A Little Bit Of History That's Gone
Tony Franciosa’s checking out a famous backlot street at Metro in this late fifties shot. This is where Gene Kelly danced in An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain. No telling how many other MGM pictures were shot here as well. All of it came down eventually, of course. You can see a bit of the dismantling on an old ABC network special, Hollywood --- The Dream Factory, which was originally broadcast in 1972. I remember watching that while I was still in high school. It was the first time I’d seen many of those great highlights from the MGM classics, but melancholy shots of the abandoned backlot and that sleazy auction are what I recall best. So many beautiful costumes and priceless memorabilia thrown to the wolves. Wonder how much of it survives today. For all I know, there are hoboes bundled up in freight cars today wearing Walter Pidgeon’s wardrobe from Mrs. Parkington. They say that during the auction, there were hippies running around the lot wearing Lana Turner’s dresses. Everything was being torn off the racks as though it were a yard sale. Thousands of irreplaceable original still sets would be shipped to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and sold in the basement for nickels and dimes. A friend of mine found double weight photos from Erich Von Stroheim’s The Merry Widow during a break from the slots one night. Too bad he didn’t leave the gambling alone and buy all those stills when he had the chance. That would have been no gamble, for they’d be plenty valuable today. Back in Culver City, studio folk were busy junking unused musical numbers with Astaire, Garland, Kelly, etc. (only a few comparative few survive today). I assume the idiots that ordered that are still happily employed in the industry. Maybe not. Hope not. Anyway, Hollywood --- The Dream Factory is included as an extra on the Meet Me In St. Louis DVD, and it's well worth the price of the disc just to get this documentary.