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Legendary Western Street Bites the Dust : Movies: Historic 60-year-old film sets at Burbank Studio Ranch fall under the bulldozer today to make way for a Warner Bros. parking lot.

June 16, 1993|DAVID WALSTAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just as Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Madeleine Stowe, Robert Duvall, Richard Dean Anderson and others are saddling up with various Westerns as part of a resurgence in the genre, one of Hollywood's legendary Western streets is biting the dust.

By the end of today, Warner Bros. will have bulldozed the historic 60-year-old Burbank-based sets used to film the 1952 Gary Cooper classic "High Noon" and Lee Marvin's 1965 Oscar-winning Western comedy "Cat Ballou," as well as numerous other features and television shows.

In place of the recognizable facades and boardwalks will be additional parking and storage facilities that Warner Bros. says it needs on its Burbank Studio Ranch to accommodate increased production.

"There's really a squeeze on parking," says Dick Mason, an employee since 1958 who supervises Warner's studio tour. With its heavy television production (including its prolific Lorimar division) the studio has more product and more employees than in Hollywood's "Golden Age," when its feature film output was as high as 50 a year.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 17, 1993 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 5 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Studio name--The Western sets torn down by Warner Bros. were on the Warner Bros. Ranch. A story in Wednesday's Calendar referred to the ranch by its earlier name.

From 1972 until last year, Warner Bros. shared ownership with Columbia Pictures of the Burbank Studio Ranch, home of not just the Western facades but many other sets that will remain intact--suburban, European and colonial streets, plus a park, pool, jungle and mill. Prior to 1972, it was owned by Columbia and was known as the Columbia Ranch.

The facility is situated less than a mile north of Warner's main lot in Burbank. Although altered at times over its 60-year existence, the basic Old West layout was two parallel streets running north and south and a shorter street intersecting the two.

Actor-turned-TV-host Gary Collins (ABC's "Home"), who in 1966-68 starred with Dale Robertson in the Columbia Pictures TV Western "The Iron Horse," recalled that even when the show as being shot "I was certainly aware of the historical significance of the streets."

Collins fondly recalls the magic of the place. "The wonderful thing about the lot was that it was small enough to walk around and daydream. . . . You'd always end up on the Western street because that would always conjure up the most fantasies, the whole Wild West thing. I'm sad to see it go."

The Western facades were also used in such "A" pictures as "3:10 to Yuma," "Lust for Gold" (both starring Glenn Ford), "From Here to Eternity" and "The Muppets Take Manhattan." Also, dozens of "Bs"--including movies with Gene Autry, Buck Jones, Charles Starrett (Durango Kid), Tex Ritter, even the Three Stooges--filmed here.

Segments of the TV series "The Monkees," "Head of the Class," "Fantasy Island," "The Outcasts" and "The Quest" also shot at the Western town.

The irony is that Warner Bros. is tearing down this landmark just as the media giant begins producing a Western series, "The Adventures of Brisco Country, Jr.," premiering on Fox this fall. Plans call for "Brisco" to lens on the main lot's surviving Western set, Laramie Street. (Ten years ago, another Western street and a period Mexican village set at the studio were leveled to accommodate an employee parking lot.)

The studio is also filming (on location in New Mexico) one of two upcoming Wyatt Earp features, "Wyatt Earp," starring Kevin Costner.

The film and the other Earp movie ("Tombstone," starring Kurt Russell) are part of a flock of upcoming Westerns filming on the heels of the success "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Unforgiven."

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