Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Imagine going to work HERE everyday

Here’s one of those questions worthy of an entire post:

It’s from Nancy Knechtel:

You have captured the history of the studios you have worked at so well - Did you ever find out who occupied your offices at the studios in the past? Rumor has it that some writers have worked in Shirley Temple's old dressing room bungalow at Fox. Were your offices old dressing rooms or writers buildings? Any great writers occupy your space before you?

For history you can’t beat the Fox lot on Pico. I never had an office in the building that was Shirley Temple’s dressing room, but I was in it frequently since at one time it served as the headquarters for THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW and my partner David and I wrote several episodes.  Shirley had nice digs for a six-year-old. 

But for years on MASH and AfterMASH David and I had offices in the Old Writers Building (back before we were old writers). It’s a gorgeous Swiss chalet, and to this day it was my favorite office.

You’ve seen it in many movies and TV shows. BABES IN TOYLAND with Laurel & Hardy for one. Could you ask for better ghosts when trying to create comedy than Stan & Ollie?

They were always filming CHARLIE’S ANGELS and STARSKY & HUTCH outside our office. It was always fun to look out the window and see either Jackie Smith in a tight jumpsuit or a drug dealer being gunned down in a hail of bullets.

In our time there we had three offices. The first was supposedly once F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. We found a few of Zelda’s empty gin bottles behind the couch so we have confirmation.

More impressive to me was when we became head writers of MASH and moved into Larry Gelbart’s old office. That was like having Babe Ruth’s locker.

We used that as our main writers room and one afternoon I noticed several people in the nearby apartment building looking in at us. I didn’t think four guys sitting around a table writing a Radar speech was much of a show but who knows? Later I learned that the Hello Dolly New York set was on fire across the lot. That’s what the apartment dwellers were looking at. Now I feel like an schmuck for waving at them.

Both of those offices were on the second floor. For AfterMASH we took over the entire first floor. Larry Gelbart didn’t have an office but we said whenever he was there he could use ours. The only thing better than having Larry Gelbart’s old office was actually SHARING an office with Larry Gelbart. Babe Ruth using your locker.

Back in the MASH days we parked behind the building and the old Western town from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID was still up. My spot was right in front of the saloon (which explains why I was often late).

For several years we had a development deal at Fox and this was our office. Since it fronts a street it is always used as a location. I’ve seen it at least two dozen times on shows. And I’m always yelling, “Hey, get the fuck out of my office!”

A couple of years ago I wrote a nostalgic post about the 20th Century Lot. You can find it here. Like I said in that piece -- It was a golden time that I cherish now and happy to say, recognized and appreciated at the time. Dream factories were more dreams and less factories.

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16 comments:

Breadbaker said...

M's opener still going on. M's up 2-1 with one out in the eleventh.

Sebastian said...

I think there's a scene on "Episodes" where LeBlanc talks to the british guy in one of the later episodes that took place in front of the office in the second picture.

I might be wrong but it sure looks like it.

VP81955 said...

Intriguing that you write this entry at the same time it appears much of the old Pickford-Fairbanks/United Artists/Sam Goldwyn/Warner Hollywood studio in West Hollywood -- now known simply as "The Lot" -- is about to be razed for new space, soulless, corporate glass and steel buildings. It's like tearing down Shibe Park and putting up the Vet at the same site. Wrote about it here...

http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/498226.html

Volklfan said...

Ken,
Friday question. It seems that most shows on the air now use multi season story arcs more often than shows in the past (80's & 90's for me). Those shows like CHEERS, that did have long arcs would open with "previously on CHEERS" to update the audience on important plot points.
I have tried to explain some of my favorite shows to friends and I just end up saying "you really should have seen last season".
My question is, do you think current shows assume audiences will just catch up on Hulu/Netflix and DVD's of past episodes? Do you think if you were running a show today you might do the same?

YEKIMI said...

Well, a big thanks to 404 for the Kindle for PC suggestion. Didn't realize that I could get that for free. I downloaded it and was able to get your book for free. Now Amazon can track me till I am in my grave [and maybe beyond, if not, I'm sure they are working on a way to do that] but I have a feeling the book will be worth it.

RCP said...

I'm glad that some of these historic buildings and other landmarks still remain.

emilia said...

Our writers' room for THE FINDER is also in the swiss chalet. It was the first time I had a balcony and loved it.

Adelina said...

nice place for work.. may i will be maniac worker if i have a home like 1st picture... :)

D. McEwan said...

"You’ve seen it in many movies and TV shows. BABES IN TOYLAND with Laurel & Hardy for one."

Really? Because that seems highly unlikely. Laurel & Hardy's Babes in Toyland was entirely shot at Roach in sound stages. There is not one genuine exterior shot in the entire movie. And generally, when L&H (or anything else shot at Roach) needed exterior sets not available at Roach studos, they shot at MGM, who released their films, and who released Babes in Toyland.

There is a famous still, if one could post pictures with comments I'd put it here, of the Our Gang kids visiting the Toyland set, since it was shot a couple yards away from where the kids shot their films, but none of Shirley Temple visting them or welcoming their movie into her dressing room. Zanuck was not likely to welcome an MGM release onto his lot to shoot back in 1934, before studio cross-over producitons were common.

The idea of their having shot even a frame of Babes in Toyland at Fox seems darned close to impossible.

Apart from that one highly unlikely detail, a most interesting post. Studio histories obssess me, as You, Ken, know.

[Of my two word verifications, the second is "orgyzedna". I know that Dame Edna does not participate in "orgyz" which she finds "un-called-for."]

tb said...

I have a quick Friday question: fireplaces on the set - how dey do dat? Do they actually run a vent out of the studio or is it "just for a minute" and vent it right into the same room as the studio audience?

Brian Doan said...

Off-topic, but quick Friday question: As a former Dodgers announcer, any thoughts on Magic Johnson as one of the team's new owners?

Anonymous said...

I'll get the book when it's free on iTunes. Not gonna deal with amazon/kindle ith an iPad.

Andy Kaiser said...

Anonymous,

"Not gonna deal with amazon/kindle ith an iPad."

Why not? It's just another free content management app - like iTunes - allowing you access to yet more media. Like Ken's book!

D. McEwan said...

It occurs to me on further reflection that it is indeed possible that Shirley Temple's Dressing Chateau might well have been used in a Laurel & Hardy film, though certainly not Babes in Toyland.

From 1941 to 1945, Laurel & Hardy made a series of features for 20th Century Fox. These films were: Great Guns, A-Hauntin' We Will Go, Air Raid Wardens, Jitterbugs, The Dancing Masters, The Big Noise, and The Bullfighters.

All these films were shot on the Fox lot, and any or all of them could have used Miss Temple's (by then) former dressing room. I've only seen two of these. They were perfectly dreadful films. Stan Laurel was allowed NO creative input whatever. They were handed scripts written without their consultation and told to perform them. Stan Laurel told his biographer, John McCabe, to be as viscious regarding these movies as possible, as he loathed and was shamed by all of them. The two I've seen certainly bear out Stan's contempt for them.

So yes, Shirley's charming buildng may well grace a Laurel & Hardy film or two or three, or even 7, but time and legend alone would have attached Babes in Toyland to it.

chuckcd said...

I worked on the Paramount lot near what was known as "Lucy's Bungalow" because Lucille Ball had a office there. I think Paramount used to be the Desilu studios.

Paul Duca said...

To Chuckcd...Desilu Studios consisted of the Motion Picture Center (soundstages) and the former RKO studio lot. When Gulf & Western bought Desilu shortly after acquiring Paramount, the properties were combined into one complex.