Tinseltown, Talkies, and the Celluloid Frontier

Tinseltown, Talkies, and the Celluloid Frontier

In 1915 Francis X. Bushman manufactured the fantastic migration to Hollywood to do what lots of founded theater actors did at that time: slum it in that little backwater of a West Coast city (part of Los Angeles considering that 1910) to make some major money. On his arrival, Bushman —who would go on to develop into 1 of the initial bona fide movie stars and an completed movie director in his possess right— was launched all over one particular of the studios to get a sense for the method. One particular of the first stops on this introductory tour was the established of none other than the terrific Cecil B. DeMille, where by Bushman arrived to see a large swimming pool filled with crystal crystal clear h2o and a gaggle of nude actresses frolicking inside of. Above the pool an array of lights and a motion photo camera had been rigged to catch the action, and DeMille enthusiastically knowledgeable Bushman that the aim was to film the actresses in a way that only their backs could be viewed as they swam, creating a tasteful nonetheless tantalizing spectacle of grace and elegance.

Ad, Relocating Photograph World, May possibly 1919 for the movie For Greater, for Worse (1919).
(Paramount Photographs/Web Archive)

Now, from a modern day perspective, there are a amount of good reasons why this is a undesirable strategy, not the very least of which is the likely tragic and grotesque demise that may possibly befall all those inadequate women of all ages should just one of these large-voltage lights appear loose from its moorings. On the other hand, as Bushman was later on informed by a crestfallen DeMille, the lesson learned that working day was the folly in making an attempt to film a reflective surface. (Consider of what transpires when you take a photograph of a mirror). In its place of capturing in celluloid an graphic of ethereal splendor as tastefully nude nymphs frolicked in the very clear water, all he recorded was a number of hours of his own digicam and lights hunting back at him. It seems crazy to think that a professional Hollywood director wouldn’t recognize that you just can’t stage a digicam specifically at a mirror-like floor, but it makes perception when you consider about the moment in context: it was 1915 and no just one experienced at any time tried out that in advance of. We can think about DeMille smacking himself in the forehead as quickly as he saw the designed footage and thinking, “You fool, of study course!” (Click on on the audio player over for a snippet of this pleasant anecdote.)

Myrna Loy is a host for Memoirs of the Videos.
(Publicity photo by George Hurrell/Wikimedia Commons)

This is just a single of the numerous colourful and insightful tales recounted in Memoirs of the Flicks, a radio plan from the early sixties that featured prerecorded interviews with Hollywood greats, from the silent period all the way by means of the golden age of Hollywood and beyond. The listing of legends who lend their significant knowledge and aptitude to this method is awe-inspiring. It contains Buster Keaton, Dorothy Lamour, Gene Kelly, Arthur Freed, Paul Newman, Ben Hecht, Adolph Zukor, King Vidor, David O’Selznick, Basil Rathbone, Myrna Loy, Harold Lloyd, Cecil B. DeMille, Otto Preminger, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and lots of, quite a few other people. This selection of demonstrates is a veritable treasure trove of movie record, and some of the tales related listed here appear to exist nowhere else. What’s far more, these concerned in the software are actors and movie directors, aged-university producers, writers and musicians —in other terms, skilled storytellers with large personalities and an immense expertise for spinning a good yarn. And, boy, do they bring it! Jack Lemmon recounts his to start with meeting with Harry Cohn. Ben Hecht recalls the undeserved credit history he obtained for the ground breaking digicam actions of Lee Garmes in Angels Around Broadway (1940). Cecil B. DeMille recounts heading to California to shoot 1914’s The Squaw Male and —because he needed a locale with desert and prairie— renting an outdated barn on Vine Road that would afterwards turn into the first Hollywood studio. Reginald Denham tells a hilarious tale about famous film producer Sir Alexander Korda and the insanely convoluted course of action of producing a script and obtaining it into production.

Motion Photo Output Code (Hays Code), include of a paper duplicate.
(Online Archives)

Throughout it all there is a particular polite reserve to the series indicative of the era in which it aired and routinely absent from modern day media. The means to explain to a superior tale, juicy bits and all, although getting conscious of the censors and the general public tastes was a skill designed early by the Hollywood set because of to the rigors imposed by the Hayes Code and, later on, the MPAA. It lends the proceedings a evaluate of class and old-faculty amazing equally charming and subtle, and helps make the total assortment truly feel warm and inviting. These assets are legitimate treasures and we at the WNYC Archives hope you appreciate them as much as we have savored bringing them to you.

The Cinema Seem collection in the New York Community Radio Archives has quite a few paperwork and letters connected to Memoirs of the Videos that represent a modest treasure in and of on their own. Some of the letters and signatures on these paperwork are a film buff’s aspiration obtain we’ve incorporated two down below. Also, there are a couple episodes we’re lacking: episode #17 The New Hollywood and episode #18 The Rusk to Truth. If any one has heard them or has copies, be sure to enable us know right here at the WNYC Archives —we’d appreciate to hear them.

A letter from Lucille Ball for the Memoirs of the Motion pictures undertaking.
(NYPR Archives/NYPR Archives)


A letter from Cecil B. DeMille for the Memoirs of the Films task.
(NYPR Archives/NYPR Archives)