Saturday, November 04, 2017

Universal Studios, December 1969

Today we're going to visit Universal Studios Hollywood, circa 1969! 

First up is this shot from "Courthouse Square" - yes, that is the courthouse with the clock that was made famous in "Back to the Future". It looks pretty different here, but if you do a Google search, you'll see that this structure has received many overlays, adding a bit here, chopping off a bit there... you don't want it to look like Hill Valley in every movie or TV show. OR DO YOU?!?!

Here are a few photos showing how the courthouse has changed in recent years.

I seem to vaguely recall this display which gave a taste of the use of artful miniatures in motion pictures. A 1960's helicopter is buzzing over a Mississippi sternwheeler - kind of an odd juxtaposition, if you ask me. It should have been an alligator flying over the boat. A railroad trestle (complete with a miniature train, apparently) crosses over a rushing waterfall, while pipe cleaner trees grow from the rocks. 

Perhaps the color is off, but it seems strange that they did not use a cyclorama to simulate a realistic sky. Other than that, if you have watched lots of old movies, you have probably seen less-convincing miniatures than these!

Tiny people (reduced through the miracle of atomic science) walk the decks of the steamboat. Somewhere in my collection I have a photo of this same miniature, which some genius labeled "Disneyland". How I laughed! Ha! Ha! I almost dropped my monocle in my brandy snifter. 

There's George, getting ready to drive a Glamor Tram full of eager, glassy-eyed guests through the Universal backlot. He's driven that route so many times that he can do it in his sleep, and often does.

I still love to take the tram tour, in spite of the many changes to the Studio over the years. In fact, I was going to go to Universal just a few weeks ago, until I discovered that it now costs as much as a ticket to Disneyland. 


Nanook said...


'Courthouse Square' (or 'Mockingbird Square', as I remember it fondly from To Kill a Mockingbird), has been used in many a picture from Universal - many from the 1950's. But never as convincingly-so as seen in ...Mockingbird. It's still hard to believe the exteriors for that film were all shot on the Universal lot, as most of the nonsense from that studio has such a distinctive look to it - and not in a good way-!

I too, have vague remembrances of that miniature, but I'll be damned if I can remember exactly where it was on the Tour. Love the old Glamour Trams - with the fronts of the lead vehicle set at a rakish angle. (So modern-!)

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

It must have been fun to be a set designer in those days. All those buildings just sitting there on the lot, waiting for you to customize them to your own setting and purpose.

Look at George the fashion rebel, in his jaunty blue socks!

Steve DeGaetano said...

I'm going to do a Nanook - Aviation Edition, and point out that the helicopter model is a representation of the Sikorsky H-5, which saw some use attached to MASH units in the Korean War.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-

"The rebel", indeed.

Also, on careful inspection, it appears there's a small, Union 76 decal affixed to the white stripe of the front "quarter panel" of the tram. Fill 'er up-!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, now I want to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird” again! Such a great movie. I know you have some fairly low opinions on the sets at Universal Studios. I dunno, they look OK to me! Maybe they pale in comparison to a place like MGM.

Melissa, I agree, it must have been a blast! I briefly worked at a studio, and it was fun to walk past the same small buildings - one day a corner shop would be a a Chinese restaurant, the next day it would be a funky boutique. I hope George knows that those blue socks are holding him back; he’s trying to tell his employers something. BUT WHAT?

Steve DeGaetano, now that you mention it, the helicopter does resemble the kind that came to deliver wounded soldiers to the MASH unit on TV…

Nanook, Universal Studios brochures of the era have Union 76 ads on them.

Chuck said...

Waaaay late to the party, but awfully glad I came.

Courthouse Square makes an appearance in the first episode of the original Twilight Zone, "Where Is Everybody?" The courthouse is dressed as the local (and empty) high school. All the rest of the episodes were filmed at MGM or on location.

I want to remember that model from my 1971 visit, but I don't. I blame my parents.

Awesome post, Major! Thanks!