On July 4th I photographed some mesh that was constructed
to look like some faux building which would protect some
other buildings on Park Avenue and 28th Street.
Steve Fisher sent me a couple of packs of photos of life in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens, NY. The pictures were an automatic for me, and I’m glad to present them here.
A bit of history:
- Mount Olivet Cemetery was incorporated in 1850 under the Rural Cemetery Association Act of 1847 as a nongovernmental supervision, non-religious and private non-sectarian cemetery. The original restriction of having mostly Espicopal Church services was repealed in 1851.
The cemetery was designed as a “Garden Cemetery” with winding roads and many horticultural specimens. Space was allotted in and around most family lots to allow for landscape planting and a vast variety of trees and shrubs that have been planted. The cemetery has a regular tree and shrub pruning program and plants trees to make up for those lost due to storms, insect or disease damage.
Thank you, Steve, for sharing the pictures.
Madison Square Park in NY’s Chelsea offers space to sculptors to off their works of art to the public with a work that generally stands within the park for about six months. This year’s sculpture will be on display from May 2nd through September 8th.
From the display explaining this exhibit there is this:
- Red, Yellow and Blue is a new installation by the New York-based artist Orly Genger, This is Genger’s largest and most ambitious work to date. Red Yellow and Blue envelopes three lawns within Madison Square Park with 1.4 million feet of undulating, layered nautical rope covered in over 3,400 gallons of paint.
It merges elements of painting, sculpture and craft. Genger’s labor-intensive and largely physical process involves weaving and painting rope in large sections b hand, and then gradually building these colorfully-lined sections on=site at the park. In her work, Genger explores the traditionally intimate and domestic activity of knitting to create large-scale, monolithic forms which consume, challenge and occupy the spaces they occupy.
Steve Fisher explores three churches and a synagogue. We get to view the results with him. Steve writes the rest of this post:
- As part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s “Sacred Sites” weekend, celebrating landmark religious structures, I visited St Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and 51st street. While I had seen the imposing building many times over the years, I’d never been inside. Its Byzantine design is unlike any church interior I’ve ever seen.
- I also visited St Matthias Church in Ridgewood, Queens as part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s “Sacred Sites” weekend. The weather was not conducive to traipsing around outside, and it was not especially impressive anyway. But then the surprise came when I entered the building. Wow! Yet another discovery that had been virtually in my backyard without my ever knowing it existed.
- Behind the St Matthews Church in Woodhaven, Queens is a landmarked cemetery, the Wyckoff-Snediker Family Cemetery. The church is currently being renovated. The cemetery is overgrown and neglected and not likely to be cleaned up before the renovation is completed.
- I also had a chance to visit the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Corona, Queens [the oldest in the borough]. I went today since I was certain someone would be there for sabbath services, and I could find out when I might return to photograph it, not wanting to interfere with the service. The congregants were very welcoming and even allowed me to take some photos from the balcony while the service was in progress. While the exterior of the building has been completely renovated, the interior is in much need of attention. I guess they are awaiting funding to tackle the inside.
- I’ve been trying to think of what the new version of The Great Gatsby reminds me of, and in a conversation with Heidi, she smack dab put her finger on it. There was a film, called Idlewild, done in 2006 by hip hop artists, Andre 3000. That was it. I was in love with that film and wrote an exuberant review. See here.
Idlewild was a rich looking, spirited film about the mob in the 1920s. The screen burst with rhythm and excitement frame after frame. Animated objects appeared everywhere in George Pal like additions.
The difference between the two films – Ixdlewild and Gatsby – other than about $100 million, and the throng of “AAA” celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio is that Idlewild has a hell of a lot more imagination. The two equal each other in exuberance and style, and Gatsby is adapted from one of the great books of the 20th Century. I suggest you rent a copy of this 2006 film from Netflix or whoever before or after or instead of seeing Gatsby. As a matter of fact it’s time for me to see Idlewild again; I’ll rent it, myself.
David Levy recently announced to the world that he’d completed a new film. This time it’s a half hour movie animated to the narrated storytelling of Bob Levy‘s (Dave’s father) story of his trip to camp. This was a service for inner city poor children. Dave’s father actually received supprt to go for several summers, and tells the story of those Camp outs. He had a full $8 to spend for the first summer, and plays it to the max.
The film is the third, done in a strong graphic style and uses material from the memory of Dave’s father.The other two films David animated: “Grandpa Looked Like William Powell,” and “Turning a Corner,” both made an impression. This short, “Camp Story,” exploits the father’s narrative without taking too many animation curves. Howard Beckerman used to say there was full animation and “Limited” animation, but he’d discovered a third style – “Enough” animation. “Limited” when it can be and full when it has to be. This film is “Enough” animation. More of an iconic graphic trip, often depending on silhouttes to relay the story. Using bold colors and large solids, it uses its Flash animation to the max. (I’m pretty sure it’s Flash though it might have been done on Toon Boom.)
The sound track is a solo guitar that’s played pretty low on the track, so it’s particularly unimposing. I don’t hear many effects if there are any, so the track is somewhat simple. This helps put a focus on Bob Levy’s voice as he narrates the qiet story.
The film will succeed in many festivals. The story roams a bit telling of many summers he’d experienced. There are times when it takes a bit too long to get there, so my preference is the last of the shorts David did, “Turning a Corner.” But this is a fine addition to Dave’s library. He’s found his metier. I just wonder if the story supports the length. I have to give him credit, though. It takes some kind of fortitude and determination to come home from work daily only to start work on your animated film.
And to keep it up. As a matter of fact, Dave has me questioning my own enthusiasm. It’s time for me to put some energy out there as well.
Keep your eyes open for this movie; it’s a truly Independent film and needs support.
Daily Motion and The Congress
The last time I felt such inspiration was when I contemplated Yoni Goodman‘s daily animated pieces for his blog, the Dailymotion. Perhaps you’ll remember my excitement for Mr. Goodman’s daily animated tests which he offered us. Anyway, his output was so inspiring it actually had me doing some personal animation. Unfortunately that didn’t last long enough to be productive.
I wondered what has happened to Yon Goodman’s “Daily Motion” pieces, so I went back.
He was the animation director for the Israeli feature, Waltz with Bashir. His blog was a way for him to keep it going for himself. It turns out, Mr. Goodman has been the animation director for another feature film, The Congress. This film will make its debut at Cannes this coming weekend. You can see some stills and get some information here.
It’s half animated and half live action. Stars include Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm and Harvey Keitel. It’s an animated adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel “The Futurological Congress”. (From thte short synopsis I’ve read, this sounds like a very imaginative idea for a film.)
It’s another good film to watch for; one that was done in 2D. (Only in America are they afraid of that medium.)
A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay
About the Death of Walt Disney
Yes, that is the title of the play which opened yesterday at the Soho Rep. A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney was written by Lucas Hnath and the play was directed by Sarah Benson, the artistic director of the Soho Rep. The show stars Larry Pine as Walt Disney. The actor has performed in many films and plays, usually as a positive role model of a character. Yesterday’s review in the NYTimes, by Charles Isherwood, takes the play to task for re-imagining Walt as someone impatient to prop himself up into someone more important than he is. “. . . Walt is not “one of the most important people who ever lived,” as he grandiosely aspires to be, but just a mortal like anyone else. While apparently devoting his public life to bringing pleasure to millions, Mr. Hnath’s Walt Disney had a horror of being considered one of them.”
The show is completely sold out for its limited run (likely these are subscribers who knew of the show in advance and pre-bought tickets as part of a package.
It’ll be interesting if they do a filmed version of this play. I wonder what the rights are to such a thing. There’s a book I always thought would make a good film about Walt: The Oranging of America by Max Apple.
Larry Pine as “Walt”
More information about the play can be found here.
I thought I’d give you an idea of what I’m planning for the coming week.
- We’ll complete the Raggedy Ann photos which finish John Canemaker’s collection of images he shot for this book, The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy
- We revisit Norman McLaren with some odds and ends that he wrote in the last years of his life. Of course, he was a smart erudite guy right up to the end, and I believe that comes across in this writing.
- We’ll also look back at the career of Lilian Friedman Astor, the first woman to have animated in a major U.S. studio. From 1933-1939 she worked for the Fleischer studios, and we have a list of all the scenes she did. Perhaps we can showcase some of them.
- And we’ll begin to look at the Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston book, The Illusion of Life. Bo do I have a couple of problems to discuss with these two masters.
- And of course there will be some surprises in store for both of us.
- Last week, I posted a stash of photos taken by John Canemaker for the book he wrote called, “The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy.”
John Canemaker took all the photos, himself, which led to a more intimate look at an animated film. There were no photo decisions by committee; it was decided to use a photo if it told the story John was trying to relay. For that reason, the book really is one of the best “Art of . . .” type books on the market. (I’m not just saying that because there were photos of me in there – though that would be a good reason, too.)
The book was as exciting – in the making – as was the film. Too bad at the last minute the train of a film ran wildly off the tracks. In a way, I wish the book were written after the film was completed so that we could read the true story of what happened in those last six months of chaos.
The decision was slow in growing and fast when it finally fell, that the movie was enormously over budget. I was in on all the morning production meetings where managers and supervisors and directors would all meet. Those had started off nicely, at the beginning of the film, and went insanely wrong before long. There was the time when I was ordered to fire – that day – two inbetweeners. I was told that we had to give the staff a lesson that they had to work harder. (That might have been hard to do since everyone was giving it their all.) It so happened that one new inbetweener, on her first scene, ignored my instructions (and her immediate supervisor’s) by erasing all of Jack Schnerk‘s drawings. She felt she could animate the scene better, and she set out to prove that.
One down. The second person to fire was someone I was told (by Dick Williams, himself,) that I had to fire. It was obvious that there was a personality conflict since the guy was a great artist and definitely someone who should have stayed on. I was able to arrange for him to be switched to the BG department, thus fired by me from doing inbetweens and hired by them, in the same day, to do watercolors. He continues on, even today, working at a top position in design at Blue Sky. I don’t know about the woman, but I hope she gained a little humility that day 30-something years ago. That story didn’t make it into the book.
What there was in the production was a great first year of production where the art of animation was treated in its highest form. We were all out to make the greatest film of all time and bring it to the big screen. We had some of animation’s finest animators gathered to work on it. Assistants and Inbetweeners in New York were offered classes, after hours, which tried to teach animation to the new. With teachers like Tissa David and Art Babbitt and more experienced Assistants; a lot was conveyed. I was usually too busy to make it to many of these classes, but I always kept a close eye on what was taught. It really was fun and incredibly valuable to many of us.
At some point along the way, the LA studio was closed and key people from there came here. All of our space was overcrowded and uncomfortable. The Xeroxing in NY, a sweet grey line that took a while to construct, was replaced by a thick back line, when management sent work to Hanna-Barbera to outsource the xerography and some of the painting. Shadows were eliminated. Color copiers were rented. Scenes that had been animated in a non-photo blue pencil on 16 fld paper were being copied and reduced, at the same time, in B&W so that they could use 12 fld cels to color the art. A penny saved is a penny gained; I guess. This meant that a number of my inbetweeners were used to put 4 sets of crosses on the animation drawings so that there’d be some form of registration on the reduced artwork. Certainly the registration went all to hell in the process, thus allowing the latter half of the film to have a lot of slippage on the big screen. Lots of weaving animation in scenes that were rushed.
Emery Hawkins‘ amazing taffy pit took a big hit when it was animated more like a limited animation movie. All that beautiful rolling motion Emery had created on the cinemascope screen suddenly hits the wall and stasis sets in. The film was never going to be a classic of he silver screen, but it should have been a hell of a lot better.
Here I am doing what I did most of the day.
I talked on the phone. Ennervating stuff.
A young Kevin Petrilak is in the rear left. He was an inbetweener
in the Taffy Pit. Dan Haskett ran that group of people.
Here’s Art Babbitt teaching. He loved doing that. Dick tried to
recreate the classes he’d had in London a couple of years earlier. We – all New York -
sure appreciated the two weeks of lessons. I have Dick’s notes from these sessions.
This is a wall of stats. It represents footage counts produced in
every department working on the film. This hung in Mike Sisson’s office.
He was the production manager who tried to usurp the entire production.
A couple of weeks before everything changed, managerially, on Raggedy, Sissons
approached Cosmo Anzilotti and me at lunch. He saw us at the restaurant and came
over to us. He wanted to lead a take over cutting Dick out of the film and
putting Cosmo in to finish directing the film. I’d be made Cosmo’s assistant.
I had no intentions of being another Iago, and said as much.
I told Cosmo that Dick had brought me onto the film, and I’d do anything for
him. If it meant leading a large group to quit the show, I’d do that. Cosmo
seemed relieved. He wanted to do the same and we both told Sissons how we
felt. He greeted our news with an ass’ smile and thanked us. We were no
longer on the winners’ side, and I watched closely to know when to exit.
This was where the NY headquarters were planted. In the middle of 45th Street.
Most studios in the forties and fifties had places on 45th Street. Paramount,
Hal Seeger’s studio, lots of other smaller studios such as Pablo Ferro or Ray Seti’s.
Didi Conn was the actress who voice Raggedy Ann. When the VOs were coming
to an end, Didi worked late and her mother was with her. They needed help
getting home (Long Island.) The mother was afraid to drive. I volunteered
and drove them home. I took the Long Island Rail Road back to the City.
This is Sue Butterworth with Dick Williams. She was the watercolorist who
led the BG department and designed the wc style of the film. I thought her
work a bit inconsistent and often lacked the dynamic look good BGs require.
Here’s a picture of Dick Williams with his daughter,Claire.
Claire played the part of Marcella, the little girl at the film’s start.
They shot the live action in Boonton, NJ during the first days of the
production. All those hours they were out filming, I watched the shop.
Alone in an enormous darkened most of the time in the enormous office,
I could only spend time reading and rereading the script and sketching
my idea of some of the characters.Infrequently, the financial manager
of Lester Osterman Prods., the production company, would pass through.
George Bakes was a fiercely independent animator who worked a short
while on the film. He must have started at Disney on Sleeping Beauty. He’d often
show a lot of Milt Kahl drawings he’d had from that film.
Gerry Chniquy was a brilliant animator straight out of WB.
He’d done a lot of Yosemite Sam animation for Friz Freleng.
It wasn’t far to go to cast him as the blowhard of a King, King Coo Coo.
Marty Brill voiced the character. Gerry Chiniquy,of course, did a fine job,
John Celestri had a style all his own although he idolized Bill Tytla.
Not a bad person to pick for a role model. John was an Assistant on
the film. Here he’s working with inbetweener, Amanda Wilson. Amanda was
the daughter of the great cartoonist and animation designer, Rowland Wilson.
The last of these photos will come next week. Many thanks to John Canemaker for the loan of the images. Any opinions tossed about here, are all mine and John is not to blame for them.
- John Canemaker recently loaned me a stash of photos of the Raggedy Ann crew. These were pictures that were used in his book on the “making of”. It was a better book than movie (as they often are). There are also some photos that didn’t make it to the book. John Canemaker shot all the photos, himself and all copyright belongs to him.
I thought I’d post the pictures and add some comments that pop off the top of my head. Hopefully, a couple of interesting stories will show up in my memories.
There are enough photos that it’ll probably take about three posts to get them all in. The next two Sundays are booked, I’d guess.
Johnny Gruelle (artist, writer) and William H. Woodin (song writer)
Dec.28, 1930 Indianapolis Star – “Raggedy Ann’s Sunny Songs”
This was apparently a theatrical piece Johnny Gruelle
put together with his very successful characters.
It all started with Joe Raposo, the composer of “Bein’ Green”
and many other hit Sesame Street songs. He wrote a musical for “Raggedy Ann
and Andy” and was made to see that it would make a wonderful animated musical.
He wrote a lot of songs for the slim script and they prerecorded
the songs for the animation. We lived with a soundtrack of about
a dozen musicians playing this very nice score to the delicate voices
that sang the tuneful pieces.
When the final film was released, that 12 person orchestra
became 101 strings and a big over-polished sound track.
No matter where you went the music was there and in the way.
It was too big, and the movie was too small. It was bad.
The track was incredibly amateurish. The composer had too much control.
This was Richard Horner. He was one of the two producers of the film.
Stanley Sills (a Broadway producer and Beverly’s brother) was the
other producer who didn’t know what he was doing.
They represented Bobbs-Merrill who owned the property.
I really liked Mr. Horner. We met again a number of years later
when Raggedy Ann was distantly behind us. I’d offered to take Tissa to church,
one Easter Sunday; Richard Horner and wife were there. He asked to meet with me.
He sought advice on some videos of artists and their work that he was producing,
and hoped I could offer my help in leading him to some distributors.
This is Cosmo Pepe; he was one of the leaders of the Xerox department.
It was Bill Kulhanek‘s department, but Cosmo really did great work.
They had this room-sized machine that they converted drawings into cels.
It was all new to NY, and the whole thing was so experimental.
Especially when Dick decided to do the film with grey toner rather than black.
The film always felt out of focus to me (even though it wasn’t.)
In the end when they rushed out the last half of the film, Hanna Barbera
sub-contracted the Xeroxing, and it was done in a sloppy and poor black line.
This is Corny Cole. He was the designer of the film, and all the great art
emanated out of his Mont Blanc pen nib. Or maybe it was a BIC pen.
Whatever, it was inspirational.
I wrote more about him here.
The gifted and brilliant animator, Hal Ambro. Can you tell that
I admired the man? I wanted badly to meet him during this production,
but that never was to happen. Now, I can only treasure his work.
This is a very rough planning drawing that Grim Natwick did on
the Jack-in-the-Box he animated. See the scene here.
Didi Conn, the voice of Raggedy Ann, with Chrystal Russell, an animator
of Raggedy Ann. She backed up Tissa David who was the primary actor for
that character and did most of the film’s first half. Chrystal did many
scenes in the first half and most of the second.
She had a rich identifiable style all her own.
On the average, I spent about an hour a day down in the Ink & Pt dept.
Often they had problems to resolve with some animator’s work. Either the
exposure sheets were confusing or they didn’t match the artwork, or there
was some question that they found confusing. My being available made it
helpful to them, and I did so without hesitation.
Generally, before a scene left my department for the I&Pt dept., I’d
have studied the exposure sheets and felt I knew the scenes before
they were handed out to the Inbetweener or Assistant. It meant taking
a lot of time with the work in studio so that I was not only prepared
to answer questions of a checker but the Inbetweener as well.
Sorry I don’t know who this is. If you have info,
please leave it for me. For some reason, I’d thought
he was an inbetweener (which would’ve made it odd for
me not to recognize him by name.) Apparently he’s a painter.
Carl Bell was the West Coast Production Coordinator.
We spoke frequently during the making of the show.
When I left the film, I went to LA for a couple of weeks.
Chrystal Russell threw a small party for me, and Carl came.
(I think he might have brought Art Babbitt, who was there.)
The group was small enough that we could have a talk that we all
participated in. We talked for some time (though not about
Raggedy Ann.) It was great for me.
Maxie Fix-it. This was a great doll that wound up to get the legs going.
He rolled around the floor beautifully. The “Twins” in the back were animated
by Dan Haskett. though I’m not sure they gave him credit for it. I was a bit
embarrassed by these characters. They were just a naked bit of racism running
about our cartoon movie for very young children.
Gerry Potterton (left) and John Kimball (right).
Gerry was one wonderful person. I always enjoyed spending time with him.
He produced/directed a number of intelligent, adult animated films.
This includes an animated Harold Pinter‘s Pinter People.
After Raggedy, I tracked Gerry down to get to see Pinter’s People. It was
rather limited but full of character. Gerry knew how to handle the money
he was given, unlike some other directors.
John Kimball was, at the time, not in the caliber of Babbitt or Ambro or
David or Hawkins or Chiniquy. However, he did some imaginative play
on a few scenes which were lifted whole from strong>McCay’s Little Nemo
in Slumberland. One of these scenes I animated but was pulled
from it before I could finish it. I had too much else to do with the
tardy inbetweens of Raggedy Ann (an average of 12 drawings per day)
and the stasis of the taffy pit (an average of 1 inbetween per day).
Too many polka dots on Ann and too much of everything in the pit.
All photos copyright ©1977 John Canemaker
Photos 03 Apr 2013 06:01 am
I continue to pore through the remains of work materials after Vince Cafarelli passed away over a year ago. A lot of artwork went to the Museum of Modern Art and a lot has been returned temporarily. Consequently, I’m poring quickly over the boxes searching for anything I’ve missed first time out. And I know there was a lot.
I’ve come upon a stash of photos. Many of them were taken at a screening Candy Kugel had given at Magno Screening room. It was for her personal short, “Audition.” This was a short film done in 1980 which talked about her life as an artist. This is a theme of many of the shorts she and Vince did together. Whether discussing making a commercial or a personal film, the topic has stretched through many of their very personal films.
At any rate, Candy had finished the short and was celebrating with a host of screenings at Magno with a warm reception going on in Magno’s anteroom, next door. I can still remember the event clearly even though it took place over 30 years ago. Others of the photos were obviously taken in the Perpetual Motion studio during the day. A chance to renew acquaintance with some old faces, these are some of the photos taken. I thought it’d be fun to share.
Animators, Lu Guarnier and Tony Eastman
Photos 31 Mar 2013 07:02 am
I was on my way, this past Friday about 1:15pm to Richard O’Connor‘s studio, Ace & Son, to photograph the Fred Mogubgub paintings (see yesterday’s post). All at once, I came upon a small stretch of 29th Street where a couple of hundred males (I saw only one female – covered and in pants) gathered with shoes off sitting on towels and kerchiefs that they had brought. They all faced the same direction, North – uptown. Out of one store, a store which seemed to arrange air flights and trips, a loud voice spoke somewhat harshly. I wasn’t paying attention to the
commentary from the loud speakers, but neither were most of the males in attendance.
I asked a street vendor – there were a number of them who wouldn’t give up their space on the sidewalk for a sudden call to prayer – what was the occasion. Obviously, they were outside their improvised mosque and performing their religious duty.
The vendor said that this happened every Friday. There’s something to learn about this city every time you turn a corner.
On the way back, 30 minutes later, no one was on the sidewalk.
A large group stood within the airline sales shop, praying.
They were tightly packed.
Naturally, I passed Marble Collegiate Church which continues to display yellow ribbons for the soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Appropriate for Good Friday.
Heidi and I went to Grand Central Station on Saturday to watch a program of dance (lasting about 20 minutes.) She was actually more excited about going than I, but it was great fun and I’m glad she pulled me into it. We’d actually gone on Friday but found that you had to get there much earlier.
We arrived an hour early for it on Saturday, and even though Grand Central was not crowded, there were a lot of people attending for the dance program.
It was devised, choreographed and composed by Nick Cave. This wasn’t the great rock musician, Nick Cave, but another person from LA who produces excellent shows like this one. Glasto make the acquaintance.
It was also a good photo event.
This is the official entrance. We came in the back door.
We were about an hour early though
the doors closed on newcomers soon after.
If you’re looking for a great one, read Adventures with D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown, who was an apprentice on Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. I think often enough about Brown’s story about his daily walks with D.W. It seems that they both lived near 14th Street, and their studio was on 125th St. when they worked in NY. They’d walk together to the studio in the morning and walk home at night. The young Karl Brown would use the opportunity to learn as much as he could from the master. He tells how Griffith, at one time, pulled out a big six shooter which surprised Brown. That’s when he realized that most people carried guns. It was protection from criminals. ______Griffith filming Birth of a Nation.
I’m sure it was also protection from the patent
holders group who would beat up anyone making a film without paying for the use of a camera, whose operation was patented and owned by Thomas Edison.
Billy Bitzer, Griffith’s brilliant cameraman, reconstructed their camera so that it was different from the patent rights’ group’s cameras – therefore not in violation of the patent. This didn’t stop the constant attacks on Griffith’s sets.
I have a book by Kevin Brownlow that I love. Photographs from the sets of silent films. Hollywood, the Pioneers is a companion book to a series he produced. The photos are outstanding. Here are a few:
Billy Bitzer on the front of a train filming the movement
for a pre-Griffith film, a Hales Tour film.
This is how the Hales tour films were screened. It’s a duplicate of a railroad car, and you ride facing the screen where you got to watch the movement, as if you were on a train. Future director, Byron Haskin, talked about spending whole days in a theater
watching these tours since they were so spellbinding.
Here’s a shot of the skeleton to the set of Babylonia in the film, Intolerance.
This film was shot in California. Film makers ran to the west coast
as much to escape the patent holders as to find all sun all the time.
This is closer shot of one of the elephants that lined the walls. The care that was put into these films was amazing. Griffith loved recreating famous paintings and etchings that illustrated the stories he was filming. Quite often, the intertitle would tell you that you were watching such a recreation and show you the painting.
After the film was completed, the set remained standing for many years. If Roger Corman had been around at the time, there would have been another dozen films featuring it.
There’s also a wonderful Italian film by the Taviani brothers called, Good Morning, Babylon. It’s about two architect brothers who emigrate to the US and get work helping to build the set. It’s worth hunting down for a look.
The Griffith film led to bigger and bigger sets.
This is Ernst Lubitsch’s German film, Loves of a Pharoah.
Years later, after a number of films had failed for him, Griffith tried to make one more special film. He bought some land in Mamaroneck, NY and built his own studio. There he had constructed Paris. This would be the set for Orphans of the Storm.
It was a film that featured the sisters, Dorothy and Lillian Gish. The girls are separated in the period melodrama. here, Dorothy, playing the blind sister, is searching the streets for her sister.
She isn’t very successful and sinks lower and lower into the depths of revolutionary France. Needless to say, there’s eventually a reu-nion.
Lillian took a very big part in the making of these films. During Intolerance she actually was an uncredited editor. Since she had a small role in the film, she would spend the days assembling footage to view with D.W. in the evenings and would rework the film to Griffith’s instructions on the next day.
There was no script when they started this film. Griffith wrote it all and kept it in his head as he shot the film. This was quite a feat since it’s four separate stories that are interwoven. (The first time this was done on film.)
Anita Loos was employed, early in her career, after the fact to help write the intertitles and offer suggested changes to the footage.
In 1917, during WW I, Griffith actually went to the French front to film his movie,
Hearts of the World. The film was financed with British money as
early propaganda. The footage shot in France wasn’t all he’d hoped for,
so some of it was recreated back in the US when he returned.