Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Warner Brothers Studio is the powerhouse behind some of the greatest classic films of all time. Casablanca being at the top. But they also produced James Dean’s three major motion pictures, East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant, along with some wonderful television series. And today the Warner Brothers continues to make great and award winning movies and  TV shows. What some people may not know is that you can actually visit Warner Brothers Studios and take a tour of its backlot and sound stages! I was thrilled when I found this out, and Patrick surprised me with tickets over the weekend.

First, I’m always happy when I can visit filming locations, but Warner Brothers’ backlot holds a special place in my heart with its ties to the James Dean’s films, the 1960s Batman series, and my favorite show, the little known series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (Some readers may remember that my devotion extended into me making not one but two cosplays of the character of Dixie Cousins.) However, I knew ahead of time that where the majority of Brisco filmed no longer existed. Like many studios, Warner Brothers had a western area on their backlot. Built in 1957, at the height of westerns, Laramie Street, as it was called, had scenes from not just Brisco film there, but the James Garner classic show Maverick (perhaps my favorite role of his), and Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles shot there as well. But as westerns grew less popular, and family sitcoms and one hour contemporary dramas began to take over the airwaves, Warner Brothers saw little use for Laramie Street, and bulldozed it in 2004 to make way for Warner Village, “a New England-style residential street” where the homes are not just facades, but working production offices as well.

However, Laramie Street is not the only location on Warner’s backlot that Brisco used. They shot extensively on their “New York” sets as well, which acted mostly as San Francisco. Including the Westerfield Club, the Horseshoe Club and the hotel where Brisco and Socrates dangle from a window. (All of the screencaps and their counterparts below are shown respectively.)

And like all shows, Brisco also shot on sound stages. Warner Brothers Studios’ stages all feature plaques that have a list of all of the movies and shows that have filmed on that stage. We were lucky enough to pass by one of the ones Brisco used, stage 19.

We also passed by the building used as police headquarters in Batman, as well as building that acted as the police station that an intoxicated Jim Stark was dragged to in Rebel Without a Cause. Which is currently being used as a high school for Pretty Little Liars.

The tour also featured a museum that rotates exhibits. During our visit the first floor was dedicated to Batman, since the new Batman vs. Superman movie is coming out soon, as well as it being the 75th anniversary of the caped crusader. However, the floor was given to Batman films beginning with Burton’s 1989 version through Batman vs. Superman. The upper floor on the other hand was dedicated to Harry Potter. At the conclusion of our tour we visited Stage 48, part museum, part store, part coffee house, that allows guests to gaze upon items from the archives, such as costumes, artwork and props, as well as experience green screen technology, forced perspective use, and sound mixing. I was most excited over the original Scooby-Doo pitch board and the puppets used in The Corpse Bride.

The Warner Brothers Studio Tour is similar in some ways to the tour at Universal Studios Guests. However when visiting Universal Studios you are mostly visiting an amusement park. The Studio Tour is a part of their heritage, and offers a peek into how movie magic is made, but they do not shy away from gimmicks. Warner Brothers’ tour is different in that it stays away from gimmicks, the tour group is smaller, and guests get to step off of their tour buses and walk along portions of the backlot, as well as onto sound stages (we walked onto the stages for The Big Bang Theory and Ellen), so overall, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour feels much more like a real working backlot, rather than a ride, as with Universal, although Universal is still very much a working set. I was so pleased to be able to visit such locations that mean a great deal to me, and I would honestly go back and do the tour again sometime in the future or when interested friends or family visit.

Other notable movies and shows that have used Warner Brothers’ backlot extensively are A Star is Born, Blade Runner, The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Bonnie and Clyde, The Dukes of Hazard, ER, Friends, Gilmore Girls, and Pushing Daisies.  For those wishing to visit the Warner Brothers Studio you can book through their website.

On the Side of the Road

…just outside of Cholame there is a lonely stretch a road that winds between sun drenched hills there is an intersection that is the location, on a September 30th, one of the brightest stars in Hollywood was snuffed out. James Dean.

I had been to the crash site of James Dean as a kid, in fact you’ll get to see that in a bit, but it had been years, and it was worth a revisit for me, also Patrick had never been.

While there is a James Dean memorial along the highway, the actual crash site where James Dean met his end is at the intersection of 41 and 46 (though in 1955, it was 466), and those in the know pay their respects there. Often it’s easy to spot as those who love Jimmy leave tokens.

It was incredibly winding and brutally hot. I was thankful for wearing a dress that was a little too big and sans belt. Plus we had been on the road since 7 in the morning, so comfort was a bit of a priority.

After stopping at the crash site, we went to the memorial.

I also felt a need to recreate a childhood photo. I think this photo is from 1996…

Shame the rattle snake sign wasn’t there anymore!

I guess it should be noted that we have indeed arrived in California and are off having lots of fun adventures! And as much as I love instant blogging, my 11-inch laptop is quite the change from our 27-inch iMac with regards to editing photos! Also I’m often just beat by the end of the day! So we’ll see if more blogs posts happen while we’re here! Otherwise it will be a flood of posts when we get back to Portland!

California in 120

The last time Janey and I went to California we took along an old Kodak Dualflex II and shot a few rolls of 120 film (You can see those photos here). This time we did it again, and since we drove we got to see the sights a little more.  When we got into LA we stopped at Griffith Park Observatory (one of the shooting locations for Rebel Without a Cause) and took a great set of black and white photos.

I’ll explain why I’m posting this and not Janey a little later.

Once we got to Disneyland the first thing we did was headed straight over and checkout Cars Land, which is nothing short of amazing. There are so many opportunities for fantastic images I used almost an entire roll of film there.

After spending about half a day in Cars Land we went over to Disneyland. But somewhere between Cars Land and Disneyland a switch on the camera got bumped and made the shutter stay open for too long so all of the photos we took in Disneyland look blurry. It’s sad to lose so many good photos but now we know to make sure the switch on the side is flipped to “I” and not to “B”. Janey was to devastated to lose most of the photos, so that’s why I am posting this. Thankfully there were still two good photos of Janey in her Zero skirt so it was not a complete loss.

We will be spending a day or two in Disneyland when we are in California in March. So look for some more 120 photos then!

Observing James Dean

Here I am! Coming to you from California! We made it in to see family today, however earlier in the day we visited the Griffith Observatory.  Not only is it a beautiful art deco building, but it is also the site of the famous fight scene and ultimate climax of one of my favorite films, Rebel without a Cause, and guess what, there’s even a statue of James Dean!

After hamming it up with Jimmy, we took a turn around the outside of the observatory, attempting to spot Los Angeles landmarks through the smog, and then inside, where we witnessed fun displays regarding the sun, moon and planets and a demonstration of the Tesla Coil they have!

And on our way out I noticed that the tunnel you pass through to get to the observatory is the tunnel leading to Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (in addition to many other films, including Back to the Future II and TV shows), yeah I’m that good, or have seen Roger Rabbit way too many times. You decide.

Tomorrow we’re off to Orange for shopping! Planning on revisiting the awesome stores I visited last time we were down in February.

Happy Birthday, James Dean

Yesterday, 80 years ago, a legend was born – James Byron Dean.  With only three  major films under his belt, the young actor died on September 30, 1955, on his way to a race.

I celebrated by watching all three Dean movies and baking a cake for the star who would have turned 80 yesterday.  Call me crazy, but I’m in love with the man.  At age eight I had already visited where Dean had died, and hope soon to make it to Indiana to visit his grave.

In Memoriam: James Dean

Dean and Wutherich departNo Wednesday Wardrobe today, instead I want to take time to reflect on an actor that defined a generation with only three films: James Dean

On this day, in 1955, James Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wutherich set out for a race in Salinas in Jimmy’s new Porsche Spyder that he nicknamed “Little Bastard” (the name and number 130 was painted by George Barris just days before). They had lunch with Jimmy’s father and a few hours later, just outside of Bakersfield, Jimmy got a speeding ticket – 65 in a 55 mph zone – it is the last time he will sign his name. Then at 5:45, at the intersection of routes 46 and 41 near Cholame, Jimmy collided with a Ford that is turning, it was driven by Donald Turnupseed, who walked away from the crash, Wutherich was thrown from the car, surviving, but Jimmy died instantly.

There have been many stories surrounding James Dean and his infamous Porsche. Some claimed the car was cursed, some say Jimmy had a death wish (while others strongly are against that claim, saying he was a young man who loved life). But there are many ironic events surrounding the time of Jimmy’s death. On September 17, while on the set of Giant, Jimmy did a commercial about driving safety for the National Highway Safety Committee. The last thing he said was “Take it easy driving. The life you might save might be mine.” Additionally, the last scene that he filmed was the “Last Supper” scene for Giant.

Born on February 8, 1931 in Indiana, James Byron Dean was the only child of Mildred and Winton Dean. The family moved to California and in 1940, Mildred died of cervical cancer. Jimmy accompanied his mother’s body back to Fairmount, Indiana and Jimmy then lived with his aunt, Ortense and uncle, Marcus who owned a farm. During his growing up, Jimmy was involved with theatre, speech and debate, as well as being on the baseball and basketball teams in high school.

After graduating in 1949, he left for California were he attended Santa Monica City College and UCLA, participating in theatre and lands his first “professional” acting job – a TV commercial for Pepsi, where he drops a coin into a player piano and he and claps his hands while singing “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot”. He receives $30.00.Jimmy did other theatre and TV movie specials while in California, but late 1951, on the advice of his acting coach, heads to New York.

On the set of GiantIn New York, Jimmy continued to do more bit parts for film and stage, including a Broadway production, See the Jaguar, which lasted three nights.Meanwhile he also auditions for and joins the esteemed Actor’s Studio. This is where he met fellow actor Martin Landau. In 1954, he took to Broadway again with The Immortalist, however he doesn’t spend much time there either, because he signs on for East of Eden, his first major role and heads back to California.The role will also earn him an Oscar nomination – the first ever posthumous nomination in Oscar history. In early 1955, he beagn shooting Rebel without a Cause, his most famous role and shortly after is signed for Giant, which earns him another posthumous Oscar nomination.

Jimmy’s road through Hollywood was also was tainted with his many difficult romances, most notably with Pier Angeli, whom many say was Jimmy’s true love.Angeli broke off the relationship due to much pressure by her mother, since Jimmy was not Catholic. Angeli married singer Vic Damone, and it is said that Jimmy went to the church where the wedding was being held and as the couple exited the church, he revved his motorcycle and sped off, though many friends, including Dennis Hopper believe Jimmy would not have done this. Additionally, many have claimed that Jimmy was a homosexual or at least bisexual, but others believe that any homosexuality that Jimmy may have been involved with was only to chalk up with experience for future acting positions.

A Young Atomic Redhead at the Dean MemorialMy fascination with James Dean began at an early age. I had for a long while already been interested in oddities such as Jack the Ripper, and the Titanic, along with my passion for the 50s and 60s. I think Jimmy fascinated me on the same level as the Titanic – each had such potential, each epic and their fates so ironic with their expectations and rumors surrounding them.When I was eight, we went to the James Dean memorial, which is located at the crash site, where I bagged some dirt at the location. The bag still sits on my bookshelf were I keep my Jimmy books (I own every biography of him published). He had such an air of mystery about him, along with being a fantastic actor of a time period I love and he raced cars and was damn attractive to boot.

Obviously, I could go on and on about Jimmy…but I’ll end on this: James Dean’s short life was filled with complications and rumor. Many who had brief encounters with him or actual relationships seem to enjoy embellishing upon them endlessly, each claiming to have know the “real” Jimmy. His short, yet explosive, career has made him the stuff of legend, and will forever remain iconic.