filming and films

I admit it, Mark Cousins’ collection of films & filming is better than mine.

August, 1970, Charles Walters on shooting SUMMER STOCK with Judy Garland: “I remember, at one point, I was on the boom and we were moving in for a giant close-up. Judy looked up with those great liquid eyes of hers and it was the most fantastic shot in the world. ‘Cut,’ I yelled, “Will somebody please hand me a towel, I’ve just come.’ Now that might be thought indelicate, but Judy loved that sort of foolishness. It really turned her on.”

May, 1969, Francis Ford Coppola on co-writing IS PARIS BURNING? (before Gore Vidal’s involvement): “Ray Stark said I could go to Paris and have a vacation with my wife because the writer then working on it was a man who was very ill, dying in fact. And these are the honest-to-God words used, my job was to assist that man and ‘if the pencil fell out of his hand, I was to pick it up.'”

July 1959, Shelley Winters on George Stevens: “George photographs what goes on in the air between people.”

October 1964, Sidney Lumet: “But in the early television days we were doing cuts as fast as a finger could move. John Frankenheimer, who was my AD, can bear me out: there was one sequence on a live show where John had 64 cues to give in a one-minute period. It was 23 cuts in a one-minute period, which is just about as fast as a switcher’s fingers can move, and John had three cues for each camera cut.”

June, 1970: Costa-Gavras on Z, which has a score by Mikis Theodorakis: “Theodorakis was already in prison, but I had some records of his which we adapted for the film soundtrack. […] We have just one short piece of original music for the picture. It is the scene with Jacques Perrin and the guy at the restaurant, where he is giving him the passport and the addresses, you can hear Theodorakis singing in the background. This piece was recorded on a miniature tape-recorder and smuggled out with his instructions on using it in the film.”

April, 1979, Philip Kaufman on the Dolby sound mix of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS: “And when we were doing the mix at Zoetrope, I just kept saying, ‘Pods eat birds. Just keep the birds down.’ I didn’t want the feeling that nature goes on while man is having his problems, because there is some suggestion in the film that everything is being transformed, that nothing is real anymore, that we are gradually going to lose. And that’s the sense of claustrophobia that I wanted to create. I mean the soundtrack is stylised and overdone and there are sounds that are bleeding in from the very beginning, that when you see it again you’ll recognize as either chimes or alien noises. […] Dolby was very excited by what we did with sound. Not just rolling stuff in its surroundings, but selectively beginning to creep sounds into the scenes. You know, we spent a lot of time determining what channel to place sounds. It’s a very expensive soundtrack, and Ben Burtt, who worked on STAR WARS did a lot of the sound effects and special sound effects.”

Nicholas Meyer: “They’re always looking for what is commercial, which I think proves how idiotic most people in the movie business are. Obviously there’s no such thing as commercial until something has made 50 million dollars. And since it is impossible to tell beforehand, it seems to me a waste of energy and you should concentrate on something which they never ask themselves, which is, ‘Do I like it?'”

And: “I came home one day and saw Martin Luther King standing on the balcony of the hotel and getting shot. I sat on my bed and was truly appalled by what I was seeing. And they took him to the hospital, and people were screaming, and there was blood, and suddenly all of this was interrupted by someone who says, ‘Miami for 25 dollars less.’ It’s preposterous, it’s George Orwell time. It scares the shit out of me. Television scares the shit out of me. […] It’s in your house. It’s this unblinking eye with its inexhaustible font of passivity, and it should be banned. No one should be allowed to have one. We should all go to the movies the way God intended.”

6 Responses to “filming and films”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    That Chuck Walters story is quite true. He and Judy got along like gangbusters. That’s why he was given “Easter Parade” as working with Minnelli was proving impossible. He performed the “Couple of Swells” number with her when she played the Palace in 1951.

    As for Shelley that was startlingly insightful of her.

  2. Shelley and George obviously admired one another, and I’m sure she was impressed by the way he could capture emotion in shots where the actors were barely visible.

    Walters tactfully says in that interview that Minnelli and Garland’s therapist had advised them not to work together…

  3. bensondonald Says:

    Once read a long interview with Elisha Cook Jr., who recalled Stevens riding him mercilessly before they shot the scene of him challenging Jack Palace in “Shane”. Cook later took it as Stevens’ way of beating the proper fear into him. At the end of the shot, when Cook was lying dead, Stevens came up and said something like, “That’s what you get for standing up for principles”

    At the time of the interview he’d just finished “Carny”, having a good feeling about it because his character got killed off impressively. He also singled out Robbie Robertson as a star. A happy old guy, living in the mountains with his wife (once Carole Landis’s stand-in) and several dogs.

  4. Robbie Robertson SHOULD have been a star. Like, a Gary Cooper star. Sexier, even. If they were still making westerns, he would have been — if he’d wanted it enough.

    That first solo album took decades, I get the impression he’s pretty relaxed, which may be why he’s such a good friend for Scorsese.

  5. I subscribed to films and filming from my teen years in the 1960s until it shuttered. I loved it for both the insights like those excerpted and the very thorough reviews. A few years ago I gave the collection to Gavin Smith, then Film Comment editor. The back issues are all online at BFI if you are a subscriber to Sight & Sound.

  6. Excellent! You’ve made a marvelous contribution to the nation’s film culture with your generosity.

    More on f&f soon.

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