Movies and vintage television have always been subjects of fascination to viewers and fans from around the world. We are a breed of curiosity seekers who want to know more about how and where our favorite films and shows where filmed, and the nitty-gritty behind-the-scenes stories from the casts and crews. Thanks to the Internet and behind-the-scenes extras on most DVDs and Blu-rays we are able to find out so much more about a film, almost to the point you feel like you were a part of it somehow.
It wasn't always this way -- and trying to find out about an old show was almost impossible. A fine example of this is The Andy Griffith Show. When I moved to California to work in the movies, one of the first treats of Hollywood was the freedom to walk around the studio backlots and go exploring. The fictional town of Mayberry was a place I’d always wanted to find and, after working at all the studios, there was no such place. I assumed it was torn down after the show was over and that I might never know what studio it was shot at. My thoughts always had Mayberry in mind and – just a couple of years ago -- I bought a disc of images from the Fox lot that covered the building of the original George Barris Batmobile from the 60's television show. A bonus disc came with the Batmobile stuff and was simply called “The 40 Acres Backlot,” a place that I had never heard of before.
Once I opened the disc I was taken back to a lot that no longer existed and was once the cornerstone of the early days of motion pictures and classic television shows. By now you’re probably wondering what this story has to do with Star Trek, but if you keep on reading the answers will come. So without further ado, let’s all hop in our time machines and take a quick trip back to 1926. Although it's called the 40 Acres backlot, it was really only 28 acres and was situated southwest of MGM and shared a common corner with the Culver Studios. The land was first developed into an exterior filming backlot by Cecil B. DeMille, who created four of his epic silent films on the grounds. RKO acquired the lot from Mr. DeMille in 1928 and retained ownership until 1937. One of the lot’s best-known films was the 1933 classic King Kong.
The next owner was David O. Selznick, a producer famous for Gone with the Wind (which was filmed at 40 Acres) and several early Alfred Hitchcock films. After Selznick, the studio had various owners for the next 20 years, including Howard Hughes, who owned it from 1948 to 1955. By the mid- to late-50's, the lot made a transition from big feature films to Saturday matinee serials and television shows. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a company of their own called Desilu and the famous couple purchased the lot in 1958. With this purchase came the Culver City Studios next to the backlot and the west side of the Paramount Pictures studio that was previously owned by RKO. Desilu became the home for the golden age of television, and so many classics were filmed there: The Adventures of Superman, Mission: Impossible, Bonanza, That Girl, The Real McCoys, My Three Sons, Hogan’s Heroes, Batman, The Untouchables, The Green Hornet, Land of the Giants, Gomer Pyle, and The Andy Griffith Show!!! At last I had found where the town of Mayberry was... so much history in such a remote little area.
The studio was bought out in 1968 by Paramount Pictures, which sold off both the backlot and the Culver City studio location. By the 70's, the backlot had become a dump and was far, far beyond repair. In fact, in 1976, the land was sold off and bulldozed to the ground. Fifty years of magic… now all but a memory.
But wait a minute, I boldly forgot to mention one thing: Star Trek!!!
Yes, in 1966, the original pilot and series were being produced at the Desilu/Paramount stages in Hollywood. For the episodes "Miri" "The City on the Edge of Forever" and “The Return of the Archons,” the Star Trek cast and crew traveled to Culver City and filmed these favorite episodes at the 40 Acres backlot and right in the middle of downtown Mayberry!!! I was so glad to have gotten these pics of the backlot and of the behind- the-scenes pix from Star Trek. Lots of great stuff to see and if your interest in 40 Acres has been fired up, be sure to click HERE for more pix and information.
And now friends it's that time again… yes, it's the January installment of The Red Dress Series. To start out 2012 properly I am proud to introduce you to Miss Katherine McCoy. Katherine is a fairly new model and was discovered a few years ago working in the food court of a mall, at a place called Hot Dog on a Stick. She was asked if she’d ever considered modeling and, after having a little think about the matter, decided to go for it. She signed at a modeling agency in Los Angeles, but the venture proved to be fruitless. Later, her dentist recommended the site Model Mayhem, which is where I saw her page and spent a good year-plus sending messages that sat in an unopened mailbox. Finally she found them and we finally met last Saturday for our first shoot. For being as new to modeling as she is, Kate’s talents have no limits. She's cool, confident, fearless, and her style is sultry, sleek, and bewitching!!! We shot three different themes at the Thompson Aviation Yard in El Mirage and she tackled the very different genres with great ease. We shot a Pan Am theme first, followed by Star Trek and then a retro pilot theme and after looking at all the pix I can't pick one theme over the other as a favorite.
Modeling is just a hobby for Kate. Her big passion is in the kitchen. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and food nutrition, and hopes to one day work at one of the many Disney resorts. We had a great time working together, and here is a sampling of Kate's photographic magic.
So until next time, God bless,
John Eaves is veteran artist and illustrator who has lent his talents to too many films and television shows to count. Actually, he's at 60-plus and counting. Over the years, he's made a tremendous mark on Star Trek, as he's worked on The Final Frontier, all four TNG films, DS9 and Enterprise, Star Trek: The Exhibition, Star Trek Online and Star Trek (2009).
Click HERE to check out John Eaves' website, Eavesdropping.