My journey into a wonderous land of imagination. Your next stop: The MGM Backlots

Join me as I take you on an adventure through the streets of the MGM Studios Backlots.

A scene from the Twilight Zone episode “Passage on the Lady Anne.” NY Dock, MGM Lot #2. Directed by Lamont Johnson, written by Charles Beaumont in 1963.

My MGM Art Department still of the NY Dock used in the Twilight Zone episode Passage on the Lady Anne. NY Dock, MGM Lot #2.

This ship never sailed so this ramp never moved…

My picture of the New York Docks, years later, used in the Twilight Zone episode Passage on the Lady Anne. New York Dock, MGM Lot #2.

A scene from the Twilight Zone episode “One For The Angels.” Directed by Robert Parrish. Written by Rod Serling in 1959. The second episode ever filmed and the first on the MGM backlot. Episode one-“Where is Everybody?” was done on the Universal Backlot. This set is located at the corner of 5th avenue-MGM Backlot #2.

A picture I took of the courthouse in 1976, from the episode One For The Angels

Our next stop are the sets used in the haunting episode “Deaths-Head Revisited” MGM Backlot #3. Directed by Don Medford, written by Rod Serling in 1961. Rod had a penchant for WW 2 stories as well he should, since he was in the middle of it. His spirit and soul comes forward in the episodes in this series involving this topic. War was MGM’s specialty, and Lot 3 was one of the studio’s main battlefields.

My Art Department still of the same location used in the episode Deaths-Head Revisited. MGM Backlot #3. Combat,

Next stop is the Twilight Zone episode The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. This is the neighborhood where Andy Hardy and Donnie Norden grew up. I had a fort upstairs in his house. The studio name for this street is New England Street. We call it Maple Street. MGM Backlot #2. This is a great street to watch reruns on-“I live my TV”

Twilight Zone episode The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. MGM Backlot #2. Directed by Ron Winston. Written by Rod Serling, 1960.”Bob’s House-why does his car start?”

This is the same house the mob is standing in front of in the previous picture, in the Twilight Zone episode The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. New England St. MGM Backlot #2. This picture was taken after a fire that took down the church. This home would be restored two years later for the film Sgt. Pepper.

Opening scene in “Living Doll” episode starring Telly Savalas. Directed by Richard C. Sarafian, Written by Charles Beaumont, 1963.

Shelley Fabares just missed her bus, but this gentleman is nice enough to –offer up a ride.

Black Leather Jackets cruisin’ for a bruisin’ on Maple Street. Directed by Joseph M. Newman. Written by Earl Hamner Jr. 1964

1977-I’m on the set of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Everything sparkles in the summer of love. Woodstock comes to MGM, as top bands come to perform unlike any musical ever made. Peter Frampton jumps out the upstairs window in that corner building…he is saved by Billy Preston.

The next stop, the Twilight Zone episode Stopover in a Quiet Town. Also filmed on New England St. MGM Backlot #2. My friends and I called this street “Maple Street”

Bob’s House”- where he stands outside in the middle of the night “looking, or just waiting, for something to come from the sky above” – “Why does his car start, when no one else’s car does?” There’s always that one neighbor who doesn’t fit in. We not only watched this episode rerun here on this street, we acted it out, line for line…Featured in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”

From Twilight Zone episode Stopover in a Quiet Town. The Church located at the end of the street, shown on the right in the aerial picture. New England St., MGM Backlot #2.

A picture of the church I took in 73.’

The pool and mansion from Twilight Zone episode The Bewitchin’ Pool. MGM Backlot #2. Directed by Joseph M. Newman, written by Earl Hamner Jr. This sadly was the series’ last episode…1964.

The water’s fine, follow me over to the lake at Lot 3″

Filmed where Esther Williams once swam, she too may have disappeared to the temptations of Aunt Tee. That gingerbread house is pretty tempting, just ask Jeb and Sport. The Bewitchin’ Pool was a place to hide from bickering parents. MGM Backlot #2.

Jimmy and I spent a lot of time at this pool trying our darnedest to get to this party!

Is anyone home?’– “I want to go horseback riding.” That’s me knocking at the front door. Same mansion from Twilight Zone episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool” and “Spur of the Moment.”

Spur of the Moment” directed by Elliot Silverstein. Written by -Richard Matheson-1964

Night scene -“Spur of the Moment”…1964

Exact angle in daylight-I snapped this picture in 1977.

Kick the Can” episode, filmed on St. Louis Street, MGM Backlot #3. Directed by Lamont Johnson. Written by George Clayton Johnson in 1962. “I was a young kid like these when I first went down this road-at night– with a full moon”

Twilight Episode “Kick the Can”, St Louis Street, MGM Backlot #3. Today, Sunnyvale Rest is would make a fine rest stop for the- “aged Donnie.” I grew old here amongst Peace and Tranquility. I’ve transformed from Can Kickin to Porch Rockin…Can’t stop Father Time!

Sunnyvale Rest Home from “Kick the Can”. Building number 532, St. Louis Street, MGM Backlot #3 (1970). The MGM Auction is selling everything not nailed down at this time.

The Odyssey of Flight 33-Interior of cockpit of Flight 33. I’m a frequent flyer on this aircraft, usually I take place of the Captain….Directed by Jus Addiss. Written by Rod Serling-1961.

Give him something to drink-everything is fine Shatner!”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Directed by Dick Donner. Written by Richard Matheson-1963.

A picture of the cockpit from 1979, used in some of the scenes.

From the episode Dust. Ghost Town, MGM Backlot#3. Directed by Douglas Heyes. Written by Rod Serling-1961.

My Art Department Still. Red arrow shows the same location from the opening credits of Dust. Notice the train they moved to block Baldwin Hills. Ghost Town, MGM Backlot#3.

Nick of Time…Starring William Shatner. Directed by Richard L. Bare, Written by Richard Matheson. 1960. Small Town Square.

The park, center of town with the Happy Newlyweds.

Small Town Square, I took this picture in 1975. That tiny dried out park is located dead center of the backlot. A cannon, a flagpole, and a clock are typical set decorations that get added here.

“Don’t drag me back in there- Don!”

Is there anyway out…anyway at all?

3:22 P.M…”All’s well that ends well.” Moving on from that sinister little Fortune Teller.

Once Upon a Time” The town on the MGM backlot #2-Small Town Square, once again. This episode stars Buster Keaton. An MGM contract player who made a lot of money at MGM while his career deteriorated. Word has it he stayed on the backlot in a trailer and enjoyed alcohol regularly on the backlot. I love this episode that Norman Z McLeod directed. Written by Richard Matheson… 1961

Welcome to Harmony” ...I’m standing exactly where Buster Keaton is standing under the Harmony banner.This is now a real residential neighborhood called “Studio Estates” but I call it-“Studio Mistakes.” I took this picture at 5-A.M on Astaire Street as the full moon sets in the North -West. Yes, I to was wearing a “sparkler helmet”

None of these clocks work!”

Recognize the clock? This prop gets recycled all the time on this lot. Here being used in Once Upon a Time. Main Street Jewelers is Campus Jewelers in disguise.

Small Town Square, MGM Backlot #2. Picture snapped from roof of Courthouse on a spectacular puffy clouded day rooftop hopping. 1974, I remember taking this and a series of photos like it was yesterday. Very windy afternoon, those were the funnest days on this backlot. The spirits come out in force, doors slam, curtains rustle, squeeks sound like some old lines being delivered. Everything subtle comes back to life -flamboyantly. The wind is like your car key, it turns on the ignition to this marvelous fairy land.

From the episode Elegy. St Louis Street, MGM Backlot #3. Directed by Douglas Heyes. Written by Charles Beaumont-1960.

MGM Backlot #3. The same house from the episode Elegy was used in Meet Me in St. Louis, with Judy Garland. St Louis Street, MGM Backlot #3

From the episode The Old Man in the Cave. Ghost Town, MGM Backlot#3. Directed by Alan Crosland Jr. Based off a short story by Henry Slezar, tele-played by Rod Serling…1963

Years later, Ghost Town, MGM Backlot#3. Support Your Local Sheriff was the last western filmed on this dirt road.

A Stop at Willoughby” County Courthouse, MGM Backlot #3. Directed by Robert Parrish, written by Rod Serling…1960.

1970 showing the same building from A Stop at Willoughby. County Courthouse, MGM Backlot #3.

Eight ball- corner pocket”-Rod wins again!

“Game of Pool” Directed by Buzz Kulick. Written by Rod Serling-1961.

The End…Rod Serling’s Production Company. Named after Cayuga Lake in New York, where Rod had a summer home.This company was operated out of MGM. The series came to an ending after it’s 5th season. Rod ended up selling his interest to CBS for a small sum, thinking it would never again be profitable. I still watch it and own the special formatted DVD collection. Sensationally exquisite with interviews and commercials from that time. It takes you back to the golden age of television. It’s a pricey collection but worth every penny.

My journey into a wonderous land of imagination. Next stop-MGM Backlots

Fade in from the sky... On the deep dark corners of the MGM backlot-Rod’s ghost lives on. Follow the scent of his Chesterfield cigarettes, take time to inhale before delivering your brilliant opening monologues. Often these are delivered from a porch or alongside shrubbery. That’s where you usually find me. As kids, we idolized Rod because we loved the Twilight Zone.

We all knew Combat filmed here because the studio fences could not contain World War 2. But, once we entered inside-through a Hole in the Fence, we discovered there is more going on inside here than just war. Being limited in the day to TV’s that just had channels 2-13, with several numbers omitted, we had a small sample size. We knew this show was filmed here because the credits said Metro Goldwyn Mayer on them. Sure enough, as we trespassed for the very first time, we stumbled upon our first filming set. My pal Jimmy and I stared in amazement at a pool we just saw on TV, The Bewitchin’ Pool. We communicated telepathically at first, with expressions before shouting “This is the Bewitchin’ Pool” we had just watched this rerun-now here it is.

In our endeavors on this lot going forward, we named these sets after famous episodes of this television series and some MGM films. Forever, this pool was referred to by us in terms of Witchcraft. We had no idea this was Esther Williams’ set. Maple Street would be the next title selected and for almost a decade that was how we identified it. This street name transcended time, just like the flying clock in the opening credits.

When the series was cancelled, it lived on through me and a few loyal friends. We recreated Rod’s openings, in our very own mysterious sounding teen age voices. Then we took it to the next level and started sneaking in a television. Battle scarred from being lifted over fences. Yes, we watched this series in the exact sets they were filmed in. A very beaten up television served its purpose for a few years. Sure the rabbit ears were broken and we needed pliers to change the channel, but the quality was pure Black and White Gold!

What’s cool is watching episodes upstairs in these homes, it’s a fusion of color around us with a black and white portal going backwards in time. The ultimate-picture in picture before such a thing existed. The show ironically finished off in 1964 with the Bewitching Pool episode – 8 years later- that’s where I picked up, where they left off. This set is where we first entered The Twilight Zone, unknowingly back then. Once we connected dots, we did our part to relieve every scene done in this wonderland of a backlot, where imagination runs as wild as the kids who trespass through each and every passageway, corridor and revolving door…adventure awaits for those who dare, you gotta believe is all.

Rod would have appreciated how much respect the next generation of future adults still has for him. A small part of him lives in- all us neighborhood kids. This series transcends beyond both time, space and mind. Quantum physics can’t explain it.Take a journey where no boundaries exist…once you’re over the studio fence, that is. It’s here you let your imagination do the work. That sign post ahead- is a prop, the entire backlot is fake-“yet real”...

Welcome to Donnie’s version of growing up in- “The Twilight Zone.” Before we fade back upwards in the sky, “How about just one-more Chesterfield?” Jonathan Winters is just waiting to challenge me to A Game of Pool

Watch what you wish for around here…

Written and lived by Donnie Norden

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