If you happen to be wandering around the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, you may notice Stage 16 seems a bit different. It has these buttresses around the entire base, and it’s taller than all the other stages. Why this is is one of my favorite Old Hollywood stories.
In 1936, Warners was developing a starring vehicle for Marion Davies called Cain and Mabel, with Clark Gable to co-star. Hollywood was known for big, showy sets and musical numbers in those days, but Marion’s then-boyfriend wanted her to have the biggest, most grandest of them all.
Also, Marion’s boyfriend was a gentleman named William Randolph Hearst, the uber-rich newspaper man (also, let’s replace “boyfriend” with “sugar daddy”). So he paid to have Stage 16 raised 30 feet, making it one of the tallest soundstages in the world. And raise it they did….. from the bottom. They literally removed the lower walls, and jacked up the foundation, a little at a time, adding bricks when there was enough room. Sounds iffy in regards to workplace safety, but hey, it was the Depression.
Cain and Mabel was a flop, and Davies only made one more picture. But still today, Stage 16 stands tall above all the rest at Warner Brothers. Since then, countless films have taken advantage of the giant set. The pirate ship from The Goonies was in there, as were parts of Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Inception, The Big Sleep, and The Music Man.