Flirty sales girl Carole Lombard looks stunned after Buddy Rogers spurns her advances in "My Best Girl," the 1927 Mary Pickford comedy in which a teenaged Lombard had a small, unbilled part. Now, the lot where that scene was filmed is being threatened with substantial changes that would undermine much of its history.
Today, it's called "The Lot"; it straddles the West Hollywood-Los Angeles border, at Santa Monica Boulevard and North Formosa Avenue:
The studio dates back to 1918, when it was founded as the Hampton Studio. Four years later, the site was purchased by...we'll let this picture answer it...
Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the film colony's first couple, had been among the co-founders of United Artists in 1919. Now, they had their own lot to help create their films. Here's a view of what it looked like in 1923:
In 1924, this was among the studios Jane Alice Peters visited when she was trying to break into the movies for good. But as Carole Lombard, she would be welcomed back three years later for her small part in "My Best Girl," perhaps her first movie work following the 1926 automobile accident that left a scar on her face and caused Fox to drop her contract.
By the late 1920s, other United Artists production companies were using the studio as well, including Samuel Goldwyn, and it eventually became known as the United Artists Studio. Lombard would have likely worked here in 1931 on the Goldwyn production "The Greeks Had A Word For Them," had illness not forced her to drop out of the film (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/12097.html).
Pickford and Fairbanks owned the land, but most of the facilities were owned by Goldwyn (who had bought out Joseph Schenck's share in 1935). When Fairbanks died in 1939, Pickford took his share, so she and Goldwyn had joint ownership of the property. Much to Mary's dismay, Goldwyn -- who had left UA in 1940 -- renamed the site the Samuel Goldwyn Studio. However, it still rented space to United Artists producers, and was probably where Lombard shot what would be her final film, "To Be Or Not To Be":
One of Robert Coburn's publicity photos of Carole may well have been taken at the studio entrance:
Eventually, the lot was put up for auction, and Goldwyn outbid Pickford. Many independent companies used it, and classics such as "Some Like It Hot" and "West Side Story" were filmed there. After founding the Reprise label in the early 1960s, Frank Sinatra used its soundstages to record several albums.
In 1980, Warners bought the site, renamed it the Warner Hollywood studio, and used it for film and TV production for nearly two decades. A private company purchased it in 1999, renaming it "The Lot." It is this company that is seeking to raze many of the buildings on the site dating back to the 1920s, replacing them with glass and steel structures that would continue to be used for movie and TV production and provide substantially more space.
Film editor Doug Haines, one of many who have affection for the place (he worked on several movies there), told the Los Angeles Times, "You really had a sense of history when you worked there. Another glass building — that certainly says 'Old Hollywood,' doesn't it?"
Efforts are being made to preserve the site; however, West Hollywood officials have already approved the changes, and demolition of some of the buildings -- the project's initial phase -- could begin as early as next month. The ghosts of Pickford and Fairbanks, who have already seen their beloved Pickfair bite the dust, can't be happy over this news.
Tourney update: As of 10 a.m. (Eastern), Carole Lombard had a 100-55 lead over Joan Crawford, retaining roughly the same vote edge she had throughout Monday, although her percentage is down to 64%. If you haven't voted for Carole yet, please do so at http://mythicalmonkey.blogspot.com.