Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Universal Studios - December 1969

I've had a few so-so scans of slides from Universal Studios (circa 1969) sitting in a folder on my computer for literally years. I decided to just use them up finally, even though it is not an "Anything Goes Saturday".

We'll start with this photo of what had been the Munster house (1313 Mockingbird Lane, but really "Colonial Street") just a few years earlier (the show ran from 1964 to 1966).  It had originally been built for a 1946 film, and had been used many times. By 1969 it was showing up in episodes of "Dragnet". Eventually the house was used in the show "Desperate Housewives". But in this photo, it still looks pretty "Munstery"!

Here's a photo from the backlot tour, obviously taken during the release of the 1966 movie "Munsters Go Home".

Over at the Prop Plaza, guests could channel their inner Hercules and lift massive boulders. They may have been foam rubber, but as I learned the hard way, getting hit in the face with one was no fun!  Did I cry? Possibly.

Here's a familiar view - everybody took a picture from this vantage point. Besides seeing some interesting things such as the beautiful 100% cement Los Angeles River, Lakeside golf course, and Warner Bros. Studios (in the center across the river), we have features like "Park Lake" in the lower left, where the "Parting of the Red Sea" effect would be added in 1973. There's also an "Old Mississippi" area by the lake.

I always like pointing out the water tower of the Walt Disney Studios (upper left). Sets from "The Tower of London" (a 1939 Boris Karloff movie) glow in the late afternoon sunlight. In the shadows (lower right) is the "Denver Street" western town. 

This next photo is looking toward the Lakeside golf course and Toluca Lake. Closest to us is the "Prop Plaza", where guests could goof around with oversized props, or ride a stagecoach in front moving scenery. Or throw a heavy rubber boulder at some unsuspecting little kid.

Parallel to the golf course is Colonial Street, where the Munsters house, the "Leave it to Beaver" house, and many other familiar homes could be seen. Slightly closer to us is New York Street.

Zooming in on Prop Plaza, you need to look carefully to see things such as a giant pair of scissors, a big chair, and the aforementioned stagecoach. Partly hidden by trees is a fighter jet of some kind.

I have a lot more slides from Universal Studios, and just scanned one batch that has some nice views. Stay tuned!


TokyoMagic! said...

I like the unusual angle that the first pic was taken from. Wasn't the room up in that turret supposed to be Eddie Munster's bedroom? Or did Woof Woof have it all to himself? Hey, remember when the house belonged to Shirley Jones's character, in the classic TV show, Shirley? No? The show lasted for 13 episodes, so you should.

I like how the popcorn wagon in that last pic, is built right into the side of the snack bar. The snack stand at Knott's Lagoon had an identical design.

Nanook said...


Who wouldn't love Prop Plaza-? It interrupted the tram ride, and as you mentioned - you could throw 'really heavy' things around. It was loaded with a sort of "charm" only Universal could love. And now merely a faded memory of how things once were before Universal thought they could take on Disney.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

There's the George Barris Munster Koach in front of 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Loved that TV car! Glad to hear you've got more vintage slides of Universal Studios to share with us. Thanks, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

I always loved a trip to Universal. Foam rubber rocks, giant telephone, passing by the Munsters house. I even built one of these models when I was a kid.


Thanks for posting Major.
P.S. Happy 63rd Birthday Disneyland.

Chuck said...

Zooming in on the first photo looking down into the backlot, you can see the PT-73 prop from McHale's Navy pulled up on the bank of Park Lake, to the right of the lakeside church. To the right of that, you can see the faux stone bridge built for the 1968 film Sweet Charity.

The jet behind the trees at Prop Plaza is a T-33, a trainer based on the F-80 (originally "P-80") Shooting Star, the first effective US jet fighter. My dad flew those in pilot training.

Always enjoy a trip to that era of Universal Studios. Thanks again, Major!

Melissa said...

These are great! I especially like the sunny panoramic views.

Tower of London is one of my favorite movies. Peak Basil Rathbone, and a young Vincent Price getting drowned in a vat of wine! So cool to see the leftover sets.

stu29573 said...

Yes, the Cleavers and the Munsters lived on the same street. They also shared some of the same plots. Hmmmmm.

The Munsters Koach was actually not two, but THREE cars stitched together (see what I did there) to make it that long! I met George Barris once and he was kind enough to not only pose for a picture with me, but also sign my unopened Dragula car. A very nice guy!

Stefano said...

I love backlots, the atmosphere that can only be created in a studio. A movie succeeds mainly because of a sharp script, scintillating performers, a director with panache; backlots helped keep costs down with endlessly reusable sets, and the savings were passed on to the consumer. Adult tickets averaged about 25 cents throughout the 1930s, which is around $4.50 today; by the 1940s almost everyone in the US was going to the movies once a week.

Mockingbird Lane was well used for spooky purposes in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"; Hitchcock had some European location work mixed with the Tower of London/Frankenstein sets for "Torn Curtain" settings.

The foam rubber boulders pic brought a laugh; when the rock avalanche opened on the tour the TV commercial showed the fragments breaching the berm and pelting the Glamour Tram, when in reality they reached the edge and were scooped up by a big visible tray.

Mobs were pelted with foam rubber debris on the New York streets, during the big "Earthquake". Foam rubber and fiberglass, modern science's gift to the film industry.

Thanks Major, backlots are the forerunners to Disneyland and Knott's Ghost Town and P.O.P., all of them designed by Hollywood art directors.

Irene said...

I'm really enjoying these USH photos and look forward to more. Because I now have a Pass there, it's fun to compare. I did go there back in the day but it's all a fuzzy memory now. I guess I'm one of the few who enjoys the new USH. Every time I've taken the studio tour since I got my pass last September, the street they now call Westeria Lane has been closed due to filming. Finally two weeks ago the tram went down the street. It was so fun to see the houses I remember from old movies including the Munster house. Of course now they make a big deal out of Desperate Housewives and who lived in which house. The other day I was watching an episode of Murder She Wrote and there was the Munster House! I am late to the party on this TV show and just now getting into it. Knowing much of it was filmed at Universal, it is fun to pick things out. Looking forward to seeing more photos.

Anonymous said...

Major, I can't believe you had these pics sitting around so long. This is a really great post, enjoying it very much.

Pic No. 4 has a great view of Warner Brothers, you can almost see Yakko, Wakko, and Dot (she's the cute one) in the water tower.

Only had one trip to Universal, but it is a great memory. Thanks everyone for chiming in.


JC Shannon said...

Movie magic, love it. I took the Universal Tour a couple of times in 70 and 71. I remember the western town with the mountain bolted to the back of one of the buildings. The tour guide said if it looks fake, cover one eye and remember the camera only has one lens. We all did it and voila, forced perspective. Maybe that is why I love Rainbow Ridge so much. You can lose yourself in the illusion. Thanks to Major for the great scans.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I didn’t know that Shirley Jones “lived” in that house! I loved her back in the day. If you build a popcorn stand into a building, you save millions of dollars in costs.

Nanook, as a fan of movies like “The Incredible Shrinking Man”, “Dr. Cyclops”, and the TV show “Land of the Giants”, I was always intrigued by those giant props. I wonder what became of some of them, like the big telephone?

K. Martinez, those were the days when George Barris was doing all of the coolest TV cars, like the Batmobile and the Monkeemobile.

Alonzo, oh boy, I would love a nice model of the Munster Koach! The part I was never patient with was when it came time to paint the models. Maybe I needed an airbrush.

Chuck, I used to love McHale’s Navy, though I did not like Joe Flynn! I know you weren’t supposed to like him, but then he started showing up in Disney movies. Argh, that guy! Thanks for the additional info on those other props.

Melissa, I think Tower of London is the one with a bald Boris Karloff - I’ve never been sure if he actually shaved his head, or if it was a well-done bald cap (maybe from genius Jack Pierce?). I didn’t remember that Vincent Price was in that one!

stu29573, I’d like to believe that the Beaver and Eddie Munster were pals! Listen to a horrible vintage song about the Munster Koach HERE.

Stefano, there is definitely something fascinating about a movie backlot. Several times I have gotten close to being able to walk around Universal, but it has always fallen through for one reason or another. “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”, I can still hear that theme song! I had forgotten that there was an avalanche feature along the tram tour - as far as I know they still do the flooded Mexican village, but no avalanche. Glad you liked these!

Irene, I haven’t been to Universal Studios for five years or so, but I had a good time when I took my niece and nephew there. They especially loved the “Jurassic Park” ride and the “Simpsons” ride. The studio has had so many major fires over the years that I often wonder how much of the stuff we see on the tour is actually rebuilt, like the old European village streets that were supposedly used for the 1933 “Frankenstein”. Yes, “Murder She Wrote” got a mention on the trams, and I seem to remember that “Cabot Cove” was also part of the “Jaws” feature.

JG, I guess I didn’t think that these were very worthy, but I’m glad that folks enjoyed them! I think I have some better ones to share in the future. Stay tuned!

Nanook said...

HERE'S a map of the original Colonial Street (courtesy of RetroWeb Studio Backlots). The house used for Leave It to Beaver, (seasons 3-6), is known as the 'The Paramount House', as it was built for the movie Desperate Hours, (1955) - and produced by Paramount Studios. That house was seen in All that Heaven Allows (1955), Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969-1976), and many other shows, including Season 2, Episode 18 of The Rockford Files.

Melissa said...

I didn’t remember that Vincent Price was in that one!

He played the Duke of Clarence in the 1939 original, and then went on to star as Richard III in Roger Corman's 1962 loose remake with the same name. The first one is the better film, IMO.

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I remember that commercial for the Avalanche/Rock Slide! It did show the foam boulders bouncing off of the hill and hitting the tram. My brother and I were very disappointed when that didn't really happen. Over the years, Universal has been just as bad as Disney with their false advertising.

Major, I didn't remember until reading your response just now, but I recently came across an advertisement in an old issue of TV Guide (1978), with Shirley Jones hocking a Sunbeam popcorn popper in the shape of a miniature popcorn wagon. That's actually going to get posted in a few months, along with some other pages from that same issue.

Alonzo, oh yeah, today is July 17th! Happy Birthday, Disneyland. Unfortunately, you have looked better!

Chuck said...

Major, how could you say that about Joe Flynn??!! The Boatniks is probably Disney's finest film.

Melissa, I love the drinking scene in the wine cellar. Watching Basil and Vince swilling root beer and chewing scenery is simply priceless! (Except, of course, that he was in the scene...)

TM!, you never, ever tell an old girl that, particularly if you ever really loved her.

stu29573 said...

Oh my gosh, I have The Great American Popcorn Machine sitting on my hutch right now! I bought it unused from a flea market. It still has its cardboard insert with the picture of popcorn o it!

stu29573 said...

Yes, but how many people have the BOOK of the Boatnics??? I do! Got it when I was a kid. I don't remember thinking the movie was that bad, but, hey, I was a kid...

Chuck said...

Stu, I saw The Boatniks once, when I was in college. Full disclosure - I kind of liked it.

JC Shannon said...

In my humble opinion, the two greatest tv moms were Barbara Billingsley and Shirley Jones. Shirley, 'cause I had a High School crush on her, "I think I love you" and Barbara 'cause she reminds me of my own mom. "Golly Wally, our mom is the best."

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thank you for the useful map!

Melissa, it is hard to top those old Universal horror movies - I watched “The Invisible Man” a few months ago. Claude Rains is SO great!

TokyoMagic!, it sounds like you might have a pretty sizable collection of old TV Guides! I’ve certainly enjoyed looking at the scans on your blog, especially the ads. I hope Sunbeam paid Shirley a sum that was worthy of her stardom. Meanwhile, why do I never remember Disneyland’s birthday??

Chuck, it is my greatest shame that I have never seen The Boatniks. But I have seen Superdad, as well as Gus (about a mule that kicks field goals), does that earn any points?

stu29573, everything is better when it is MIB (Mint In Box)!

stu29573, I wanted to read The Boatniks, but the plot was so hard to follow! So I went back to my “Richie Rich” comic books. He really showed that mean Reggie Van Dough!

Chuck, hopefully you saw that movie in an advanced “History of Film” class, right after “Battleship Potempkin”.

Jonathan, I definitely thought Shirley was hot! I think the first time I saw her was in a movie called “The Cheyenne Social Club”. Years later I saw her in “The Music Man” and “Oklahoma!”, what a beauty.

Nanook said...

So, now do I have to go back and look at The Boatniks-??!! Thankfully, I've yet to see it, and I'd like to keep it that way-!

Nanook said...


"...Gus (about a mule that kicks field goals), does that earn any points?" I would say about three.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I just calls 'em, like I sees 'em! The 63 year-old isn't looking too good these days.

Stu, I don't have The Boatniks book, but I have the comic book! And here is a link to that 1978 Shirley Jones ad for your popcorn maker. I will post it again in November along with some other pages from the same issue of TV Guide. The reason I was saving that issue until then, is because of a TV Guide article about Mickey Mouse's birthday, which is in November. But for now, if you are interested, I stuck the ad into an old post. There are some other odds and ends photos there as well that don't pertain to the original post. Shirley Jones Popcorn Ad

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh my, this is just too weird. First, I mentioned Shirley Jones's House (The Munster House) and the popcorn wagon in the same comment. Then I realized that she did an ad for a popcorn wagon-shaped popper and that I had the ad. Then you said that you have that very same popper. And now I just realized that in that same issue of TV Guide, there is an ad for The Wonderful World of Disney and the movie for that week was, The Boatniks (which Chuck brought up because the Major hates Joe Flynn!). What does it all mean? Is it all just a strange coincidence?

By the way, that Boatniks ad will get posted in November along with the article about Mickey's 50th birthday.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere, somewhen, Rod Serling is reading this thread...


Melissa said...

It really is a ridiculously small world, after all.

Melissa said...

"In my humble opinion, the two greatest tv moms were Barbara Billingsley and Shirley Jones."

I used to wish Gomez and Morticia Addams were my parents, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little. (All other considerations aside, maybe I could have inherited some of Carolyn Jones's looks!)