How Special Effects Work #5: Mary Pickford Kisses Herself

This is the latest in a long-running, very occasional series of posts about special effects but this is the first time (I can’t promise it will be the last) where my starting point is a trick I can’t explain. Of course, I know that the shot (see above) from Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which Mary Pickford, playing two roles, appears to kiss herself, was created using a double exposure, but I don’t know exactly how they got it to look so seamless. I would be grateful for any inside information, and interested in any speculative theories, about how this magnificent special effect was achieved. Much of this post was derived from out-takes of research for a chapter on special/visual effects in the silent era, for a forthcoming volume of the Behind the Silver Screen series from Rutgers University Press, which should be available some time next year. Continue reading

Picture of the Week #27: Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks’s Handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater

It was on this day, 30th April, in 1927 that the first movie stars stuck their hands and feet into wet cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. First to get their mitts dirty were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, then the most famous celebrity couple in the world, as well as partners in the Theatre itself. This was three weeks before the theatre officially opened with a screening of Cecil B. De Mille’s King of Kings. There are now more than two hundred pairs of hands and feet indented in the pavement outside the theatre, most recently those of Will Smith (though Jazzy Jeff is believed to be still awaiting his invitation). Grauman was an expert publicist to make a spectacle of the ground outside his venue, peppering it with permanent mementos of the world’s biggest movie stars, but I find that, instead of aggrandising those stars, it makes them seem smaller, more fragile, just a shallow impression underfoot. Perhaps that was the aim, to bring them closer to the people and get them to kneel.