This gallery contains 21 photos.
These wonderful cards are from the collection of Norman O. Dawn, as displayed at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin last year, as part of the special effects section of the Making Movies exhibition. Dawn was the creator of many innovative special effects for photography and film, most notably the glass shot, where the mise-en-scene is augmented by scenery painted onto a pane of glass that is placed between the camera and the set/location. Here’s an example of Byron Crabbe (who also worked on King Kong and The Most Dangerous Game before his untimely death in 1937) painting set extensions onto glass for a scene from The Last Days of Pompeii (1935):
[This image was taken from NZPete’s fabulous blog about old-school special effects, including matte painting, glass shots and the like. Pete has managed to round up an impressive array of images and info about the techniques and personnel that made so many extraordinary moments of Hollywood’s golden age.]
Dawn created these cards to record his array of techniques used on more than eighty films, and to illustrate them for the producers and executives who had to be convinced that such amazing illusions were possible. If nothing else, with their miniature watercolours, oil paintings, sketches and handwritten notes, they stand as testament to the artisanal, hands-on nature of early special effects.
Gallery 1988 was opened in Los Angeles in 2004 by Katie Cromwell and Jensen Karp. Since then, it has built up an avid following for its annual Crazy 4 Cult exhibition of work by new artists focused on popular cinema. Many of the ‘cult films’ beloved of the shows contributors are comedies and fantasies and fantasy comedies from the late 80s and early 90s: there’s a lingering love for Tim Burton, Back to the Future, The Goonies, the Evil Dead sequels, Pee Wee Herman, Donnie Darko and The Big Lebowski. Colourful and accessible, perhaps their attraction is that they treat with nostalgic, loving care the movies that mattered during the childhood and adolescence of the gallery’s target demographic, movies that were themselves often reverently referential to their predecessors. Here’s a sample of recent exhibits [Click on any image for a larger view]:
3rd March marks 100 years since the birth of Jean Harlow. She packed in more than 40 movie appearances in the decade before her early death at the age of 26, from uncredited extras work (including the party scene of Chaplin’s City Lights) to full-blown starring roles in Hell’s Angels, The Public Enemy, Platinum Blonde, Red Dust, Dinner at Eight, and finally Saratoga, which was completed after her death using a body double for unfinished scenes. Seemingly spending most of her time, if publicity portraits are anything to go by, dressed for bed, Harlow could alternate overt, almost cartoon sexuality with goofy innocence, strategically mask a keen intelligence behind oblivious allure, or effect a more deliberate kind of seduction. Watch how she effortlessly elicits a full catalogue of ways to be emotionally helpless from Ben Lyon in this scene from Hell’s Angels:
- Make your own Jean Harlow Paper doll.
- Superb, HQ galleries of portraits and posters at Dr Macro.
- Follow the Jean Harlow Blogathon at the Kitty Packard Pictorial.
- An excellent, frequently updated fansite.
- Lots of information and fandom at Lisa Burks’s The Platinum Blog.
- Another gallery of images at Silent Ladies.
- Copy Harlow’s make-up at Steal Their Style.
- Alternatively, copy the make-up used by Gwen Stefani for playing Harlow in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
- Lisa Bode on the ‘Digital Resurrection of Dead Stars’, including Harlow’s posthumous appearance in Saratoga.
- An interview with Harlow biographer Eve Golden.
- Susan King on Harlow at The Los Angeles Times.
- Biography at Classic Hollywood Bios.
- Profile and gallery at Movie Maidens.
- Gallery at Silver Screen Sirens.
- ‘The Death of Jean Harlow’ at Golden Age Dames.
- Lurid but extensive bio at The Daily Mail.
- Find jewellery modelled on Harlow’s movie appearances at Bombshells.com.
- How to make a Jean Harlow cocktail.
- Harlow’s grave.
John Stezaker’s collages of postcards and studio portraits and film stills are eye-catching to say the least. Apt, but imperfect, imprecise but resonant matches are the hallmarks of these pairings of pictures that fit together uneasily. Like bad photo-fits and good art, they distort the familiar and frame the strange. Old publicity photographs, intended as guarantors of a star’s identity and accessible public image, provide much of his raw material, and he effortlessly transfigures them from something sweet and composed into something surreal and fragmented.
[Click on a thumbnail to view larger images, or see slideshow below.]
Film posters are promises. If a poster is one of your first points of contact with a film, it has to give a flavour of what to expect when you pay your admission fee. If that’s the case, then here’s a collection of Bollywood horror movie posters that promise you a jolt of lurid colour and an unusual number of deformed, looming faces.
The last gallery for a while, this one collects a bunch of heroes and heroines, super or otherwise, from a range of countries and time periods. A few of these are for films that don’t actually exist yet. See if you can tell which ones…
See more Spectacular Attractions galleries here.
Stop-motion animation maestro Ray Harryhausen turns 90 years old today. One of the most important exponents of stop-motion animation and its integration with live-action footage, Harryhausen has more than earned the retirement from the industry he has enjoyed since 1981’s Clash of the Titans. His menagerie of mythical beasts, living statues, warrior skeletons and alien invaders set the gold standard for special effects animation: inspired by, but undoubtedly building upon, the work of Willis O’Brien (who mentored him on Mighty Joe Young), Harryhausen’s creatures were endowed with a distinctive inner life that manifest itself in nuanced mannerisms or full thespian emoting. These miniature models were made to give fully rounded performances that invariably overshadowed the lunky performances of their human costars. A relentless populist with a boyish imagination, you could tell that he was driven by a desire to bring his mind-load of beasts into full-colour motion as directly as possible.
I once had the pleasure of meeting Harryhausen at a book signing. Arriving a little late, I was shocked to find him alone next to a pile of books and DVDs. Where were the legions of geeks? Could it be that his appeal had not filtered down to younger generations who hadn’t grown up marvelling at Saturday afternoon Sinbads and Bank Holiday Argonauts? My own affection for Harryhausen’s work had taken me by surprise when I welled up at the sight of one of the Jason and the Argonauts skeletons at a public talk he gave during the Animated Exeter festival a few years back. So, that should tell you something about the level of critical distance I’m able to take here. Anyway, I had a little chat with Ray and asked him to sign my copy of his book, and my old VHS of Jason. “Is this your favourite of my films?” he asked me. A bit sheepishly, I replied: “I have a bit of a soft spot for Earth vs the Flying Saucers.” Perhaps because he was hard of hearing, and I soft of speaking, he asked me to repeat myself, and in the middle of a quiet city-centre Waterstones I found myself loudly declaiming my appreciation of the 1956 alien invasion epic for which he supplied peerless animation and compositing in scenes of gleeful mass destruction. Since I plan to spend my autumn years shouting at people in bookshops, it was good to get some practice in, and to shake the hand of a man whose films still provide a little corrective every time my cinematic diet gets a bit too dark and heavy.
Happy Birthday, Ray Harryhausen. My humblest of gifts is a slideshow and gallery of some images and posters that should remind you of some of his achievements. View the slides above or click on any image below for a larger view: