Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association.

Photoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) online

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now," thereby ruining the scene again.

A morning newspaper usually costs but a
few cents, but a copy of one is being preserved
at the offices of one of the Hollywood studios
as an object lesson. This one cost nearly a
thousand dollars, and illustrates what an un-
charted field sound and dialogue production
was when first the producers rushed pell-mell
into it.

The newspaper was being read by an em-
ploye of the studio on the outskirts of the set
on which scenes for "The Missing Man" were
being made. .\s the employe turned the pages
of his paper the rustling sound was so slight
that it passed unnoticed by all until the
"rushes" for the day's work were run for the
director and his staff in the sound play-back
room. Those present heard what sounded
like a tornado drowning out the voices of the
players.

After considerable sleuthing someone found
someone else who recalled the incident of the
employe reading the newspaper.

When they first started to make talkies, the
studios had a great deal of trouble \vith
"static" and interference, just as did the radio
pioneers. King Vidor finally traced most of
the trouble to low-flying airplanes, which are
almost as thick in Southern California as sea
gulls on the Pacific Coast. The roaring,
buzzing and humming noises of the aircraft
reproduced in some of the sequences as a first-
class sawmill in action.

In order to remedy the situation, Vidor ap-
pealed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences and to the Los Angeles city coun-
cil that aerial "zones of qi'iet," such as are
marked on streets in the vicinity of hospitals,
be established in the air o%'er the studio area.
This is accomplished by raising signal flags
over the studio buildings whenever the "mike"
is "open," warning aviators to make detours or
fly high enofigh to prevent the sound of their
motors reaching the studios.

TOURING the filming of a large e.xterior se-
-'-^quence of "Hallelujah" before the estab-
lishment of the "zone of quiet," lookouts were
posted to apprise directors and players of the
approach of airplanes, and so numerous were
the aerial craft that only ten minutes of the day
could be devoted to "shooting" the scene.

Gum chewing has been ruled out on the
sound stages. An accidental "crack" in
chewing is sufficient to ruin a scene. But even
before quiet became the rule for the noisy
drama, e.\tras and stars who chew gum were



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a particular anathema of directors. Twice it
was found necessary to retake scenes because
extras ciiewed "not wisely but too well."

In tlie spectacular sequences of the crossing
of the Red Sea in "The Ten Commandments,"
it was found that many of the players were
complacently mixing their emotions with gum,
and whoever heard of gum chewing in Biblical
days?

Atmosphere players in the background of
various scenes of social splendor in " The Battle
of the Sexes" also forgot to "park their gum"
and the error was not discovered until the
rushes were shown in the projection room.

"V\ 7HILE a chorus of beauties was doing a
'^ dancing number mth Nancy Carroll and
Charles (Buddy) Rogers in "Close Harmony,"
one of the technicians complained of hearing a
snapping noise at the "mi.xing" panel. Investi-
gation revealed that one of the girls in the
chorus was stiff from rehearsals and that the
kicks in the dance routine caused the joints of
her legs to snap.

Sounds which pass unnoticed in everyday
life are brought to the film fans through "In
Old Arizona," which was filmed for the most
part in Zion Canyon, Utah. They hear the
lover's whisper, the pat of a hand on the
sweetheart's cheek, the rustle.of the girl's sUk
dress, the twittering of birds, the murmer of
a blossom-ladened apple tree, the breathing of
a baby in its crib and the sigh of a lover.

The location of the picture was near the
main line of a transcontinental railroad, and
so many trains passed during the daylight
hours that no scene of importance escaped
delay for the sound of the engine to get beyond
the range of the "mike."

.After work on the picture had been going on
for about a week, the negatives, sound and
silent, were sent back to Hollyivood to be
developed. Nearly a hundred thousand dol-
lars' worth of work had to be scrapped because
of sounds that appeared to be the distant puflSng
of steam locomotives.

The musical clink of spurs, most harmonious
and pleasing to the ear in the uncanned state,
became a veritable anvil chorus — a deafening
clatter which quite drowned out the voices of
the speakers. The gentle gurgle and purl of a
little creek, on the contrary, supplied a gentle
obligato to the words of the players, but the
directors soon learned that there was nothing
to do but knock off work the moment a good-
sized breeze sprung up. Branches brushed



together with all the energy of a corps of car-
penters at work building a house.

In speaking of the breezes and their effects,
one of the directors declared he found the
microphone sensitive enough to pick up
Tennyson's "music of the spheres" or distant
sounds on Mars.

The tribulations of the recording staff of
another company, which made Lillian Gish's
"Wind," were of the opposite character. The
sound recorders wanted audible wind and
couldn't find it. They passed many weeks in
the cyclone belt of Kansas and on the cattle-
stampeding grounds of Western Texas before
they finally captured a "near twister" of
sufficient volume to stampede cattle. It
wasn't an out and out cyclone, such a one as
makes the natives take to the cyclone cellars,
but, thanks to the sensitive ear of the "mike,"
the results were terrifying enough when they
came from the screen.

E.xperiences of some of the Hollywood
sound recorders have shown that the approach
of a swarm of bees produces sound of almost
sufficient volume, through the "mike," to
double for a coy little cyclone or tornado.
James Gleason, dialogue writer, whose sce-
narios sometimes call for the presence of the
honey gatherers, also is interested in bee cul-
ture. He has installed a sound apparatus near
his apiary so that he can listen in on the con-
versation of his insect pets.

TF riveting machines could be prevailed upon
■'■to do their work in secret, if street car wheels
could be taught not to screech at every curve
and intersection, if motorists could be sen-
tenced to the electrical chair for honking their
way through the traffic, if sirens would be
thoughtful enough to subside at least part of
the time, if motorcycle cutouts could be taught
that they are not privileged cut-ups, if street
peddlers w-ho squawk their wares could be run
into the hoosegow, and if the a\'erage loud
speaker could have its neck wrung by the
neighbors, there would not be so many nervous
wrecks in Hollywood.

But the scientists and inventors, who here-
tofore have been devoting all their time to
producing bigger and better noises, are direct-
ing their efforts in the opposite direction since
silence has become golden in the film colony.
However, they haven't yet discovered how to
make a pistol shot register in a talkie. The
bullet travels so fast that even the celluloid
cannot record it.




Columbus, Ohio.

Photoplays — and prisoners. I won-
der how many fans in the outside
world really know what a moving
picture means to a prisoner, and the
effect?

Well, I can tell you, because I
happen to be one of the prisoners in
the Ohio penitentiary who recently
saw "Weary River." It probably
impressed the general public as just
another picture with a prison theme,
but to us it carried a moral — and a
convincing one ! To us men behind
the gray walls it demonstrated the
truth we have been told and even-
tually must learn — "It doesn't pay at
any price."

I'm not saying this picture made



converts of hundreds of convicts, for
it didn't.

But — had you seen the faces and
noted the actions of many of my fel-
low prisoners before and after we
saw that picture, you would be more
than mildly surprised.

Such pictures, to my way of think-
ing, can do more toward sending com-
pletely rehabilitated men back into
the world than aU the feeble tactics
employed by modem prison reform-
ers.

This isn't a plea for more pictures
for prisoners — .but rather an expres-
sion of sincere appreciation for what
we have seen, which has made us
think — constructively.

W. R. G.



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Technicians at one of the big studios have
developed the echometer, a device that pursues
elusive sound rebounds to their source so that
they may be put to death. This Uttle gadget is
said to bring recording results that are acous-
tically perfect, eliminating all the vibratory
overtones that marred the projection of some
of the earher sound pictures.

Upon the heels of this invention came
another panacea — a panacea of paint. It is an
acoustical paint with qualities so sound
absorbent that light blows struck on walls
treated with it cannot be heard on the other
side. The formula is secret and the paint will
not be placed on the markets for general u.sc,
much to the disappointment of those living in
apartment houses and other quarters.

Another production company is decorating
the walls of its picture sets with a sound-
absorbent paper imported from Japan. Inas-
much as one of the ingredients of this paper is
the blood of animals bought from the meat
packers in Tokio, the killing of animals in the
flowery kingdom will help kill the echoes of
Hollywood.

TT seems that most paints heretofore used in
■'■coloring the walls of the sets reflect sound as
well as hght. Papering the walls with the
specially prepared porous paper, however,
gives excellent color value without echoes.
The paper has somewhat the appearance of the
gold and silver leaf used by sign painters. Its
use also does away with the necessity, to a
large e.xtent, of padding the walls to keep out
sound, which is eflfective but undesirable in
some respects. Padded walls frequently ha\e
the effect of making the voice of the players
record flat.

For the special benefit of persons who can
recognize whether a coin is "good" by its
clink, a new kind of money was developed for
the talkies. It sounds "good" through the
microphone, but is, nevertheless, phoney.

A federal law prohibits photographing real
money in the films, so the studios have been
using stage money. That was O. K. when the
films were silent and still so, in so far as currency
is concerned, for it can be held so that it can-
not be distinguished from the real. But in the
talkies a false clink would break the spell in a
tense scene for many in the audience.

It is not only with coins that the producers
are doing their trick stuff. They are curbing
unwanted real noises, but in the meantime also
inventing synthetic noises to double for the
real when the latter are not obtainable. For
instance, in filming Lionel Barrymore's
dramatic "Confession," the sound of heavy
army trucks outside a hut on a battlefield was
obtained by letting in the noise of the air-
filtering plant on the sound stages.

IN working out sound effects for talking
dramas hundreds of sounds have been ana-
lyzed for methods of dupUcating them. A Los
Angeles theater ow'ner pulled a nifty in this
connection at a preview of "The Hangman's
House." His house was not wired for sound
and this was supposed to be a sound picture, so
the theater man had his organist inject some
sound eft'ects while two film cutters from the
studio concealed themselves in the pit and
dragged heavy chains across the floor, made
knocking noises and produced other sound
effects essential to the picture. Many persons
in the audience were deceived into thinking
they had heard a sound picture.

Now that Leo, the M.-G.-M. lion, is roaring
and the Pathe rooster is crowing for the talkies,
the fans are wondering what kind of sound
may come from the other trade marks.

Will the chain, they ask, that surrounds the
northern hemisphere clank when a First
National picture flashes on the screen? WiU
the wind whistle around the top of the Para-
mount snow-covered mountain? And how
about Warner Brothers, with the picture of a
studio as a trade mark? What kind of noise
does a studio make? Some one suggested that
it probably would be a loud voice shouting
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A Jungle Lorelei



f CONTINUED PROM PAGE 36 1



crimson, pagan mouth which she paints like
a Christian.

Shcum, erstwhile boot-black on the Metro-
Goldwyn lot and now assistant to King Vidor,
was interlocutor at the party, presenting me to
the various celebrities.

Shcum and Nina May danced. I couldn't
because of the strict etiquette at the Apex:
(My complexion was oflf, but what with my
deepening coat of tan and a natural kink in
my hair it won't be long, hey! hey!)

DURING one dance I went over to the table
of Stepin Fetchit, who assured me that
Nina was a very nice girl.

"Ya, he proposed to me," said Nina scorn-
fully. "But he don't save his money. He
says the Holy Virgin will take care of him. I
say, 'Ya? . . . The Holy Virgin is goin' to
turn on you some day, big boy!' "

Nina requested a powder puff from her
mother, who sat with us. Her mother is a
young woman of thirty-two, of light skin, who
might have Spanish blood. She spoke very
little, but her eyes never left the bedevihng
Nina.

"No suh," said Nina. "When I marry it's
goin' be for money. Yes suh, I think that's a
good idea."

"Ah, Nina, you ought to marry for love,"
said I white-trashily.

"I can't," said Nina. "He's got a wife.
Anyhow what does love get you? No suh,
I wouldn't keep no man like some these girls
do — give 'um fur'coats an' they go round talkin'
about you . . . Not me! ... I know. I
want a man to do for me as much as I do for
him. . . . More! Yes suh. I take everything
I get. I want furs hangin' to the ground — an'
dresses like Miss Swanson's — and diamonds
dribbhn' all over my physique — um-jim.'"



Nina buried her face in her hands in a spasm
of ecstasy at the visionofherphysiqueperspiring
with diamonds.

"I'm going to take Paris by storm," she con-
tinued, when she had regained her calm. "I'm
going to do what Josephine Baker did — you
know, Josephine Baker the colored girl hit of
Paris. But I ain't going to marry no count
like she did. No suh, not me!

"I don't want no title. I want automobiles
an' clothes an' diamonds an' ..." Nina
threatened to break down again in hysteria of
heavenly bliss.

As a child, Nina May McKenney was a little
maid in white cap and apron for a wealthy
Carolina family.

They used to send her to the bank to deposit
money.

"They trusted me with thousands of dollars
an' I never stole none of it, never did," avers
Nina. But she did grow powerful fond of it.

Her mother wanted her to be a school
teacher. Nina \Miggled her nose at the absurd-
ity of that. Instead, she went on the stage at
the age of fifteen, sang and danced in "High-
Flys" in Harlem, then went into the chorus of
the Broadway colored musical show, "Black-
birds," where King Vidor saw her. Her
theatrical career to date amounts to nine
weeks; she's a little more than sixteen — not
eighteen yet!

""T C.\N'T say enough 'bout Mistah Vidor,"
-'■ she said solemnly. "He's wonderful —
never curses at you — makes you feel at home —
what he's done for me and my race — I never
can repay."

All Hollywood is wonderful to Nina. Sure
is.

"They invite me to all their parties — I been
to Miss Swanson's an' Miss Davies' an'



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Glenn Tryon is showing Merna Kennedy one of those gay night
clubs. The little toy is a model of the big night club set used in
"Broadway." The set is all wired for electricity, it has miniature
chairs and tables and, probably, miniature prohibition agents

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Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section



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Mistah Vidor's an' John Gilbert's. Oh Lordy,
Mistah Gilbert ! ..."

Nina again had to stifle her squealing emo-
tion by covering her face.

"I like Nils Asther too — but Mistah Gilbert



Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) → online text (page 18 of 145)