

A contemporary view of the City Hall facade.

Preston sitting with the Midwest Street chapel in the background.

Looking above Midwest Street towards the chapel.

Preston runs toward the livery stable.

Looking towards the livery stable facade as it appears now.

Some of the facades that have changed dramatically since The Music Man was made are those looking in the direction of the livery stable buildings. You can see the difference in the comparison above.

Hackett and Preston sitting on a bench in the center of town.

Looking across the Midwest Street courtyard.

Another facade on the Midwest Street backlot that has changed is the home located on the left side of the below screenshot (where the couple are riding a bicycle). The City Hall building can still be seen on the right side of the screenshot. 

A view of Midwest Street seen in The Music Man.

The same view of Midwest Street as it appears today.

In the next comparison Preston leads the band through Midwest Street and in the background we see that the same building that houses the City Hall on one side, houses the Library on another, and later you will see also houses the Fire Station on the opposite side.

Preston leads the band past the library and city hall facades.

Looking towards the Library facade (left) and City Hall (right).

The band marches past the Midwest Street courtyard.

Looking across the Midwest Street courtyard.

Another view of the chapel.

Although the chapel has been remodeled, it still has the same basic shape.

Looking up Midwest Street as the band marches on.

Looking up Midwest Street with the City Hall facade in the background.

The River City Fire Department.

Fire Department facade shares the same building as the City Hall.

Off from the main courtyard of Midwest Street is a small residential street. The next few images show the homes on this street.

Paul Ford passes a home on Midwest Street.

The same home as it appears today.

Preston stands in front of another home on Midwest Street.

The same home as it appears today.

Preston in front of another Midwest Street home.

The yellow oval marks the spot where Preston is standing in the screenshot above.

The marching band heads down the residential street off of Midwest Street.

Looking from the residential street towards the center of Midwest Street.

In addition to Shirley Jones and Robert Preston, The Music Man (1962) also stars Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, Pert Kelton, Timmy Everett, Susan Luckey, Mary Wickes and a little Ron Howard. The film is available on DVD but I recommend picking up the blu-ray release which looks amazing.

Some additional films previously covered here on Dear old Hollywood to feature the Midwest Street backlot set include The Hard Way (1943), No Time For Sergeants (1958), Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970), Nickelodeon (1976), The Monster Squad (1987), East of Eden (1955), and Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

Except where noted otherwise, all images (c) Warner Bros.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Betty Ford Story (1987) - Film Locations

Gena Rowlands won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Betty Ford in the Made-for-TV movie, The Betty Ford Story (1987). The real Betty Ford was an interesting woman. As the First Lady during the presidency of Gerald Ford, a Republican, Mrs. Ford occasionally irked some conservatives in the party for her more liberal views on social issues. The First Lady was pro-choice, supported some feminist causes such as equal pay for women, was for gun control and supported the Equal Rights Amendment to name a few issues at odds with some fellow Republicans. Mrs. Ford also raised awareness of breast cancer, when in 1974 she underwent a mastectomy. But out of all the causes the real Mrs. Ford supported, it is probably the awareness she brought to battling addiction that she is best remembered for. During the 1970s Betty Ford battled alcoholism and when she herself recovered from addiction, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, a non-profit recovery hospital to help others with addiction problems. The film The Betty Ford Story focuses on the period during the 1970s when Ford's addiction started and then snowballed into a major problem. Rowlands delivers an excellent performance as the former First Lady, illustrating the struggles she dealt with due to physical pain, the stress of her husband's ambitions, and the effects alcohol had on her.

In the film Betty Ford goes on the campaign stump for her husband's run for president. One of the stops is supposed to take place in the state of New Hampshire. However, the location used for this campaign stop was actually on a completely different coast. The location was really what is today the Warner Bros. Ranch at 411 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, California.

A campaign stop in New Hampshire. Really the Warner Bros. Ranch.

The same facades on the Warner Ranch as they appear today.

Gena Rowlands as Betty Ford on the Warner Ranch.

The film also stars Josef Sommer as President Gerald Ford and Rowlands fellow Wisconsinite, a pre-West Wing Bradley Whitford, as her son Jack Ford. The Betty Ford Story is available as an MOD DVD through the Warner Archive Collection. The film is also currently available for streaming on the Warner Archive Instant site. 

All images (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Macdonald Carey Childhood Home

Macdonald Carey

For many, Macdonald Carey is best remembered as Dr. Tom Horton on NBC's soap opera Days of Our Lives, a role he had played for nearly three decades beginning with the shows inception in 1965. But before Carey became a fixture on daytime television he was a regular on radio and then later in Hollywood films. Some of his notable features include supporting parts or lead roles in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Suddenly It's Spring (1947) alongside Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard, Joseph Losey's The Lawless (1950), and Let's Make It Legal (1951) with Claudette Colbert.

Click images to see larger.

2711 Jones Street, Sioux City, Iowa

Carey's interest in films and performing started at an early age, back when he was growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. The family home was located at 2711 Jones Street, across the street from Hubbard Park. At the Jones Street home Carey had a theater in the parlor and then later in the basement where he would perform magic tricks and recitations. With a film projector given to him by his father, Carey would charge neighborhood kids ten or fifteen cents to watch Buster Keaton, Lloyd Hamilton, and Charlie Chaplin comedies that he had rented or purchased. When Carey wasn't performing or showing films he was interested in sports, playing pickup games of basketball, hockey, baseball and football with friends in the neighborhood.

Carey's childhood home. 2711 Jones Street

Carey's mother, a lover of the arts, encourages him to develop his musical talents. She has Carey take years of piano, violin, drum, and singing lessons. Carey writes in his autobiography, The Days of My Life:
"Besides all my music lessons, I am in the Boy Scouts, I take ballroom dancing and tap dancing, and, by the time I get to high school, I am playing drums in a little jazz combo. Every Saturday morning, I have French lessons from Professor Greynald. In the winter, I play hockey; each spring and fall, there is a constant basketball game in our backyard. Poor Grandfather complains in 1927 that the backyard is as white as the street. He should complain. We trample the grass flat and his garden is long gone."
Carey had an educational and well rounded childhood in Sioux City, but it is also where he met his biggest burden in life - alcohol. For many years as an adult Carey struggled with alcoholism and it was in Sioux City that Carey first experimented with the bottle. At the time Carey was growing up in Sioux City, Prohibition is in full force, but nevertheless everyone drinks. Carey explains that "the rite of passage for a boy in Sioux City in the twenties is being able to drink twelve bottles of spiked beer sequentially without passing out." Spiked beer was "near beer" mixed with about one-and-a-half ounces of straight alcohol.

The backyard where Carey would play basketball.

The "Castle on the Hill," so called because of the building's turrets and ramparts, was originally Sioux City's Central High School. The building, located at 610 13th Street, is where Carey would attend high school. During high school Carey played on the school hockey team and organized a stamp club. He was an enthusiastic stamp collector. Two other famous Central High students were Esther and Pauline Friedman who later would be known as advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby). The Friedman twins lived across the street from the Carey family on Jones Street. In 1972, the school had closed and in 2004 was renovated into apartments.

Central High School, "The Castle on the Hill."

After completing high school Carey attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and then in 1931 went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison (UW). A few old Hollywood actors attended the University of Wisconsin, including Fredric March, Don Ameche, and Agnes Moorehead to name a few. Carey only attended his freshman year at Madison. He notes that "while Prohibition was flourishing, so were a few of the old Wisconsin breweries - at least their rathskellers." Carey had trouble keeping his drinking under control in this atmosphere and so later returned to Iowa, completing his degree at the University of Iowa. It was at the University of Iowa that Carey got serious about acting, learning the skills that would take him to New York and then Hollywood. 

Images of Macdonald Carey home (c) 2013 Google. Central High School image from Wikimedia Commons.


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