A View From the Top

p-1-backlot-1978In June 1960, when Rich Langsford was 12 years old, he got to do what many Culver City residents only dream of doing — go up in the tower of the Veterans Memorial Building. Fortunately for us, he brought a movie camera.

p-1-backlot-1978

A glimpse of this set can be seen from above in Rich Langford’s footage.

In town for his Culver City High School 50th class reunion in September, this Class of ‘66 alum presented the Historical Society with a DVD transfer of the film, which was shot on a Kodak Brownie 8mm camera.

The story goes that Rich’s mother, Marjorie, worked at MGM, first in the script department and later as personal secretary for Rod Serling, a screenwriter best known as creator and narrator of The Twilight Zone television series. One day Rich joined his mother for lunch at the Tower Restaurant, which once operated inside the Veterans Memorial Building under the tower, and he just so happened to have his camera with him.

Rich isn’t sure if his mother made an appointment to go up the tower’s elevator or if she just asked nicely, but somehow they were able to spend some time enjoying the view. In 1960 that view would have included a look into MGM’s Lot 2, which included backlot mainstays like “New England Street,” “Grand Central Station”, “Small Town Square,” featured in films like The Philadelphia Story, Meet Me in St. Louis and, yes, TV shows like The Twilight Zone. These days Lot 2 is where the Culver City Senior Center and the Studio Estates neighborhood are located.

“I just did a panoramic filming,” Rich says. “Of course I wasn’t a very good cinematographer when I was 12. It’s all kind of jittery. But it gives you a pretty good idea. You can see some things have changed since then.”

If you would like to see Rich’s 1960 view of Culver City from Vet’s Tower, the DVD can be screened at the Historical Society’s Archives and Resource Center during open hours.

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