Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One of My Favorites....."Going Home" with Gwen Verdon

It's gloomy, cold, and rainy out again today so I thought I'd cheer myself up by posting a set from one of my favorite episodes.  I did look this one up so I know it was from 1985 "Going Home" that had Tom going back to (I think it was) Virginia to see his family.  This dining room set was built on the sound stage.  The actual house was a large, old home in Manoa Valley and, in spite of its size, you can only cram so many people and so much equipment into a house for so long.

     What was memorable to me was not the set (for once).  It was being able to spend an entire morning sitting on the steps going upstairs and talking to Gwen Verdon.  She was waiting for her scene and I didn't care what else I had to do. There always seemed to be a sort of "secret society" within the film industry of those of us who had our start in theatre.  It's sort of hard to explain it, but it just is.  I had no hesitation in telling her how excited I was to meet her and she was excited to have met someone who knew who she was!  Well, not to get all mushy, but it was one of those incredible moments you never forget--even if I have forgotten most of what we talked about!
     Meanwhile, back at the set, it was nice to have a set with some architectural interest--the built-ins and double-hung windows.  Those are some of my (famous?) stapled up curtains.  Speaking of theatre, as long as a drape didn't have to open on camera, they were usually stapled up by me and if we were really worried, the bottoms had a taped up hem and were ironed.  We did have a Venetian blind manufacturer who would make us blinds in a day or two--ironically named Paramount Venetian Blinds.  Looking at it now, I can't believe I didn't do some wall sconces (lights)  since it would have been easy to wire them in from the back of the walls.  They didn't always like it when me made holes in the walls, however.  Speaking of walls, you can see the little jogs where the wild walls overlap.  It was nice to do a traditional, mainland type of dining room after the usual wicker and rattan here.
     Again, you can see the catwalk above the long wall of the set.  The set would have been built in this location to take advantage of it.  Lights on floor stands would fill in on the sides.  I don't know how much this set was used in the episode (or at all, for that matter), I just have good memories of this episode.

Aloha,  Rick



Mike (N1095A) said...

The great thing about your art is that people actually feel as if the sets are genuine places. I loved the way Tom looked almost too tall for his mother's houst. Sort of the way I fealt upon visiting my old elementary school many years later. Everything looked smaller. I 'm kind of curious. Did they fly Tom to D.C. just for the scenes of him at the Vietnam wall and Annapolis? Were any other scenes from "Going Home" shot on location?

Marco said...

I am not sure this set was used in the episode actually - what a shame! Looking at screencaps of the episode, I could not find it so far. You mentioned there have also been "cover" sets or maybe a scene ended on the floor of the cutting room? The trophy seen in the background is seen in the episode however - in the rooftop "storage room" as seen in the episode.

Even if the set wasn't used - it looks great!

Magnum Decorator said...

Well, it was 24 years ago and I was SO YOUNG (lol) when I did the set that I'm wondering if it even was for that episode? I think it was, though, and obviously doing that scene on the sound stage would have given them more flexibility, but it may have been cheaper and easier for continuity to just do the whole thing in the actual location house. One of the things we have to remember is that spending $10,000 on a set (even if it wasn't used) could save them $100,000 if they did need it and it wasn't there. Does that make sense? Of course in the real world, they would just say "tough".
Mike's comment brings up another topic I use when I talk about theatre vs. film. 98% of what I've done as a Set Decorator in TV o film has been realistic in terms of style. Maybe 2% went into a "dream sequence" or "drug fantasy" of a non-realistic nature. As a set designer in the theatre, I basically created "environments" that can use elements of realism--but adapted for the stage and the audience watching. I also say that doing a TV set is like doing a stage set when only one side of the curtain opens and the rest of the set remains hidden behind the other half. In fact, you're lucky if you even see half a TV set.
Today with green screen techniques, they probably could have faked the Viet Nam wall on the sound stage, but I assume they did fly Tom there for that scene. I think I would have remembered creating that wall on stage!

Thanks, Aloha, Rick

Anonymous said...

Fantastic shots! Thanks for posting them! Check out these mini sets....