Saturday, January 18, 2014

More MGM Studio Backlot, 1970

Today's "Anything Goes Saturday" installment is yet another look at the MGM studio backlot in its final days. See part one here, and part two here! For those of you who have forgotten, these unique images are from some Viewmaster photos taken by an acquaintance of mine, who visited the studio with his wife in 1970.

The whole darn place was going to be auctioned off - absolutely everything! And that included Roman chariots. I never realized until now how much I need a chariot. Nearby, other buggies and coaches await the auctioneer's gavel.

Wait! Wait! I changed my mind, I'd rather have a gypsy wagon. I could tell fortunes and pick pockets  and sing colorful songs and dance lusty dances with sultry damsels. I already own a tambourine.

The remaining 5 images all involve the sale of MGM's massive, historic collection of movie costumes.  I can't help thinking that Debbie Reynolds must have acquired more than a few treasures in her collection from this very room (she sold much of her stuff for millions of dollars recently).

Another look at the same area. Too bad the color balance is so wonky. The craftsmanship behind these costumes amazes me, and the quality of the rare brocades, silks, velvets, and every other imaginable fabric probably couldn't be duplicated today.

I wonder if the auction catalog mentioned what movie each item was from? "Dress worn by Norma Shearer in The Women, 1939". Or whatever. Or perhaps it was just something more prosaic like, "White dress with sequins". I'd like to think that bidders knew the history of the items they were bidding on. 

Ah, now that's more like it! I NEED a 15-foot long, gold embroidered, ermine-lined cape. For job interviews, funerals, or snuggling up with a loved one while watching TV. Notice the selection of crowns and scepters (something for everyone!), and even a piece of original artwork by a costume designer - perhaps Adrian or Edith Head.

Do you think people bought items just to own a piece of Hollywood magic, or to actually wear? Granted, a lot of it was completely impractical, but there were some elegant ladies' dresses and fine men's suits as well. "I'm wearing William Powell's tuxedo, and my wife is wearing Greta Garbo's gown"!

I have even more vintage photos from the last days of MGM studios, so stay tuned.


Nanook said...


Anytime you feel the urge to get all gussied up in a fabulous outfit, enclosed by that 'gold embroidered, ermine-lined cape' and then hop aboard the gypsy wagon, I want to be in the front row-! Fabulous-!

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

It's sickening to think how everything at MGM was just sold off or torn down. Speaking of "The Women", it was on TCM just two days ago....."JUNGLE RED!!!!!"

K. Martinez said...

Love the gypsy wagon. Reminds me of "The Wolf Man" with Lon Chaney Jr.

TokyoMagic! - I remember that movie. Wasn't it Norma Shearer that said that line?

TokyoMagic! said...

Yes, K. was Norma Shearer that exclaims that near the end of the movie. Although, the nail color is mentioned by a couple other actresses earlier in the film.

D-ticket said...

The gypsy wagon was an antique and had been used in Freaks (1932)

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don't wear gold-embroidered, ermine-lined capes that much, because where the heck do you get them cleaned?!

TokyoMagic!, I agree, the thought of all that history being sold off is just sad. And… I've never actually seen "The Women". There are so many classic movies that I need to catch up on!

K. Martinez, I can't think of "The Wolf Man" without picturing Maria Ouspenskaya. "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright".

D-ticket, wow, that's cool info. Even today, "Freaks" is such an odd movie. Not as shocking as it once was, but it's easy to imagine how disturbing it might have been to 1932 audiences.

MRaymond said...

Sets and set pieces just aren't needed anymore, I guess. CG can take care of most sets. I wonder what happened to all that stuff? Where is it today?

Melissa said...

I'm sure a lot of the stuff was bought up by low-budget theater companies and independent movie companies. Who knows how many Roger Corman flicks that Gypsy wagon ended up in? Not to mention cheap skin flicks trying to pass themselves off as "art films."

But it's the low-budget theater companies I'm mostly thinking of. I do a fair bit of costuming for them myself, and I'm drooling over all that royal regalia in picture #6, thinking of all the hot summer nights I've stayed up sculpting and painting and trying to fake decent gold embroidery on a budget.

Now I REALLY need to know what it would feel like to ride a chariot pulled behind a Gypsy wagon full of costumes pulled behind a lawnmower down an L.A. freeway.

Anonymous said...

Hallo from Norway! How thrilling to see all those 1970 auction photos! Keep em coming! Would LOVE to see more of the costumes, as I am a collector and have costumes from that auction! Arild

thecostumecollector said...

Love these photos! And I can see two costumes I own pinned up on one of the walls! :)

thecostumecollector said...

What an amazing set of photos! I love them. In one of the photos I can see two costumes I own pinned up on the wall! :)

beachgal said...

I spent a large part of 3 long sessions there from later AM hrs through deep into the afternoon looking during previews. To answer your question, much of the wardrobe that was up for auction was simply tagged with a number and no identity as to what it was worn in or by whom. There were massive racks in sound stages, not well lit with racks of garments higher than you could reach to inspect. There were even some in bins. There were areas of bigger/important costumes that were IDed, but the bulk of them were not. It was overwhelming what all was there and no way to see it all. By today's standards, it was not all that well organized. But the sheer volume of what they needed to get rid of I felt negated being able to really do the inventory justice by today's standards. The photos you have here are very atypical of what the costume holds looked like up for auction. These are the top shelf ones.