The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  erik1925 on Fri May 03, 2013 1:57 am

Scorp wrote:
Phantomlove wrote:Perhaps the later photo is a flash photo that is somewhat overexposed? I'm not sure I belive it myself but it is a theory. Flash has a tendency of distorting colours.

Nice theory but one I'm about to destroy with this photo I just found lurking in the labyrinths of my comp:



Looks as though they *have* recently painted it? In which case, what was it like when they filmed Phantom?

EDIT: From browsing the Web, it seems they paint it quite often. In one picture it has even been painted red! It makes me sad they're not really doing much to preserve the set, it sounds like it's falling apart. I wonder what became of those Grand Escalier and other Paris Opera sets? Apparently the chandelier was in place right until 1965, when it was taken down during the shooting of a Hitchcock movie...then it got put into storage and, unsurprisingly, disappeared...

Random piece of trivia though for anyone who didn't know and which I find quite cool: the swan bed that Christine wakes up in the Phantom's lair was recycled to become none other than Norma Desmond's bed in Sunset Blvd! Universal bought it from a famous French dancer (who later turned out to be Czech) called Gaby Deslys. I wonder where that bed is now...

Has anyone here had the privilege of visiting Stage 28? That's a Phantom shrine I have yet to see...


I have worked at Universal (I work in post production) and would often wander over to stage 28. The last time i worked there was in 2006. On several occasions, The stage door was open and i walked in and wandered and explored the stage. At the time, the set was painted white, as is the case, when not in use. This makes for a "clean slate" so that if another art dept wants to paint it, it would be like drawing or painting on a white canvas.

The above color photos from that BBC documentary was taken at a time when the opera boxes and columns were painted a shade of gold. Also, remember, that there is theatrical studio lighting set up there, lights with blue and green gels, to create the atmosphere the BBC filmmaker wanted.

Back in 2002, I had just finished working on a film and I flew a relative out for the premiere. I took her to Universal and we were able to walk into Stage 28. I shot a lot of video, walked up the back steps into the opera boxes, including Box 5. The floor space within the stage had been dressed for Mummy films, with Brendan Fraser. The set and props made it looks like a tomb and we carefully walked thru.. and I video taped as well.

Nothing remains of the actual stage area. That back area is all just open stage space, now.

And the stage floor that is currently present is actually OVER the area where the original theater seats used to be. If you look carefully at any current photos, you will notice how the present day floor is almost even with the lowest tier of opera boxes. If that floor was removed, The lower area (minus the seats, which were long ago removed) could be seen, as well as the lowest tier of opera boxes. Old pics will show that same row of boxes much higher, with the theater seats as they existed on the lower (original, slanted) stage floor.

I never figured out how to get under the floor. That would have made for some great, further exploration. And when there, and up the stairs to the highest level i could go, there was a pile of broken plaster pieces from the set. Carelessness from film crews, who toss ladders and scaffolding against the plaster cause damage regularly. I took a large piece with me.. it would have been thrown in the dumpster, otherwise..

At least when not in use, crews will often hang large sheets of clear plastic over the boxes.. (maybe Universal makes them do this) to help prevent chipping and further damage.

It was a dream that came true the first time I got to walk into and explore that Stage. It was seeing this movie, as a 13 yr old, that made me want to get into this business, in the first place! Very Happy




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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  erik1925 on Fri May 03, 2013 2:23 am

What is also fascinating is how well the production turned out, considering the contempt and dislike that Chaney and director Rupert Julian felt for each other. They were not speaking by the time shooting was wrapping up.

And Chaney directed some of his own scenes, himself.


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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  ML6 on Sat May 04, 2013 9:04 pm

I honestly don't understand why the stage isn't used as part of the Universal tour. And, how cool would it be to explore both the Court of Miracles set AND the Phantom stage. If they want to use Stage 28, that's cool and all, but I really think they should cut it in half and preserve the Phantom portion.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  erik1925 on Mon May 06, 2013 10:52 pm

The opera boxes and plasterwork should be better taken care of. Film crews dont take much care .. and when i saw ladders and scaffolding folded and laying against those opera boxes, my heart sank. As i mentioned.. pieces are broken off all the time. If they are not careful, it could get even worse. What Universal should do is create a work perimeter inside and away from the set. And not allow anything to be laid against it.

As far as the tour.. i always thought it should be included too. Not to go up the old back stairs--insurance reasons.. but to just allow thew tour to walk into the main floor/stage area to see what it looks like. Its best viewed that way.

From what Ive heard, Stage 28 is more on the VIP tour.


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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  ML6 on Wed May 08, 2013 3:02 am

erik1925 wrote:The opera boxes and plasterwork should be better taken care of. Film crews dont take much care .. and when i saw ladders and scaffolding folded and laying against those opera boxes, my heart sank. As i mentioned.. pieces are broken off all the time. If they are not careful, it could get even worse. What Universal should do is create a work perimeter inside and away from the set. And not allow anything to be laid against it.


This is really depressing. I wish someone in the industry would realize this and do some sort of a 'landmark' deal where it must be preserved.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Sun May 26, 2013 3:42 pm

erik1925 wrote:
Scorp wrote:
Phantomlove wrote:Perhaps the later photo is a flash photo that is somewhat overexposed? I'm not sure I belive it myself but it is a theory. Flash has a tendency of distorting colours.

Nice theory but one I'm about to destroy with this photo I just found lurking in the labyrinths of my comp:



Looks as though they *have* recently painted it? In which case, what was it like when they filmed Phantom?

EDIT: From browsing the Web, it seems they paint it quite often. In one picture it has even been painted red! It makes me sad they're not really doing much to preserve the set, it sounds like it's falling apart. I wonder what became of those Grand Escalier and other Paris Opera sets? Apparently the chandelier was in place right until 1965, when it was taken down during the shooting of a Hitchcock movie...then it got put into storage and, unsurprisingly, disappeared...

Random piece of trivia though for anyone who didn't know and which I find quite cool: the swan bed that Christine wakes up in the Phantom's lair was recycled to become none other than Norma Desmond's bed in Sunset Blvd! Universal bought it from a famous French dancer (who later turned out to be Czech) called Gaby Deslys. I wonder where that bed is now...

Has anyone here had the privilege of visiting Stage 28? That's a Phantom shrine I have yet to see...


I have worked at Universal (I work in post production) and would often wander over to stage 28. The last time i worked there was in 2006. On several occasions, The stage door was open and i walked in and wandered and explored the stage. At the time, the set was painted white, as is the case, when not in use. This makes for a "clean slate" so that if another art dept wants to paint it, it would be like drawing or painting on a white canvas.

The above color photos from that BBC documentary was taken at a time when the opera boxes and columns were painted a shade of gold. Also, remember, that there is theatrical studio lighting set up there, lights with blue and green gels, to create the atmosphere the BBC filmmaker wanted.

Back in 2002, I had just finished working on a film and I flew a relative out for the premiere. I took her to Universal and we were able to walk into Stage 28. I shot a lot of video, walked up the back steps into the opera boxes, including Box 5. The floor space within the stage had been dressed for Mummy films, with Brendan Fraser. The set and props made it looks like a tomb and we carefully walked thru.. and I video taped as well.

Nothing remains of the actual stage area. That back area is all just open stage space, now.

And the stage floor that is currently present is actually OVER the area where the original theater seats used to be. If you look carefully at any current photos, you will notice how the present day floor is almost even with the lowest tier of opera boxes. If that floor was removed, The lower area (minus the seats, which were long ago removed) could be seen, as well as the lowest tier of opera boxes. Old pics will show that same row of boxes much higher, with the theater seats as they existed on the lower (original, slanted) stage floor.

I never figured out how to get under the floor. That would have made for some great, further exploration. And when there, and up the stairs to the highest level i could go, there was a pile of broken plaster pieces from the set. Carelessness from film crews, who toss ladders and scaffolding against the plaster cause damage regularly. I took a large piece with me.. it would have been thrown in the dumpster, otherwise..

At least when not in use, crews will often hang large sheets of clear plastic over the boxes.. (maybe Universal makes them do this) to help prevent chipping and further damage.

It was a dream that came true the first time I got to walk into and explore that Stage. It was seeing this movie, as a 13 yr old, that made me want to get into this business, in the first place! Very Happy


What a great story!! Thanks for sharing. Do let us know if you manage to do further explorations. Any pics you can share?

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:34 pm

Good news for fans in Europe: the BFI (British Film Institute) has remastered this film and is releasing a 3-disc set where, just like the 'Ultimate Edition' that is made for Region 1 in North America, you can watch both the 1925 and the 1929 versions and compare them. It's being released in mid-November. Click here for details.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:55 pm

^ This was released today. Contains 3 discs, one of which is a full-length documentary on Lon Chaney. The accompanying booklet is not as thick as I'd hoped (it's only a few articles and isn't like the booklet of academic essays that accompanies the BFI's release of Nosferatu), but it's still one of the best sets out there, especially as it's newly restored.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Paula74 on Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:06 pm

This is copied from Cortlandt Hull who produced the Unmasking The Masterpiece documentary:

Incredibly sad news from film historian, and makeup artist Michael F. Blake. It seems Universal Studios Hollywood will be tearing down their historic "Stage 28", originally built in 1924 for "Phantom Of The Opera" starring Lon Chaney Sr. which still houses the oldest standing set in Hollywood - the Opera House set. The set was built for the 1925 "Phantom", constructed of wood and re-enforced plaster, also used in the Claude Rains Technicolor remake, in "Man of a Thousand Faces", Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain", "The Sting" and countless other films at Universal. It is a part of cinema history, by rights it should have been declared an historic landmark by the government. I hope something can be done to stop the demolition of this amazing set, featured in our documentary, "Unmasking The Masterpiece" which we shot new footage on the "Phantom" set. Evidently Universal needs more room for their tourist theme park, if so, they should turn the opera house set into an elaborate movie theater, and show Universal's classic films there. A real tragedy! (In photo, our Chaney "Phantom" figure appears as a larger-than life ghost, which sadly soon, the opera house will be merely a ghost of Hollywood's past!)

Edited to add: More at this link - Inside Universal

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:50 am

Paula74 wrote:This is copied from Cortlandt Hull who produced the Unmasking The Masterpiece documentary:

Incredibly sad news from film historian, and makeup artist Michael F. Blake. It seems Universal Studios Hollywood will be tearing down their historic "Stage 28", originally built in 1924 for "Phantom Of The Opera" starring Lon Chaney Sr. which still houses the oldest standing set in Hollywood - the Opera House set. The set was built for the 1925 "Phantom", constructed of wood and re-enforced plaster, also used in the Claude Rains Technicolor remake, in "Man of a Thousand Faces", Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain", "The Sting" and countless other films at Universal. It is a part of cinema history, by rights it should have been declared an historic landmark by the government. I hope something can be done to stop the demolition of this amazing set, featured in our documentary, "Unmasking The Masterpiece" which we shot new footage on the "Phantom" set. Evidently Universal needs more room for their tourist theme park, if so, they should turn the opera house set into an elaborate movie theater, and show Universal's classic films there. A real tragedy! (In photo, our Chaney "Phantom" figure appears as a larger-than life ghost, which sadly soon, the opera house will be merely a ghost of Hollywood's past!)

Edited to add:  More at this link - Inside Universal

Noooo!!! Is there anything we can do to stop this? Or just the usual petition/letter-writing?

I understand they're a working film studio...if they do remove the soundstage, I hope they move the opera set and keep it somewhere safe where we can view it.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  IamErik771 on Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:45 pm

Seems like there are just petitions, at least so far.

One from Care2's petition site: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/330/290/272/save-historic-phantom-of-the-opera-stage/?post_id=1071038803_10203344591670129#sign

and one asking the White House to make Stage 28 a National Historic Landmark: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/save-phantom-opera-stage-28-destruction-and-make-it-national-historic-landmark/cpb54DWS

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Thu Aug 28, 2014 12:52 pm

Fortunately, it looks like Universal at least recognises the historic value of the Phantom set as they are planning to move it to a museum. Still, it's not quite the same as it being in its original location where the film was actually shot...although at least we have a chance of viewing it were it to end up in a museum. I just hope it doesn't fall apart when they dismantle it.

Details here: http://variety.com/2014/artisans/news/universal-to-demolish-phantom-of-the-opera-soundstage-but-preserve-silent-films-set-1201292227/

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  LadyCDaae on Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:16 pm

I think that's an acceptable compromise, though. I can understand that Universal probably expects to get more economically viable use out of the space, but they also recognize the historic significance of the building and are looking for ways to preserve that, at least in part.

~LCD

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

Post  Scorp on Sun Sep 06, 2015 5:34 pm

Scorp wrote:Fortunately, it looks like Universal at least recognises the historic value of the Phantom set as they are planning to move it to a museum. Still, it's not quite the same as it being in its original location where the film was actually shot...although at least we have a chance of viewing it were it to end up in a museum. I just hope it doesn't fall apart when they dismantle it.

Details here: http://variety.com/2014/artisans/news/universal-to-demolish-phantom-of-the-opera-soundstage-but-preserve-silent-films-set-1201292227/

Over a year later and not a peep out of Universal. I have heard rumours that they just junked the set and it isn't going to be appearing anywhere. In which case, a timeless piece of cultural history has been consigned to the dustbin just because they wanted to open a new ride. Mad

Today is exactly 90 years since this landmark film made its big, glitzy New York premiere at the Astor Theatre.

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Re: The 1925 Lon Chaney Version

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