Seeing Stars: Hollywood Museums..

4000 Warner Boulevard,
Burbank, CA. / (818) 954-1744

For decades, most major Hollywood studios have sadly neglected their past.

Every classic movie leaves behind a heritage of priceless costumes, props, scripts and other memorabilia, so many people assume that the studios lovingly preserve these treasures. Not so. After a film is made, most items used in production are either recycled, sold, torn down or returned to storage. As a result, many important items from classic films have been allowed to gather dust in storage, re-used, destroyed, misplaced or simply thrown away. Some key collector's items have been auctioned off to private bidders.

But as incredible as it may seem, not one major Hollywood movie studio built a museum to showcase their classic memorabilia.

Until now.

Warner Bros Studios in Burbank has opened the new Warner Bros. Museum, the first such museum to be constructed on a studio lot. At 7,000 square feet, this is a good-sized place, part of the recently constructed Steven J. Ross Theater.

The new museum brings together many of the key costumes, props, animation cels and letters collected over 70+ years of Warner Bros film-making. The exhibits are augmented with audio listening stands and with video monitors which show movie clips illustrating how these items appeared in the films.

They have four gleaming Oscar statues on display here, three for Warner Bros. films which won as Best Picture: "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), "Casablanca" (1943), and "My Fair Lady" (1964), and one for creating Hollywood's first talkie: "The Jazz Singer" (1927).

The museum's collection includes:

Historic costumes, such as:
  • Humphrey Bogart Ingrid Bergman's clothes from "Casablanca"

  • Joan Crawford's dresses

  • the extravagant hats from the Ascot Race scene in "My Fair Lady" and

  • the "pumpkinseed gown" worn by Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Guenevere in "Camelot").

And numerous props, such as:

  • the real Maltese Falcon ("the stuff that dreams are made of...") - the original black bird statuette

  • Sam's 'As Time Goes By' piano from "Casablanca") and

  • John Wayne's saddle and chaps.

  • Life masks of the stars (such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton cast during the making of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?")

  • Jack Warner's collection of leather-bound scripts and his personal address book.

plus much more, such as candid photos, composers' musical scores, and the stars' personal effects (such as James Dean's Triumph 500 motorcycle, on which he used to tear around the studio lot).

There's a special area at the museum devoted strictly to "Casablanca," which includes the film's script, its costumes, and even the small piano on which Sam "played it again" for Rick. 
  ("You must remember this...
                                  A kiss is still a kiss...
The Museum also features a lot of revealing correspondence, letters from Errol Flynn and John Wayne complaining about conditions on their sets, a letter from Ronald Reagan begging Warner for a role, and letters from Jack Warner predicting that nobody would want to see "Bonnie & Clyde."

There's even a memo from the advent of talkies firing Rin Tin Tin because the dog couldn't talk!

The museum's volunteer docents (guides) include prop masters, publicists, drivers, makeup artists, animators and others, eager to share their memories of Hollywood history.

Up on the second floor, you'll find a large exhibit dedicated to Warner's "Harry Potter" movie franchise, with lots of props, costumes and even the "Sorting Hat" which will sort you into one of Hogwart's four houses.

But there's one major catch:  you can see the museum only if you take the Warner Bros studio tour. The tour is great. But it's also rather costly. While getting to see the Museum for free is a great addition for tour guests, not many people are going to fork over $45 for the tour just to see the Museum. Another drawback is that they usually only give you half an hour (some tell me just 15 minutes or so) to look at the museum before the tour. But if you want to tour a major Hollywood studio, this is the best tour in town, and you get the new museum thrown in to boot. For more information on the VIP tour, click here.

Admission Price: The Museum can only be see as part of the Warner Bros. VIP Studio tour. Tour of studio costs $45 per person, regardless of age (minimum age is 10).  Tickets are available online.  Parking is $5.

Hours: Tours are given all day, Monday through Friday from 8:20 AM to 4 PM (longer during the peak Summer & Spring tourist seasons. No tours on the weekend. Advance reservations are recommended and tickets are available online. Reservations are only accepted for the first three tours of the day. (Their schedule is subject to change - phone first to be sure of hours. (818) 972-TOUR.)

Getting there: The studio is located at the intersection Olive Avenue, Pass Avenue, and Barham Boulevard, in Burbank, just a few blocks southeast of NBC Studios and Disney Studios, and northeast of Universal Studios. From Universal Studios, take Lankershim Boulevard half a mile north to Riverside Drive. Turn right (east), and take Riverside Drive east (about a mile and a half) to Hollywood Way. Turn right again (south), and take Hollywood Way to the studio gate. / From the Ventura (134) Freeway east, take the Pass Avenue offramp. Turn right on Pass Avenue and follow it southeast for about one half mile, to where it intersects with Olive Street at the Studio. Look for the giant movie posters - you can't miss it. To reach their parking lot, make a left turn (northeast) on Barham Boulevard, and drive along the outside of the studio around the corner to Hollywood Way. Make a right (south) turn on Hollywood Way to the studio gate.

[For more information on this subject, you can access Warner Bros' website at:]

Click here to browse books about Warner Bros. history

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