I purchased this invaluable book about RKO in 1982 when it was first published. (And it’s  still available at reasonable prices.)

Glancing through it again recently, it struck me that many of my favourite movies had the RKO logo attached to them – The Narrow Margin; Blood on the Moon; Sudden Fear; The Thing from Another World;Nocturne;On Dangerous Ground; I Remember Mama; The Set up; Notorious; In Name Only; Bringing Up Baby; Carefree. And that’s just some of them!

RKO had two locations – one in Hollywood at 780 Gower Street , and in Culver City at 9336 West Washington Boulevard.


Great pictures of the Gower Street complex, with the globe and radio tower.

The above picture shows a poster for JET PILOT (1957) and the one below shows IN PERSON (1935).

Love how the row of cars show the 22 year difference.


This RKO Gower st. frontage , with the canopies, was built in 1931. It’s now a side entrance to Paramount.


  • Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz exiting the Gower Street RKO entrance.

In 1967, Desilu sold the Gower street complex and the Culver City properties to Paramount. ( they had originally bought the studio for $6 million in 1957.)

The Gower street studio was absorbed into the adjacent Paramount lot( which was MGM).


Paramount restored the RKO globe at the Gower st. entrance, but  not the radio tower.

(Farmer John Gower built his home there and eventually the street was named after him.)


What a history the Culver City  RKO lot has.

Culver City is about ten miles from downtown Los Angeles. Realtor, Harry Culver had bought a tract of land and eventually it became Culver City. ( Nothing to beat having a city named after you.)

Harry Culver

1920’s film producer Thomas Ince was persuaded by Harry Culver to relocate there.

Having first had his studio further along West Washington Boulevard ( which became MGM), Ince moved to 9336 W.Washington Blvd. and   built the imposing landmark mansion , with its grand  columns , which became known to the public when David Selznick leased the lot and made the mansion his trademark.



Behind the Mansion are sound stages and outdoor sets.


The Culver City RKO lot became known as ‘40 Acres’ ( even although the area amounted to about 29 acres!)

This is where many “Gone With The Wind” scenes were filmed.

‘The Mansion’ now has landmark status. Good to know it will be preserved.

The Atlanta railroad set for “Gone With The Wind”  on the backlot.



The Mansion is now called “The Culver Studios”.


The Culver City seal – “California’s Film Capital – The Heart of Screenland.”

Culver City, rightly, objected to films being described as “Made in Hollywood”, when in fact the biggest studio ,MGM, was not in Hollywood but little Culver City!

Interestingly, the MGM studios were located at 10202 West Washington Boulevard while RKO was at 9336 West Washington Boulevard.
( I would love to walk along that Boulevard in Culver City!)

RKO  ceased making films in  1957.

Forty Acres was sold to a developer who demolished what was left of the famous backlot.


Amazing three-tier set for ROBERTA. Top tier shows Randolph Scott and Fred Astaire.


Lucille Ball, in the 1930s at RKO. Two decades later, she would run the studio.


Some shots of RKO cinemas: ( in the days when all the big studios had their own block of cinemas for releasing their product.)



THE STRANGER” at the RKO Palace.



Reminding folk that RKO stood for Radio-Keith-Orpheum.

RKO came into being when Joseph P.Kennedy’ s Film Booking Office combined with Keith Albee Orpheum ( a theatre chain) and Radio Corporation of America.



The original RKO logo, with the spinning globe  and the radio tower beaming out “An RKO Radio Picture” in morse code.


RKO advertising:

I like that pledge, “Productions, not Predictions.”

Not sure about Hepburn’s  stare.


Would love to see the RKO Radio Picture Book.

Great ad for the RKO stars, producers, directors. Surnames only. David Selznick in charge of production.



The doors of Radio City Music Hall are stormed ! They can’t wait to see Katharine Hepburn’s latest.





Quite a lineup.


RKO winning Oscars.


RKO well featured , with James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Loretta Young.


Not sure I’d want to see NOCTURNE at 10.30 in the morning! But it’s a trade showing.



  • Reference to the purchase of RKO by the General Tire and Rubber  company ( which had a television subsidiary ). Howard Hughes , after seven years in charge, got $25 million.


It’s amazing really that, despite its chequered history, RKO managed to produce quite a few memorable films.

Neat 1958 video with commentary by Desi Arnaz:

16 responses »

  1. Absolutely fascinating, Vienna – thank you! Among other things, this certainly dispels the myth of RKO as the “smaller” studio!

  2. I too have a great fondness for RKO, a wonderful studio. I’ve had a copy of that book at the top of the piece for many years, since I was teenager in the 80s. I have all the “story” books for the major studios excepting Fox, although I believe there is a similar one available.

  3. Yes, these ‘Story’ books are very good. There are books on Fox but I don’t think in this series , though I could be wrong.

    • You are perfectly correct… Fox seems to be the only one that didn’t get a “Story of…” but “The Films of Twentieth Century Fox” fills the gap very nicely. Invaluable… but of course a little dated as it came out in 1979. Cheers.

      • I like the 2016 Michael Troyan book, “Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment.”

  4. Vienna, thank you for this wonderful RKO Radio Pictures write-up. It triggers some really good memories of all the RKO Radio Pictures that I have viewed over the years. In my youngsterhood when I saw the spinning Earth and the RKO Radio Tower dispatching Morse code, I just knew that I was in for some fun Entertainment. In my neck of the woods WHBQ Channel 13 Memphis was owned by General Tire and Rubber Company, so needless to say, I viewed my share of RKO Radio movies during the 1960’s and ’70’s. I first viewed both KING KONG(filmed 1932-33, released 1933) and CITIZEN KANE(filmed 1940-41, released 1941) on the WHBQ Channel 13 MONDAY NIGHT MOVIE in 1975. The first RKO Radio Pictures movie that I recall viewing was TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS(filmed 1944, released 1945) on the WREC Channel 3 Saturday EARLY MOVIE in 1963. Those were the days.

    I really liked the photographs that you chose. About that Katharine Hepburn stare, well it seems to fit her Pre-Code and afterward “Rebel Chic.”

  5. Always good to hear from you,Walter and your memories of early TV viewing. I can imagine your channel owned by General Tire and Rubber showed plenty of RKO titles.

  6. Thanks for uploading that aerial video tour. It gives you a really good idea of how big RKO really was.

    And thanks for this essay. RKO had some very, very good years. An impressive “little” studio.

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