LETTER FROM L.A.: Lots
of Dreams - Warner Brothers
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
There was a time you could simply
walk on to the Warner Brothers' lot. I'm not sure this was absolutely
permitted, but an actor with a headshot in an envelope found it easy enough to
get by the guards and into the famous Building 140, where rows of offices hold
more casting directors a few feet apart than are generally found in a day of
driving about. Then Ted Turner came into the picture, and security suddenly got
tight. No more just waving to the guards and wandering in.
seemed about as bad as it could get for those with no official reason to be on
the premises. Still, there were studio tours and other less official reasons to
came September 11th.
studios likely targets? Well, they represent both the Western media and a
particular cultural influence that religious fundamentalists - not all Muslim -
resent. For someone opposed to Western frivolity, watching Bugs Bunny go boom
might be especially satisfying. Not to mention Porky Pig.
not so surprising that cars were suddenly searched thoroughly after last
September. Or that access in general became strictly limited at all the
studios. Which makes me glad that I spent quite a bit of time on the Warner
Brothers' lot just before that.
get dreamy thinking of walking through a typical small town square, bedecked
with sparkling foil stars for an episode of
“Gilmore Girls”, between the country church and the gazebo.
easy to enter into a second childhood wandering through a Western town or under
a bit of the Chicago subway, running by the entrance to "ER"'s
emergency room. A large concrete pool in the midst of a miniature jungle long
lay empty, then one day suddenly was filled and became a scary swamp, complete
with some really lifelike crocodiles. Bits of New York are scattered about,
including something much like the Stock Exchange (right beside a stretch of
Paris), but there's one separate section that was like being on the Lower East
Side (minus the smells.) My friend Carolyn Hennesy, whose TV work includes a
long stretch as Mrs. Valentine on "Dawson's Creek", one day told me
to check out Hennessy Street in that section - named for her father, a set
as magic is the reality of a studio so big, it’s a city in itself. Aside from
the general store, several eateries, a sports club and a post office, there are
those cute little WB fire engines. Public transport takes the form of the
RoadRunner, a pretty efficient jitney that goes all around the lot. Handy for
those who aren’t authorized to use one of the ubiquitous golf carts.
my cinephile friends, there are those who would trade a kidney for a week in
WB's private museum. You can imagine the treasures there if I tell you that it
includes one of the two ORIGINAL Maltese Falcons , along with the piano and an
ornate hanging lamp from "Casablanca" (as well as some costumes).
Studio notes on Al Jolson's "Jazz Singer"., the first
"talkie". Bette Davis' red dress from "Jezebel", along with
irritable notes from the Eyes herself, complaining of how much work she was
getting (all together fellow actors: Awwwwww.....). A genial note from John
Wayne, claiming he still preferred the silents. James Dean's Triumph 500 motorcycle… And on the list goes.
Later items include the 'extras'
from "Gremlins" - creatures perched on helmets worn by the humans who
walked them about and all manner of Batman memorabilia, including a note from
Batman’s creator, saying that he'd like to see the Joker's dark side (lost in
the comics) restored, and suggesting that Jack Nicholson would be the ideal
actor for the part (!). All the different costumes, not only for Bats, but for
his various colorful villains as well, are on exhibit. Which, among other
things, allows you to compare the actual heights of various name actors.
a few Oscars around too, including those for “Casablanca” and “My Fair Lady”.
all together, sets and museum, and you get a good dose of Hollywood history.
Which, it seems,.is open once again to the public (though only with a pricey
But the way the world is now, who
knows for how long?