The above is a map of the Paramount Pictures lot from 1992, giving one an idea of all the activity going on at the Hollywood-based complex. And here's the famed original Paramount entrance, shown at night, a scene Carole Lombard probably saw frequently during her seven-plus years at the studio:
Motion picture studios, particularly those in the Los Angeles area, hold a great deal of fascination. For nearly a century, they have been the world's primary magic factories, shrines to legends on both sides of the camera. And now, there's a site dedicated to these remarkable places.
It's a relatively new Yahoo! group -- founded only last November -- called StudioBacklots (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/StudioBacklots/). The group examines studio lots of the past and present, and despite its relative youth there are already plenty of artifacts available.
For example, there are hundreds of photos of backlots (including ranches). Among them are eight photos of studios taken in 1923 and used in a publication called "The Blue Book Of The Screen." We know a teenaged Jane Alice Peters visited several of these places in 1924, hoping to get her foot in the door of the film industry. In alphabetical order, they are the studios of Charles Chaplin, Samuel Goldwyn, Thomas Ince, Jesse Lasky, Mary Pickford-Douglas Fairbanks, Hal Roach, Universal and Vitagraph. Double-click to read the descriptions of each studio:
We know the future Carole Lombard tested for "The Gold Rush" at Chaplin's studios (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/125415.html), and also made the rounds of Vitagraph and Pickford-Fairbanks before signing with Fox. The Ince studio (she occasionally dated Thomas Ince's son, Bill) would play a role later in life, when it became the Selznick International studios. In fact, here's a photo of Lombard during the shooting of "Made For Each Other" alongside a shot of the Selznick studios some four decades later. It appears both were taken along the same pathway:
I've visited Los Angeles three times -- and on each occasion, I took a studio tour. In 1989, I visited the Burbank Studios, longtime home of Warner Brothers, for their "VIP" tour, and seven years later I had an equally satisfying time taking Paramount's guided tour. I returned to Paramount in 2000 to attend a filming of a "Frasier" episode, but before that I went on the Universal tour, which to be honest is more of a theme park, less of a behind-the-scenes experience for the movie buff. (I understand that Sony studios in Culver City -- where Ince had his first studio in the teens, but is best known as the home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during its glory years -- now conducts a tour. I'll have to check it out on my next trip to L.A.)
If you're as interested in the moviemaking experience as I am, visit the StudioBacklots group. You'll definitely enjoy it.