ROBERT WATSON August 1 1934


ROBERT WATSON August 1 1934




TO THE critical eve of the ordinary patron, anachronisms seem to abound in motion pictures. A clock

wags serenely in the palace of Caesar, a Highlander appears wearing his plaid from his right shoulder, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman pursues his man in the lonely Northern wastes, in fifty-below-zero weather, dressed in his picturesque summer garb—polished leggings, yellow stripe on the side of his pants, felt hat and everything. In an Irish play, an Irish girl who has never been more than twenty miles from her native fishing village forgets herself and says, “I guess.” Another speaks glibly of the Dublin Fair which she had never been within a hundred miles of attending, and uses the Biblical “ye” instead of the familiar, snappy Irish “yi.”

And so the errors pile up.

But, after all, the wonder is that, with the diversity of subjects on the screen and the rapidity of modem production, so few errors are made.

After investigating the sincere efforts of the various Hollywood producers to achieve accuracy, and

the money they are walling to pour out for technical advisers, for research work and for library equipment, also the limitless opportunities there are for errors and anachronisms to creep in, one comes away in a less critical spirit.

All the major studios of Hollywood have their libraries and specially trained librarians, besides a host of technical advisers ready to be called in at a moment’s notice.

The studio libraries contain thousands of books and photographs on architecture, art, drama, war, travel, costuming, language, criminology, et cetera, and there is a library interchange system among the studios, just as there is now an interchange of screen players and even writers.

The research and library work is entrusted usually to a woman, highly intelligent, whose position is bv no means the sinecure one might imagine it.

She is called on to answer the most outlandish questions in the course of her everyday work, for pictures are shot in settings that represent everything from The Garden of Eden to a modern “speakeasy.”

• ri trUe 'n a medical scene a fully qualified doctor is likely to be on the set, advising. A Mounted Police story calls for the advice of one familiar with the Canadian Northwest. Aeronautics, shipping, Chinatown, foreign scenes, all call for technical experts, but at the back of all this stands the studio library’ with its wells of information.

Try to Answer These

T—TICRE ARE some of the questions that were asked one

-*■ librarian in one day:

“Which British Kings have visited the American continent?”

“What is the meaning of the Irish expression, ‘Daisy Picker?’ ”

"How long does it take to fly between Dindon and Paris?”

“What was the cost of gasoline per gallon in the City of Montreal on June 24, 1929?”

“Can you find immediately a cultured Egyptologist who can furnish an exact inscription for one of Pharaoh’s baths?”

It is interesting to trace the source of the answers to certain unusual questions.

“What w’ould an officer say to his men on ordering them over the top?" No less than four officers of four different nationalities, British, French, American and German, who had taken active part in the Great War, were found on the very studio lot from w’hich the query emanated, so the answer wasn’t long in forthcoming.

"Would an airplane be allowed to broadcast music over the City of Dindon?” That necessitated a reply-prepaid cablegram to Dindon authorities.

“What is the correct ceremony for the laying of a foundation stone?” Local records and certain high officials in Los

Angeles who had taken part in such ceremonies readily supplied the correct information.

“Do Eskimos kiss?" The author himself was able to answer that one from his knowledge of the Canadian North and his study of Eskimo life and customs.

"Can spiders see in the dark?” A book on the winders of nature set that query’ at rest at the time, but it was reopened.

“Can spiders really see in the dark?” I innocently asked the lady in charge of the research department at Warner’s.

“1 really can’t remember,” she acknowledged. "That water has long passed under the bridge and I would have to look it up all over again.”

“Where can one get the exact wording on a spade guinea?” An elderly English film actor was found who had the required spade guinea dangling on his watch chain.

DuBarry’s House Dog

■pVEN DIRECTORS are not always blessed with too much intelligence. One of them the other day wanted an exact picture of the bicycle in use in the year 1888. A picture was obtained of the bicycles of 1870 and another of 18ÍX4, but that didn’t satisfy the director; he had to have one for the year 1888 or nothing. In this case he had to be amtented with the 1870 and 1890 sketches, for even a research department has its limits of patience.

The Du Barry pict ure that is now being shot in Hollywood calls for a certain type of house dog that Madame DuBarrv would be interested in, and the question of the moment is, would this dog lx1 a King Charles spaniel, a French poodle or a griffin? It looks as if the French poodle is going to win.

A call was made for pictures of the interiors of some French prisons. It so happens that only one photographer is authorized by the French Government to take such photographs, and he knows his photographic values. It cost the studio desiring them just $100 for a dozen photographs.

"What kind of noises are heard in the forests of Mozambique at five a m. in the month of June?” Travel books on Mozambique were read, hxx>ks on animal and bird life on the southeast coast of Africa were studied, and finally a big game hunter who had lived in Mozambique was sought and closely questioned: then the noises he suggested had all to be reproduced artificially for the picture by the sound mechanics of the studio.

When Frank Lloyd was recently directing the English play, "Berkeley Square," in which Leslie Howard and Heather Angel starred, the librarian of the Fox studios,* Miss Richardson, was badgered for answers to the following: “Was coal burned in the fireplaces of London in 1784?” "What kind of baskets did lavender women carry?” “What did the loaves that they ate in that period look like?”

“What were the gambling games and devices?”

"Can you furnish a picture of the interior of the studio of Reynolds, the painter?”

"Give us sketches of the trays and glasses in use in 1781.”

Continued on page 31

Continued from page 13

Here is the bibliography used during the shooting of “Berkeley Square.”

London in the Eighteenth Century (Besant). Das Keikwerk der Mode (Boehn). Amusements of Old London, vol. 2 (Boulton).

Eighteenth Century in London (Chancellor).

The Pleasure Haunts of London (Chancellor).

Stage Coach and Mail in Days of Yore (Harper).

Hogarth’s Works.

Album Historique (La Visse).

Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds (Leslie).

Letters of Horace Walpole (Lewis).

Historic Dress in America (McClellan). Midnight Spy.

Incomparable Siddons (Parsons).

History of Everyday Things in England (Quennell).

Georgian England (Richardson).

Old London City (Russian).

Inns and Taverns of Old London (Shelley). English Fireplace and its Accessories (Shuffrey).

Old and New London (Thombury).

Club and Club Life in London (Timbs). Curiosities of London (Timbs).

English Manners and Customs of the Eighteenth Century (Turberville). Heritage of Dress (Webb).

Coaching Era (Wilson).

Many of the costumes used in “Berkeley Square” were designed from Gainsborough pictures in the famous Huntington Library and Art Galleries at Pasadena.

Did a Viking Wear Spats?

QUESTIONS crowd in on every imaginable subject—the clothes of a Viking, of a Swiss mountain climber, a rag-and-bone man.

“How does a Japanese woman dress her

hair, and what does the little pad at her back signify?”

“How long would the mustache of an 1870 villain be?”

“What is the wording on a cablegram sent by the Irish Sweepstake authorities notifying a man that he holds a winning ticket?” That one is easy after you have found a man who has held a winning ticket.

But the goofiest of all is perhaps the information demanded in all seriousness by one director:

“I must have a copy of the Secret Code of the British Navy at once.”

One of the library girls suggested that he cable King George direct for the information.

Even George Arliss is recorded as having requested an actual photograph of a scene in the American Revolutionary War, and was grieved when reminded that the war took place before photography became a commercial art.

An assistant director recently, when picturing the famous American, Alexander Hamilton, for one of George Arliss’s performances, insisted that Lady Hamilton in “Divine Lady” was the wife of Alexander Hamilton.

In the studio libraries, fiction in books and magazines is collected, analyzed, tabulated and filed for ready reference; and as for pictures and photographs, their number is legion. It is well that this is so, because within a few days the librarian may be asked for pictures of the type of elevator used in a small Italian hotel, a picture of a police-station switchboard, one of Basque architecture, a basket used by cottonpickers, a street scene in Cairo in 1920.

A studio library is something that can hardly be done without. In every step of a production, from the birth of the idea to the finished and censored picture, the research and library departments of the Hollywood and New York studios are called on for information. Usually they are able to furnish what is asked for with speed and accuracy.