Universal has been around since the beginning of cinema. Founded in 1912, it is now the oldest surviving studio in the United States. The company has given us such memorable creations as Abbott and Costello, Norman Bates, E.T., the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the drivers of the Fast and Furious series, just to name a few.

Tourists wanting a peek behind the curtain of how movies are made have been flocking to the famous Universal Studios tour 1964. The year before that—and not long after the studio had been acquired by a new corporate overlord, MCA— LIFE photographer John Dominis took a personal journey around dream factory, and his pictures from that visit are delightfully surreal.

In one photo, extras in cowboy costumes ate lunch at the studio commissary while another Native American extra stood patiently behind them. In another, a man walked through the lot carrying boulders on his shoulders, looking like he was accomplishing some Herculean task when he was in fact carrying props made of rubber.

And what is more surreal that seeing the stars of the silver screen in everyday life. The photos of Cary Grant and of Gregory Peck seem to have been taken after Dominis bumped into these legendary leading men as they were walking about. Dominis also catches actors Tippi Hedren and Angie Dickinson at work. Hedren is in a screen test for the Alfred Hitchcock movie Marnie, while Dickinson is having makeup done, and that is likely the strangest picture of the bunch. A makeup artist is creating a mask for her, and the contrast between the cool glamour of the movie star and the disembodied faces from other masks looming behind her looks like it could be the setup for a horror film.

Dominis’s pictures hint at why the Universal tour remains such an attraction. In most businesses the rule is that you’re better off not knowing how the sausage is made, but movies are the exception. Going behind the scenes only deepens the attraction.

The Universal studio lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Actor Cary Grant at the Universal studio lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

WIth a commisary counter full of movie extras clad as cowboys. lone Native American extra Iron Eyes Cody stands waiting for a seat during lunch break in filming of a Western TV show at Universal Studios, 1963.

John Dominis/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Actress Tippi Hedren screen testing for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Marnie at Universal Studios, 1963.

.John Dominis/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Makeup artist Bud Westmore prepared actress Angie Dickinson for mask-making at Universal City Studios in Los Angeles, California, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A prop man pulled a cart at the Universal studio lot, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A prop man pulled a car at the Universal lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A prop man pushed a stuffed lion at the Universal lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Men at work on the Universal lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Cats gathering for a feed at the Universal lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Universal studio lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Actor Gregory Peck, Universal studio lot, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

People traveling by wagons in a scene from a film at Universal studio lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A prop man carried large rubber rocks at the Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Prop men tossed a rubber rock at the Universal studio lot in Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A night view of the Universal studio lot, Hollywood, 1963.

John Dominis/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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