Two Sisters+Classic Hollywood=One Hell Of A Good Time

The Dames Hit Hollywood! Day Four: Warner Brothers Studio

While in Hollywood, we visited three movie studios, one per day. First we visited Warner Brothers, located in beautiful, hilly Burbank. When you visit the studio, everywhere you look you are surrounded by the verdant hills and mountains, and boy was it impressive! (I’ve never seen a mountain until I visited California. I’m an unpriveleged child.)

Before I start showing off the pictures, let’s talk about touring studios in general (if you are planning to visit Hollywood and tour the studios for yourself):

  • Plan ahead and make reservations: The tours take a limited number of people per day, so call up the studios and arrange your tour beforehand (the morning of should work just fine). I actually wanted to visit Paramount first, but they could not take us that day. You do not want to make the trip for nothing, only to find out they cannot accommodate you on a tour.
  • Bring identification: this is common sense. All film studios need to be uptight about security, so bring an ID card or your passport when you check-in. They will also give you an ID bracelet or something of that nature, so if you don’t want to be thrown out of the studio, you must wear it!
  • Photos are limited: there aren’t going to be as many photos in these studio posts (cheer or cry here). Taking pictures is quite limited, and varies from studio to studio (Warner Bros. and Paramount weren’t bad, MGM was STRICT). In any studio, do NOT  take photos of the actual movie/tv sets…they’re copyrighted material!

Okay, now to the fun stuff! Warner Bros. was a really good tour, and I highly recommend it. Not only was it thorough, but it has a museum (which they sadly only give you about 20 minutes to view, and they actually make you lock your cameras and cellphones away in the tour cars before you enter, so no photos of it, I apologize), there is not much walking at all (most of the tour is done by a little tour car) and I got to see things here that I didn’t see in other studios. The only minor complaints I had was that (and this is for all studios) they focused A LOT on tv shows and not much at all about films or film history, and my tour guide was an annoying hipster-ish guy named Doug, who was obsessed with the show Chuck (almost all the sets he took us to were used in Chuck as well as other films and tv shows).

So, here are some famous stars that walked through the sets of Warner Bros: Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Rin Tin-Tin, James Cagney, Edward G Robinson, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, George Raft, Ruby Keeler, Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Lauren Bacall and Sidney Greenstreet, among others. The Warner Bros. themselves are famous (or infamous) for their business ethic and temperamental natures, and the studio was the home of gangster films, swashbucklers, film noirs, and the Busby Berkeley musicals.

As soon as you get to the studio, you are greeted by giant statues of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck:

After getting through security, you are taken to the waiting lobby/gift shop/mini Harry Potter tribute, where they had some costumes and props from the film series (the museum, which has two floors, devotes its entire second floor to Harry Potter).

The skulls used to decorate the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Costumes of Sirius Black, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley.

Costumes of Dolores Umbridge, Lord Voldemort, and Professor Quirrell.

Various spellbooks used in the films.

Copies of  the Daily Prophet used in the films. This one has particularly hilarious headlines.

If you’ve seen The Order of the Phoenix, you are familiar with this copy of the Daily Prophet.

Teacups and crystal ball used in the Divination classroom.

Harry’s Firebolt.

The tour starts off with a short film about the history of Warner Bros, from the Jazz Singer (the first sound film) up until today. When you go outside to actually start seeing things, you are first greeted by the sight of that famous water tower!

Now here are various spots around the lot (which is HUGE.) I’ll try to point out as many classic movie references as I can remember. Doug knew a heck of a lot more about tv shows like Chuck and Friends than he did about classic films…

Whenever they get the chance, studios would film using their own land. It’s common sense, but sometimes it seems quite unbelievable. This patch of grass sometimes doubles as…Central Park. That was not a typo.

The orphanage from Annie, if I remember correctly.

“The New York Street”. Countless of the classic gangster films we know and love were filmed here.

More of the New York street. Let me say now that many of these buildings that make up the “streets” are actually facades–false fronts with no insides, and only used for exterior filming. So, there are no rooms in these buildings. Interior shots are usually done of the soundstages. And all the materials are hollow and fake. Nothing is real, from the wood to the marble. And you aren’t allowed to lean on them…you might topple them down! Not even the sidewalks are real.

The courthouse from “Robin and the Seven Hoods”. Frank Sinatra sang “My Kind of Town” on the steps. Since daddy didn’t take a picture of the steps (because he’s so smart), Baby did:

Anyone recognize this set? It’s the outside of Rick’s Cafe Americain from Casablanca!

George Lopez’s trailer, because I love his show.

Another street of facade houses.

I think this was James Dean’s house in either East of Eden or Rebel Without A Cause.

Or was this James Dean’s house? I can’t remember, and I have to look through all the pictures again…

“The Jungle”. Yes, Warner Bros. has its own jungle. Now it used primarily for the tv show “True Blood”.

Bamboo growing in the jungle.

Next we were taken to the prop building, where literally millions of props used in both classic and modern films are stored. This eyeless painting was used in none other than the Scooby Doo films.

The long long long hallways of the prop building.

The lighting room in the prop building. The chandeliers in the back were used in Mildred Pierce!

Really ugly lights in the lighting room.

A desk and two lampposts that were used in The Maltese Falcon. Of course, I totally pawed it behind tour guide Doug’s back. I touched the same desk Humphrey Bogart touched!!!

A replica of JFK’s desk.

A wall mural of Bogart and Bergman from Casablanca.

Now here are some photos of the Central Perk set from Friends. It was left fully intact, and we were even allowed to sit on the couch. Interior sets in general are quite small (our group could barely fit in), are built in odd angles (that make them look a heck of a lot bigger on camera), and incredibly fake (you really lose the movie magic when you see how it all works). Oh and all the studios smell quite musty and kinda like a construction job. Which is okay because I like that smell (odd I know):

More from around the lot:

LOL I think this was supposed to be from the “Brooklyn” street! It’s very accurate!

Here’s what the back of a facade looks like. You can see the rafters holding up the false fronts.

The last thing we did was go inside a soundstage and visit the actual set of a tv show (an aside: all the soundstages there have plaques on the outside that state which classic films were made there. I would’ve much rather learned about that than whatever Doug had to say! We passed soundstages that were home to The Life of Emile Zola, Robin Hood, Dodge City, The Public Enemy, 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Mildred Pierce, Now Voyager, Jezebel, and the Maltese Falcon, to name a few. Did Doug acknowledge ANY of this? Nope!) Instead he took us to the set of…you guessed it…Chuck. Like the Central Perk set, it was musty, fake, and small. And boring as hell. Instead of listening to dumb Doug ramble endlessly on his favorite tv show, Baby and I dreamt about the great luminaries who must’ve walked on the soundstage before Doug and his hipster show did.

This is a gigantic relief in the gift shop that everyone likes to take pictures by when the tour is over.

About the museum: my favorite part of the tour was the Warner Bros. museum. They’re really dumb about it though. They don’t allow to take cameras or cellphones inside with you, and you only get about fifteen to twenty minutes to see the entire thing! I was able to finish it, but I could only look over things instead of basking in their presence. The first floor has various film memorabilia, the second floor is entirely Harry Potter. Here’s the classic film fan/Harry Potter fan’s guide to the museum, so if you plan to visit, you can allot your time wisely:

First Floor: much more fun (for me anyway). Contained the Best Picture Oscar statuettes for The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Casablanca (1942), and The Jazz Singer (1927), along with two others. I practically peed my pants seeing real Oscars, and for such great films! The Jazz Singer’s Oscar was different. The gold was duller and it was shorter than the others. The museum also had Errol Flynn’s red coat from “The Adventures of Don Juan” Humphrey Bogart’s suit and Ingrid Bergman’s dress from “Casablanca”, Joan Crawford’s dress from “Daisy Kenyon”, and costumes worn by chorus girls in The Gold Diggers of 1933. There are also various costume sketches and contracts (such as Al Jolson’s contract for The Jazz Singer). Oh, and Al Jolson’s suit and shoes were there as well! And of course, you can’t forget Sam’s piano from Casablanca!

Second Floor: all Harry Potter. Contains: the sorting hat, models of various creatures such as dementors and mandrake plants, Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s costumes from all the films, Umbridge’s costume from Harry Potter 5, costumes of all the Triwizard champions from Harry Potter 4, the Triwizard cup, Death Eater costumes, and various props used throughout the films.

And to top it all off, there were costumes from none other than…SURPIRSE!…Chuck on the first floor. Guess where Doug spent his fifteen minutes?

After the tour, we went back to the Boulevard, where I touched Clark’s hands hello at Grauman’s (I did it at least once a day!) and went souvenir and gift shopping. Along the way, we saw these wonderful stars:

Saw These weird souvenirs:

And THIS JUST IN FROM THE PAPARAZZI…Elvis Presley was spotted shopping for plastic glitter sunglasses at a cheap Hollywood Boulevard souvenir shop!

Hope you enjoyed!

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4 responses

  1. Looks like you had a good time at Burbank (I visited the lot back in 1989, when it was used by both Warners and Columbia). I presume Yakko, Wakko and Dot were relaxing inside the water tower!

    Too bad your tour guide focused so much on “Chuck” and less on Warners as a film studio; one wonders if he even knows the meaning of the term “pre-Code.”

    June 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

  2. Haha remember the Anamaniacs? The tour must have been so different in 1989! Without a doubt it focused a lot more on film, right? Nowadays all the studios that offer tours focus almost entirely on television production (I guess because it is more accessible/familiar to the masses). Even though many people unfortunately aren’t familiar with classic film, it’s a darn shame and even insulting to barely touch upon that rich history.

    Even my father was getting frustrated with the tour guide, and he isn’t much familiar with classic film at all! And you’re completely right about his lack of knowledge. He asked in the beginning of the tour if there were any classic movie fans (my sister and I raised our hands), so he should’ve considered that, but since he said nothing much about classic films, it’s obvious he wasn’t the right guy for the job. Pre-Code? More like Pre-What?! to him.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

  3. Wesley

    Very nice post! Really interesting.

    I wish I could visit the Waner Bros. museum, I’m a huge Potter fan.

    May I ask, did you take other pictures of the Harry Potter props?
    If so, I would really, really appreciate if you could send them to me. I’m really iterested to see some other stuff the have there.
    For personal amusement only.

    You got my e-mail.

    I look foward you answer. Thanks.

    June 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

  4. Nice to meet a fellow Potter fan!

    Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed at the museum, so I have no pictures of that :( and I took pictures of all the Potter props that were on display outside the museum and published them in the post. I’m sorry :(

    If you are in the New York City area, you can visit the Harry Potter exhibition at Times Square-42nd street. It has tons of Potter props and memorabilia!

    June 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm

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