RODDY McDOWALL WAS DRIVING past the Warner Bros, studio in Burbank, Calif., early last year when he blinked at a vision from the past: 23 larger-than-life paintings of classic screen stars—from Humphrey Bogart to Rin Tin Tin—camouflaging a construction site on the lot. The 69-year-old screen veteran (Lassie Come Home, Planet of the Apes) knew several of the paintings—make that the stars—personally, and he couldn't get them out of his head. "Those murals were so good and so provocative that they kept haunting me," he says. An accomplished photographer, McDowall hit on the idea of shooting today's stars in front of their two-dimensional predecessors. About to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, the studio was quick to oblige. Getting pals to pose with the icons was easy for McDowall. "When he blows the whistle, I come running," says Carol Burnett. Taking the photos was trickier: McDowall had to stand in a gutter across a busy avenue. "Poor Roddy almost got killed dodging cars," says Burnett. McDowall is quick to credit Ed Strang, the third-generation Warner scenic artist who created the murals, which are now in storage. Strang, 40, who also paints backdrops for TV and movie sets, says he dreams of stars' faces. "It's great when you enjoy what you are getting paid to do."
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