Backlot doorways connect one country to another

A phenomenon exists all over lot 2, particularly on the sets I’m off to explore today. It starts soon after climbing in and taking cover in the old Pullman train cars. We notice Penn central painted on one side of the train, but as we exit the opposite side, German  wording is painted. Same train and tracks, but two different countries.

Different doors signify different countries. This is what I find fascinating about this studio backlot. Paint and props, costumes, and motorized vehicles can entirely change the location to anywhere that a show wishes to impress on your mind.

In fact, just a slingshot away lies another depot, popular in army shows such as Combat, The Rat Patrol, and Garrison’s Gorillas. It is nomadic in nature and is located adjacent to the entrance of what I named German Village… from all the war episodes shot here.

Robert Duvall at gun point in The Enemy, 1965

My best friend Jimmy, and I, watch all these classic reruns. We wish we had an all-MGM-all-the-time channel to follow this stuff, non-stop. We want all the history that took/takes place here, so we can recreate famous scenes exactly where they were filmed. My new hobbies have transformed me into a Phantom.



This arch is one of three entrances into this tiny village. The nomadic train station lets you off here, so to speak. That station is 20 feet away from this picture. The arch at the opposite end is the second road in. The picture below shows the third cobblestone path into this usually bombed-out village.

This is a production still photo on the set of The Three Musketeers, 1947 (film date precedes release date).

Later on, when I meet Mr Gene Kelly in person, he will tell me this was his all-time favorite film.

The doorways and buildings that you see in all of these photos, lead into one another, with some opening into The Great Wall of China, which stands menacingly, in the background.IMG_0862.jpg
The Great Wall… if you dare to go through its gates… you may end up in any city, in any era, in Asia or Europe.

This is what I admire about this wonderland. History class at school is nothing compared to history lessons on this lot. It is all accessible if you walk through the right door. But, be prepared to run. We’re Trespassing .. Remember that!…and wear a good pair of tennis shoes.

This Chinese set is very weathered and care must be taken when you ascend upwards, as some floors can no longer hold much weight. But this quality also offers character, like lines on an old friend’s face.

Most buildings on this shanty town square, also known as “Joppa Square,” appear as old as China itself. The Great Wall is actually a complete building… the front is the Great Wall, but the backside has a front that is more European.

IMG_0861 2.jpgIMG_0863.jpgimg_1239.jpg

Van Johnson is a prisoner of war who has been captured in 30 seconds over Tokyo, above picture.

Across from this set is a village I nicknamed “Mexican Village,” due to its Spanish architecture. The backside of this village is easily viewed from the city street that runs along the backside of it.

Backside Mexican village as viewed from Elenda street. A path I walked every day for almost two decades. Every adventure begins and ends going down this path.

The line on the map above indicates the nomadic train depot. The circle is the German village and the neighboring Joppa Square, or as I call it, “Chinese Street.” The partial square is Mexican village. This set can be viewed along Elenda St.. and the picture above map is the view from that street.

This is what we explored today. Stay tuned!

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…







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