Picture Edit

NATAN the documentary, post-production, week three.

Eoin our fast and frequently furious and very insightful editor is now “picturing up” the “radio edit” — adding the various scenic shots, archive material, movie clips, photos, reconstructions (sshh!) and assorted other visuals which make it other than a standard talking head piece. In fact, they should make it a spectacular scrap book.

Meanwhile I went through my Pathe-Natan collection, grabbing images of titles to show our FX artist and title designer, to get a flavour of the thirties into our typography. Here are a few samples ~

A Jewish comedy playing, rather baldly for modern tastes, with various common ethnic stereotypes… but dig that font!

A stenographic lettering style fits this musical comedy about a plucky secretary, made as Franco-German co-production and shot in two languages at once. A little later, it was remade very faithfully by Victor Saville and Gainsborough Pictures in English. The songs remain the same.

It’s not that common for Pathe-Natans to have imagery behind the main title, but this beautiful card does. Paul Czinner’s lovely drama, remade by Billy Wilder as LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (with considerable adaptation) was shot in English, French and German versions. I’ve only managed to track down the foreign language editions.

“Beauty Spot” — yes, the title of one of the fictional films in THE ARTIST actually belongs to a real movie. I don’t think the reference was intentional, though.

Jean Painleve’s beautiful sea horse documentary is one of the best-known Pathe-Natan films. On our first trip to Paris to research the project, we met Brigitte Berg, who administers Painleve’s work and is a strong defender of Bernard Natan’s reputation. She gave us the fish-eye.

A frothy comedy with Jules Berry, making a change from his oily villains in LE JOUR SE LEVE, LE CRIME DE MONSIEUR LANGE, and LES VISITEURS DU SOIR), on the theme of father-daughter incest. Always a popular subject for sophisticated humour.

“Kidnap Me.” Very early Arletty! Natan’s productions gave a start to Jean Gabin, Jacques Tourneur and Pierre and Jacques Prevert.

I’m enjoying Dublin — apart from anything else, my limited budget means I’m on a diet, and walking half an hour from cottage to office and half an hour back, lugging a laptop, is good exercise. I aim to return to Edinburgh a dead ringer for Miles Mander. Having left it as Miles Malleson. The cottage is a little quirky in some respects: the toilet will only flush once every quarter hour, like a striking clock, and announces its readiness to do so by a noise like a slowed-down tommy gun. There’s no kettle (since the old kettle shorted out the electrics), no dependable washing machine (it washes but it doesn’t drain), one pot in the kitchen (which simplifies meals) and no bed (but there’s a mattress and the world’s warmest duvet). More exercise is gained by sprinting from the shower to those parts of the house which have heating. It’s great! Stop by and I’ll give you some boiled rice.

Searching for a lost USB stick (it was in Edinburgh all along) enabled me to find some of Paul’s daughter’s toys down the back of the sofa, causing us to create a new children’s character:

“I found a tiny hedgehog down your sofa.”

“Did you just say you found a tiny Hitchcock down my sofa?”

“No, a hedgehog.”


ALFRED HEDGEHOG PRESENTS — I think it could be a winner.

5 Responses to “Picture Edit”

  1. This sounds fascinating. I’m very curious about the Tourneur. I believe I saw one of his later French sound features. Did he only direct one short for Natan?

  2. No, Maurice was one of the top guys at Pathe-Natan, he must have directed at least half a dozen films there. Les Deux Orphelines, Konigsmark and Gaietes de L’Escadron are all good. The first two afre super-epics and the third is a comedy with Gabin, Raimu and Fernandel.

    Jacques directed three films, in between editing his dad’s work.

    Obsession is my favourite, though: I reviewed it here somewhere…

  3. ooh Alfred Hedgehog would make a great TV kids series… got to be better then what I’ve experienced so far…

  4. Thanks. I was asking about Jacques. I’m sadly uniformed on Maurice.

  5. Oh, Maurice is great! And there’s a tremendous stylistic affinity between them, though they seem to have been temperamentally opposite.

    I think JT made three full-length features for Pathe-Natan, not typical of his later work at all. I posted a clip of Toto, I think: maybe his best comedy (certainly stronger than The Comedy of Terrors).

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