October 9th, 2006

Sherlock Jr.

Posted in Images, Streams by DavidE

Sherlock Jr.

Here’s a link to download the classic silent comedy: Sherlock Jr. (1924). Unfortunately, Internet Archive doesn’t give you the option to stream this movie, and the download file is a whopping 700MB.

That said, this is one of Buster Keaton’s best films. At 44 minutes, its length is somewhere between a short and a feature, though the intricacy of the gags and surreal jabs at cinematic conventions (a sleeping Keaton walks into a movie screen and joins a parallel story) make this one of the finest comedies ever made — silent or sound.

October 9th, 2006

Couldn’t Be Bad

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“He was the greatest director in the motion picture industry. He was also very easy to work with as he always played a scene first and just by watching him you knew exactly what to do. The Lubitsch touch was something no other director had and the nice thing about being in one of his pictures was that you knew while you were making it that it just couldn’t be bad.”

– Jack Benny writing about Ernst Lubitsch, as quoted in the The Lubitsch Touch by Herman G. Weinberg

October 5th, 2006

Disappearing Pliers

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

The Lost World

Poster for The Lost World (1925)

You may have read that King King (1933) was the first movie to use stop motion animation to create its creatures. That isn’t correct. The first one was the silent feature The Lost World (1925).

“While filming one of the stop-motion scenes, the cameraman spotted a pair of pliers in the picture. So as not to draw attention to them by having them suddenly disappear, he moved them a little at a time until they were out of the shot.”

–Source: Internet Movie Database

October 5th, 2006

Blooming Animation

Posted in Trivia by DavidE

Stop-motion animation can be tedious and frustrating. For King Kong (1933), the animators constructed detailed miniatures and moved them slightly for each one or two frames of film. At 24 frames per second, that works out to 1,440 individual frames for each minute of onscreen time.

“The trees and plants in the background on the stop action animation sets were a combination of metal models and real plants. One day during filming, a flower on the miniature set bloomed without anyone noticing. The error in continuity was not noticed until the film was developed and shown. While Kong moved, a time-lapse photograph showed the flower coming into full bloom, and an entire day of animation was lost.”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

October 2nd, 2006

Accidental Director

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

Touch of Evil

Production photo from Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles became the director of Touch of Evil due to a misunderstanding.

“Charlton Heston agreed to appear in a Universal police melodrama, thinking that Welles had been signed to direct it, when actually he had only signed as an actor. The studio, undaunted by Welles’ pariah status in Hollywood, then asked him to direct, perhaps figuring that he couldn’t go too far out of bounds with the material he was given. He accepted with alacrity, and received no salary as writer or director. He never read the source novel, Whit Masterson’s Badge of Evil, but found the studio’s scenario ‘ridiculous,’ and demanded the right to write his own.”

– Source: Orson Welles by Joseph McBride

October 2nd, 2006

Citizen of the Screen

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“Orson Welles is an animal made for the screen and the stage. When he steps before a camera, it is as if the rest of the world ceases to exist. He is a citizen of the screen.”

– Jean Renoir, from the book Orson Welles by Joseph McBride

September 27th, 2006

Light and Shadow

Posted in Images, Quotes by DavidE

Rashomon

Production photo from Rashomon (1950)

“Rashomon would be my testing ground, the place where I could apply the ideas and wishes growing out of my silent-film research. To provide the symbolic background atmosphere, I decided to use the Akutagawa “In a Grove” story, which goes into the depths of the human heart as if with a surgeon’s scalpel, laying bare its dark complexities and bizarre twists. These strange impulses of the human heart would be expressed through the use of an elaborately fashioned play of light and shadow.”

– Akira Kurosawa, as quoted in Something Like an Autobiography

September 27th, 2006

Inky Rain

Posted in Trivia by DavidE

Sometimes you have to heighten cinematic reality in order to make it seem more natural. That’s what director Akira Kurosawa had to do during the production of Rashomon (1950).

“In the downpour scenes showing the Rashomon Gate, Kurosawa found that the rain in the background simply wouldn’t show up against the light gray backdrop. To solve this problem, the crew ended up tinting the rain by pouring black ink into the tank of the rain machine.”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 23rd, 2006

The Wind

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

The Wind

Poster for The Wind (1928)

One of the last great films of the silent era, The Wind (1928) was a difficult production. Filmed on location in the Mojave Desert, the dramatic wind effects were created from the propellers of eight aircraft.

“During filming, temperatures reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit, making life miserable for both cast and crew. The intense heat caused the film stock to warp, and it had to be packed in ice to remain intact. Lillian Gish touched an outside door handle, and was so severely burned that a small part of her palm’s flesh was scalded off.

“The airplane propellers blowing hot air, sand, and smoke were so dangerous that crewmembers were forced to wear long-sleeved clothing (in 120 degree weather), eye goggles, bandanas around their necks, and grease paint on their faces whenever the machines were being run.”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 23rd, 2006

Not the Same

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“Interviewer (asking about Way Down East): Did you never use doubles in those days?

Lillian Gish: Never. I wasn’t sportsmanlike. And besides, we felt we moved in a certain way and that the audience could catch a double, they would walk differently, move differently and spoil the film. Or make them think something was wrong. And I think to this day they have that feeling when it’s not the same person.”

– Lillian Gish, interviewed for BBC-2 Late-Night Line Up (reprinted in Films & Filming, January 1970)

September 20th, 2006

Bamboo Isle

Posted in Images, Streams by DavidE

Bamboo Isle

Here’s a link to stream the classic cartoon: Bamboo Isle (1932). Betty and Bimbo are shipwrecked on a South Seas island, which gives Betty the perfect excuse to go native with a grass skirt and floral lei. Two years later, the Hayes Office production code would be in full force, and skimpy clothing — even on an animated character — would be strictly forbidden.

If you prefer to download this public domain cartoon, you can visit here.

September 20th, 2006

Betty Boop’s Voice

Posted in Trivia by DavidE

Was Helen Kane the inspiration for Betty Boop’s voice? Yes, though it couldn’t be proved in court.

“In April 1934, Helen Kane, whose popularity had waned since her debut in 1929, filed suit against Max Fleischer, Fleischer Studios and Paramount Pictures for $250,000. She claimed that Betty Boop had stolen her fans. Max Fleischer gave testimony that Betty Boop was not based on Helen Kane (which was untrue since she was one of the main inspirations for Betty). Five of the women who had been the voice for Betty appeared in court to deny that they had attempted to imitate Helen Kane’s voice. The judge watched and compared several of the cartoons with some of Helen Kane’s films. There was testimony that the ‘Boop Oop a Doop’ phrase came long before Helen Kane’s popularity, as one witness claimed to have heard the phrase uttered in an Edith Griffith song. And on May 2nd, Paramount Pictures was able to locate a film clip of another singer, Baby Esther, who used the same phrase in a song in 1928, hence Helen Kane lost her lawsuit.”

– Source: funtrivia.com

September 16th, 2006

Against Logic

Posted in Images, Quotes by DavidE

Boudu Saved from Drowning

Production photo from Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)

“One of the best scenes in Boudu Saved from Drowning, the suicide attempt from the Pont des Arts, was made in total defiance of the logic of the scene. The crowd of unpaid extras gathered on the bridge and the river banks was not there to witness a tragedy. They came to watch a movie being made, and they were in good humor. Far from asking them to feign the emotion which verisimilitude would demand, Renoir seems to have encouraged them in their light-hearted curiosity. . . .

“For Renoir, what is important is not the dramatic value of a scene. Drama, action — in the theatrical or novelistic sense of the terms — are for him only pretexts for the essential, and the essential is everywhere in what is visible, everywhere in the very substance of the cinema.”

– André Bazin, from his book Jean Renoir

September 16th, 2006

One Movie

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.”

– Attributed to Jean Renoir

September 15th, 2006

Title Compression

Posted in Images, Trivia by DavidE

M

German poster for M (1931)

“Contrary to popular belief, Fritz Lang did not change the title from ‘The Murderers are Among Us’ to ‘M’ due to fear of persecution by the Nazis. He changed the title during filming, influenced by the scene where one of the criminals writes the letter on his hand. Lang thought ‘M’ was a more interesting title.’”

– Source: Internet Movie Database

September 15th, 2006

Close-Up

Posted in Quotes by DavidE

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot.”

– Attributed to Charles Chaplin