February 5, 2016 8:00 AM EST

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.

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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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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