Ever hear of a studio called “The Lot”? It’s next door to the famous Formosa Cafe.
I worked there many times. It is a strange name and so called for lack of knowing a better name for it. Through the years it has had many names:
It’s a very small studio yet catered to the biggest stars. My first booking on the lot was when it was called Samuel Goldwyn Studios in the 1950s. I was one of the office workers in the movie “The Apartment”.
As you can see in the movie there were about 200 extras in the office set.
Were do you put so many extras between scenes? Why on an empty stage right across the little alley between the two stages. And what do so many extras do to pass the time for the two or so weeks we worked in the office and Christmas party scenes? Poker for sure, (nope no pitch – no cowboys) chess, lots of gabbing… one enterprising extra bought a radio and other things then held a raffle to pocket some extra money.
Another extra bought his saxophone and began playing for us. He was obviously professional. In addition there was an old beat upright piano. After a couple of days when the doors of the two opposing stages were about halfway open, the saxophone player was enjoying himself and us with some 50s jazz. Jack Lemmon was idly walking around and apparently hearing the music came over to our stage.
For a few minutes he listened to the sax player. Then without a word he sat down at the beat up old piano and began playing in perfect harmony and rhythm with the sax player. And a few minutes later Shirley MacLaine wandered in and watched our little jazz combo. After a while she went into a little improv dance. At the height of this the AD called the principals in for rehearsal for the next scene.
From that time on, every time Jack and Shirley were not busy they came to our area and our little jazz ensemble resumed. You could see they were enjoying themselves immensely. I think the director was secretly pleased at our antics as it put us in a very good mood for the Christmas party set. 🙂
Extracts and closeups: