The Twilight Zone-Combat Connection.

The only set on MGM lot 3 never in a Twilight Zone episode-Dutch Street.

This street on Lot 3 has been bombed, liberated and had three tanks in one episode race through here for Combat.

This train station was never in the Twilight Zone- but was in several Combats. This steeple was removed to change the landscape for Combat. 1963- for a few months and a few episodes, went topless. This steeple was removed, later reattached. Long ago, an entirely different steeple design was the original. There is a long-standing rule that when you alter sets, you must repair to original form.

Another view from the steeple toward the backside of the “Stopover in a Quiet Town” set

Yet another view from my steeple, we cut peek holes so we could see the lot in every direction. We would sneak in at the train station and run to the church tower, there we would try to figure out what guard is on duty. Everything viewed looking toward Verona Square is Combat country. Every set you see here was in Combat. It’s like a gated community just for Combat. The Twilight Zone used one set, just out of view to the right-out of frame. It was The Bewitchin’ Pool set, used in the final episode ever done. A true classic, you wonder how this show could get canceled.

This area here and distant is Combat territory -The Twilight Zone stay out….Used regularly in the series Combat. Verona Square yonder beyond train platform, another Combat set- never used by Rod Serling.

1978 picture-snow is spread around for a close up of the doorway for a quick insert shot.

The second to last battle ever at this church was used in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A machine gun is firing from that window as the explosion detonates. I walked into the middle of this battle, as I approached this church from behind, I was startled to run into German Soldiers, shooting out the front door, I could have captured them, it was extremely fun, I had more battles in this village than any show with Daisy BB rifles…The final battle would come the following year-The Stuntman with Steve Railsback and Peter O’Toole. The village gets beaten up pretty good in that film. There is a perch at the very top of the steeple that comfortably fits three kids!

This village was never seen in the Twilight Zone, but it’s safe to say Rod spent time walking these cobblestone streets.

Three roads enter this village, all have an archway

View from church second story window, a screen with a depiction of ‘Mother Mary’ partially remains. Machine guns and snipers are positioned up here. The spent shell casings litter the floor. This was a very special set for us- BB Gun fights carried on after Combat, Rat Patrol and Garrison’s Gorillas.

All my pictures are on sets not used in CBS ‘s Twilight Zone

Heads up-some crazy kid is after us”

That open door and platform a top the oversized prop warehouse is the ending credit camera angle.

This 1973 photo of this same set right before the TV series Hawkins filmed this entire street starring Jimmy Stewart for MGM TV. They cut the grass and painted it green. A filming short -cut. Jimmy’s last ever backlot acting moments.

Stopover in a Quiet Town…Combat’s extremely loud German Village lies behind this Quiet town. This overview photo used in the closing credits was shot from the Giant Prop Warehouse just behind our church on Maple Street, a very rare view. Inside the Warehouse is everything from Rocket ships and space capsules to submarines…big toys!

In between the far rooftop with 3 windows and the foreground rooftops is a church without its steeple, thanks to Combat. These episodes were going on at the same time. You see here how close WW 2 encroached upon this quiet street. There was nothing quiet about this street-when your neighbor is Sergeant Saunders. CBS aired The Twilight Zone-Combat was ABC.

No where else will you find pictures inside these legendary backlot steeples. I’m like Quasimodo… This exact 180 degree reverse angle from the German Village steeple towards Maple Street and the camera platform attached to the oversized prop warehouse. That’s the tall green building with the white curvature roof. I am hanging out steeple precariously to grab this picture in 1976.One thing missing is the Church used in “Stop Over in Quiet Town.” It burned down the year prior, I detail this in a poignant kid story in Hole in the Fence 2…”The Uninvited Guest” coming soon!

As a kid, pre VCR’s, I tried to freeze frame this image forever in my mind. There is so much to decipher for a Phantom like myself. I have stories in everything you see-and beyond.

This backlot roofless doorway is next to the steeple less church, just prior to yet another backlot battle.

It features James Coburn, titled The Masquerade, as the sunlight illuminates the windows from the wall less backside.

Through one of three archways leading to town, a battle begins that I could hear at my house.

Take Cover!”

Krauts !”

Nice shooting Saunders

This looks like one of my B.B gun fightsOne of the funnest thing to do on this backlot.

Your a great guest star, and you were great in The Twilight Zone “Old Man in a Cave” too…

The few, the proud, the Marines! A rare moment where my church has no steeple, while the Twilight Zone films Stop Over in a Quiet Town-just a stone’s throw away.

I did not realize the magnitude this Gentlemen, Gene Levitt had on my life, I played army on his Combat sets, often dying exactly where others proceeded me. I heard every battle on this backlot-from my house. I would cross paths with Gene on the Phantom of Lot 2 set. I stumbled onto their set at the Watermill House located alongside Tarzan’s Jungle. Gene was directing The Phantom- Jack Cassidy, in full Phantom costume. He was just about to kill a hard hatted helmeted construction worker when we made eye contact, the big Phantom in a leather mask, looking down on his understudy-me.

Right before Action is yelled by Mr Levitt, Jack Cassidy raises his non weaponed hand and waves approvingly to my astonished appearance. All while holding an iron ball on a chain. A lifelong bond is created on this set. MGM had security on this set close by so just like a true Phantom, I was here one minute- then vanished... The baton was passed on for the decade to come!

Only a Phantom would have this paperwork!

This Daily Schedule from December 6, 1973 is a snapshot of a typical day at MGM back in the day. I would visit with guards at there posts so I could read the information they use. The entire time I was visiting, I was gathering information. Every show on this sheet had episodes using the backlot.

In 1977, on the set of Fantasy Island being filmed in the MGM backlot, I would meet Gene Levitt, Burt Convey, Robert Clary, Herve, and Ricardo Montalban -Mr Rourke. Gene allowed me to watch a day of filming on his set, often right behind the camera an director.I sat in a folding chair with these actors. It was like I was crew on a show I knew nothing about. Episode 2, this series hadn’t aired on network TV yet yet. Gene directed Combat in this same Verona Square set that today served as a prison known as Devil’s Island. One of the funnest days of my life!In a large part to Gene’s letting me be the Phantom of this set-four years after that movie of the week was filmed. Gene would be a great trespasser- I can tell!

As it turns out, Gene worked with Rod Serling on several episodes of Night Gallery at Universal. He also directed Alias Smith and Jones on that lot. My favorite Army show of all time is Combat, my favorite cowboys are Smith and Jones...All Thanks to you Mr Gene Levitt and Mr Rod Serling.

In testament to the legacy of Rod and the Twilight Zone, each episode is so precious that reruns today are still as good as anything ever produced. I pretended with my friend Jimmy to be Rod, we both took turns imitating him with speech and mannerisms. We went as far as to sneak in a rabbit eared T.V to watch reruns in the sets used- 10 years later. Rod, Gene and my backlot will forever be alive in spirit and first class T.V.

This is a tail of two of the most legendary Hollywood Producer Writers in television history and their curious parallel path. The more I researched this, the more captivated I became…

I begin; A thought crossed my mind that involves T.V shows whose credits start with toy doll and a spinning out of control Grandfather Clock, while the other show starts with a helmet and a bayonet. They are MGM backlot neighborsHere’s my conundrum.

Getting my fix watching reruns of The Twilight Zone, as I have for the last 6 decades, a thought crossed my mind. Why did Rod Serling never do an episode in three sections, or villages on Lot 2? It’s then I realized there is one street on Lot 3 he never used. Understand, this show, The Twilight Zone, is almost entirely MGM backlot exteriors, with Culver City streets just outside the studio sprinkled in once in a while.

Dutch Street was never in any Twilight Zone episode. Yet, The Twilight Zone utilized every other set and jungle road on Lot 3, Even obscure sets like the stairway that was the represented library in Time Enough at Last. I cried when I first saw it as a kid, heartbreaking, when Burgess Meredith’s glasses break as he was finishing his reading list for eternity.

Every set could easily be an episode exterior for this show. I presume Rod adapted his writing to fit the locations he had at his disposal. With Rod being an Air Force vet, he produced deep story lines in his war episodes. Like the one that used the Rocks set on Lot 3, where the Japanese were held up in a cave and a snot nosed commander shows up to beat his soldiers down… A Quality of Mercy. Rod used every bit of both these lots.

Why not the French Villages, or Grand Central Station? Both lots have French Villages.

The answer is simple…Combat owned those streets and often left them in disarray. One series aired on CBS while the other aired on ABC. MGM doesn’t care who rents what sets, but the networks do. I would bet Rod would love to have done an episode using Combat’s war torn scenery. Nope can’t – as if the networks were countries at war. These series were filming in the same years with Combat continuing on after The Twilight Zone was canceled.

The other area never in a Twilight Zone is Verona Square on Lot 2. That sits adjacent to the Grand Central Station, and short walk to France. The original sets from Romeo and Juliet have turned into a Combat battlefield. Multiple Battles have been staged here at this village. Often these are the most outrageous battles ever in that series. The sets are the ones closest to my house and Maureen’s apartment window looked dead center into the eye of this hurricane. It’s as if MGM wanted them as far back as possible, plus trains are more important in war than in The Twilight Zone.

A Stop at Willoughby” is a train episode, on Lot 3’s railroad. A western coach, also used in The Harvey Girls. But Lot 2’s oldest sections were staples for White Rook and Check Mate King Two- to continually liberate.

I would imagine Gene Levitt of Combat and Rod were good friends, both veterans of WW 2 and they had stages on the front lot and exteriors on the backlot. I bet anything Rod, when he had a spare minute, witnessed more than one of these backlot battles.

Combat actually was a pain in the rear for studio operations. That said, it’s the best WW 2 series ever and lasted longer than the war itself. The soundtrack carried to every part of the backlot and far beyond. The first time I ever heard gunfire was from Lot 2, in my crib. By the time I was three years old- my antennas were sprouting. I used my own plastic soldiers and pretended Combat’s gunfire were my guys while playing in the dirt in my backyard.

I asked my mom once as all heck was breaking loose-“where is that noise coming from? “

“That’s Combat, they film it at MGM.” she said. That information shaped my life ahead. You can’t be too young to learn where battles on TV get made or live this close without MGM impacting your life. The size and beauty, and noise of this lot can’t be contained by a green, wooden, barbed-wire fence. If you’re a curious little boy like me, gunfire is an invitation for adventures…

Closing thought, CBS was where The Twilight Zone was first filmed in poor videotape quality, but when it shifted to MGM-you had endless possibilities with scripts and exteriors. Combat on the other hand moved to CBS Radford and the show declined. It was much too big for their lot, and much too loud, so most of the final color episodes ended up at Franklin Canyon reservoir. That was where the exteriors were often shot in the final season. CBS had a low bar ceiling and it showed – Long live MGM!

Written and Lived by…Donnie Norden.

Hey everybody, I’m pleased to announce The Phantom of the Backlots is now a YouTube channel of the same name. It will feature my life on the backlots through screen clips where I can break down scenes with my own pictures to compare with…I can take you inside these battles-up close and personal. The Marion Davies Make- Up trailer discovery, recovery will be documented through film- as it happened. We will jump backwards in time, to the Golden Age, to the present tense. Just getting started, stay tuned. Trespassing has never been so easy!

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