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Saturday, August 14, 2010 : Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Warner Studios

 

It's already a week since we left. How fast does time go by !

 

We dedicate this whole day to movies, living and dead actors, their residences, their workplaces, the places where they are honored.

 

We have our first stop at Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which we could not visit two days before. This time, the place is open ... and absolutely packed with tourists !


Hollywood, Grauman's Chinese Theater

Grauman's Chinese Theater, still crowded

 

Anyway, we shoot this picture from the opposite pavement.

 

Grauman's Chinese Theater is separated from the former Kodak Theater (now Dolby Theater), where Academy Awards (a.k.a. Oscars) are awarded, only by a shopping gallery.

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Hollywood, Grauman's Chinese Theater, Charlton Heston

Prints on the pavement, in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater

 

Then we stroll along the pavement, looking for our favorite actors' prints. It is the Hollywood elite, only stars are allowed here. We notice that Arnold Schwartzenegger's hands are about twice as big as Charlton Heston's.

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Hollywood, Grauman's Chinese Theater, Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn's tiny hands and feet

 

By contrast, Marilyn's hands are so tiny, as are her heels.

 

One male, one female. This is our idea of parity.

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Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills, so clean and beautiful, so nice and peaceful

 

We get our car back from the public underground parking (a rarity in Los Angeles !) and drive down Wilshire Boulevard. We snap a few pictures of Beverly hills, an autonomous city enclosed within Los Angeles, with its own institutions, city council and mayor. As far as stars' residences are concerned, there is not much to be seen behind the high fences, and we had not come for that anyway.

 

We drive past Rodeo Drive luxury shops without stopping.

 

Almost at Wilshire and Westwood, its entrance rather difficult to find, we visit Westwood Cemetery, one of the favorite final resting places of stars. Out of respect for this place of meditation, we do not take any pictures. We see Marilyn's grave, a very simple plaque in a crypt, under her assumed star's name. We also see Farrah Fawcett's, Natalie Wood's and many other stars' final resting places. After coming back to Europe, I will learn that, among the unmarked graves in the grass, are Frank Zappa's and Roy Orbison's. I get that guilty feeling of treading on the grave of the man who wrote Pretty Woman.

 

Then we leave for Burbank and Warner Studios.

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Burbank, Warner Studios

Seeing so many trucks, they must be making a lot of movies, here

 

This is not a theme park but a real studio. The number of visitors is strictly controlled, and advance reservations are required. The upside is that the place is far from crowded. We have a very nice guide, who evens speaks a few words of French ... but leaves it to me to translate the visit to my family. Bob, if you ever read this, let me thank you for your knowledge and availability.

 

The visit is done in small electric vehicles, with many stops along the way, and in about three hours, you get to see most of the studio. Nothing to do with Universal, this is a place where they make real films. Along the way, Bob provides a lot of technical details.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, ER transit exit

And I thought ER had been shot in Chicago !

 

I was one of the remaining few who thought ER had really been shot on location in Chicago, I now stand corrected. In the picture above, you can recognize the transit exit that is seen in many episodes. We will also see the restaurant, and the entrance of the emergency bay of Cook County Hospital. The angles between the walls are not straight,  and the camera gives the illusion of a much larger place than it actually is.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, empty house

In the empty house ... you can shoot whatever you want

 

A litlle further is a full village of these empty houses, where, with the appropriate decorations and props, about any TV or movie film can be shot.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, ceiling of the empty house

Technical crews are installed on the upper floor, out of cameras' view

 

Most of these houses have a large, empty upper floor, where technical crews and all their hardware are installed, carefully held beyond cameras' view. The wide opening is used for mikes and lighting systems.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, prop warehouse

The huge prop warehouse

 

The prop warehouse is really big, about the size of a department store. It hosts plenty of unspoken riches, except for its keepers. We can see many a carefully labelled and stored object, from a screwdriver to a Bugs Bunny head.

 

We then visit the costume museum. Some costumes, like John Wayne's cowboy outfits, are getting old and fragile, and we are requested not to take any pictures. We are happy to oblige.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, the Batmobile

The Batmobile, 35 m.p.h., tops !

 

In most films, there are cars. I would have been delighted to see the ones in Bullit (one of my all-time favorite films ..) but, probably too precious, they are not displayed. I get a compensation, sort of, with the Batmobile, based on a Corvette C3, and with Harry Potter's Ford Anglia.

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Burbank, Warner Studios, the set of Friends

The living room in Friends. We all sat down on the sofa !

 

We then walk by a few sets where actual TV series are made. It even seems TV is the largest share of the studio's activity. We end up at a rather small set, where the TV show Friends was made. Since this program is now over, the set and its acessories can be seen. We even sat down on the famed sofa !

 

Then we leave Warner Studios and drive back to Hollywood.

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Hollywood, Melrose Avenue, Paramount gate

The mythical gate of the no less mythical Paramount

 

We make a diversion to Melrose Avenue, a few blocks south of Hollywood Boulevard, looking for the famous Paramount Gate. This studio, which can only be visited on a few selected weekdays, is the only one remaining in Hollywood. Most of the other ones have moved to Burbank, a few miles north, in search of relatively cheaper land.

 

Just in case, we make another attempt at Griffith Observatory, but it's as crowded as the previous day. We go for some shopping for dinner and next day's picnic.

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