Saturday, June 18, 2016

More MGM Backlot, 1970

It has been quite a while since I've shared some of Rol and Jo Summit's great photos of the MGM backlot, right around the time of the historic auction in which everything was sold to the highest bidder. Wagons, costumes, armor, furniture, and props of all kinds went to buyers all over the world. Today's photos are from the sixth in a series of personal Viewmaster reels that I scanned for them.

Here's Rol himself, demonstrating his prodigious strength - just because he can. Hey, I would if I could. Rol isn't even breaking a sweat.

Here is the lovely Jo, posing with several very cool looking chariots. I wonder what films these were built for? The quality of the construction is impressive.

There's Jo again, checking out a gaily-painted gypsy wagon. It's perfect for camping with the kids.

More wagons! One is of the circus variety, and looks like it might have carried a steam calliope at one time. Behind that is one advertising "Fighting Man BROCK Fighting Dog (huh?)", which rings no bells whatsoever. Of course this could have been used in any number of television programs.

Here's a placid man-made lake that reminds me of Disneyland's Rivers of America. If it wasn't for that submarine (?) to the right, this could be somewhere in Ohio or Missouri instead of glorious Culver City.

Sorry, ducks, but it won't be long before you're going to be looking for a new place to swim. 

One of the fascinating things about studio backlots is the variety of settings that could be found in a relatively small area. You might find a European village, a turn of the century city, a New York street, a suburban street, and yes, even a bucolic farm.

Believe it or not, I have two more Viewmaster reels of Rol & Jo's personal photos to share with you!


walterworld said...


It sure would have been great to follow these folks around the place just before the auction...

Thanks Major

Nanook said...


The diminution and ultimate demise of the 'real' MGM is probably the most distressing of all the major Hollywood studios, as their "factory" just had so much on their property - and it was all so great.

Thanks again for sharing more images from the auction.

K. Martinez said...

What an era that was. The last image of a bucolic farm is a beauty! Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

Oh, man I wish I could have seen this place! I love the late afternoon lighting, which to me kind of underlines the fact that this event signified the end of MGM's day as a working backlot.

I'm looking at all those wagons and chariots and wondering what movies and TV shows they were used in. Several scenes related to the Crucifixion from Ben-Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told were shot at MGM, so perhaps the chariots were used in one or both of those films.

I don't think that watercraft is a submarine. I think it's intended to be a tugboat.

Looking forward to the next two reels, Major!

Scott Lane said...

Great stuff! Mark me down for also thinking that that's a tugboat or barge not a submarine.
Such a shame that all the land was lost to developers but at least they gave collectors and other studios the chance to preserve some of the props. Didn't a couple of those chariots end up on the Universal lot?

Nanook said...

@ Scott Lane-

Let's hope that something from MGM ended-up at Universal, as their tour for many years, "took credit" for producing many, many films having absolutely nothing to do with Universal Studios. It would appear (through shaming-?) they had to 'clean-up their act', and undoubtedly having real props set about the tour hither and yon, added some legitimacy to their tale.

Major Pepperidge said...

walterworld, there’s just something about the idea of exploring the old MGM backlot. It would have been incredible.

Nanook, that land was just too valuable in a time of slumping movie attendance. I blame myself!

K. Martinez, like Disneyland, it’s fascinating to see what some creative art direction can accomplish.

Chuck, I would guess that studios picked up some of MGM’s historic stuff - Debbie Reynolds didn’t buy it all!

Scott Lane, that’s what I get for only looking at the thumbnail when writing my description! It does look like some sort of barge. As for whether Universal wound up with some of MGM’s props… who knows.

Nanook, I thought it was funny that Universal took credit for King Kong, that famous RKO property. I don’t know who owns the IP, but apparently Universal’s claim has been disputed for decades.

Nanook said...


What's "the IP"-?

Scott Lane said...

Nanook: Guessing it's "Intellectual Property".
The reason I said that about the chariots ending up at Universal was that there's a (now very faded) picture of me in a "Ben Hur chariot" (so I remember the sign saying) taken on our first trip there in '74. Looking very closely at it I can see it's not either one of the ones in the MGM photo but that doesn't mean that's not where it came from.

Nanook said...

@ Scott Lane-

Good call; you're probably correct.


Patrick Devlin said...

I'm utterly late to the party but I'll bet that pond was where Showboat's paddle-wheeler was parked for the movie. Medium sized gues that.

Dean Finder said...

A (depressing) though while looking at these pictures.
I can't imagine any modern movie that would use these props. These really are artifacts of a Hollywood that no longer exists, with or without the backlot that housed them,

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I see that Scott Lane already figured it out, but I did mean "Intellectual Property"!

Scott Lane, Look at the Sunday post (the one after this one) for links to photos of a chariot at Universal Studios (in the comments).

Nanook, he's correct!

Patrick Devlin, you might be right, I don't know how many bodies of water the backlot could have had.

Dean Finder, you might be right, although I believe that there is still a lot of amazing craftsmanship in today's blockbusters.

Anonymous said...

Great post,
These pics look like lot 3. That's where a lot of these sets were found at MGM.
The barn looks like the one in All the fine young cannibals from 1960.
The lake and rocks likely come from the Tarzan Lake. Dozens of Tarzan movies and others filmed here...often to resemble tropics or asia. Also from lot 3
Thanks for posting.

The best collection of backlot pics can be found in MGM;Hollywoods Greatest Baclot book