Posts Tagged ‘king vidor’

King Vidor tells of working on ‘The Big Parade’

Sunday, July 7th, 2013


King Vidor tells of work in filming ‘The Big Parade’




King Vidor, who produced The Big Parade, wrote scenes for the film and would map them out to the click-click of a metronome, varying the tempo according to the action. Vidor was methodical. He was under the spell of motion pictures since he was a boy of 12. He believed that there was a chance for a new art through the medium of the camera so he took up directing because he wanted to be engaged in something new. He was a man of vision, not only so far as the possibilities of the screen were concerned, but one who is quick to see beyond that which he is actually engaged upon, whether it was a film or a scene.


About The Big Parade, he was rather proud that virtually all the scenes of this production, with the exception of a few that were made in Texas, were photographed on a tract of land that was about a block square. What seemed to be miles of woods and vast stretches of shell-shorn ground were filmed in this limited area.


One day in 1926, Vidor sat comfortably in a chair in a room in the Ambassador Hotel and shared some thoughts about the making of The Big Parade:


“I have just finished La Bohème,” Vidor said with a smile, “the period of which is 1880, and I am next going to make Bardelys the Magnificent, by Raphael Sabatini, which is even an earlier period. I have not much fear of criticism of what is put forth in these productions. But there are 2,000,000 critics of The Big Parade. I did all that was humanly possible to insure accuracy in this picture. United States officers helped me constantly, and I studied miles and miles of Government film, taken by the Signal Corps of the United States army during the fighting. These pictures were made on all sectors of the lines, so it was quite possible for any individual who concentrated his attention on the results as thrown upon a screen being able to leave the projection room after days and days of study with sufficient knowledge of what the fighting front looked like, so as to be able to put it on canvas or on the screen, possibly more accurately than a man who had been on the fighting front. Nevertheless, as I said, to safeguard against errors and to insert special ideas we fortunately had with us United States army officers, but even these men could not know everything that happened at the front, and an interesting point is one on which I lost a wager. I said that I thought that I had seen in the Signal Corps films American troops marching in columns of twos. The officers insisted I was wrong, so I paid my bet. But some time afterward I discovered no less than five reels of Signal Corps film in which our men marched in columns of two. To get my little revenge I made everybody look through these five reels when they were ready for dinner.




“You will notice that in The Big Parade there are very few interiors. Some of our most successful scenes were inspired at the moment before the camera. You have told of the chewing gun incident and the last cigarette given to a dying German, but did you know that Slim’s chewing and spitting only flashed across our minds after we had started on the production? Karl Dane, who portrays Slim, used to report for work sucking a bit of licorice, and it suddenly occurred to us to devote two or three scenes to having him an inveterate tobacco chewer. You will remember that he expectorates when he is on a skyscraper girder just before joining up. Then he spits out the candle when the troops are leaving the farmhouse, and finally there is the contest in the shell hole to see who shall go over the top to silence the ‘toy’ gun.”


Vidor said that he began the film by taking the scenes of the shell hole, and, to have the principals look as if they were muddy and dirty, there was a special hole half filled with mud in which the actors soaked themselves before they went before the camera. Vidor believed in a human hero, one who ducks when shells are whining by, one whose physiognomy shows the contact with mud and grime.


An enlightening feature of The Big Parade concerns the farmhouse. It had to be depicted in the latter scenes torn and rent with shells, great holes in the roof and the walls. It naturally might be supposed that Vidor would have taken the farmhouse set and shot it full of holes, so that the original setting would be realistically damaged. This was too risky, for the all-perceiving eye of the camera is a nuisance at times, and a nice new studio wall might have been seen through one of the shell holes. To obviate such a thing, Vidor employed a special backdrop artist, a man who painted the damaged farmhouse in a day. His work looks far more like a shell-torn farmhouse than if the setting had been ripped with explosives.


In the scene in which Renée Adorée is searching for John Gilbert, Vidor pointed out that he had three distinct tempos, besides different tempos in parts of the scene. The incident starts off with sad crying, then there is the bugle call, after which everything is hushed. Then comes the 1-2-3-4—1-2-3-4, and gradually the pace quickens. Adorée is made to seem to be running as in a dream through the difference of tempo in the heroine’s pace and that of the soldiers. Hence Vidor believed that the basis of a successful scene is tempo, and that it is the underlying secret of the screen.



Colleen Moore on Magic in Hollywood

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


Magic — one of filmland’s chief sources of pastime


Colleen Moore


The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today is a commentary by film star, Colleen Moore that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on November 27, 1927.


By Colleen Moore
Los Angeles Times
November 27, 1927


I never realized until I became interested in the art of magic how many other persons in the screen world are also fond of sleight of hand. I supposee it remains one of the most fascinating hobbies in existence and once you become more or less familiar with it you realize what a widespread thing it is.


I heard the other day that the Prince of Wales is intrigued by it. When he was in Canada not long ago (Max) Malini, the well-known magician, was in his party. Royalty has always been prominent among the devotees of legerdemain.


Int'l Brotherhood of Magicians


I wonder how many know that  there are a number of magazines devoted to magic? There is one magazine called the Sphinx which seems to be read by magicians everywhere. The Linking Ring is another. In England the Magic Wand and the Magician lead the field. In these, new tricks are described and the activities of magical societies are announced.


Everywhere there are organizations of magicians. The Society of American Magicians, of which the late Houdini was president, has a membership of 1,500, with branches in all the big cities. The International Brotherhood of Magicians also has a large membership. There are two societies right in Los Angeles — the Los Angeles Society of Magicians and the Hollywood Mystic 27.


I have discovered that among others Harold Lloyd, Neil Hamilton, Raymond McKee, King Vidor, T. Roy Barnes and Burr McIntosh are interested in the practice of conjuring.


Colleen Moore


I am told that throughout the world there are great magical repositories where the apparatus is manufactured and sold. There is one in Los Angeles that turns out beautiful illusions, as well as smaller tricks and it is like an Aladdin’s palace of wonder.


For the person who does not boast some other accomplishment, such as singing or instrumental music, magic is a wonderful form of social entertainment. Nearly everyone enjoys books on the subject and I can assure you that there is a lot of psychology involved. One’s wits are increased and observation developed. I am sure a great magician is a wonderful psychologist.


I wonder how many outside the art realize that one of the world’s greatest magicians lived and died in Los Angeles. I refer to Harry Kellar, known as the dean of American magicians. For years he was one of the foremost exponents of the art, a rival of the late Alexander Herrmann and succeeded by Thurston.




I don’t expect to become a profound student, but I do find a lot of relaxation and amusement in the art, which has as one of its slogans, “The closer you watch the less you see.”