War TV-MGM Lot 3

Dutch Street, MGM lot 3. This is one of three large size bodies of water in the backlot fairyland. Art Dept. photo from The Wreck of the Mary Deare-1959. This street is best remembered for war, and lots of it!
The Wreck of the Mary Deare….1959. This film stars Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. This is the same scene in living color.
The Mary Deare, this show used Dutch street and this magnificent backdrop.
Backside of this church and village. The church steeple had no back and the Overland guard shack was right behind it. I never got up in this steeple since you would be seen. The blue painted backdrop is the famous MGM Gillespie ocean and is where so many nautical effects by legendary genius Arnold Gillespie, The Wizard of MGM, were created. Listen close, you may still hear the the sound of airplane propellors creating wind effects in Arnold’s ocean.
Glad I didn’t hide up there!
But I almost hid up top here…
I ended up in the middle of this battle-MGM lot 2. Sgt Pepper-1977. Opening scenes…My intention was to go up in the steeple, but it turns out it was rigged to blow up. I was in the middle of a war scene in the tiny French village- FLEU ‘de COUP, with pyro everywhere. I’m not suppose to be here, especially with a camera. It was like Christmas day when my pictures came back from the developer. Magical…I earned them!
Phil Cory, Special Effects...loading a squib gun with blasting putty. Little slabs are put in projectiles and fired by an air-compressed effects gun. This is a war scene- a very active one. I found myself in a church with two Germans at the front door and a machine gun one floor up. A tank was on the street in the middle of this battle. To top it off, an explosion in the steeple was to take place. I snuck right into the middle of this war- my heart skipped a few beats when I realized I was dead center-of – All Hell- breaking lose.

We gotta start somewhere;

Lets start with ear protection, this is a loud remembrance of typical MGM Lot 3 day in the 60’s. I can’t use protection, I gotta know what’s going on…

The way I approach sets is often through buildings, so this can be a dangerous method on war shows. As I work my way around, I have found myself in proximity of explosives that will be going off, more than once. My problem is I’m not at the safety meetings as a trespasser so I have to figure out what’s safe myself. It starts with what is the Panavision camera is looking at, then how is this set being prepared?

With explosives, many safety precautions are necessary, so kids sneaking through buildings is especially dangerous. Fire extinguishers are always present as well as fire hoses. Depending how big the detonation, the fire department may be there. Loose debris, such as cork, that’s light-weight, gets thrown on top of the charges and wood framing is precut to blow apart easy. Special Effects people build things to look real but break easy, prop building is a prerequisite for this job, along with powder license. Welding is also a key component, for blast muzzles to direct the explosions. Combined, this creates the mass of flying timbers with smoke and flash, and noise for absolute realism.

This Dutch Street is often used with sets on lot 2 -when a quaint european atmosphere is needed. But in the 60’s, these sets were purposely bombed, burned, and riddled with bullets from effects legends such as A.D. Flowers. This effects legend has passed on but we will forever be able to watch his work on not only Combat but also on Tora, Tora, Tora, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and so much more. He was considered the top (Powder Guy) in the business. That is short for –Gun Powder.

I had the pleasure of meeting him at Universal. While running set power on a small shoot I was told see what Special Effects needs, and as we began talking, I found out I was talking to my HERO… It’s Flowers- Combat-it’s him. I quickly realized…

“You’re him, you’re Flowers from Combat?” I exclaim.

I turned into a little kid at that moment, ” I heard every one of your detonations at MGM, I lived right behind the backlot, it was non stop war”

It’s funny when you’re around someone famous what you say or ask when you get your moment, and I chose Combat for my reflections with him. He had no problem reflecting backwards and we shared something …we both grew up loving MGM!

Meeting Vic Morrow was a bucket list experience, especially since he passed on a week later. But this effects legend extraordinaire is who kept these weapons locked and loaded. Real deal professionalism in an extremely dangerous occupation. It was quite apparent-he lived for this stuff. So do I.

This was one of my most cherished memories and connected dots back to my childhood, I’ve been very blessed. I live my lunch-pails as I liked to say.

Combat- Telly Savalas…Pre- his role in The Dirty Dozen. The actual view from the church tower.
The little bridge that saw more action than The Bridge at Remagen did. It crossed the pond that was located at the base of church-Lot 3.
Telly as a French resistance fighter assisting Saunders squad.
A typical day on Dutch street.
Only the guest stars die on this show-Combat!
I had this game, how could I not-I lived it. My pal Jimmy and I played this IDEAL game on the backlot in German Village-MGM lot 2. We actually played this board game in the battered backlot war torn village. It’s like being in the Twilight Zone, whats real, what’s not. The board I would have designed would have had streets and buildings, more of a backlot board battle zone. As we grew older, we recreated Combat with BB gun battles and fought exactly where our heroes fought so valiantly.
Ron Harper, he starred in the short lived Planet of the Apes -T.V series in the 70’s at MGM. We met there. I feel bad for those male models on TV. It must be awful. Try working with tools all day fellas!
This cover photo was taken on the bridge in front of this church on lot 3.
Bridge-Lot 3…Quality backlot comics. You could say after this show was cancelled, my friends and I became the Rat Patrol.
Quality reading while sitting around the backlot or even… in the back of a classroom.
This show looks good!- Channel 7, your station and network for WAR -TV

Same angle, press picture day…
Dutch Street…
Time to go over the script…

Dutch Street- night scene-Jericho
Into the river we go!
It doesn’t get much realer than this…
The stairs lead up to the church front door… I recommend-stay hidden!
This tiny bridge has seen more action than any bridge in any Hollywood studio.
You can fit a small craft underneath but the water stops there going that direction.
Ooops…I dropped my hand grenade. At night, the sky glowed orange around this backlot…
A typical episode has all its exteriors on one of the two main MGM backlots.
A nice reflection off the pond of the steeple.
The calm before the storm…Jericho
The bridge over troubled waters...Jericho TV
I wouldn’t fish here, there’s a safer pond over yonder…
Get me outta here!
This film uses Dutch Street and The Giant Sky Backdrop. The water was drained out and fake snow added in front of the Scenic Backing. They have a scene driving over Dutch street bridge up to a guard shack, at night. The last war film at the Big Sky and Dutch Street sets.
This coning tower ended up on Lot 2 after the auction, no one bought it. Just a tower, not a complete sub.
The Venetian Affair-1966
Area 63 is where our village lies…Across from Overland our lots 5 and 6. Downed bombers laid in a desolate field, used in an episode of 12 O’Clock High. This 20th Century Fox TV show did some episodes involving Lot 3.
Bombs away!
MGM lot 5 had a downed real WW2 bomber sitting in a field of sagebrush, with the wind trying to start up the propellors as the flight crew arrived, which would be Jimmy and I. It was the very first set we explored at that section of MGM. Exactly like this…
Stay out- you will be shot or blown up!…Never will there ever again be an auction like the one described on this public banner. We are not talking toys, full scale, big boy stuff. The beginning of the end of MGM…
I also had a Gomer Pyle lunch can- but that show never blew anything up-except Sgt Carter’s car. That was the best episode ever, by the way, of that series.

WW2 on the MGM backlots lasted over a decade, all through the 60’s before disappearing as the 70’s began. The villages wore their battle scars proudly long after. Craters and shell casings appear as if a full fledged retreat just occurred. The battle torn landscape sits silent, just an occasional door or window slamming in the wind…

I feel privileged to have seen this stuff, met these people, and still be alive and well to share these memories that include legends not only found in front of the screen but also…just out of frame!

3,2,1 ACTION!

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

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