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Dear Kay,

Back in LA for a bit. Am continuing my Spincycle enthusiasm which is not going to end anytime soon. I thought I’d take a wee break to take you on a field trip.

We spent the afternoon the other day doing one of my Very Favorite Things: a movie studio tour.

I love movies. I am so glad I never worked in the movie industry and wrecked the fantasy of it all.

There’s something haunting about a place like Paramount Pictures. Imagine 65 acres where so many iconic movies and TV shows were made. It’s definitely weird to me that I can wander around a place like Paramount Pictures and be enthralled by walking past empty buildings and narrow lanes. But I was! I was enthralled!


Katharine Hepburn. Harrison Ford. Elizabeth Taylor. Gregory Peck. Robert De Niro. Al Pacino. Robin Williams. All worked here.

So many superfamous movies and TV shows were created here: The Godfather movies. Sunset BoulevardI Love LucyStar Trek.

And parts of some of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies: Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble with Harry.

The entire set for Rear Window—the courtyard of a Greenwich Village neighborhood—was built on Stage 18. (Read about how they did it here.)

The illusions are part of the fun when it comes to a movie studio tour.

Generic New York City subway stop. Add signs as needed.

Greenwich Village. Add hardware and light fixtures to match whatever era you’re shooting. The bricks are not bricks, at all.

Fakey fake fakeness everywhere.

The Red Sea in The Ten Commandments is a parking lot when not filled with 900,000 gallons of Red Sea. The California sky doesn’t look right on film, so they fake it with a giant backdrop.

The TV series This Is Us was shot here, and they just wrapped production for its final season.

I was pretty sure that I’d come across the Pearson family any minute. Who’s watching? Tonight’s penultimate episode is the one that so upset the show’s star, Mandy Moore, that she threw up when she first read it. It must be so trippy to be a character for so long.

As always, Hollywood has me in its grip. Travel is so good for getting out of one’s head for a bit.

An Oscar really does weigh eight pounds! (This one is for Love Story. Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, remember? So great.)




  • I love this!!! Taking a movie studio tour is something I’ve never had the privilege of doing, but you make it sound like more fun than I’d imagined (and I always thought I’d love it). I look forward to my daily email from MDK each day, and I love the diversity of subjects you choose to cover. Thanks!

  • While you’re there, go to a movie in the old Hollywood cemetery! They play classics. BYOB and lawn chair 🙂

  • That really sounds like fun!

  • I don’t know what your schedule allows, but a trip to the Bradbury building the DTLA is fun. It’s the site of many films including the original Bladerunner. Also nearby is the rebuilt Angel’s Flight also in many films.

    • Yes! Definitely second a suggested visit to the Bradbury while in LA

  • I was lucky enough to take a tour at Paramount – when I watch classic movies (my fave) I think of the fake brownstones and gritty streets that look so real!

  • Oh Ann, this post brought back so many great memories. For a brief time in the mid-nineties, my husband wrote for some little-known sitcoms that were filmed at Paramount. It was the thrill of a lifetime to drive up to the gate and give my name and get let in to that iconic place. So glad you took the tour.
    I’ve got tissues already ready for This Is Us tonight!

  • We live about an hour from LA. When my daughter was in 4th grade and studying California history, her teacher took the class on a field trip to tour Paramount Studios. Robin Williams was on set filming a movie and when he saw the group of kids, he immediately came over to great them. It was such a memorable moment for my daughter and my husband (who was lucky to be a chaperone that day!).

  • Ooooh, I haven’t been to Hollywood but intend to go one of these days, and I would also be enthralled with all these things!

  • For lovers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, I heartily recomment the books by Martin Turnbull’s “Garden of Allah” series. This well-researched series from a fanatically passionate lover of the movies follows the lives of several (fictional) people who arrive in Hollywood young and enthusiastic and grow both more mature and more cynical as the years go by. Meanwhile, they interact with all kinds of real people in ways that Turbull stresses are “realistic,” if not real. Lovely work. There are one-offs, too, like a novel of Irving Thalberg’s Hollywood.

  • You got me at the ‘generic NYC subway entrance’. And I just read the BBC piece on the new Elizabeth line!

    Now, watch ’Singing in the Rain.’

  • Oh girl, I’m convinced that we must somehow be related! Because of its close proximity to NYC, Yonkers has become a big movie shoot site (seriously – you can often get to Yonkers faster than you can get across town). It actually has some history in the pre-LA days and some random times over the decades (remember the Rex Smith movie Sooner or Later) but in recent years it has been positively booming. TV (lots of Law & Order and Sopranos, Blacklist), streaming (Orange is the New Black), music videos (Beyonce’s Irreplaceable) and Movies (Mona Lisa Smith, A Beautiful Mind, Crocodile Dundee) and oh so many more. Last year, we got to a watch Christmas scenes from The Time Traveler’s Wife being filmed on a 107° day. And now, in a totally Hollywood story – especially for this particular neighborhood – Lionsgate is almost done building the biggest sound stage in the Northeast in our downtown. Lucky for me, it is literally steps away from my job. I’m ready for my closeup (but not too close and with really good lighting.)

  • I worked on ‘Laverne & Shirley’ and other shows in the late 70’s, 80’s. Freelance production staffer. Working on a show, being part of a team was great fun. Probably why I’m basically a project knitter…beginning, middle, end and on to the next job. The idea of lots of WIPs makes me nuts.

  • Do I REMEMBER Love Story? I was mortified to death by my mom crying in the theatre! Bonus moisturizer for the Most Moisturized Mom!

    • Mortified by your mother crying? My soon to be husband burst out laughing in a theater filled with sobs

  • It is fun to go behind the scenes and see where famous movies or TV shows were filmed. A competing studio’s backlot tour I once took was as much a theme park tour as a tour of a working studio, so I’m jealous. I wonder if the Paramount parking lot pool that played the Red Sea also played San Francisco Bay at the end of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” (BTW, have you found the “Nakatomi Plaza” or the “S.S. Poseidon” yet?)

    • Nakatomi Plaza is a building in Century City. It used to be part of the Fox Studio lot back in the day. My hubby is a Hollywood historian and works in motion picture lighting.

  • Wow, what a cool post!! Thanks so much. I lived in Southern California for a few years long, long ago, and always wanted to visit a movie studio but we never got around to it. This is just fascinating!!

  • Your thrill at a movie studio reminds me of my thrill at the Country Music Hall of Fame!

  • I am so all in on The Offer. It is immersion-worthy. I watch it by myself to avoid any idle chatter making me miss a single word. If you like movie studios, you must! Bob Evans, Ali McGraw, Love Story…No, I did not receive compensation for this ad.

  • Rear Window, the best!!!!!

  • This was just how I felt touring the Warner Brothers studio some years ago! I loved walking through parts of sets for famous/favorite movies and TV shows!. My fave part was learning how so much of the “realism” is created with lighting and backdrops that look pretty fake up close but great in the final product.

  • Ann, that subway set is so believable that I did not realize there were no signs until you pointed it out!

  • Take the Dolby Theater tour! Also a brush with LOTS of celebrities.

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