By Lara Gabrielle Fowler
Well, readers, today was an exciting and exhausting day to say the least. It began around 9:45 in the morning when, running on adrenaline and caffeine only (I didn’t get very much sleep), I arrived at the Warner lot for the VIP tour. After getting formally acquainted with several classic film bloggers whose names I knew well, we were led into a special screening room where we watched a short video of the history of Warner Bros. and then headed out on the tour itself with our friendly guide, John.
We bloggers got some very special treatment–our first stop was the costume department, which is not normally part of the tour. There, a woman by the name of Elaine showed us stock costumes while explaining to us how the costume system works at Warner Bros. It turns out that costumes are owned by Warner Bros. but can be rented by other studios–there is a bit of a kinship there that allows costumes to be shared. Upon questioning her about a sign on one of the door that said “Trades not allowed,” Elaine also informed me that there is a trade system in place for some of the costumes. If a costume from the collection is lost or damaged, often the person who lost or damaged it can replace it with another costume of the same value. However, in that particular department, trades are not allowed if the costume is lost or damaged. The person must pay, out of pocket, the value of the costume. Very interesting stuff, and really gives you an insight into some of the politics of the inner departments of the studio.
As many of my readers know, I am a big fan of Barbara Stanwyck and was keen to know where Stanwyck’s pre-Code Warner Bros. films were shot. I posed my question to John, who was wonderful in getting the answer to me. He handed the question off to several people until I finally got an answer, and the answer was that most of the Barbara Stanwyck pre-Codes were filmed in Studio 14. When we passed Studio 14 later, John incorporated this new information into the tour. The Warner Bros. tour guides clearly respect and value new information, and I appreciated his diligence in answering my question and imparting it onto the whole group.
One of my favorite aspects of the tour was the prominent inclusion of A Star is Born. Having seen the movie at least two dozen times, I recognized the set where the opening shot was filmed, and we also passed Stage 7 where many prominent films were shot including A Star is Born, 42nd Street, and Casablanca. Though there were ladders blocking the bottom part of the plaque, I was able to get a bit of it in a picture. I hope you can read the text!
Halfway through the tour, we got a taste of the more modern Warner Bros. with a visit to the set of Friends. As this was a tour specifically geared toward bloggers, several of us classic film bloggers, John was kind enough to also include a lamp from The Maltese Falcon that appears alongside the Friends set. It was fascinating for me to experience the gamut of Warner Bros. through my lens of a classic film fan. It truly gives the visitor a holistic view of the company, and how its history (with which I am mostly familiar) has shaped its present.
The tour ended with a bang, as we were given special access to take pictures in the museum, something not generally allowed on tours. I have a real soft spot for costumes, so I was thrilled to be able to take photos of such costumes as the three dresses shown below.
Harry Warner’s granddaughter, Cass Warner, happened to be on the lot that day and visited with our group, which was a wonderful moment. She is part of Warner Bros. 90th anniversary speaker series, “Meet the Family,” telling the story of the Warner family through the eyes of its members. Cass has her own production company, the Warner Sisters, that is doing very prominent work in the industry right now. She also shared stories of the family, how she wanted the Warner record set straight. People often think of the movie moguls of classic Hollywood as being tyrannical and controlling–and Cass Warner wanted to reiterate that her grandfather was a loving man with whom she was close. She has also devoted much of her life to learning more about her family history. “I’m sort of the family detective!” she joked. She was very interested in the work we classic film bloggers were doing, and I was lucky enough to get a picture with her.
The tour ended at the commissary, where we were given a very delicious lunch. My blogging friends Kimberly Truhler, Kristen Lopez, Elise Crane Derby and I had exciting and lively discussions about our favorite classic film stars, little-known old Hollywood gossip, and our modest but vibrant online classic film community. We are indeed a rather small, devoted, and tight-knit bunch.
I got an added bonus after the tour–my friend Marya, who works at the Warner Archives, brought me up to see the closet where they keep all the Warner Archive DVD releases. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Marya and I talked about all the movies, I got to see where she works, and of course I got a picture with Robbie the Robot.
I can’t imagine a more fun-filled day for a classic movie fan. I departed Warner Bros. an exhausted, but very happy blogger.
Now for the good stuff!
If you would like to go on a Warner Bros. tour, I would highly recommend it. It was a lot of fun, and if you’re a film fan in L.A. it’s a great thing to check out. The VIP tour package looks like this:
Departs: Mon-Sat 8:15am-4pm and Sundays (limited availability)
Duration: 2hrs 15 min
Children 8yrs + are welcome
We technically went on a VIP tour, but with the added special access it was actually more like a Deluxe tour in many ways. This is what the Deluxe tour looks like:
Departs Mon-Fri 10:15 am
Duration: 5 hrs.
As I mentioned before, Cass Warner is speaking on tours through the end of the year, so if you would like to see her then this is the time to go. Also, apparently there is a tour in French, if you (like your author here!) speak French. However, act fast for that one because it’s only going on through November.
If you’re in Los Angeles and have a school or club who would like to see Warner Bros., give them a call because hey have special discounts for groups larger than 24. More information can be found on their website.
Thank you, Warner Bros., for this wonderful opportunity!
This is so awesome, Lara!! I’m so happy for you!! What an incredible experiene!!!
Thank you, Ronnie, it was such great fun!
The day sounds like a dream come true!
It sure was! I had a great time.
What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it and looking through the photos you included. The next time I find myself in LA, I’ll definitely look into buying tickets for a tour!
The costume on the left is actually from “The Damned Don’t Cry” and was worn by Joan Crawford.
Oh wow, thank you for the correction! I must have misread the label at the museum. I took pictures of the labels but I may have looked at the wrong picture for reference. I’m so glad you noticed!
No worries, I work at the studio so I go in the museum and moon over those dresses all the time.
How did you even process all those amazing experiences? I don’t think I could have slept the night before either. It’s great to see the studio showing respect for its past. Thanks for sharing this, it felt a bit like being there.
Lucky you! Goodness, let me know if there are any jobs there, I could do that all day!
I am learning more and more just how precious a blog is these days. I am extremely fortunate to have been able to do this, and it was all because of my blogging. I’m glad I could provide a sense of being there, it was a great time had by all!
Wonderful! How thrilling it must have been to see the costume dep’t AND talk to Cass Warner. Thanks for sharing your experiences. 🙂
What a wonderful opportunity for you! Especially now that Robbie the Robot is your new BFF. I’ll have to add this tour to my list.Here’s to keeping classic movies alive!
Lara,, great fun and thanks for the travelogue.I grew up within miles of the WB lot and actually lived for a while within a few blocks of there yet I never took a tour (of course they didn’t always offer tours to tell the truth) I did go to a movie premiere party there once and that was pretty cool. Besides the studio lot they also have a big wharehouse off-site where they archive more costumes and props..Your party of bloggers must have been fun too.