22 May

Wednesday, 17th May 2023 - The Warner Bros Studios Tour (The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of).

Barely had I arrived in Los Angeles, I was already heading towards my first quarry during my brief stay in the city. The next day would be spent visiting old friends and colleagues in Kingston Technology”s Fountain Valley Office in Orange county. This visit is not one that I shall be providing a detailed account for as matters discussed there are largely business related and therefore confidential.

Today I was going to immerse myself in the one area of the arts that both excites and interests me the most, the wonderful world of TV and Movies. What better place to start than the tour of the studio whose films have become iconic and whose actors have become legends.

The studio is named after the four brothers who originally founded it, Harry, Sam, Albert and Jack. Harry was the president and ran its headquarters in New York City with Albert acting as treasurer in charge of sales an distribution, while Sam and Jack ran the Hollywood end of the operation which in 1923 became known under the name “Warner Bros Studio” productions. However, the Warner brothers were beset by sibling rivalries and egos clashed and disagreements arose over how the studio should be taken forward in the next decade.

Often in such cases there is a key figure in the equation that keeps the warring factions working with each other in spite of the themselves and for the Warners this role fell to Sam. Indeed it was Sam who persuaded his brothers to invest in a new technology called “Vitaphone”, something which he was convinced would revolutionise the film industry. His brothers were persuaded and invested the money into the project thus being the first studio to release a “Talkie”, a movie which had both picture and sound. The movie starred Al Jolson and was called “The Jazz Singer”. Sadly, Sam died only 24 hours before the premiere of the movie and would never know how significant his role would become.

Thanks to Sam”s vision, Warner Bros went on to produce such memorable titles like “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart, “White Heat” (1949) starring James Cagney, “Rebel without a cause” (1955) starring James Dean, “Blade Runner” (1982) starring Harrison Ford ne of course “The Goonies” (1985) starring Sean Astin. All of these actors went on to star in much bigger and well known roles and the studio increased in size to accommodate the film and sound stages it needed to produce an ever increasing list of Hollywood blockbusters like “Superman”, the “Dirty Harry” films and more recently both the “Lord of the Rings” and the “Harry Potter” film series.

Yet it was not only movies were the studios would dominate the industry for decades but also in the world of TV Series. Who does not remember the exploits of Bo and Luke Duke in “The Dukes of Hazzard” or for the millennials amongst my readers, “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory”.

The backlot of the Warner Bros studios has a number of mock up streets and buildings which have appeared in several films and movie series over the years. One such street houses a building that has served as both a courthouse, a library and perhaps most famously Gotham City”s Police Department Headquarters in the 1960 TV Series “Batman”.

Just around the corner from there stands the fountain and in front of it the coach made famous in the title sequence of the 1990s comedy series “Friends”. Much of the show was shot at Warner Bros studios including the opening scenes and shots in around the Central Perk cafe. 

Other streets have been repurposed so that the same street became part of the scene taking place in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and even Casablanca from the film of th e same name.

Movie magic requires a great many props and the store on the Warner Bros lot is one of the greatest in the world. They have almost anything you might need if you are a budding film maker and are looking for some props from a specific period. The store has a replica of the Maltese Falcon, the neon-light sign of the comedy club from the film “Joker”, as well as the massive oak desk from the Oval Office used in the TV Series “The West Wing”. I can only describe the experience of seeing the myriad of props as coming across the cave of Ali Baba. Decades of film history is contained in these hallowed halls.

The tour was drawing to a close, but there was just time to drop in on the DC Universe exhibit. With the release of the next movie from the DC Universe “Blue Beetle” coming as soon as this August, it was the opportunity to take a look at the costumes and exhibits worn by actors like Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa, as well as Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in their outings as Wonder-Woman, Aquaman, Batman and Superman respectively.

Next door was the Harry Potter exhibit and this was completed by a brief exhibit from the “Fantastic Beasts” films series which effectively forms a series of prequels to the adventures of the Boy Wizard.

Finally, at the exit of the souvenir shop, there are representations of the costumes worn by Arrow”s Stephen Amell, The Flash”s Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist”s Supergirl.

The pictures taken should provide an idea of the splendour of the exhibition, but to appreciate it, I encourage my readers to come and visit the Warner Bros Studios for yourselves ….

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