Ince Boulevard

The most iconic real-life Hollywood neighborhood to ever sprout up is located right here in Culver City. This street is named after film pioneer Thomas Ince. One hundred years later, this street is still the center of attention. Amazon is building a new state of the art studio complex on the footprint of this old filmmaking institution, rich with tradition, history, and flavor. 

My first memory was seeing Batman and Robin, Batgirl, the Joker and Catwoman filming a scene together in front of the Plantation Building that was Desi Arnaz’s office. 

Superheroes graced this neighborhood. Superman flexed his muscles prior to the “dynamic duos.” The Green Hornet became not just a hit show, but part of this neighborhood. Kato, the character played by Bruce Lee, lived right behind the studio on Van Buren. Many of the kids exchanged greetings with him going back and forth from school.

Ince Boulevard runs a very short distance to be packed so full of iconic film history. It’s paved now, but in its day dirt roads led you inside. King Kong in 1933 could be seen being made from the sidewalks outside the studio. In 1938, that set was burned down in Gone With The Wind

Ince Boulevard was the hub of all the comings and goings on that night in film history. Neighbors old enough to have witnessed these memories share how every living creature that called the backlot home left in mass exodus during the Burning of Atlanta.

If you were at the main gate at the right time, anything could happen. Bob Crane was known to show many kids around Stage 13. Jim Nabors would hand out candy – cherry Life Savers! 

The four-way stop on Lucerne and Ince could at any given time have Andy Griffith’s squad car, the Batmobile, the Green Hornet’s Machine, or Catwoman in her furry ride.

Just another day on Ince!

That’s Entertainment

It was 1974 and I was 14 years old. I was visiting a security guard named Ken Hollywood, at MGM’s East Gate. He handed me a pencil and paper, saying “Two fellas will be coming out soon that you will want to meet!” And that was it.

Growing up in Culver City, I spent almost all my time on the back lots, either being chased, or just hanging out, watching as TV shows and movies got filmed. We were sharing stories together at this gate when, lo and behold, a Rolls Royce driven by Fred Astaire slowly rolled to a stop. Ken waved to Fred as we approached him with paper in hand. He graciously signed his name, shook my hand, and drove off.

When I thought things couldn’t get better, an old Chevy Impala appeared. I was not even thinking this was a star since his car was no better than my dad’s, but I did a double take and couldn’t believe my eyes — it was Gene Kelly! He yelled out to me, “Let me pull over so we can talk.”

“What was your favorite movie of all time to be part of?” I excitedly asked.

“I’m gonna surprise you,” Mr. Kelly responded. “It’s not a musical.”

After a long pause he said, “The Three Musketeers.”

“That’s my favorite, too!” I exclaimed.

“All the athletic preparation needed to make it look real was more difficult than almost any of my dance numbers,” he added.

“I love that show. You look like you were born with a sword in your hand,” I said. “You’re very athletic, and I can’t help but admire your skill.”

He then shared his love of baseball. The Pirates were his team.

I told him, “When it rains we sneak into the backlot and dance on the same cobblestone street where you performed Singing in the Rain. Well, mostly we just splash and sing.”

I was probably blushing as I giggled, and then he smiled that wonderful, iconic smile.

Donald blogs at phantomofthebacklots.com.