Air Raid Wardens

My picture-1973 Same spot…

1977, remodeled for Sgt. Pepper.

Here’s a picture of the Church on what we called it “Andy Hardy Street” . You’ll see it in the background below.

The Town of Huxton, In my picture, I captured this exact area thirty years later that graced these scenes, Church is barely visible to the right.

Our Heroes on the MGM backlot in a town called Huxton.

This is the actual costume worn in this feature, bought by Ron Wolf, at the MGM Auction. This man has a collection items practically second to none. It’s wonderful he shares his collection with all of us. Great job on all your MGM history, it inspired this post- Ron possesses many MGM treasures,

Interior collar-Mr. Stan Laurel

Oliver Hardy’s pants worn in this feature.

Oliver Hardy wardrobe…

1941 version.

Same set 1973 used in 1941, This building is the one the flyers are being pasted on.

Laurel and Hardy make friends with a cute little pooch.

1946-5 years later same sets in the town called Huxton in Air Raid Wardens. My personal MGM Art Department Collection.

L&H about to enter the Courthouse.

The courthouse across the way is where the dog scene was done.

Sgt. Pepper 1977, Courthouse replaced for a modern one. Buildings/street behind courthouse exactly the same…

Company moveNew York Street, MGM Lot 2. This building allows interior scenes to be utilized.

Same interior, same building, 1979. This interior can also be seen in The Blackboard Jungle, starring Glen Ford and Sidney Pottier.The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened inside here- Roger Corman, 1967. Mr Corman returned to this very set in 1975, for another Al Capone. The first starred George Segal, the second-Ben Gazzara.

In this scene, a dump truck narrowly misses running over the man attached to this sled, but does drop dirt all over him.

Interesting fact, both George Segal and Ben Gazzara star in MGM’s The Bridge of Remagen, both played the role of Al Capone for Roger Corman at different times in this building.

A picture I took of the outside of the building. The inside of this building has stories to tell. The TV Series Our Gang, when MGM took over the series, filmed the kids board a open air bus with fishing poles in tow at a Bus Stop located out front.

Same set-17 years after L&H.

Once again, same building in 1955. Eastside Side Street, MGM Art Collection. I wish I had those swinging saloon doors. Just across the cobblestone street shown but out of frame is The Filmways Building. Also known as Cartoon Building.

A rainy day on Lot 2, 1978. Logan’s Run is a top the Blue MGM Studio sign, farthest back in picture.The area was all sets that’s pictured above. The area in this picture burned down in 1967. That included Singing in the Rain- dance sequence was done on street that is now surrounded by grass and stairway storage in this picture. Between the white fence and those platforms-Gene Kelly danced in that all time classic, done a decade after Air Raid Wardens.

!978, My dog Tashka, A Siberian Husky rescue. This dog loved me to so much.It came with to MGM often.The all time trespassing dog ever. It so loved this lot, when it escaped my yard, which happened often, it would go to MGM looking for me. Once on the lot, playing with my friends, my dog came on the lot like a trespasser and found me. Lassie Come Home…Husky Style.

Fantastic angle for this film, You can see the New York Street Set and beyond that, Stages 27 and 29. Those stages are in this film as a matte painting-Ajax Magnesium Corporation. I was watching a Lemon Up commercial being filmed on that same corner L&H used in their film.

Stage 27, MGM. This emergency response convoy is in alignment with the Sony Studio Overland Gate today. Office buildings and a large parking structure now fill in this ground level past tense.This is live action/ matte painting. All things above the stage roof painted to look like an industrial factory.

Magnesium Corp-Stages 27/29

This area has changed significantly as land is valuable. When Air Raid Wardens was filmed, this set existed here at the Dock Tank. MGM Lot 1 used to be loaded with exterior sets, but as more stages were added, exteriors shifted to the backlots 2/3.The stage towering over the smoke stacks is -The Magnesium Corporation.

Grand Hotel is on the billboard bottom-1932. This was the backlot, on the front lot mostly. Stages would eventually fill in much of this area later.

This is where the rubber meets the road. The stages bottom left corner have been built, 27,28,29,30. AJAX Magnesium Corporation is located here. The emergency vehicles arriving use the road just left of the dock tank. This angle would allow you to see the entire concluding scenes.

A salute is in order for all those who served our country, and for those who provided entertainment in a time of war.

Check out my YouTube Channel…PhantomoftheBacklots

We Begin;

My Favorite Laurel and Hardy film is this one!…As a kid we retraced every step, rehearsed every scene as if Jimmy and I were Laurel and Hardy. New did our best to be- just that! These two stars main body of work was not at MGM, so little backlot filming took place involving these two. But this show loaded up on the backlot, from Huxton, located at Small Town Square, to New York Street, and finally the backlot located on the front lot.

My Dad was Laurel and Hardy’s biggest fan, he laughed at everything they did. So whenever it was on TV, it was on at my house. Interestingly, this film was made at the height of World War 2 , at a time when comedy was needed the most. The world was in disarray, with no for sure knowing what the output would be. Tumultuous times for sure.

With much of their work being done local, at Hal Roach Studios, MGM was musicals in the Forty’s and Fifty’s, their staple. The Marx Brothers, in 1941, did a classic backlot feature, The Big Store.

Our Gang, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers didn’t start at MGM, but finished there. They even housed Buster in a trailer in the backlot as his career fizzled out. Some of their best work, all be it the tail end of each’s career, happened at MGM. A studio packed with resources like no other, it sprinkled ferry dust on these comedic giants and squeezed some sensational work from each.

That’s Louie B Mayer for you, you dream it, we can make it. For eternity, MGM will be the studio known for extravagantly lavish musicals. But whatever it set it’s sights on production wise-always worked. When television came in to play, MGM retooled and made T.V….WAR TV.

Trust me, I heard every gun shot, explosion and battle. The place was nuts by the time the 60’s rolled in. Musicals phased out, and sensational war films, the best ever were made by MGM. From The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, Where Eagles Dare, to The Bridge at Remagen, MGM made the war last for decades.

MGM could deliver the goods on whatever the studio chose as its” lead face.”

Backwards in time…Nicholas Schenck- Marcus Loew were the financial backbone this mighty studio. Marcus ran the East Coast Theater chain while Louie B Mayer ran the Culver City Studio with head of production Irving Thalberg.

Irving began his career at age 24…By the end of “The Golden Age” in the Thirty’s, MGM was the industry leader, averaging one new feature a week. In the Forties, economics changed due to World War 2. Many customers are now fighting in the war. MGM slashed production in half and cut the five most expensive contracts, all women. They still produced lavishly staged, high budget musicals.

The war ends and law suits begin, Loews Theaters were attacked in 1952, the money source for MGM, and by 1957 became fully divested from MGM. In 1960, MGM fired all their contract players. Through the 60’s, MGM was a shell of itself. It’s physical assets became more appealing than film making itself.

Sadly, a villain enters the scene known as Kirk Kerkorian and the demise of the greatest studio of all time was completed. He refused to sell to Debbie Reynolds who lobbied with all her heart and soul to save this historic, enchanted wonderland.

One thing Kirk can’t ruin was all the films in the can MGM produced. Ted Turner snatched those and Amazon owns this mighty name now for the price of 8.5 billion…for a logo.

Not just any logo, the mighty Lion that once roared overlooking this city. We will see if Amazon becomes a prince on a white horse to the rescue, restoring MGM to their past level off glory. Or, just a package delivering company with a double parked truck, blocking my driveway with its “emergency flashers” on.

It’s time to relight that wonderful MGM Lion Sign- 8.5 billion dollars later.

Louie B. Mayer and all the top brass would roll in their graves if they heard the numbers at play today in the hands of questionable film makers.

Written and lived by… Donnie Norden

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