Around 1918, during the heyday of the Model T, and the beginning of the film boom, Jesse D. Hampton built a simple film studio at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue. Little did he know that his small studio would be passed to some of the greatest influences in film, including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Sam Goldwyn. Over the years, through the Great Depression, both World Wars, and an enormous influx of production activity in Hollywood, the location underwent many changes. Now known simply as The Lot, this film production lot is so much more than just that. It is a state-of-the-art facility capable of the full gamut of production, including rental offices, sound stages, carpentry facilities, screening rooms, and so much more.
THE LOT HISTORY
This film was the first in Hollywood history to have a premiere at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater on August 18, 1922, and was made here just after Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks bought the studio, renaming it Pickford-Fairbanks Studio.
“America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford starred in this film, directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Although moderately successful, Mary detested this film and its director, demanding afterward that all copies be destroyed.
This was Mary’s first “talkie” picture, for which she received mixed reviews.
This highly praised movie features a very young Lucille Ball as one of the Goldwyn Girls and is sometimes incorrectly billed as her debut.
Olivier received the first of his ten Oscar nominations for this performance.
PRIDE OF THE YANKEES
Superior & moving story of Lou Gehrig featured Babe Ruth (as himself) and racked up several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Lead Actor and Lead Actress.
THE BISHOP’S WIFE
Cary Grant gives one the his most praised performances, validating replacement director Henry Koster’s decision to have the leading men swap roles after production had begun under the original director.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Directed by the legendary Billy Wilder.
PORGY AND BESS
A problem-plagued production, including most actors’ acquiescing to join the cast or “never working in this town again,” a fire that destroyed the sets, costumes, and the stage itself just two days before filming began, bitter clashes between Goldwyn and both directors that resulted in a film that none of them were happy with, and the subsequent refusal by the estates of Gershwin and Goldwyn to release the rights (burying it perhaps forever from our view).
A remarkable film for its outstanding acting performances, an ahead-of-its-time script, and caring direction by Billy Wilder, it netted Best Picture and Best Director Oscars.
Sinatra worked on the lot for nearly 40 years, filming “Suddenly” (1954), “Guys and Dolls” (1955), “The Frank Sinatra Show” (1957-58), “A Hole In The Head” (1959), “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), and “Sergeants 3” (1962) here. ”The Concert Sinatra,” a Nelson Riddle collaboration and arguably one of Sinatra’s finest collections, was recorded on Stage 7 in 1963. His office was located in a bungalow which still bears his name.
QUINN MARTIN PRODUCTIONS
“Cannon,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Most Wanted,” and “The Runaways” are just a few of the many productions that Quinn Martin oversaw while working here.
Jack Lemmon’s first and last directorial role, this movie was nominated for 4 Oscars, most notably Best Actor for Mathau.
AARON SPELLING PRODUCTIONS
Spelling filmed “Love Boat,” “Dynasty,” and “Matt Houston” here, as well as the pilot for “Beverly Hills 90210.”
LIFE WITH LUCY
Exec-produced by Spelling but deserving of its own entry, this show (considered a flop and yanked after 8 episodes) marked the end of Lucille Ball’s career, which also began here with one of Lucy’s first roles as a “Goldwyn Girl” in “Roman Scandals.”
Several of the lot’s stages (3, 4, 5, 6, & 7) came alive with the elaborate and fantastic sets for this film.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS
This was originally to be yet another reteaming of Lemmon and Mathau (11 total, counting Lemmon’s background cameo in “Kotch”), but James Garner was cast after Mathau had to bow out due to health reasons.
Directed by Curtis Hansen, a long-term tenant of the lot, this outstanding movie also prominently features our legendary neighbor, the Formosa Café.