Saturday, June 22, 2013
In its heyday, MGM Studios was one of the most amazing movie backlots in Hollywood (or Culver City, to be precise). But after World War II, the studio's fortunes began to wane. There were occasional successes, such as "Ben-Hur", "How the West Was Won", "Dr. Zhivago", and the James Bond movies. But audiences were staying home to watch TV, and a series of big-budget flops helped to put the studio into financial trouble.
In 1970, new management (Kirk Kerkorian and Jim Aubrey) decided to streamline the MGM's operations. Here's how Wikipedia describes it:
Aubrey ordered the sale of MGM's historic collection of costumes and props such as the Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and the suit Spencer Tracy wore in Inherit the Wind; The studio's camera department was auctioned. Most of the studio's Culver City backlot and its 2,000 acre ranch in the Conejo Valley were sold to developers.... Aubrey literally threw the company's valuable archives into the trash and brought production to a standstill. Aubrey was criticized for these actions. In 1986, he recalled, "the buck had to stop somewhere, and it was with me. Nostalgia runs strong out here, so we were criticized for selling Judy Garland's red shoes. To us they had no value, and they had no intrinsic value."
The following pictures are from personal Viewmaster reels that I scanned for a friend - these are photos that he took as he toured the backlot during the auction preview. It is sad to see the legendary studio just before its demise, but can't deny the historic value of the images.
First up is this European street, looking a bit worse for wear.
Maybe this shattered plaster and jute column was used in "Ben-Hur"!
Among a snarl of cables and a jumble of unsightly metal structures was a genuine steam locomotive. Notice the red sign indicating that this item would be available in the upcoming auction. I wonder where it wound up?
There's that train again, to our left; in the distance we see a steeple from a small town set (or New England town?), as well as sections of other buildings that I can't quite identify.
More structures with a European look to them.
A royal courtyard in Austria? Imagine this place, polished and painted, lit for cameras, bustling with extras and crew members!
This is the same courtyard, panning a bit to our right.
I hope you have enjoyed these... I have more if you are interested!