Tuesday, June 16, 2009
IN THE REALM OF SHADOW STORIES
Increase Activity in the Film Studios
John Barrymore Picture “State’s Attorney,” Is Almost Finished
RKO-Radio and Paramount took the centre of the cinema stage this week with production activities or announcements that were gratifying to stockholders as well as Hollywood’s unemployed.
RKO has five pictures in work, one in rehearsal and seventeen being prepared. Paramount has announced a series of Westerns, has signed Charles R. Rogers to produce eight pictures independently, and has poised its pen to sign a contract with Cecil De Mille on the same basis.
RKO has not been in full swing since some time prior to the “proxy days” when stockholders were in a somewhat turbulent state of mind. Now, with David O. Selznick firmly in command, film is being ground through the cameras as rapidly as sets can be erected and actors rehearsed.
Back from the Hawaiian Islands, the Dolores Del Rio company making “Bird of Paradise” is now shooting the interiors. In spite of legend to the contrary, the natives were not regarded by King Vidor, the director, as an acceptable type of beauty for the American screen, and thirty-five girls who look as audiences want Hawaiians to look are dancing their way through native huts and streets on the RKO lot.
The company met with hearty cooperation in filming the island sequences, the only difficulty being that they found villages with stone walls that had such a New England tang that new locations had to be found. The company brought back a native and a turtle. Upon completion of the picture the native will be sent home, but the turtle is worrying the publicity department already.
“State’s Attorney,” the John Barrymore vehicle written by Gene Fowler, is about finished; Ann Harding’s first picture since the Pathe-Radio merger, “Westward Passage,” is in production. “Roadhouse Murder,” a mystery-thriller, is nearing the last days of its schedule; Tom Keane’s newest Western, “Sunrise Trail,” is being shot in the mountains.
Constance Bennett’s next, “Unmated,” taken from Cecil Strange’s novel, “Free Lady,” is in rehearsal. Six others are to start before April 15 and the rest of the seventeen will follow as rapidly as the stages are cleared.
Mr. Rogers’s association with Paramount is regarded locally as important. He was engaged in making independents on the same basis about two years ago when he made “Millie” for RKO. He had a number of others scheduled, but was drafted to take over the Pathe lot when RKO bought that concern. The more recent merger was not to his satisfaction, so he withdrew.
This making of independents has long been discussed, but none of the majors has tried it. Mr. Rogers, as an “Indie” can make the first–string productions for $200,000 that would cost a major concern at least $400,000. He will hire nearly his entire staff for each picture, retaining only a skeleton organization when not in production.
Just what the terms of Mr. De Mille’s contract are has not been made public. He will not work on the Paramount lot, however, but will rent space in some leasing studio.
It has been decided his first is to be “The Sign of the Cross.” He was planning on making “The Ten Commandment,” but this week signed over his rights to Paramount on continuance of his royalty agreement. The talker version is being written now, but no director has been assigned.
This week Paramount pulled “Farewell to Arms” off the shelf and determined to make it with Fredric March and Claudette Colbert. The script was originally written for Gary Cooper, but due to the relationship between that star and the studio and the fact that Mr. Cooper is abroad, it was decided to film it at once with others. Barney Glazer, who wrote the original treatment, is dressing it for the new set-up.
Paramount is expecting considerable from Wynne Gibson, who has just completed the shooting of “Clara Deane,” now known as “The Strange Case of Clara Deane.” Because of her work in “Two Kinds of Women,” she was selected for what is regarded as the ace emotional role of the year. She plays the part of a woman from girlhood to old age, and the gossip is that she has more than taken Ruth Chatterton’s place on the lot.
In comedy circles the gag men are laughing themselves sick over their own witticisms. Charley Chase has been re-signed by Hal Roach for a series of short comedies and they are now being prepared. He will assist in gagging them upon his arrival from a vaudeville tour.
Filming of Harold Lloyd’s newest is going ahead rapidly. He is using many of the famous old sets on the various lots for his gags about Hollywood. The Metropolitan Studio, where all of his work has been done for years, has been converted into the “Planet Film Company” with signs announcing the fact all over the lot. The action in Mr. Lloyd’s story has to do with his being starred by “Planet.”
George O’Brien and Victor McLaglen, who appear in “The Gay Caballero,” a Fox picture now at the Roxy, are both expert boxers. Mr. McLaglen once fought four rounds to a draw with Jack Johnson. Mr. O’Brien was one of the outstanding boxers in the United States Navy.
Most boxers in Hollywood merely earn from $15 to $50 an assignment, taking beatings wile doubling for the stars. The reason is that their ring technique differs from that of picture battles. The short killing blows that do the harm inside the ropes would be invisible on the screen. There the knockout punch comes up from the floor, so the audience can see it.
Two men skilled in the science of screen punching can put up a good fight without serious injury. Mr. O’Brien has learned to stop his fist just short of his opponents jaw while his forearm strikes his chest. The man is staggered as if struck by the fist. The thump is recorded by the sound machines.
Injuries, however, sometimes do happen in spite of precautions. For this reason fight scenes are always the last to be made in any picture. For rough-and-tumble battles such as O’Brien and Weldon Heyburn in “The Gay Caballero,” lightly built “breakaways” are planted on the set to represent the chairs and tables used as weapons. Sometimes in his excitement one contestant seizes a real chair by mistake and sends his opponent to the hospital.