Topic: Historic Hollywood
Landmarks: The Forgotten Major Studio
The forgotten major studio would be Culver Studios, in Culver City, a few miles southwest of Hollywood in the flats.
Okay, almost a hundred years ago, Harry Culver, the founding father of Culver City, decided he had to meet Thomas Ince, the father of the westerns - Culver had seen Ince directing one of his westerns in nearby La Ballona Creek. Culver was building a city after all - he'd moved to California in 1910 and learned the real estate business from I. N. Van Nuys - and wanted this new movie business in his new town. The Articles of Incorporation for Culver City were filed with the California Secretary of State on September 20, 1917, but the place was already booming. Culver convinced Ince to move his studio operations from Florida to Culver City and in 1915 the first Culver City studio was under construction - Ince/Triangle Studios. Ince added a few stages and an administration building but sold out his share in the business to his partners D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett, and relocated down the street and built what you see here as The Culver Studios. Harry Culver leased the land to him. Of course by 1918 Triangle Studios itself was up for sale - and Samuel Goldwyn bought the place. In 1924, Marcus Loew orchestrated the merger of three motion picture companies - The Metro Pictures Corporation, Goldwyn Studios and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Things were a bit turbulent back in the silent movie days. MGM, down the street, is famous of course (photos here and a good history here). That's now Sony-Columbia. It's all very fluid. What used to be MGM gets all the tourists. It's legendary.
The city has more on Culver Studios, which isn't quite as famous, here - it took two years to build the Thomas H. Ince Studio at 9336 Washington Boulevard, with its Mount Vernon mansion - a December 1, 1918 Los Angeles newspaper called it a "motion picture plant that looks like a beautiful Southern estate." The studio was planned by Meyer and Holler of the Milwaukee Building Company, the same firm that created two of the historic theaters on Hollywood Boulevard, the Chinese Theater (1927) and the Egyptian (1922).
And you have to love this detail -
What a way to go, on the Hearst yacht. Cecil B. De Mille soon made "King of Kings" here - the first movie shown at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. In 1940, RKO made Citizen Kane here, all about William Randolph Hearst. Very odd.
The studio itself has a website with its own history - Gone With The Wind was shot on Stages 11 and 12 in 1939, and all the exteriors of Tara, Twelve Oaks and the city of Atlanta were created on the back lot and torched for the filming of the burning of Atlanta sequence in the film. But the mansion isn't Tara.
And this -
That would be President Kennedy's father, later our ambassador to England. The son had that thing with Marilyn Monroe. Make of it what you will.
RKO controlled the lot for almost thirty years - the days of Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, King Kong, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. So think A Star Is Born (1937), Tom Sawyer (1938), Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and Spellbound (1945). And Citizen Kane was shot on the lot in 1940. Howard Hughes bought the place in the fifties and ran it into the ground. Desilu Productions purchased the lot in 1956 and television became the main business - The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes, The Untouchables, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Lassie and Gomer Pyle - and in 1967 Peyton Place, as well as The Green Hornet, Batman and the pilot for Star Trek. Star Trek became a Paramount franchise and moved down to Melrose Avenue.
In 1968 new owners sold off most of the back lot and by the late seventies the place was pretty much abandoned. In 1977, the studio became Laird International Studios, a rental facility. When Laird filed Chapter 11 in 1986, Grant Tinker (Mary Tyler Moore's producer and husband) and Gannett (USA Today), bought the place and called it GTG Entertainment, then The Culver Studios. In 1991 it became a part of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony sold the studio to Pacific Coast Capital Partners (PCCP) Studio City Los Angeles in 2004. Sony had too much television production space.
So that's it, but as the studio's site notes -
The studio is not open to the public, and no tours are offered.
But there are the stories, like this from the days when Louis B. Mayer's son-in-law, the Pittsburgh-born RKO executive David O. Selznick, ran the place -
The working end of things -
Nearby, the new De L'Esprie bronze of Harry Culver, dedicated March 26, 2006 -