Elvis-Harum Scarum on 2 Backlots…

1965…
Elvis- impersonating a lotus flower. His spiritual journey is as fascinating as this man himself. He spent much time at the Self Realization Fellowship off Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, figuring his life stuff out.
Those stairs going up take you to my first ever Desilu fort. They are featured in this movie.
Elvis at the base of my stairs.
Bountiful treasures exist here
“Yeah, sure, I can dance a little!”
Same set 5 years later…
“Spin me around”
This dance sequence by the King is at Desilu- King on Kings set from the 1927 Cecil B. Demille classic.
A hunk, a hunk, a hunk of burning love…

MGM has so many villages, I was shocked they even left their studio. This lot is as close as MGM lot 3 is to the main MGM facility, so logistics work. MGM has so many of these same style buildings, I was stunned when I realized this was at Desilu.
Billy reminds be of my buddy Pat Rich. Same intense look and extra small. Pat is-Tough as a box of nails!

These trees are in my old pictures.

Elvis at my fort front door, top of the stairs. Camera is inside fort, it wasn’t a fort yet.
Only one way up. But jumping down from windows and balconies afford you more options when being chased.
The rooftop of my fort in the King of Kings set. This is the roof of the building Elvis ran upstairs to. It is the roof for my fort. Hogan’s Heroes bridge is in left edge of this picture. These two dirt roads below split and end up taking you to Mayberry.

You look into this area from the roof of the picture above this one.

Cut here- this chase begins a hot pursuit of our stars that exits Desilu’s old Jerusalem set from the King of Kings. The next scene, chase continued, picks up at MGM lot 2, Chinese street. Very similiar sets, two different studios, one hair-raising chase. My fort is in background. We built it in 1972, my first Desilu fort.

This is the same archway, it leads into the Western Street, where I had a second fort, in the town saloon. We even had a rolling phone that called off- lot. Just dial 9, I called my mom once to tell her “I’m not coming home” one night from the saloon.

Let’s get a drink, I smell Whiskey! I had similiar events happen in this village, several times. Mayhem in Mayberry is a story I shared a ways back that begins with a thundering police herd coming on the backlot for target practice. It was crazier than this show. This sequence switches backlots at this scene.

Chinese street-MGM lot 2, exact spot.
“Will you stand still?”- “I’ve chased you through two lots!”

Elvis here saved by a rock and a little girl.

“I owe you one!”- Elvis helps his little savior.

MGM Security guard Garth Bluff and the Red Bronco are parked at the end of that train. He’s looking for me in the train. We are on top of the fence, across from Maureen’s apartment. Her bedroom view of the backlot is 30 feet behind this fence I’m on top off. The sets for this film can be seen this clearly. The fence on the ground was struck by a car. If your going to crash, this is fun place to get towed!

Am I dreaming, or is Elvis outside my bedroom window?”
Number 17 is the Chinese street set being used in these final pictures. We called it Chinese street also, but sliver street was another description. Every piece of wood you touched with your skin could send you home with a unwanted souvenier. They can be a battle to remove. Cedrick Gibbons, Arnold Gillepie, Harry Oliver, and Edward B. Willis designed this area for The Good Earth, 1937. Maureen’s apartment is located on Elenda, just outside where you see gate in map. The gate was hit by a car and replaced with a prop wall. The starboard side of an ocean liner, including portholes you could look through, was what the studio repair consisted off.
Only a movie studio uses spare ship walls for a quick fix. That’s why I love this place, it’s McGuyverland. You can see the damaged gate in my above photo with the guard.

Harum Scarum ;

Nobody except the King himself can put you in this movie chase besides me. Something caught my attention watching this Elvis rerun recently. Elvis had a Harum at Desilu studios. Even better, he used my fort to escape from angry tribesmen with little Billy Barty. This Middle Eastern village is located just adjacent to the La Ballona creek. Everyshow that films on this lot uses the dirt road behind this village to get to the heart of the backlot.

In 1965, the year this was filmed, an average day on this historic backlot could include one, if not all the shows I will name now:

Hogan’s Heroes, Andy Griffith, Lassie, Gomer Pyle, This was TV in the 60’s at it’s best. Desilu Studios was a TV factory, so when this feature rolled in, it stood out. MGM equipment, MGM personnel and MGM’s biggest star. Goober’s gas station sits almost connected to this village. Production vehicles would have surely been parked here and on Western street. Fitting equipment in on busy backlots goes unnoticed, unless your crew, and there is an an art to loading 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound box. Somehow, it all gets done. I can only imagine the buzz on the backlot on these other sets and shows knowing Elvis is filming here. It’s safe to say the cast of Hogan’s Heroes probably crossed paths with Elvis, even if it was a quick “Hello.”

I’m guessing this Harum Scarum set had a lot of visitors wanting to see a piece of the legend called- The King. He did not let anyone down. He danced about in this tiny village on a backlot known more for horse rustling than dancing…

Stalag 13 stands within close proximity, close enough for sound to carry to the prison. Can’t hide noise. There was a King here in 1933, named Kong. Elvis is running around in the same footsteps where King Kong once filmed. Those sets were destroyed in Gone with the Wind. The burning of Atlanta cleansed this part of the lot. This village from King of Kings has stood through all this history. It remained as the last set standing until a 1976 fire did it in. Goober’s gas station also burned that night at 10:25 pm, December 29,1975. I was there when this fire broke out, it was a fitting way for it to go, bulldozers were soon to be leveling the few sets still standing. Fire was a fitting way to see it disappear. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, best describes the Desilu backlot. It was cremated.

I was told a story that took place at 20th Century Fox in the late 50’s involving Elvis. He had an office next to Marilyn Monroe in a complex on the studio lot. My friend was a laborer and his job was to deliver a piano to a second story office. It had to go up a flight of stairs. Elvis was playing football in a courtyard when the studio crew arrived. He had other plans, he said “Your on that team”, to the one laborer. Elvis directed “Mike Murphy” into his huddle and said “Your with us.”

15 pass plays later, the group all helped get this piano upstairs to finish the delivery.

Number 11 is Elvis, here playing football at MGM in front of my Boystown Fort in another 1969 film The Trouble with Girls

We boys know the trouble with girls- they can’t throw a football!

Roswell New Mexico, the Elvis plane sells for 430,000k just recently. It sat alongside recovered UFO’s for 30 years.

Long Live the King!

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

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