“Many tal­ented ac­tors have placed their hand­prints, foot­prints and, in the case of Whoopi Gold­berg, their hair, in the ce­ment”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

Among the first stu­dios to set up in Hol­ly­wood were Univer­sal and Para­mount. Univer­sal was the very first, and made its rep­u­ta­tion through low cost, high-im­pact gen­res such as hor­ror. It was quickly eclipsed by the “ma­jors”– ver­ti­cally-in­te­grated stu­dios that not only owned pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, but also theatre chains. Para­mount, the first of these ma­jors, be­gan life as the Fa­mous Play­ers Film Com­pany about a month af­ter Univer­sal was es­tab­lished.

To­day, Univer­sal Stu­dios’ west coast lo­ca­tion is a Dis­ney-lite theme park with pre-planned prat­falls and dated Ter­mi­na­tor stage shows. Para­mount is the only stu­dio that still has a back­lot in Hol­ly­wood, and of­fers vis­i­tors a his­tor­i­cal tour – although, since Kenny, one of its guides, thinks Johnny Depp starred in Rear Win­dow, you may take some of the pat­ter with a pinch of salt. By the 1950s, with the power of the ma­jors wan­ing un­der com­pe­ti­tion from tele­vi­sion, stars man­aged to wrig­gle out of their stu­dio shack­les, giv­ing rise to in­de­pen­dent con­tracts and, con­se­quently, the agent. To­day, with wannabe Ari Golds bro­ker­ing deals for any­one with a head­shot, costs have gone through the roof, forc­ing pro­duc­tion lev­els to de­cline. Whereas Univer­sal was lucky to pro­duce a dozen films last year, dur­ing Hol­ly­wood’s Golden Age, the stu­dio would an­nu­ally turn out an av­er­age of 45 fea­tures.

On the Para­mount lot, the ap­pro­pri­ately named Pro­duc­tion Park is a ves­tige of this by­gone era. Four build­ings, each one once hous­ing key per­son­nel – ac­tors, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers and the mon­ey­men – face off across a nar­row stretch of grass. It was here that clas­sic projects such as With so many shows in pro­duc­tion, one might ex­pect to be con­stantly col­lid­ing with stars, but the big­gest name you are likely to meet on the Warner Bros tour is Talyan Wright, the eight-year-old who plays the daugh­ter of Ash­ton Kutcher’s girl­friend in Two and a Half Men.

Talyan has be­come a reg­u­lar fix­ture on the tour be­cause the tiny cabin in which she takes her mid-shoot classes was sen­si­bly placed on a busy back­lot junc­tion, while Ash­ton Kutcher lux­u­ri­ates in a mas­sive satel­lite­topped trailer, which you must not pho­to­graph. Not that Talyan seems to mind the dis­trac­tion: she uses it as an op­por­tu­nity to di­rect vis­i­tors to her IMDB page. At the very least she will get an A for self-pro­mo­tion.

Re­spond­ing to the ex­po­nen­tial pro­duc­tion of the Golden Age, Hol­ly­wood de­vel­oped around the stu­dios, with many land­marks spring­ing up along Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard. With their eyes fixed firmly on the pave­ment, tourists wan­der like poorly trained ac­tors search­ing for their mark, fre­quently butting heads over the ce­ment-pre­served hand­prints of Jimmy Ste­wart, John Wayne and Joan Craw­ford at Grau­man’s Chi­nese Theatre.

Since its open­ing, with Ce­cil B Demille’s The King of Kings in 1927, many tal­ented ac­tors, and the Twi­light cast, have placed their hand­prints, foot­prints and, in the case of Whoopi Gold­berg, their hair, in the ce­ment out­side Grau­man’s..

More re­cently, su­per­heroes have dom­i­nated: Hugh Jack­man and Robert Downey Jr are re­cent ad­di­tions.

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