The Road Warrior Goes to Hollywood
May 4, 2012 | Permalink
If you’re a big movie and television-show fan, a fan whose love of the movies and TV cannot be contained by the screen, you want to go see where the movies are made, and you want to get the lowdown on them—the real story of their creation. Universal Studios Hollywood holds some interest for the film buff. There are exhibits, such as the actual set of the Bates Motel used in the film Psycho, but Universal Studios is at base a theme park. If you want to spend your time learning about movies, not learning about which antacid works best to calm your stomach after an unsettling roller-coaster ride, you want your destination to be all movie studio, no filler. Luckily for you, the legendary Paramount Studios and Warner Brothers Studios offer regular tours of their facilities. The tour guides at both of these studios are very informative. If you want to know the stories behind the stories, you won’t be disappointed.
Walk Through the Other Arc de Triomphe—Paramount’s World-Famous Bronson Gate
Paramount is the only major studio still located in Hollywood. (Warner Brothers is in Burbank.) Paramount is truly 100% studio. While Warner Brothers stages exhibits, Paramount does not. What you see on your tour are working studio backlots, such as their famous New York City backlot, where parts of Ally McBeal and Frasier were shot (on the Greenwich Village and Brooklyn sets respectively), and the somewhat surreal blue-sky-wall backlot (a giant mural of a clouded blue sky, which is set outside so that you can see the actual sky above and on either side of it) where Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments.
Paramount allows you to photograph, unless there is a production in process. So you should be able to get a pic of yourself on Ally McBeal’s stoop or in front of the blue-sky-wall, which stands on a parking lot next to the famous Paramount water tower.
Walk in the Footprints (and Paw Prints) of Such Greats as Bugs Bunny and Bogey
Tours of Warner Brothers Studios are more intimate than tours of Paramount. The VIP tours only take on twelve guests. If walking is an issue for you, Warners’ VIP tour is the tour for you. While the Paramount tour is all walking, a good portion of the WB tour is spent riding in a long cart with your tour mates and guide. WB Studios has, in addition to a museum (which has the piano from Casablanca on which Sam played it again), many immediately-recognizable backlot locations. While you cannot photograph in the museum, you can in the backlots, so you can put yourself into the movies. You will see the French street from Casablanca where Humphrey Bogart told Ingrid Bergman that they would always have Paris as well as the Midwestern Street where parts of The Music Man, The Pajama Game, Bonnie and Clyde and Gremlins were shot.
Just as at Paramount, there is a fun, surreal sight at WB Studios: In one backlot, one side of the street is New York City buildings and the other is San Francisco buildings. You can cross the country by crossing the street. That seems to be an appropriate symbol for the Hollywood fantasy that viewers have been enjoying for the last hundred years. Crossing the country, because of film cuts, is as mundane in movies as is crossing the street in real life.
Kicking Back in Hollywood
After exploring Hollywood’s movie history and its present (make sure to keep your eyes open for stars on these studio tours), you’ll want to kick back and maybe even watch a movie. Luckily, there are a number of Extended Stay Hotels in and around Los Angeles that feature comforts like flat screen TVs and free in-room Wi-Fi.
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