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Fri, Jun-03-2016 07:19:59

The Lost Studio Backlot


"40 Acres" is the misnomer that was given to what was actually about 29 acres of land in Culver City, California, first used as a movie studio backlot in 1926 by Cecil DeMille, after he leased the property from Italian immigrate Achille Casserini (on March 22, 1926). DeMille's production company utilized the backlot for numerous silent films, including The King of Kings (1927), for which a large Jerusalem temple and town were constructed, The Fighting Eagle (1927), The Forbidden Woman (1927) and The Godless Girl (1929), DeMille's last silent, and for which a large reform school set was built on the lot. In 1928, DeMille's Culver City studio and backlot were acquired by RKO Pictures, whose films which employed the backlot included Bird of Paradise (1932) and the 1933 classic, King Kong. In 1937, David Selznick acquired the property in a long-term lease, and used the backlot to re-create a Civil War-era Atlanta for his 1939 epic Gone With The Wind (after filming the burning of numerous leftover sets on the lot, including the "King Kong" gate, to depict the burning of Atlanta in the film). Under a variety of owners over the next two decades, the backlot appeared in dozens of films, and by the early 1950's, the lot began to appear in television productions, including The Adventures of Superman. Pictured right in an aerial view from 1958, the backlot had just changed ownership to Desilu Studios. For the next ten years, the backlot would provide outdoor locales for Desilu's own television productions, as well as for series produced by others, the most notable of all being The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), for which the streets of Atlanta constructed for Gone With The Wind served as the town of "Mayberry." Paramount Pictures eventually bought out Desilu, and in 1968, sold off the Culver City studio facilities. As the studio continued to change hands, the "40 Acres" backlot fell out of use and into disrepair in the early 1970's, and in 1976 it was bulldozed and the land was sold to industry.