Sunday, July 04, 2010

Universal Studios

Happy Fourth o' July!

I don't have anything specially-themed for our nation's independence day, but I do have four fun photos from Universal Studios!

This dapper old gent is thrilled to see an actual chariot used in the famous race from "Ben Hur". This isn't Ben's (Chuck Heston) chariot; instead it was the one driven by his childhood friend (but later his deadly enemy!) Messala (played by Stephen Boyd). Did you know that "Ben Hur" won 11 Academy Awards?

Stunt shows have been a popular attraction at Universal for many years. Ordinarily you'll see photos of cowboys plummeting to their deaths from the top of a building (into a giant mattress!), but our photographer turned and took a picture of the tour guide and the crowd. Once, just once, I want to break a sugar-glass bottle over somebody's head. Or a balsa wood chair.

I've been to Universal many times and seen nary a star, but gramps found one! His name is John Anderson, one of the busiest character actors in Hollywood for many years. He was in oddles of TV shows and movies. Fans of "The Twilight Zone" might recognize him from several episodes (he played "Gabe" - the angel Gabriel - in "A Passage for Trumpet" and an airline pilot in a plane hurled back in time in "The Odyssey of Flight 33"). He was also the used-car salesman in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". I looked at his imdb profile to see if I could figure out what role he was dressed for here, but there were just too darn many entries!

Just look at that thick, chunky air over Burbank. Yuck! I've read that the air quality in LA has improved since then (for the most part), and I believe it. For a better look at what was down there, take a look at this photo.


ericpaddon said...

John Anderson, BTW, also has a Disney Park connection to this day, more than a decade after his death. He provided the voice for the Mark Twain AA figure that co-hosts EPCOT's "American Adventure" program with Ben Franklin (voiced by Dal McKennon) and also does the voice of FDR in the program's Depression segment (appropriate since Anderson also played FDR in the 1979 miniseries "Backstairs At The White House")

What's the date of this picture? If it's 1966, then a possibility could be a television show called "The Road West" which was a Universal production and ran from 1966-67, described as "the adventures of an Ohio family leaving their home for the Kansas territory." Anderson sure looks dressed for that kind of frontier show!

TokyoMagic! said...

I was wondering what the date of the second pic is, Major. It's possible that that could've been the set of the "Adam-12" Screen Test Theater. It looks like one of the guys on the left is dressed as a cop and I think those other people were picked to be "customers" in the bar.

My dad was chosen to be one of the cops on my first visit to Universal and I remember one of the sets being a bar. My dad bought the souvenir film afterward, but I haven't viewed it in over 20 years. I need to get that from him and have it transferred to DVD! Anyway, I don't know when they started the Adam-12 version of the Screen Test Theater, but I know that visit was in 1973. It eventually became the "Emergency" Screen Test Theater and then some time after that it was the "Airport '77" Screen Test Theater.

DKoren said...

How cool! I remember seeing Messala's chariot at Travel Town when I was young. I didn't know it had been at Universal first. I was very disappointed to go back to Travel Town a few years back and find out the chariot was gone, moved on to its next home, a film museum, I think, but I can't remember which one.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I never saw Ben Hur (sue me) - 11 Oscars, hmm, guess I better check it out!

Always wanted to EAT one of those sugar-glass bottles, I picked up a piece of sugar glass once from a stunt show, but my mom made me put it back before I could taste it! (I still eat glass, it goes good with paste).

Grew up in the west valley - smog was thick, chunking, hot and stinky. Its much better now.

Awesome post - I need to get out to Universal soon.

Happy Independence Day!

Major Pepperidge said...

Eric, thanks for the great info about John Anderson, I didn't know about his Disney connections. I think that the date of the slide is around 1961, although that is based mostly on the slides that it was with. It could be from later...

Chris, that photo is from August 1974, so it sounds very likely that you are right about it. You've got to find that video and digitize it for sure!

DKoren, I think I remember seeing that same chariot as well, but not sure where. It might have been at Universal!

Tim, I've seen Ben Hur... it's OK if you like older movies, but at over 3 hours, it can be a chore to get through. I felt that way about "Gone With the Wind" too, so maybe I'm lame. It definitely has that "old Hollywood bible blockbuster" feel, kind of like "The 10 Commandments". Also, I've read that sugar glass tends to get soft quickly because it absorbs moisture from the air easily. Today they tend to use bottles made from some sort of plastic resin.

Nancy said...

Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans...

my team is curently winning and its a great day here, just like the weather i would want at DL :-)

like the pictures of Universal, have been there only once and it was a really nice visit. definitely hope to go again sometime

"the password today is 'cansit'"

2 bits worth said...

I'd bet that Mr Anderson was working on Laramie, which shot on the Uni backlot around that time. He appeared in numerous episodes.

Anonymous said...

During my time in LA, the saying went that..

"You should never trust air you can't see, how would know it was there otherwise?"

Thanks for these pics Major, my Dad grew up right below Universal. He said they could hear the lions roaring in the early AM. That was long before the development in that area, for example, they had an apricot orchard there in SF valley. Sold too early of course.