by Cheryl Campbell
First called Universal Pictures, this giant film studio was built on the Hollywood hilltop in 1912, using the site of an original chicken farm.
The theme park rides were, and still are, designed around films being produced, and an additional treat was allowing the general public to watch the filming of movies for an extra 25 cents. This was back in the day, as far back as 1931, during the time of silent movies. The public loved watching the filming; it gave them their first glimpse of a favourite actor or actresses, some of whom became well known for such films as Frankenstein and Dracula, which in those days were called monster movies.
The Frankenstein character certainly seemed to be around for many years, for I found him walking around the studio grounds in Hollywood when I visited the theme park and Universal Studios in 1980, where I was privileged to have shaken his hand, and had a photograph taken with him to mark the event. Friends and I did the tram rides around the theme park and studio grounds, and we went on the famous boat tour on the complete film set of Amity Island.
Here is my recollection of the event…
As we gently motored on the calm waters, a slight breeze blowing our hair, our sense of peace and tranquillity was unexpectedly shattered as the gashing teeth of a shark rising out of the water ends up too near my face for comfort. I automatically recede in fear, getting soaked in the process as screams and cries are happening all around me. This of course was the set for Jaws.
The terror does not end there, for Jaws attacks a lone diver, leaving a huge amount of blood in his path. The boat continues on its journey, as the screams and cries gradually subside, leaving people feeling rather silly at they own reactions.
All the amusements take us on physical rides, and emotional journeys, but isn’t that just why we do these trips, for the fear and excitement it brings?
Another area I visited was some of the well know studios where TV programmes were produced; including the studio where Hart to Hart was filmed. This was a TV show where the husband and wife team of actor Robert Wagner and actress Stephanie Powers were detectives. I was actually allowed to sit on the same stool, looking in the very same mirror, where Stephanie Powers did her hair and makeup as part of the programme. What a thrill! But I wasn’t to know then, that my future husband would get even nearer to her than that.
A few years later, my husband came home from work saying excitedly that he’d seen Stephanie Powers. She was in London filming a TV Movie called Deceptions, where she played her own twin. A film camera had broken down, and my husband went onto the set to repair it, while this wonderful, beautiful actress stood nearby and waited.
The green-eyed monster (my jealously) really struck that night, reminding me of my being indoors with two small children, while my husband was out and about enjoying his work, in fact, enjoying it far too much!