Brothers Grimm at MGM Studios

Look what I found! That’s my buddy Stanley peaking out the dragons head.

The monster in 1962- just before bing subdued by Buddy Hackett
From the Original Cinerama 6-Sheet, 1962
This monster and I became close. He was stored in the Giant Prop Warehouse on the MGM backlot.
This massive plaster and composite creature was built like a house. Plaster and chicken wire on a wood frame. Paint it- last detail. Then light it to highlight its green coloring…
Promotional Jig Saw Puzzle- we looked everywhere for the head to complete the dragon when we determined there wasn’t ever a head on the real full scale Dragon. We were playing a real puzzle with real pieces back in the early seventies… I lived this puzzle! This dragon escaped the famous MGM auction. What kid wouldn’t want that next to their swing set. It was to big for me to take!

MGM’s famous Grand Central Station was one of the locations used in the filming of Brothers Grimm. It can be a working train station which actually ties in to Southern Pacific’s tracks where MGM shipped out large props such as stage coaches to arrive at various filming locations. This iconic set, Grand Central Station, was located inside MGM’s fabled Lot 2, and was featured in the closing scenes of this classic tale of The Brothers Grimm in 1962. This set had a small but important role, when Hollywood needed a grand rail depot. In 1972 while roaming this backlot we found the dragon which was missing it’s head, used in Brothers Grimm. At the time we weren’t sure what movie it was from. We searched the area everywhere looking for the head but it was gone! It did not need a stationary head- facial expressions would be needed. It never had a plaster head. Visual effects takes over in the Buddy Hackett/ dragon interactions. That’s a George Pal specialty. He had just completed work on the classic Time Machine film on this very same lot the year before. Below is a picture I took of my friend Stanley peeking out the neck of the dragon.

The Brothers Grimm was filmed here the same time the television show Combat was blowing up these same sets. MGM had a difficult time on the backlots in the early sixties with all the sound issues these battles created. Sound can’t be contained. I could hear it at my house. The sound of gunfire was equivalent to a fire bell or the end-of-day school bell for me. Me and my buddies would go running out of the house and be on set in literally just moments- to see what action was going on today at MGM!

Combat factor exists-Often a big problem, that hit show was a nightmare for other films and TV shows not set in WWII. The Twilight Zone battled Combat, just for quiet. Imagine trying to film the Twilight Zone episode “Stop Over in a Quiet Town” here. This Quiet Town sits next to the loudest village in all of Hollywood. The small town square is deserted, except for the battalion sitting in the shadows with their guns hanging out the windows. These shows that attempted to film quietly would have to be in radio contact with the production of Combat, so quiet scenes could happen while Combat reloads. It’s probably something many folk don’t realize takes place. But, it does…. I’ve personally dealt with sound carry over several times at Universal.

I enjoyed all the gunfire, as a boy. It made my army battles in my yard feel so real. Non-stop gunfire, all day, only stopping to reload or move cameras. What you see on TV was half of what took place gunfire and noise wise. Much gets edited, but when in doubt –fire away.

The movie Phantom of Hollywood, to the T.V. series Planet of the Apes, and of course That’s Entertainment all thrashed it. But the Fortune, Capone, and Young Frankenstein all fixed it up nice before filming began.

This plot of land with it’s wonderful worldly sets is where magic creates itself. I still feel it when I walk my dog down the residential streets that now cover what once was. Magic is real but you must believe in your wishes! In my case an MGM genie was perched on my shoulder and gave me everything I ever dreamed of-and still is ! It was like I was inserted into this world to first live, then share all these special memories from this wonderful real life fairy-tale land.

My big dream now is making a film based of these kid stories, the entire decade of the seventies- relived. This era of color, music, and energy played out full scale, this lot went with a bang. I’ll take you there, in my upcoming book- Hole in the Fence. This time can be recaptured for all through the tiny eyes of little trespassers -that turned into big trespassers on the ultimate E-ticket ride. Buckle-up!

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

This depot had to turn over from a bombed out shell to fancy Grand Central, almost overnight. That’s the world in all the busy Hollywood backlots. I’ve witnessed this depot go from thrashed to fancy a few times.

My picture looking down on this set from a church tower. The bridge is barely visible to the left.

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Combat… Saunders- just Stayin Alive
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1964 Combat episodeWhat are the Bugles Blowin’ For?

Brothers Grimm- meet Brothers Gibb…they’re here to close out this old station with a very appropriate rock video- Stayin Alive…This was the last scene ever filmed here at this iconic rail destination.-1977. The lot was not only Alive’ but flourishing!

Fred Astaire, That’s Entertainment 1974. I met Fred on this show. I have his autograph, as well as Mr. Gene Kelly’s. I have met so many stars in my life- but the old MGM stable of icons stands alone. Their is a dignified air about them. It’s a lost vibration in todays Hollywood. This feeling will never exist again. As each legend moves on, we lose quality that can’t be replaced. The magic of film allows us to enertained and this backlot was the canvas for all these artists to costume up and do what they do best. Understand these MGM icons always coinsidered MGM backlots, both 2/3, the real MGM stars. “We just film in this wonderland- the backlots the star.” That’s a quote Gene Kelly told me with a huge Gene Kelly melt your heart grin- when I told him we recreate his dance numbers on New York street.

1975 N.Y Central is painted over what was Penn Central for Young Frankenstien.

MGM Backlot 2 Train Station location-bottom left corner is a large green structure that is a working rail station.

Premiere Ticket to the the Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood
Such similarities in these two films
George Pal was busy on the MGM backlots as 1960 rolled in. This picture is where Filby’s modern store existed. The town is taking cover from the Mushroom clouds.
Another fun toy for the backyard- a fancy newer model time machine, it’s got a V-8. Speeds through time…
To anyone who is interested, the restored Blu-ray of this Cinerama tale will be released in October of this year.

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

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