GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Universal Studios

For a time, the Universal Studios lot was a playground of sorts for me. My mentor Paul Stanley was directing episodes of The Road West and I took advantage of his gracious standing invitation to come onto the set whenever he was directing. As a result, I met Barry Sullivan, Glenn Ford, Glenn Corbett, Andrew Prine, Brenda Scott (years later I leased one of those stilt houses above Coldwater Canyon from her) and Kathryn Hays. Barbara Anderson, who went on to be a regular on the Ironside TV series, did two episodes as a guest. Paul asked if I could give her a ride home, which I did.

There were times when I would pick up the stage phone and call the Universal transportation department and order a limousine. It would arrive at the Road West stage and take me out to the back lot where I would watch Ben Gazzara shooting Run For Your Life. Then I'd have the driver take me to the Laredo set where I would see what was happening there. Life was good. During that period, I was having guests from out of town and I'd invite them to the studio and give them my own 'Universal Studio Tour' in a limo rather than the tour tram. 
I came to think of that film studio as a school with each sound stage being a classroom of sorts where you were isolated from the students in the other classrooms. But just as it happens in any school, when something extraordinary is going on in another classroom, word gets around. One day there was a buzz circulating amongst the grips, carpenters and gaffers--the real tough guys of the movie business--about something going on over on the set of The Virginian. An actor there was impressing the crew--which is really saying something--and word was circulating to the other sound stages. I called my limo--yes, I did (!!)--and had the driver take me to where they were shooting. I made it in before the red light came on and watched an older man doing a scene sitting at a campfire. In between takes, I could hear whispers from the crew: "He hits the same beats every time"; "He's amazing!"; "He couldn't blow a line if he tried." The actor had impressed the 'unimpressable'. His name was Lloyd Nolan and I would become a fan of his over the years. What I saw him do that day influenced my Action/ReAction technique decades later.
Those days spent on the set of The Road West or T.H.E. Cat, which Paul directed at Universal or the sets I visited while I was there are brought to mind when I watch Nancy Olson playing Betty Schaefer in Sunset Blvd talking about growing up near Paramount Studio and visiting the sets at night. So much history had been created and so many memories for so many viewers around the world. 
I've been a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan--books and films--and only recently did it dawn on me that the repertory company of actors appearing along with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in those Holmes films were working at the same Universal Studios that was my classroom for a time. I had incorrectly assumed they were filmed in England thanks to the power of suggestion and the magic of Hollywood. Imagine those poor actors wearing overcoats and woolen scarves filming in a 'London fog' in the intense heat of North Hollywood.
That's showbiz!

No comments: