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MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot

MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot

4.6 5
by Steven Bingen, Stephen X Sylvester, Michael Troyan, Debbie Reynolds

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M-G-M: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot is the illustrated history of the soundstages and outdoor sets where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced many of the world’s most famous films. During its Golden Age, the studio employed the likes of Garbo, Astaire, and Gable, and produced innumerable iconic pieces of cinema such as The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in


M-G-M: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot is the illustrated history of the soundstages and outdoor sets where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced many of the world’s most famous films. During its Golden Age, the studio employed the likes of Garbo, Astaire, and Gable, and produced innumerable iconic pieces of cinema such as The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, and Ben-Hur.

It is estimated that a fifth of all films made in the United States prior to the 1970s were shot at MGM studios, meaning that the gigantic property was responsible for hundreds of iconic sets and stages, often utilizing and transforming minimal spaces and previously used props, to create some of the most recognizable and identifiable landscapes of modern movie culture.

All of this happened behind closed doors, the backlot shut off from the public in a veil of secrecy and movie magic. M-G-M: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot highlights this fascinating film treasure by recounting the history, popularity, and success of the MGM company through a tour of its physical property.

Featuring the candid, exclusive voices and photographs from the people who worked there, and including hundreds of rare and unpublished photographs (including many from the archives of Warner Bros.), readers are launched aboard a fun and entertaining virtual tour of Hollywood’s most famous and mysterious motion picture studio.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"The world probably will not see anything quite like it again," concedes talk show host Dick Cavett about the Culver City home to some of the 20th century’s most renowned and respected actors, actresses, screenwriters, and artists. A production company in its truest sense, the eventual 1924 merger of Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer pioneered an assembly-line approach to filmmaking and initial profits paved the way for the introduction of sound stages and innovations in set design, special effects, and many other aspects of film production. Chapters are sub-divided into "Lots"—as was the MGM site itself—and readers are transported into a bygone era through candid b&w photographs, lucid commentaries, testimonials, and anecdotes that bestow a behind-the-scenes experience. But the tale had a darker side as well: cracks were showing in the pristine veneer and the editors aptly include the studio’s undignified demise amidst squandered assets and disillusioned takeover attempts. Film-buffs, historians, sociologists, and economists will swoon at the intricacy and insider information here; detailed balance sheets of frequently over-blown production budgets are even included. Readers will be educated, inspired, and enthralled by this handsome book. Photos. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"Reading this was like being there. I know. I was there."  Clint Eastwood

"The first ten films I made for MGM changed my life. Now you can go back in time—as I have—in the pages of this remarkable book, learning how and where the ‘Land of Make Believe’ became real. Once you take the journey, you, too, will be transported."  —Angela Lansbury

"What a cornucopia of valuable behind-the-scenes information and rare photos. I’ve got one word to describe this book: Irresistible!"  —Leonard Maltin

"For anyone who has ever dreamed what it was like to live in the Golden Age of Hollywood, this visit to my grandfather’s studio will vividly re-create the experience."  —Daniel Mayer Selznick

"This comprehensive history uses detailed text and a wealth of behind the scenes photos to take you through the most storied of major studio lots. If you love classic Hollywood, this book is a knockout."  —Kenneth Turan

"I was under contract with MGM for six years and twenty four films, and seeing this extraordinary new book of photos and commentary took me, and will take you, on a journey where Louis B. Mayer’s ‘More Stars Than There Are in Heaven’ acted on the magnificent grounds and sets of MGM’s five backlots."  —Richard Anderson

"What an achievement! Having spent a great deal of time on the backlot myself, this book brought forth so many memories. The description of the last days of MGM is brilliantly done, and the list of films shot on the various sets is incredible. All in all, it’s a spectacular project!"  —Kevin Brownlow

Library Journal
For all aficionados of Hollywood's golden age, when MGM was at the apex of U.S. film production, with stars like Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, and Judy Garland (to name just the Gs), this book is rewarding because it isn't just another celebration of MGM's luster. But it's also a tearjerker. What was the most glorious back lot in film history is gone. The book's final section, "Backlot Babylon," narrates the studio's postwar decline and its 1969 purchase by Kirk Kerkorian, whose top executive declared "The old MGM is gone," and then bulldozed and sold off the back lots. Authors Bingen (Warner Brothers: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of); Stephen X. Sylvester, who explored the MGM back lots before they were demolished and captured oral histories of many studio employees; and Michael Troyan (A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson), a film archives specialist, reveal the entire MGM infrastructure, including fascinating documentation (with hundreds of photographs) of the use and reuse of film sets across many years and genres. The oral histories of studio employees are treasures amid many in this revelation of all the workings behind that gloss. An appendix of "Films Shot on the Backlot" is invaluable. VERDICT Highly recommended to buffs and specialists alike; for all comprehensive film collections.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal

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Santa Monica Press
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Meet the Author

Steven Bingen is the author of Warner Bros.: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of and has contributed to numerous books, documentaries, and magazines. He holds a staff position at Warner Bros. Corporate Archive, aiding in the preservation and management of the studio’s legend and legacy.

Stephen X. Sylvester is a filmmaker and historian who was lucky enough to have explored MGM’s legendary backlots in 1968 and 1975.

Michael Troyan is the author of A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson and has contributed to Disney A–Z, The Disney Villains, and The Disney Poster Book.

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MGM 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Joi-PenName More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book. I've been waiting years for a book like this - to finally be able to stroll through a movie studio - as if to be back in time to when MGM was in it's glory. Thank you for such a publication!
JudyOH More than 1 year ago
Oblique415 More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book, but the formatting for the NOOK is terrible.  The real book has pictures that are full-page, but they are relegated to being about 2 inches square - not great for what is essentially a picture book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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