March 2, 2015 – Hello and welcome to another installment of Zoom Lens, where we take a closer look at areas of the park that often gets overlooked by the average guest. For those of you who have read my previous articles, you may have noticed a pattern in my interests. What has drawn me to this park is its vast history both as a theme park and as a studio. As a result, I chose to focus this month’s article on one of my favorite locations on the backlot: Court of Miracles.
For those of you who are familiar with the Studio Tour, you may recognize the Court of Miracles as the courtyard area in Little Europe located near the Home and Family set. On a good day, the Studio Tour guide provides the guests with a brief history of the many movies that filmed there. However, because time just doesn’t permit, this area does not get the recognition that it truly deserves.
The Court of Miracles was originally featured in The Miracle Man (1919) starring Lon Chaney. Since then, the area was used in numerous monster movies. This is where Lon Chaney’s hunchback was whipped on a platform in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923); where the villagers chased Dr. Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931) starring Boris Karloff; and where Lawrence Talbot met Gwen Conliffe in her antique store in The Wolf Man (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr. This is only a few of the many monster genre movies that have been featured in this area.
The set we see today is not the original set that was featured in the above movies. The area was destroyed in 1967 when a fire caused devastation throughout Little Europe and part of the Spartacus sets. We have seen these sets more recently in movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) when Little Europe was transformed into the town of Genovia.
The Universal Monster genre played a vital part in the history of the studio. Carl Laemmle and his son were the ones responsible for monopolizing the movie monster franchise. While other studios struggled through the Great Depression to make lasting films, the Laemmle’s found their way into moviegoers’ fears and created the Monster Movie genre. These movies not only launched the careers of stars like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, but they also played a part in saving the studio from bankruptcy in the 1930s.
As I have mentioned before, I truly love all the history that comes with this studio. While this area may be small in comparison to some of the grand sets that Universal Studios has to offer, it holds a special place in my heart. When I walked around Court of Miracles on the VIP tour, I had to hold back tears. (I know I’m a nerd.) In all seriousness, though, it was amazing to know that I was standing where Lon Chaney Jr. once stood. I was in the presence of the ghosts of Jack Pierce’s monster creations. Every time we drive by this landmark on the Studio Tour, I imagine the history that took place.
The Universal Monster movies have become a huge part of my life. I not only can find entertainment through this genre, but I have also discovered my love for movie make up because of the amazing work Jack Pierce did. Having a landmark such as the Court of Miracles that is so easily available is something I look forward to every time I visit the park.
As the park continues to grow, the historical aspect seems to be set aside. For those of you who have been to the park in the last year, you may have noticed that the area was beginning to fall apart. More recently, however, it seems as if the studio is finally starting to pay a little more attention to this historical area. My guess is that this will be an area utilized for the Night Time tour coming in the summer. Even though this reconstruction may be solely because of an attraction, I am happy to see it is getting the attention it deserves.
That does it for this month’s Zoom Lens. I hope you enjoyed this focused look at one of my favorite areas on the back lot. Thank you so much for reading and, as always, thank you for making Inside Universal your source for all things Universal Studios Hollywood!
Kaley Cyrinois an editor for Inside Universal.
Kaley is a Southern California native who grew up within miles of all the greatest theme parks. As a nursing student, Kaley finds her peace and sanity by visiting Universal Studios whenever she gets the chance. Her dream is to be able to visit Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan, and Universal Studios Singapore.
Kaley currently resides in Orange, California. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.