We’re Busy!…The Fortune/Planet of the Apes…Chapter 52

MGM’s New York street is seeing massive preparation for a new TV series based off the popular “Planet of the Apes” movies.


When a group of studio laborers tell me this, I can’t believe it! These are my favorite movies in the theaters, and now they’ll be both on TV and filming in my backyard!

Set decoration is already underway. Truckload after truckload of concrete and broken cement is being dumped along the length of New York Street and Brownstone Street. It’s a massive undertaking.

It’s all there to make things look post-apocalyptic. The phony high-rises on the backlot have theoretically been damaged or destroyed by earthquakes. Humans exist, but live like rats in the decay, and apes are now in charge of this area code.

It will take a few weeks to get this set up to snuff, with the labor and art crews working side by side. Special effects is also busy on some gags, including “earthquakes” that will cause a subway to collapse. An endless line of dump trucks line New York street, dumping load after load of broken concrete on all the streets that intersect in this metropolis. Bobcats, or tiny tractors, then skillfully reposition this cement along sidewalks and doorways. Cement destruction due to Earthquakes are what the Art Department is selling here.

Everyone on the set is friendly, which makes it easy for me and my pals to intermingle with the Fox crew. Work lights illuminate the set at night for security, hazards exist everywhere, and MGM guards patrol the area after closing. Seeing this set under the glow of 1000 watt light bulbs screwed into worklight stands that stretch the length of the street called 5th avenue is extremely impressive. The light stands are so old they look like they were in some old monster movies, they appear haunted themselves. Rigid steel uprights with a 90 degree bend on the top hold a large caged light bulb that is almost the size of a human head. These lights get daisy chained together and appear to go on forever. When we see security do foot patrol, the lights cast huge human form shadows on the fronts of all the buildings. These shadows are spooky, yet fascinating. Security appears as giant monsters at night. But from 6am to 6pm, it’s just 20th Century Fox and a studio work force preparing the streets.

As preparation takes place on this end of the backlot, the opposite end is busy with painters painting the old trains. Most importantly, the whole set can be seen from my girlfriend Maureen’s bedroom window.

This art department at the train station has inherited a decent looking set, Young Frankenstein had this depot looking good. The Fortune, which is currently shooting on the Desilu lot, is just hanging a few light fixtures and splashing on some fresh green paint over signage that says Pennsylvania Station. While the west end of Lot 2 starts to sparkle, the east end is spending a lot of money to fabricate a decayed environment policed by apes. 

I’m told that as soon as the train scenes are wrapped with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, the set will immediately flip over to “Planet of the Apes.”

The Fortune needs the station to look fancy and modern–plush looking trains, folks in suits and ties, etc. The “Apes” want the exact opposite. They want a hunting ground where they can eliminate rag-clad humans!

Apes on horseback with rifles are going to swarm this old train depot, but not until after The Fortune shoots its intricate, interactive dialogue scenes here. As complete opposite ends of the spectrum as you could want to see.

Little do I know at this time that my dad is working behind the scenes, trying to get me access to the “Planet of the Apes” set. It’s an opportunity that rarely presents itself, and I may have a big surprise waiting a few weeks down the line, but for now it’s still a dad’s secret from his son.

What’s fun is seeing the daily progression of the sets and how cool everything looks all lit up in the night-time! This place is normally very dark at night, I mean, very scary dark!

Word rapidly spreads through the school-kids network about what’s in store on the backlot. Even people I don’t normally care much for are suddenly showing an interest, asking for info, schedules, or even just to show them around. I’m popular, like some producer’s kid!…

I should charge admission. This event most certainly will sell out!

I expect there to be a large neighborhood turn out when the film trucks and equipment finally start rolling in. MGM security will have its hands full … as we look forward to a little Hot Fun in the Summertime.

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…


3 thoughts on “We’re Busy!…The Fortune/Planet of the Apes…Chapter 52”

  1. Hey There…
    Haven’t been by here in a while. I used to work on the lot, so I’m always interested in back lot nostalgia! I remember your earlier blogs being written really well… that impressed me, as I’m a curator for another back lot publication. Hope you don’t take offense, but your latest blogs just seem different somehow. Anyway, from one back lot lover to another! Tom

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