I love the MGM, it’s gift that keeps on giving. Internet didn’t exist when I was a young lad inside these fences. Films and TV shows were our link to the past. Books hardly existed on our secret world.
When I saw these pictures from the sky, my heart fluttered. I get to see my home before I lived in it, meaning the studio. The oldest part of MGM lot 2 was the area closest to my house. That explains why so much of what’s located in this section is extremely aged and weathered. Like character wrinkles on an older friends face. We all age, even the sets I play on. But, what I did not know is how lot 2’s NY street was not original, but part of a large expansion.
MGM lot 1, the side with the sound stages, also had sets built on it. A move was made that demolished the sets on lot 1, and more stages were built. Newer, fanciers sets were built brand new on the backlot. This expansion, would see MGM buy up a Culver City street called Wyoming. This section would become the most iconic New York street any backlot would want to have, or dream off. Well thought out and engineered, each angle appears to go on forever. Clever intersections, cut through connecting street after street. It’s a grown ups play set. Add streetlights, newspaper stands, light posts, phone booths, subway portals, cars etc. Next thing you know Gene Kelly will be dancing or skating- down this street..
Even a massive warehouse was constructed on the backlot that could hold both an oceanliner and a rocketship…and everything in between. MGM bragged it has more stars than the heavens, so it needed more real estate to present these actors settings to perform in.
More than any other star, Gene Kelly is attached with this street. American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, It’s Always Fair Weather, and the Black Hand were all done here. Fred Astaire walks down 5th avenue in the classic The Bandwagon.
Red Skelton, The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton are some of the funny people that would create history on 5th avenue. In the 70’s the street saw Joe Gannon of Medical Center have a clinic on it, Soylent Green became the official food of the neighborhood. Richard Roundtree filmed Shaft, the TV series here. I can dig it!
Laugh- in filmed a special on this street which included the legendary Bettie Davis, Roddy McDowell and Robin Williams, on my birthday-1977. I snuck into the theater during filming of a scene and realized the camera was facing in towards us and they were about to detonate a pyro technique explosive, right where we were positioned. We exited just in time before the blast… their is danger in the fun I have.
The Phantom of Hollywood would use the entire lot, including a murder at a studio party thrown by Peter Lawford on my NY street. Broderick Crawford was given the challenge to capture Jack Cassidy, the notorious Phantom. MGM security called me the Phantom before this show was created. In the script, two kids die falling from where my Boystown fort happened to be, at the time of this filming. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Planet of the Apes would take this street captive only to die off due to poor ratings. Yul Brynner stared me down as the Ultimate Warrior, dead center of this theater district, while taking direction, he looked at me like a robot.
Chips even chased a Phantom cycle-down this street. MGM would blow up a portion in 1979 in John Ritter’s Hero at Large feature.
It’s amazing how a couple pictures can conjure up so many memories…