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MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot Hardcover – February 25, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


"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


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Santa Monica Press; 1/16/11 edition (February 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595800557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595800558
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is one of the finest books I have ever seen produced on the subject of motion pictures! Like another reviewer I found myself looking at the photographs for minutes at a time trying to see the details in each backlot scene. It is truly a work of spectacular dimensions and I congratulate the authors who have tried to create something for every cinema lover and classic motion picture collector. I have just retired from 40 years in the television and motion picture industry and I have never seen a compilation such as this. I will be buying copies of this book for Christmas and birthday gifts! When you find something you enjoy as much as I enjoyed this work you will want to share it with everyone. Put it on your Christmas list - you can't go wrong!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title of this book is QUITE misleading. Upon hearing about the book, I expected just a tour around the backlot of one of the most impressive movie studios in the world. When I opened the book, I found myself immersed in the ENTIRE studio, building by building, in this amazing feat of photographic glory and research. This is the book that diehard movie fans have been waiting for, and it does not disappoint. MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot is a cornucopia of pictures, trivia, and history that has no parallel today.

The authors, Stephen Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester, and Michael Troyer, strive and succeed at bringing to life this studio. Told through a careful selection of photographs from the day (be ready for black and white), as well as a compelling text that begs to be read, the history of the studio unfolds early on (after a wonderful but all too short forward by Debbie Reynolds). Then, the authors go section by section and "deconstruct" the lot. They provide a map of each section, and then go through each part, explaining its significance to the studio and revealing factoids to keep the movie lover or trivia expert up all night devouring the information. Tidbits like "the bridge of sighs", what happened to the famed columned entrance, and Marion Davies' bungalow are there to just whet your whistle.

When the book first arrived, I expected to flip through the pictures and just look at them. However, the writing, and the information, kept pulling me away as I wanted to learn more about what I was seeing. As a result, the authors have done something rather remarkable: they have brought to life this studio unlike anything I've ever seen before.
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Format: Hardcover
Finally a time machine that transports you back to the glorious days of the Hollywood Dream Machine. From cover to cover, the long lost world of Metro Goldwyn Mayer's backlot is revealed in a collection of pictures and story that gets you as close as you will ever come to actually being there. Author Steven Bingen spent the better part of ten years culling through thousands of rare and unique photographs tracing the entire MGM backlot. With his co-authors, they have woven a tapestry of history and memory unrealized in any other book. Included is an exhaustive and informative listing of productions made at the studio and precisely which stages and studio locations were used. Hail, hail, MGM is back, at least, thanks to Bingen, Sylvester and Troyan, in book form to revisit whenever you want to.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If ever a story needed to be told, this is it. In the '70's, I saw a feature piece on 60 Minutes regarding the systematic selling off of the fabled MGM Studio's backlots. It was a disturbing and ghostly story to begin with as it showed the once great studio in a decaying freefall. I'm a fan of classic Hollywood movies and I was upset by the thought that MGM was disappearing as a physical entity and would be lucky if it even existed on paper in a few years. In all probability MGM was soon to be reduced to stripmalls and subdivisions.
As anyone who watches a lot of movies will tell you, the major Hollywood studios had their own unique style and part of that style was associated with their backlots and movie sets. MGM was the grandest of them all. After all the dust from the former backlots had settled, when I'd go out to California I'd try to figure out what used to be MGM without much luck. It was difficult to determine where the lots once stood and harder still to know where the familiar outdoor sets that appeared in so many great films stood.
This book is incredible. While its size might give the impression that this is one of those fancy coffee table books with plenty of pictures and non-existent text, this book delivers. It is the story of a studio as well as a family of employees and it documents and details the founding of the studio, its boom years, and its slow disintegration. It is heavy with maps, pictures, archival information, and contains a huge amount of information and documentation about how the studio operated and how it was physically laid out. It chronicles the changes that occurred throughout the years as well as the business decisions that triggered those changes.
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