8a

Since I don’t think anybody managed to answer Question (8)a in the March film quiz –

“What connects CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, THE RED SHOES and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA?”

The Ondes Martenot! If you wanted electronica back in the forties, you had a choice between this and the erotic teasings of the theremin. Olivier Messiaen’s Oraison was composed especially for this plug-in wonder instrument. And my late friend Lawrie reported the excitement at the studio when the O.M. was brought in for use on CAESAR AND CLEO, the first film he’d worked on. I guess the alien sounds were considered appropriate for Ancient Egypt. In THE RED SHOES the sound evokes psychological dissonance and mesmeric compulsion, much as the theremin did for Ray Milland in THE LOST WEEKEND — Moira Shearer needs those shoes like a bottle of rye — and in LAWRENCE it stands for the pitiless desert sun, which incidentally is the only matte painting in the movie (you simply didn’t point your camera at the sun in those days).

CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA.

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6 Responses to “8a”

  1. Christopher Says:

    one of my favorite Ravel pieces just got better! :o))

  2. Lovely and amazing! More theremin musings very soon, as I look at William Lee Wilder’s The Pretender.

  3. Ah, Albert Dekker, John Alton. Looking forward to it.

  4. Surprisingly good for a WL Wilder flick! I’ll post it now.

  5. According to my research the Ondes Martenot was first used in Abel Gance’s ill-fated Sci-fi epic LA FIN DU MONDE, which also is claimed as the first French talkie. The instrument is played on screen in the notorious orgy scene, as Paris prepares for the collision with a comet.

    Let me try this link:

    La fin du monde at DVD Savant.

  6. Yes, the link works. Always liked that article, and always craved a decent copy or screening of the film. The addition of an OM makes it even more tantalizing.

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