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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Ghost “Town”: A Brief History of 40 Acres, California (1926-1976) *

* (restored/expanded)

 

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Linkage

 

 

 

__________
 Background:

 

 

’40 Acres is the misnomer that was given to what was actually about 29 acres of land in Culver City, California, first used as a movie studio backlot in 1926 by Cecil DeMille, after he leased the property from Italian immigrate Achille Casserini (on March 22, 1926). DeMille’s production company utilized the backlot for numerous silent films, including The King of Kings (1927), for which a large Jerusalem temple and town were constructed, The Fighting Eagle (1927), The Forbidden Woman (1927) and The Godless Girl (1929), DeMille’s last silent, and for which a large reform school set was built on the lot.

 

 

‘In 1928, DeMille’s Culver City studio and backlot were acquired by RKO Pictures, whose films which employed the backlot included Bird of Paradise (1932) and the 1933 classic, King Kong. In 1937, David Selznick acquired the property in a long-term lease, and used the backlot to re-create a Civil War-era Atlanta for his 1939 epic Gone With The Wind (after filming the burning of numerous leftover sets on the lot, including the “King Kong” gate, to depict the burning of Atlanta in the film).

 

 

‘Under a variety of owners over the next two decades, the backlot appeared in dozens of films, and by the early 1950’s, the lot began to appear in television productions, including The Adventures of Superman. Pictured above in an aerial view from 1963, the backlot had recently changed ownership to Desilu Studios. For the next ten years, the backlot would provide outdoor locales for Desilu’s own television productions, as well as for series produced by others.

 

 

‘Some of the notable series filmed on 40 Acres included Hogan’s Heroes, Batman, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Star Trek, Gomer Pyle, and The Andy Griffith Show for which the streets of Atlanta constructed for Gone With The Wind served as the town of “Mayberry.” Paramount Pictures eventually bought out Desilu, and in 1968, sold off the Culver City studio facilities. As the studio continued to change hands, the “40 Acres” backlot fell out of use and into disrepair in the early 1970’s, and in 1976 it was bulldozed and the land was sold to industry.’ — Retroweb.com

 


1972

 

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Then and Now:


40 ACRES BACKLOT FLY OVER (1957)


40 Acre Backlot Today

 

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The movies, shows, sets:

 

Bonanza

 

Land of the Giants

 

Gone With the Wind

 

Forbidden Woman

 

Leave It to Beaver

 

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

 

The Three Musketeers

 

Switchblade Sisters

 

Vigilante Force

 

Miracle of the Bells

 

Attack!

 

The Wild Wild West

 

Fighting Eagle

 

The Godless Girl

 

Gomer Pyle

 

King Kong

 

The King of Kings

 

My Three Sons

 

All Quiet on the Western Front

 

Around the World in 80 Days

 

The Set Up

 

The Real McCoys

 

Tarzan

 

Verboten

 

Mayberry RFD

 

 The Untouchables

 

The Story of GI Joe

 

The Monkees

 

The Vampire Bat

 

Mission: Impossible

 

The Andy Griffith Show

 

The Black Room

 

Hogan’s Heroes

 

The Adventures of Superman

 

StarTrek

 

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca

 

Batman

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Wolf, Happy 2021! Even numbers bug me. I’d like to be hypnotised to find out why. Refried beans … I would borderline kill for a plate of them. She’s good. Spark. I’m like that about Paris. Anything that describes or shows how Paris looked and was before I saw it for myself is like sirloin in a dog bowl to me. Wow, they have ‘LCTG’? Either they have supremely good taste or they’re one of those places that automatically stock any movie that has LGTBT interest. Hopefully the former. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I’ve never understood Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t know why. I probably mentioned this but Vogue Magazine once me offered an insane amount of money relatively speaking to interview Elizabeth Taylor, and I said no because I just don’t understand her. I lost three gay friends over that decision. One of them slapped me. ** Jeff Coleman, Well, a very happy New Year to you, Jeff! Sorry I hit the publish button too early. Wow, amazing about that Guyotat text. I didn’t know about that. Wow, thank you so much! What an excellent looking site. I’m going to trawl it for post material post-haste. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. New milo, great! I love milo. I’ll go get that right away. Thank you. Okay, then I offer my sincere condolences about the cold there. Or at least for your apartment’s commiseration with it. Rohmer-like … excellent, obviously. The first Strokes album was a beaut, lightning in a bottle. Turned out they only had one idea, and it required no more than one album to complete it. Um, there were tons of smart rock fans listening to danceable music back in the 80s. Scritti Politti, The Associates, and I could on and on. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, Ben. Did I spotlight that book before? I think I’ve mentioned this, but there’s still a big batch of posts from the murdered blog that I have yet to transfer off a hard drive and into this new blog’s repair shop area, so it’s probably hidden there. Dang. Dundee’s coolness could totally work to your and YnY’s advantage, man. Seriously. ** H, Hi, and very happy New Year to you in return! ** Misanthrope, So that’s what your handwriting looks like, eh? Slightly fucked up rightward slant. Interesting. Well, re: your friend, it’s easy for me to let her off the hook not having been there to see her face and hear her tone of voice and so on. I guess I just imagine that what you had with her before the reveal is what matters, but I don’t know. Well, she wasn’t direct with you because she sensed you would be bothered by her opinion, which, when she was direct with you, you were? I mean I have easily as many straight friends as gay ones, and possibly even more, and I don’t expect them to interested in gay stuff, and they don’t expect me to be into hetero-specific stuff, and we relate on the things we have in common, and our friendships are just as full-on real and important as the ones with gays I know. This has nothing to do with your situation, but, tangentially, this is such a fucked up time. So, so many people, especially on social media, expect everyone else to be in 100% agreement with them about politics or movies or celebrity or really anything, and if your opinions don’t precisely line up with theirs, you’re an objectionable rat. The mania for conformity these days is nauseating to me. But I digress. Well, if what you’re writing challenges people’s preconceptions of what you write about, then that’s a huge plus. ** Bernard, Hi, B. ‘Three Billboards’ hasn’t gotten over here yet, but I’m curious about it. Excellent words/thoughts on Spark, thank you! I very easily imagined getting the meat bit of what you cooked outta there, and now I’m famished. Oh my god, green-chili cornbread. You can ask me a favour, you of all people. Do. God, I hope you’re right about this year. You nailed my own hopes in a nutshell. ** James Nulick, Hi. You might like her stuff. I could see it. Yes, I saw ‘Under the Skin’. Yes, it’s excellent, multi, I agree with you, yes. Happy Tuesday. ** Sypha, ‘Prey’ sounds most excellent. I personally have a low tolerance for games that ask you to fight for your life every 15 seconds, but I’ll look at it. Also, I’m pretty sure it will trigger my extreme fear of being outer space, space walks, and the like. Even watching movies where that happens, I feel like I can’t breathe and grip the arms of my chair like I’m in a car whose brakes have gone out. Anyway, your description/review of the game was a glory to read, and I’m both pretty sold and extremely nervous. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. Ah, you’re home. I figured so. My 2018 has been almost strangely uneventful so far. Are you enjoying yours? ** Chris Cochrane, Hi, Chris. Ha ha. I was a giant fan of Roxy Music at the time Eno split off, and I was instantly over the moon in love with ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ to the point of semi-backburnering Roxy from there on in. It actually brought me around on Fripp as I had long, long since lost interest in King Crimson. I still think his ‘Baby’s on Fire’ solo is possibly the greatest guitar solo ever. ‘HCtWJ’ sounded like the future to me. It made me decide that other contemporaneous rock adventurers like Bowie and Peter Gabriel and so on were miles behind him. It’s still one of the great all-time rock albums, I think. ‘Taking Tiger Mountain’ is even greater. That one seemed like the Sgt. Pepper of the ’70s at the time, and it still kind of does. So that’s what I thought. ‘No Pussyfooting’ was excellent, yeah, I was way into that. The same period Phil Manzanera solo album ‘Diamond Head’ that Eno worked heavily on is another unsung jewel. It’s 48 degrees here. Yawn. ** Right. I restored today’s post both because I love this kind of stuff and also because I lived about a 3 minute drive by car from Forty Acres during its last six or so months of existence, and I used to wander around outside its outer fence gazing in at the crumbling movie sets like a tiny bedazzled child. See you tomorrow.

14 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    January 2, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Your friend slapping you is a bit much, but I’m rather surprised by you r not “getting” Elizabeth Taylor. She’s the most famous Hollywood star of all-time. Only Marilyn Monroe challenges her. Her “private life” was never private — even when she began as a child star in “National Velvet” Her many marriages — the most important being to Richard Burton — remains fascinating. She was the first star to get a million dollars for a movie. And she got it even though she was asking fro that amount as a joke. “Tell them I’ll do it for a million dollars” she said when 20th-Century Fox, desperate for s big hit, decided that Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” was just the ticket — even thiugh the project started as something simple they thought of shooting on the backlot with Joan Collins. The first Taylor-Cleo began in London with Rouben Mamoulian directing.Peter Finch as Caesar and Stephen Boyd was Marc Anthony. Then Taylor collapsed and nearly died — saved only by an emergency tracheotomy. A couple of years later it started up again in Rome. She had her choice of director and so Joseph L. Mankiewicz — who had directed her so superbly in “Suddenly Last Summer” — was hired. The budget went out of control because Fox was collapsing and Mankiewicz wasn’t given enough time to plan. It cost 40 million. That sounds like chicken feed today but adjusted to current cost its over 200 million. Because it was taking so long Fox rushed “Something’s Got to Give” — a Cukor-directed remake of “My Favorite Wife” into production. But then its star — Marilyn Monroe — died. (Lotsa blather about her being “murdered”by the Kennedys — total nonsense. It was an accidental OD.) When released it actually broke even, but was regarded as a flop. Among many other things Elizabeht Taylor was the great fag-hag of all time. Roddy McDowell was her bestie from childhood. She adored both Rock Hudson and James Dean, her co-stars on “Giant.” And when Hudson died she threw herself into AIDS fundraising with a passion and commitment that was without precedent or equal. The last time I saw my dear friend and fellow-activist Vito Russo he was talking about what fun she was and how they had become close friends. So as you can see there would have been TONS to talk about had you done that interview

  2. David Ehrenstein

    January 2, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Here’sCleopatra’s entrance into RomeOne of THE greatest scenes in Old Hollywood history. Choreography by the great Jack Cole.

    I’m fascinated by abandoned and multi-used movie sets. “Cleopatra” was shot in Rome but the cost resulted in FOX selling off a major part of its backlot — this creating Century City. There once was a giant studio lake there — when Deborah Kerr arrived by boat in “The King and I”

    When “Hello Dolly!” was made an enormous et was built on the front of the Fox lot. Only a tiny portion of it is still there, and was used for a street scene episode of “How I Met Your Mother” When more of that set was still up Marty used it for “New York New York”

  3. David Ehrenstein

    January 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Regarding gay/straight stuff, for from forever we gays were required to know everything about straights but they felt no obligation whatsoever to be interested in so much as a smidgen about us. That’s changed over the last 30 years or so as a result of the AIDS epidemic. It’s led to a lot of freer and easier exchanges which is of course a great thing. As for UNEASY exchanges that’s a result of Trump. Lotsa chatter on “social media” regarding Trump supporters being out out that many of their non-Trump-supporting friends don’t want to speak to them anymore. And who can blame them? Especially when they whine “I’m really a good person!” If you really were a good person you wouldn’t vote for a White Supremacist Nazi supporter.

    • Your comments about the “mania for conformity” is totally true, and exactly what I have been thinking and what has been bothering me. It’s true on a political level, where people despise anyone whose ideology diverges from theirs by more than 10%, and in cultural criticism, where it’s very hard to find anyone saying negative about movies like GET OUT (the one negative review I’ve read, by Armond White, was a bunch of self-hating right-wing posturing, and although it was my favorite film of 2017, I’d welcome an intelligent critique) and LADY BIRD (I’ve read a total of two reviews that express any reservations whatsoever), and albums like Lorde’s MELODRAMA, SZA’S CTRL & Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Former Entertainment Weekly/current Variety critic Owen Gleiberman said that he’d never read a pan of Beyonce’s LEMONADE and that he thinks this consensus is really unhealthy. I have actually read one negative review of LEMONADE that engages with it on a musical level; otherwise, the only critical comments I’ve read about Beyonce say “she’s a fake feminist whose politics are totally shallow and she spends too much time singing about sex and wearing skimpy clothing onstage” and have nothing to do with the quality of her music. Poptimism has actually led to music critics taking artists like Beyonce, SZA and Lamar even more seriously than middle aged white male rock critics ever took U2 and Springsteen (and I like Beyonce and Lamar a great deal and wrote a 2,000 word review praising GET OUT, so I’m not exempting myself from these criticisms.) However, I am going to try and pitch around an article along the lines of “10 hip-hop albums released in 2017 that are as good as DAMN.”

      One thing that really impresses me is that those 2 Eno albums is how proto-punk and proto-post-punk they sound, in 1973 and 1974. I realize that, in part, this is because they would go on to influence artists like Wire and Magazine, but it’s still amazing to me how much “Third Uncle” sounds like a punk song from 1977. And Fripp’s solo on “Baby’s On Fire” is a thing of magic! For me, ANOTHER GREEN WORLD continues his great streak, even though it sounds totally different and, in retrospect, is the start of his interest in ambient music.

      I was really into the punk/”alternative” scene in the 80s and no one I know in it would go near dance music, or had even heard of the Associates or Scritti Politti in my circles. New Order and ’70s Kraftwerk were maybe the only exceptions. The house and techno scenes that existed at the time were a completely parallel universe that I only learned about circa 1991-2. In my experience, this only cracked when the rave scene started to become popular in the early ’90s and artists like the Orb, Aphex Twin and 808 State crossed over into the indie rock audience.

      • David Ehrenstein

        January 3, 2018 at 12:16 am

        Some things just aren’t worth writing about that much. I found “Get Out” to be too clever by half and not at all the confrontation with white racism that many have claimed it to. White racism reduced to a horror movie tope disempowers it. I was amazed when “Lemonade” appeared and several people approached me and told me they thought it deserved LAFCA’s experimental film award. There’s nothing experimental about it. These people were obviously snowed by Beyoncé’s fashionability.

  4. Thanks! Yes, I sent you an email just now.
    I don’t get Elizabeth Taylor either. In the performances she’s most celebrated for, she misses something I really want in movies. Maybe whatever that is, is overwhelmed by her “star power” or something. I particularly dislike the performance in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which I think really diminished the character in that very great play. The definitive Martha I’ve seen is Imelda Staunton (no surprise); Amy Morton was also amazing; and Kathleen Turner was great.
    I only met Elizabeth Taylor once, briefly, when she came for the dedication of the Elizabeth Taylor HV/AIDS clinic building, where I worked. (Also met Liza Minelli and Eileen Brennan, who claimed to be excited to meet me because I was a Jeopardy champion.) A couple of friends of mine had had long conversations with her (during the weird Sen. Warner period) and said to focus on her eyes–which were indeed so captivating that you could see why people found her charismatic.
    2018 is doing great for me so far; hope you feel the same. Jesus Christ, you stay busy. I feel like I do exactly nothing most of the time. Still: Happy here.

  5. Happy new year, Dennis! Awesome way to start of the year. Love, B.

  6. Dennis, in regards to Misanthrope’s friend, when he told me the same story he’s been telling you I told him that IMO it was nice to see that people are still freaked out or made uncomfortable by same-sex stuff… to see that it still has an “edge” or something like that. Hell, I wouldn’t call myself straight by any stretch of the imagination but certainly there are certain aspects of gay sex that I remain highly ambivalent about (and I could say the same thing about hetero sex as well).

    J.G. Ballard famously said that with his novel “Crash” he was trying to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror. But I think social media has accomplished that same goal in a way that he never even imagined: in some ways it has shown western civilization its true face. Is it any wonder so many people have been repulsed by what they’ve seen?

    Oh, I hope I didn’t give the impression that “Prey” is an action game like “Doom” where you’re battling monsters every few seconds: there are actually large stretches or areas of the game where there’s little battle at all, and if you’re stealthy a lot of combat can be avoided. It just gives one the impression that one can be attacked at any time, hence the feeling of paranoia/anxiety. But yes, the space walk sections might be a trigger for some, ha ha. One thing that interests me about the game that I didn’t touch on yesterday was the elaborate backstory of it. The designers created this byzantine alternative history timeline where JFK survived his assassination and formed a partnership with Khrushchev to further human advances in space. The space station the game takes places on (named Talos I) has been owned by a number of different governments and corporations over the years, all who have added their own touches to it. So, when you’re in the older, original portions of the ship, the design and iconography is very Soviet Union-like, whereas the more recently designed areas of the station have a more modern sci-fi look. So in a way the very environment kind of contributes to the storytelling process, perhaps in a way that the casual gamer may not even bothered to notice. But I tend to geek out over little details like that, ha ha.

    • I can see what you mean about queer sexuality still having an “edge” being valuable, but I would prefer not to be friends with anyone who freaks out at the thought of seeing the very mild examples of it shown in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. And I think that discomfort leads to violence in real life, in its extreme forms: the more heterosexuals are desensitized to PDAs between gay couples, the less likely they are to want to beat up or even kill 2 men for holding hands walking down the street or kissing. That’s one reason why I think “mainstream” films and TV shows about gay men should be more sexually explicit than they tend to be now.

  7. Hi!

    I remember my shock when I first learned, as a kid, that movie sets like this existed. That sometimes the buildings or even the countries/places where the films were shot weren’t “real”, haha. “40 Acres” looked amazing, though. It’s really sad it got demolished. Thank you for this “commemoration”.

    Quiet, almost non-existent New Year’s Eve “parties” are my favorite. I had a really nice time with Anita, too.
    Yeah, we’re about to move in two weeks. The house looks like a war-zone right now but yes, once it’s over it’ll feel so nice. I’ll mourn this home we leave behind but I think I need this change or this “blank page” feeling now.

    How are things on your end? How did the new year begin? Do you have time to work on your own script beside the must-do works?

  8. Wow, there’s a heavy post-apocalyptic feeling to these abandoned lots. It puts me in mind of Mark Fisher – The Weird and the Eerie that theorised the meaning behind empty landscapes.

    Saw a great exhibition today at the Hepworth in Wakefield, of work by the late Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow. This was all casts of her body, or fragments of it, shiny and slimy or glowing with coloured lights. I’d never heard of her before this show and it seems she’s been overlooked a long time before a recent rediscovery.

  9. I sat down and started writing my new script, and I have a page and a half done. I don’t have a solid idea where it begins and ends. But I have the drug angle and the Velvet Underground as starting points, and I began writing the first one today. Also, I decided that both characters will be closeted in different ways: the hippie is gay and the businessman is hetero but an Arab-American whose real first name is Samir but who changed his name and calls himself Sam (and probably changed his last name too.) I’ve realized that this is a very 2017 take on 1971, influenced by the enormous importance of the Velvets on subsequent rock music, the use of marijuana to treat PTSD in a legal medical context in recent years and the current demonization of Arabs in the U.S., but given that I’m writing about a time before I was born, how could it not be? Writing about aspects of the present – as well as my past: some of the things the hippie will say about his attraction to the Velvets are what attracted me to them when I first heard them circa age 15 around 1985/6 – in a coded way is what many of the best period pieces do.

  10. Wow – fascinating. I would’ve sworn, or assumed ‘Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS’ was filmed in Europe somewhere.

    BTW the Lindsay Lohan biopic of Elizabeth Taylor is worth watching.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NZSpjALw0ek

    Not as great as ‘The Canyons’ though

  11. Dennis, I remember this day back in the…day. I do find it odd, though, that the still of Mayberry RFD features a pedophile hunting down a young red-haired boy. What a creepy series that was.

    Oh, no, when my friend was finally direct with me, all my bugged-ness totally fell away…because that’s what was really bugging me, that she hadn’t been direct with me. In the 8 or 9 years of our friendship, we’ve always been very direct with each other. It kind of put me off that she hadn’t been. (And frankly, while I’d guessed why she wasn’t being direct, there was a part of me that thought maybe there was something more she was afraid to say to me, which would be odd because she knows she can say anything to me at all. I’m a hard guy to offend or to upset.)

    I was surprised that that was her reaction/position because she is very pro-gay and all that, but that really didn’t bother me. As I’ve always said, people like what they like and don’t like what they don’t like. No biggie.

    I’m sure she was just trying to be nice in not being direct. But she knows me well enough that I wouldn’t get mad over something like that. I appreciate the directness/bluntness that she and I have in our friendship.

    So yeah, that was the crux of the thing and of my being a bit put out.

    Oh, man, I hear you on the conformity stuff. I have great friends, very good people, who’ve been raked over the coals online because they had the audacity to disagree with 1% of a position or try to introduce some sort of nuance into a discussion they were totally behind in the first place. Awful stuff, the way they’ve been treated.

    What’s really funny is that the people who do that sort of thing to others are usually the first to complain about the lack of civility in public discourse these days.

    As I’m sure you know, I’m very much all for differing views and perspectives on things. How fucking boring if everyone saw everything the same way. For example, CMBYN. I loved it. Most of my friends hated it. I like that. I really do. It makes it infinitely more interesting to me. Preaching to the choir or being part of that choir can get old and stale and boring really quick. Fuck that.

    I finished another section of this novel today. For whatever reason, work was really slow, so I got the old pen and paper out. I have a feeling, though, that today was the calm before the storm work-wise. Those withholding tables will be coming down any day now. But hey, I’m not complaining…they pay me to do this shit. It’s not like I just get a free turkey and a loaf of bread every other Friday or some shit.

    It’s going to be about 35 degrees tomorrow…and then 20 degrees Thursday and Friday, with wind chill anywhere from -5 to -15 degrees. That’ll be nice. Not really.

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