MGM studios in 1943
The sleek new building that hosts the offices of producers and directors of MGM, 1943.Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
MGM studios in 1943
George Sidney filming Bathing Beauty with Esther Williams in 1944
Frank Sinatra having conversation with director George Sidney in between scenes from the film 'Anchors Aweigh', 1945.
A film crew shoot a kissing scene at the Warner Brothers Film Studios in Hollywood, 1946.
Orson Welles And Rita Hayworth on the set of The Lady From Shanghai 1947
Filming Lady In The Lake 1947
Filming Lady In The Lake 1947
Montgomery Clift and John Wayne on the studio set of the western 'Red River', 1948.
Ingrid Bergman sits next to the motion picture camera during a break in filming on the set of director Victor Fleming's film, 'Joan of Arc.' 1948.
Cecil B DeMille sitting on a camera rig with members of his crew, on the set of the film 'Samson and Delilah', for Paramount Pictures, 1949.
Studio Workers at MGM in 1950
Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh relax on the set of 'A Streetcar Named Desire', circa 1951.
Gene Kelly on the set of the film 'Invitation to the Dance', 1954.
Joseph MacDonald And Arlene Dahl In 'Woman's World' 1954
Jupiter's Darling 1955 with Esther Williams
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM), Los Angeles Hollywood Studios, 1955.
Alfred Hitchcock sitting with James Stewart on the set of his latest thriller 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'. 1956.
Elizabeth Taylor, actor Rock Hudson and director George Stevens on the set of the movie "Giant," 1956.
Hedda Hopper and Sam Goldwyn on the set during production of MGM's "Porgy and Bess." 1958.
Director Howard Hawks with Angie Dickinson on the set of 'Rio Bravo', 1959.
The sleek new building that hosts the offices of producers and directors of MGM, 1943.
Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Go Behind the Scenes on Real Hollywood Film Sets From the Age of Hail, Caesar!

The new Coen Brothers movie Hail, Caesar! finds its inspiration in the mid-century Hollywood movie factory—but, as cinematographer Roger Deakins told Variety, the mission was not to make a tribute to the movies of that era but rather to make a cohesive modern film set in the real and complicated world behind the camera.

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And, as these images show, the work of making a movie back then was by turns glamorous and gritty. It was clearly hard work: an army of technicians was always at the ready, the shoots might require long days, there was plenty of waiting around to do. But—with bathing beauties, dancing feet, artificial desserts, busy backlots and some of the biggest stars in movie history—it looks like a heck of a lot of fun, too.

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