Sunday, June 26, 2022

Behind-the-Scenes at MGM

The MGM Blogathon is taking place today right here on Silver Scenes, so we thought we'd kick off the event with a photographic peek behind-the-scenes at one of the most famous film studios in the world. 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was founded in 1924 after Marcus Loew merged Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures into one company. They hired a number of well-known actors of the time, as well as top-notch screenwriters, plunged lots of money into lavish sets, and then, with the benefit of Loew's own nationwide chain of motion picture theaters, released the films they made to the public, catapulting MGM into the top studio of the 1920s. 

The MGM logo bearing the famous roar of Leo the Lion was the trademark of a studio of quality. At MGM, there were no "B" films, all of their films were "A" productions or secondary features ( e.g. the Maisie or the Andy Hardy series ) made with just as much care but on a lower budget. 

For years, they reigned as the best studio in Hollywood, one which any actor longed to have a contract with. And then, in the 1950s, with the death of Louis B. Mayer and the dismissal of studio head Dore Schary, MGM began to flounder, relying heavily on big-budget productions such as Ben-Hur to give the studio a profit. By the 1960s, they were just a shadow of the wonderful studio they once were. In 2024, MGM will be celebrating its 100th anniversary, but clearly its golden age is over, so let's take a trip down memory lane by seeing a view of the MGM studios the audience rarely got to see - the behind-the-scenes view. 


King Vidor directing John Gilbert in one of MGM's first major productions, The Big Parade ( 1925 )

Greta Garbo, soon to become MGM's biggest star, is looking a little anxious to be sitting so close to Leo the Lion

Tarzan tries to make love to Jane but he has a lot of onlookers

The MGM Wardrobe Department as seen in the early 1930s

Lace-makers are busy working on the bridal veil for Helen Hayes in White Sister ( 1933 )

W.S. Van Dyke directs William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man ( 1934 ), a film that launched one of the studio's most popular series

Norma Shearer getting a bite of lunch between scenes during the filming of Marie Antionette ( 1936 )

Leslie Howard on the ( massive ) set of Romeo and Juliet ( 1936 )

Studio head Louis B. Mayer playing a game of Sunday baseball with producer Irving Thalberg 

Director George Cukor and producer Hunt Stromberg with the "women" from The Women ( 1939 )

Lewis Stone celebrating his birthday on the set of one of the Andy Hardy films, another popular series
Basil Rathbone and Angela Lansbury enjoy some steak and hamburgers at the MGM commissary

Judy Garland displaying her ballgown for Little Nellie Kelly ( 1942 )

Frank Sinatra discusses a scene with director George Sidney on the set of Anchors Aweigh ( 1945 )

Greer Garson is getting a view from the scaffolding on the set of That Forsythe Woman ( 1949 )

Some of MGM's stars gathered for the studio's 25th anniversary....see how many you can recognize!

The Irving Thalberg Building at the MGM Studios at Culver City

Acting certainly isn't a private affair! William Welman directs the cast in this scene from The Next Voice You Hear ( 1950 )

Gene Kelly gets to take a seat in the cameraman's chair on the set of An American in Paris ( 1951 )
Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, and the Show Boat ( 1951 ) cast gather for a publicity photo

Esther Williams being filmed by a special underwater camera

Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman look over the script on the set of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ( 1958 )

Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd at the premiere of Ben-Hur ( 1959 )

The crew filming Carroll Baker in a scene from How the West Was Won ( 1962 ), one of MGM's last great epics


  1. Wow - what an amazing look at an amazing place. I know a lot of stars beefed about the studio system, but, boy, did it produce great films (not to mention employ a ton of people). Many thanks for hosting this fun blogathon.

  2. I just adore that one of Basil Rathbone and Angela Lansbury eating together. Absolute legends!

  3. I always forget how many people are crowded behind the camera when making a film, especially when it comes to intimate scenes. (How on earth can actors concentrate? I guess that's why they're the professionals.)

    This is a fabulous collection of photos, and it made me nostalgic for a place I never knew (the MGM lot), but these images make a person feel like they've been there.

    P.S. Thanks for hosting this blogathon. I learned so much – it was like going to a film class for free!

  4. I love this peek into cinematic history! Thank you!

  5. This is awesome! I hope you all bring this blogathon back again. :-)

    1. We probably will, Rebecca. There are so many MGM films/stars to cover there certainly wouldn't be a shortage of topics! We do plan to do another studio blogathon as well ( possibly Warner Brothers ).