A Visit To Wharton Studios 1915 Jan 22, 2007 16:38:48 GMT -5
Post by Terry Harbin on Jan 22, 2007 16:38:48 GMT -5
WHAT ONE SEES IN WHARTON STUDIO
A Visitor to Movie Actors’ stronghold at Renwick Park
Finds Summer Resort Harbors Villainous
Plots and Heroes and Heroines
Finds Summer Resort Harbors Villainous
Plots and Heroes and Heroines
Granted you are an average American, to whom the whole subject of the stage and its big modern brother, the movies, have an interest, each visit you make to the Wharton’s studio at Renwick must have a new charm.
Of course it is interesting to know how many people visit the movie shows each day, how many million miles of films are produced annually, how much money is invested in the whole huge business and how many people prance and gesticulate in front of the grinding cameras, but the real attraction to the movie fan is the picture itself, the personality of the people back of it and the mechanics of its production.
Instead of taking away from the illusion the glimpses which you get at the studio of the “way it’s done” seem rather to add to the pleasure with which you watch the story unfold on the screen. Granted, then, that every visit to the Wharton’s studio is filled with interest, imagine the satisfaction the writer experienced the other day when he paid his first visit to the land of enchantment where, at the present time more villainous plots are hatched each week against plucky Elaine Dodge than the average Pinkerton detective experiences in a whole lifetime.
When I got off the trolley car, my first thought was that Renwick hadn’t changed so much after all. There was the old pier, there was the pavilion and amphitheater and there, also was the little stand where you could buy hot dogs and ice-cold “lemo.” You don’t have to go any further than the big door of the pavilion, however before you see that it isn’t the old Renwick.
The first thing that greeted my eyes was the suit of armor with which Elaine enthusiasts have become so familiar. Hodnobling with this was the hideous Chinese idol- which played a prominent part in the episode dealing with the devil worshipers- that episode ending in such a bully shindy between Craig Kennedy and the whole horde of yellow devils. Here was an iron bed—maybe the very one from which Aunt Tabby was awakened by the mysterious tapping of the ghosts.
And stacked here and there and everywhere was scenery- sides of houses, sides of rooms, glimpses of shady bowers and vistas of leafy walks- some done in black and white only. Painting scenery for the movies is quite a different matter from painting it for the stage, inasmuch as you have to take consideration the photographic values of the various colors.
In my search for one of the Wharton brothers, I strolled around back of the old amphitheater, and smack into a huge platform, the outside studio. Here several men were at work on a “cave” from which wireless messages were destined to be shot through space, either to further or frustrate some diabolical plot in which you can be certain Elaine will get involved.
The cave was beginning to assume quite a cave-like appearance as wet paper and glue was slapped on to a big framework of chicken netting. From such humble beginnings do great things grow.
From here I was directed to the inside studio where Leo Wharton was preparing to “put on” (I don’t know the technical name for the operation) one of the scenes in the particular episode of Elaine’s romance then underway.
The studio was almost as cluttered with scenery and other pieces of movie “property” as was the pavilion I had just left, one corner, however, was fairly free and here was set up the corner of a room, as complete a room, so far as that corner went, as one could ask for - except that it didn’t have any ceiling. Where the ceiling might have been were rows of blue lights, big as hubbard squashes, hanging from sort of frames which appeared to be on rollers so they could be shoved about.
The only actors in make-up were Paul Everton, who has had to assume so many different disguises the last few weeks that he must lie awake nights wondering what Mr. Reeve is going to think up next, and Lionel Barrymore, who is sharing honors with Miss White and Mr. Hale in this series of Elaine thrillers.
When I came in Mr. Wharton was busy explaining to Mr. Everton some “business” around a table in the foreground. Mr.Everton was to search, by means of a hand electric flashlight for some “poipers” which were evidently concealed there.
The funny thing about it, though, was there was not any light coming from the flashlight. The light was furnished by a big spotlight just overhead, which followed Mr. Everton’s flash as he directed its imaginary beam over the table top and in the drawer. Evidently the light from the flashlight itself would not be bright enough to show in the picture.
Some idea of the details which have to be watched in movie work is indicated by the fact that Mr. Holbrook, who was operating the camera, told Mr. Wharton he had better put a piece of white paper in the table drawer so as to reflect the light better to the actor’s face.
At the back of the setting was an open window. On the window sill gleamed a bright light, rather like an illuminated spy glass. Just what it was I’ll have to wait to learn when I see the picture. But it had an important part in the scene underway.
At the left was as solid looking an oak wall of paneled wainscoting as would expect to see in an English manor house. But it wasn’t as solid as it appeared, it soon developed, for the “secret panel” which slid up - motive power furnished by a studio employee - (lucky the camera didn’t record the squeak it made) enabled Mr. Barrymore to step out, shoot at the mysterious stranger, who tumbled back of the table, dodge back into his secret hiding place let down the panel once more and step forth again, and shoot out the light on the window sill.
It is painful to have to record that Mr. Barrymore did not hit the light on the window sill, but when he shot an employee stuck up a piece of black cardboard in front of the light. But you’ll never know the difference when you see the picture; and I hope you won’t tell Barrymore for he might not like to have his marksmanship questioned in this way.
While I had been watching this, Mr. Wharton was going from one thing to another explaining and pointing out details which he needed changing and yet found time with it all to remark that he wondered how many of the company could ride, as they had a fox hunt in 31st episode.
At last everything was ready and Mr. Wharton thought they were ready to take the picture. The crank began to turn and Mr. Everton began to rummage.
“Wait a minute,” called Mr. Wharton. “We’ll have to do that over again.
The secret panel wasn’t clear down. ”This was fixed, the operator of the panel given a little more instruction and the picture proceeded. This time apparently to the satisfaction of all.
The panel went up, the shots were fired and the light was doused - with the black cardboard. About this time an automobile arrived at the park with some of the actors who had been engaged in outdoor work on Cayuga Heights.
Mr. Hale was among them. There also appeared a short, black-mustached youth in rough clothes who was asking someone if he’d “got those ‘still pictures developed yet, so I can see if my make-up is the way I had it in the last scene.” That voice never came from a masculine throat, and if the “youth” wasn’t Pearl White in “disguise” I’ll eat the mustache.
Just then somebody asked me if I didn’t want to see the submarine. Of course I did. Dumped by the side of the studio was the upper story of something, which looked like a submarine should look. It was apparently made out of black building paper.
When it was placed over rowboats, however, and swung around in the lake the appearance must have been enough like a partly submerged destroyer to satisfy any movie fan. “See out there?” said my guide, pointing toward the pier. “There’s the cave where the submarine had its headquarters.”
“It must be some job thinking up something new every week in this sensational stuff,” he went on, evidently thinking of Mr. Reeve, who writes the scenarios. That it is anything at all to have to visualize them in front of the camera didn’t seem to enter his mind.