1946 Railroad Film Footage

by Wes Clark

Footage originally from archive.org

On April 17th, 1946, Columbia Studios took film footage in and around Burbank and downtown Los Angeles to be used in their Rita Hayworth film Down to Earth, which was released in 1947. The story is about a Greek Muse coming down to earth to involve herself in a Broadway production. The film was reworked in 1980 as Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John.

At some point there must be some process or rear screen projection shots in the film, as the Columbia footage involved putting cameras on railroad trains and running the trains.

The film crew also installed a camera on a car and ran it through some Burbank streets.

I have taken the raw footage located on archive.org and isolated the Burbank sequences, and made new youtube videos. Those videos are below. The descriptions and timings in the youtube text area were worked out with Mike McDaniel, who was armed with a 1950 plat showing the businesses along the railroad lines.

So, if you have even wondered what it must be like to hop a freight train in Burbank, at night, in 1946 - this is what you'd see. (The crew even caught a passing shot of some Burbank hoboes!)

Complete descriptions are in the text area under the youtube screen.

Film #1 - Train, moving towards Los Angeles from somewhere north of the airport (just in North Hollywood), crossing into Burbank and ending at Turkey Crossing.

Film #2 - Train, moving towards Los Angeles from the Weatherhead Company and ending at the Magnolia Blvd. intersection. This is the one with the hoboes.

Film #3 - Train, moving into North Hollywood from Burbank; 3311 N. San Fernando Rd., running north of the airport and ending on Ensign Ave..

Film #4 - Train, Glendale-Burbank. Mostly Glendale; Burbank at the end.

Film #5 Automobile, Starts at Magnolia and California and ends at the Whithall Highway. A map is here. The surprising thing is that, other than the size of the trees, the neighborhoods pretty much look about the same!

If you are wondering how Columbia Studios used this footage in the finished film, click here to see the three minute train ride segment. It's funny, you can see the old Burbank train depot "pass by" three times: at the five and twelve second spots and again quickly at 2:12, as if the train passed the depot, suddenly backed up quickly and passed it again seven seconds later - and then passed it again two minutes later! Few would notice. Was this was an inside joke by the Columbia Studios film editor?

And yes, the finished movie was in glorious Technicolor and this process film appears to have been shot in black and white. Perhaps it was tinted and or colorized - I don't know. But there you have it, postwar era movie magic: a moving train in Burbank replicated on a sound stage.

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