Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Phantom Stage - Universal's Haunted Stage 28

The old story of a phantom haunting a Hollywood sound stage was brought to television in a number of episodes of various series throughout the 1970s-1980s ( most notably in the two-part "The Hollywood Phantom" episode from The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries ) but did you know that this plot idea was actually based on a real legend? 

Stage 28 was one of the oldest sound stages built on the Universal Pictures lot in Hollywood. The studio was planning to film the horror classic The Phantom of the Opera ( featuring Lon Chaney ) and needed a stage large enough to house their own creation of the interior of the Paris Opera House. Construction on the 21,000 square foot stage began in July of 1924 and was completed in a few months. Because the set would need to be able to support hundreds of extras, the stage was built with steel girders in of the first steel stages of its kind. The beautiful Opera House set was built inside and filming of The Phantom of the Opera began shortly thereafter. A strange occurrence also happened at that time: an electrician fell to his death, presumably while maneuvering around the catwalks at the top of the stage. 

Years later, rumors began to circulate that the ghost of a "phantom" running along the catwalks was seen. Others reported the lights flickering on and off suddenly and doors opening and shutting. 

The set to the Opera House remained at Stage 28 long after the film was completed. The studio thought that it may come in use in a future production...and indeed it did. Its most famous reappearances were in Todd Browning's Dracula ( as The Royal Albert Hall ), the 1943 color remake of The Phantom of the Opera starring Claude Rains, and the theatre sequences in Charade ( 1963 ). 

Even with the Opera House set still in place, there was plenty of space in Stage 28 to construct other sets and this stage was one of the most used at Universal Studios. The special effects department from The Bride of Frankenstein ( 1935 ) used this stage to film the destruction of Frankenstein's laboratory, Abbott and Costello's Here Come the Co-Eds ( 1945 ) was filmed within its doors, and the interiors of the Bates Motel in Psycho ( 1960 ) was also filmed inside Stage 28. 

In 2014, Universal Studios demolished the stage to make room for expanding their theme park but not before carefully dismantling The Phantom's famous Opera House set and putting it in storage. Perhaps one day, it will reappear in another film or be put on display for film fans to see. 

1 comment:

  1. Very enjoyable and interesting post about one of Hollywood's most famous sets! It looks smashing in color in the 1943 Phantom of the Opera remake.