More dance performances ought to be preserved on film and video. Why? Here’s one reason. Ballerina Ghislaine Thesmar was inspired to pursue ballet seriously after her dance teacher showed her a film of Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova dancing the title role in Giselle. According to Ms. Thesmar, “I was simply overwhelmed. I suddenly saw what dancing could be. It was watching Ulanova that completely changed my life. From that moment on, I realized that dancing could hold real meaning in one’s life. I could see the dimension that a life in dance could offer. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted.”
Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda for the Nazis, wanted Fritz Lang, the director of Metropolis, to join the Nazi effort and was willing to overlook Mr. Lang’s maternal Jewish ancestors. Mr. Lang said that he would give Dr. Goebbels his answer within 24 hours, but that night he sneaked abroad a night train to Paris, carrying some money and jewelry with him. In his compartment, he hid the money under the carpet, and he taped the jewelry to some pipes in the bathroom. Only after crossing the border into France did he feel safe enough to retrieve his money and jewelry.
When Psycho was first released, director Alfred Hitchcock ordered that no audience member be admitted after the film began. The audience assumed that something shocking would happen right away, although the film begins fairly slowly. Actually, Mr. Hitchcock was doing something radically different — killing off the big star, Janet Leigh, fairly early in the film. Mr. Hitchcock didn’t want members of the audience to arrive late, then keep wondering when Ms. Leigh was going to appear on screen.
Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was based on William Randolph Hearst, a fact that embittered Mr. Hearst. After Citizen Kane had been made, and after Mr. Hearst had set his newspaper battalions against the movie, Mr. Hearst and Mr. Welles met on an elevator, and Mr. Welles invited Mr. Hearst to attend the San Francisco premiere of Citizen Kane. Mr. Hearst ignored him and got off the elevator. Mr. Welles shouted after him, “Charles Foster Kane would have accepted.”
Fred Astaire and his co-choreographer Hermes Pan revolutionized movie musicals. Before they began to make movies together, movies did not show the entire dance. Instead, directors used a lot of cutaways. The audience would see a little of the dance, then see a cutaway to the face of someone watching the dance, then see a cutaway to the bandleader, etc. However, Mr. Astaire and Mr. Pan insisted that the entire dance be filmed with no cutaways.
In 1939, Ralph Richardson played Captain Durrance in the film The Four Feathers. Captain Durrance is blinded by the African sun, and a scene in which he reads Braille contains an in-joke for fans of Mr. Richardson’s performances in Shakespeare. The Captain uses Braille to read Caliban’s speech, “The Isle is full of noises,” then says, “But of course I knew that speech by heart.”
Honor Blackman starred on The Avengers for a couple of years, then left the TV series to star as the character Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. While she was on a promotional tour for the movie, she appeared on KGO-TV, where an interviewer told her, “I’ve covered topless bathing suits, bottomless bathing suits, and now I’ve got Pussy Galore!”
When Audrey Hepburn appeared as Eliza Doolittle in the movie version of My Fair Lady, she was made to appear dirty as the flower girl Eliza. Her costume was made to appear dirty, and it even appeared that she had dirt under her fingernails. However, Ms. Hepburn always insisted on wearing perfume although she was otherwise in character.
Back in the days when radio was big, Bartlett Robinson had the misfortune to be very nervous during an appearance on Young Widder Brown. In his role he was supposed to knock on a door, then say, “I’ve come to call on Mary.” Unfortunately, because of his nerves, he said, “I’ve called to come on Mary.” (This sounds like a script for There’s Something About Mary.)
Otto Preminger could be a dictatorial director. According to one story, all of the actors except one in a play Mr. Preminger was directing signed a petition to have him removed as director. When the sole non-signer was asked he did not sign the petition, he replied, “My parents are still in Germany.”
When Cecil B. DeMille, the director of The Ten Commandments, was asked why he made so many movies with Biblical themes, he replied, “Why let thousands of years of publicity go to waste?” According to Mr. DeMille, “Give me any couple of pages from the Bible and I’ll give you a picture.”
After actress Judi Dench accepted an Oscar for her performance in Shakespeare in Love, she flew back home to England. On the flight, many people congratulated her, and when she woke up after a nap, she even found a congratulatory note pinned to her sleeve.
When Marilyn Monroe showed up to act the part of an aging jewel thief’s girlfriend in The Asphalt Jungle, she told the director, John Huston, how nervous she was. He replied, “If you’re not nervous, you might as well give up!”
Fred Astaire often kept on dancing during pauses in the shooting of his films. Co-star Leslie Caron remembers going out for some air, then returning back to the studio to see Mr. Astaire dancing with a coat hanger.
French film director Jean Luc-Godard was asked if a film ought to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. He replied, “Certainly, but not necessarily in that order.”
Before the movie cameras begin to roll, Jack Lemmon whispered the words “magic time” to himself because magic is what every actor hopes to produce in every performance.
One of the lessons taught by The Matrix is that even though blacks and women can make important contributions, the Messiah is still a white guy.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved