Movie Illusions

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.
houdini's ghost
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Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 2nd, 2010, 7:31 pm

Eugene Shufftann invented a process in which a tilted mirror was placed in front of a subject with the silver scraped off so the subject could be seen in the middle of what was reflected in the glass.
This was never employed more brilliantly than in "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" in which a full sized man was playing his fiddle surrounded by dancing leprechauns--and it was shot live.
And on the subject of movie magic, I was watching Chuck Roberson and his horse, Cocaine, playing about seven different parts in "Hondo," but their stunt doubling for John Wayne and his horse is a beautiful illusion.
Then, there is Russell Saunders. Neither Russ Saunders nor Gene Kelly was actually superhuman--but combined! Wow!
In "Singing In The Rain," Gene jumps onto the hood of a moving car, then, scrambles up the side of a streetcar, runs across its top and, then, that's Russ Saunders who drops into a passing car.
Maybe, they were both superhuman. Has everybody seen Kelly's dance on roller skates in "It's Always Fair Weather?" That is as impossible as any magic trick.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 3rd, 2010, 8:48 am

What's your feeling on the use of Matts with cutouts to show impossible enviornments - say in Forbidden Planet where the characters walk on what looks like a bridge across a huge gap in a tall cavern?

How do you compare the rotating set used in 2001 with that used for the Fred Astaire Royal Wedding dance?
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Reason: he spelled it with an E at the end. :)

houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 3rd, 2010, 11:10 am

Matte painting--now that's magic.
In the old days, the camera would shoot through the glass matte at the subjects or action.
Later, most mattes were added optically, in the lab, where they would reshoot through the matte or mattes.
The making of "Gone With The Wind" documentary shows beautifully what mattes do.
One our local magicians, Bill Taylor, was a studio matte painter in the thirties, forties and fifties.
In my time, Peter Ellenshaw and Al Whitlock did matte paintings that created a perfect illusion. Mattes aren't photographic--they have more to do with the effects of light.
Motion Picture cinematographers paint with light. More so in Black and White--I miss it.
The Astaire dance on the ceiling was a lot of magic. Shot live, the music, the choreography, the revolving set with a locked down camera turning with it--nice.
The effect baffled audiences when they first saw it.
They would have been really amazed if that was someone other than Fred--I mean, dancing on the ceiling and walls--why not, he was Fred.

David Alexander
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby David Alexander » December 3rd, 2010, 5:56 pm

Not to be too fussy about a point, Pat, but if we're talking about the same Bill Taylor, he and I are the same age and we weren't around in the thirties, were children in the forties and fifties, graduating high school in the early sixties.

Bill owns Illusion Arts and is the only magician I know of who has his own Academy Award - Technical Achievement award in 1982. He's also been nominated for two Emmy's and has won one Prime Time Emmy.

Bill is quite accomplished and respected in his field.

See: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0852041/

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AJM
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby AJM » December 3rd, 2010, 6:07 pm

Ah yesh - 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People' featured a young Thomas Sean Connery in one of hish early film rolesh if I'm not mishtaken.

Cheersh

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houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 3rd, 2010, 6:59 pm

David,
We all know and love that Bill Taylor.
The Bill Taylor of which I wrote is in the photo taken at 2435 Laurel Canyon (which was Beverly Hills then) Christmas, 1935.
http://www.houdinisghost.com/laurelcanyon.html
At the upper left corner is my friend for thirty years, Bill Taylor, matte painter.

David Alexander
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby David Alexander » December 3rd, 2010, 7:04 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Pat. Interesting photo...I see Dr. Saint and Caryl Fleming and several others who I know through photos only. Who is the gal sitting to the left and behind Dr. Saint?

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 3rd, 2010, 8:28 pm

In that same photo are Caryl Fleming, Gerald Kosky, L. O. Gunn, Vic and Carolyn Trask, Houdini's first partner, Jacob Hyman--a bunch of the old-timers. Do you mean the woman with the Clara Bow hairdo? That's Lydah Hyman AKA Dorothy Dale. Her grave is at Forest Lawn Glendale. I looked up her obit. It was the banner headline of that day's L.A. Times: "Silent Screen Glamour Girl Dies In Fire."
She died in the house where she had lived with her husband, Jacob Hyman, on North Gordon Ave. in Hollywood.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Jack Greenberg » December 3rd, 2010, 10:07 pm

Got a charge out of that, as it invokes great memories. Actually, Gene had done the tap dancing on roller skates routine for years in a duet with his brother, Fred, since they were teens. He was not only a clever skater and an awesome dancer, but also part of his brother Fred's "professional" magic act! Fred stayed with the magic as a hobbyist(and teaching/choreography/directing) when Gene went on to Broadway and then to Hollywood. But Gene always retained a healthy respect for magic, and he mentioned it in 1954 when I visited him on the set of "It's Always Fair Weather." Gene co-directed that film, and as you noted, he performed a couple of the most spectacular dance-magic sequences that we've ever seen.

Thanks for jogging that memory.
Jack

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Kevin Connolly
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Kevin Connolly » December 3rd, 2010, 11:43 pm

Fred had a dance studio in the next town of Oradell for about 30 years. Hard to believe, but some say Fred was a better dancer than Gene. Myself, I'll take Gene over Fred.

PS Gene also skated in Xanadu.
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houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 4th, 2010, 2:16 am

Fred and Gene do a duet in the Sigmund Romberg screen bio "Deep in My Heart." They do a song and dance to "I Love to Go Swimmin' with Women."

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby David Alexander » December 4th, 2010, 6:13 pm

The mention of L.O. Gunn reminds me of Len. He was a member of SAM 22 when I was a very young man. Len was a character. Les Smith used to tell a story that put people in stitches about how Len conned some construction guys into moving the contents of a rented house for him for nothing so they could get working on the property.

It was Len's habit when he was driving across the country to do his school shows to stop and pick up odds and ends he would spot from his car. The house had old railroad ties, old newspapers, cow skulls, anything that struck Len's fancy. Les said there was probably $10,000 in silver coins in the place but no thief would ever be able to find it.

I can't tell the story the way Les could but my memory is that it took the guys Len conned several days to move his "few things."

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 4th, 2010, 7:35 pm

In 1961, I used to take the bus and the streetcar down to Clifton's Cafeteria on Thursdays when I didn't have school. There was a magic round table there and while there were some regulars, you never knew who would show up. I met the world's only one-armed escape artist, parachutist and iron mouth, Mink deRonda there one Thursday.
One day, L. O. Gunn was there. Len was a Houdini fan, and he had been a special friend of Bessie Houdini's--he told me, "she always called me son." Well, I had been buying mutilated old Genii's, 20 for $2.00 from Joe Berg, so I had read Len's columns. I knew that he was the first magician that Bill Larsen Sr. mentioned in his first editorial in Genii. I knew L. O. Gunn had performed for a lot of big star's kids birthdays and that he'd been a UFO performer.
We took the streetcar and bus to his house. I was going to stay on the bus, but, he asked me to walk him over to his house (he was renting a room) on Oxford St. He went into the garage and came out with two objects wrapped in newspaper. They were two of those little plaster busts of Houdini and Bess that were given away at a convention in the thirties, and he gave them to me.
That's the day we met.
That year, I got my driver's license. Len--I called him Mr. Gunn until I got back from Vietnam--and I drove out to Will Roger's ranch, I drove him to magic shows, and, on at least two Saturdays, we drove out to Corriganville to hang out with Max Terhune. We went out to the Dante ranch to visit Alvin Jansenn.
Len was adament about one thing: he never wanted to join a magic club. I dragged him to an S.A.M. Assembly 22 meeting. The place was full of his old pals and the club was the very best it had been in years. Bill Chaudet was president, he kept the business part of the meetings to about a minute and a half, there was fun stuff in the shows. Edgar Bergen showed up once, so did Harold Lloyd. Max Terhune made every meeting--and so did Harry Blackstone and Jay Ose.
Len loved it and a couple of meetings later, he joined.
I don't think Harry Blackstone ever knew it was Len who pulled five dead canaries out of the trash outside the theatre Blackstone was playing in downtown L.A. and busted him to the S.P.C.A.
Len eventually donated some of the rarest and most valuable Houdini cuffs and locks to the S.A.M. museum.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby JohnCox » December 4th, 2010, 8:42 pm

Fantastic stuff, Patrick. Thanks for sharing.
Visit my blog Wild About Harry

houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 8th, 2010, 1:33 am

I thought of another marvelous movie illusion. I've worked in musical comedies all my life, and I sang the song "Charade" on an episode of Columbo ("Now You See Him") so I'm acutely aware of the technical difficulties of singing on screen.
There are only a few, rare, occasions when a singer sang live for the big screen (Doris Day sang a number live in "The Pajama Game," for instance)--songs are, or were, almost exclusively lip-synched.
Some artists did it exceptionally well: Garland, Astaire, Elvis when he was on top of his game, Bing.
And there were a lot of cases where the star lip-synched to someone else's voice. That's often easy to spot--the muscles move differently from a singer's.
There is one performance above all others where the combined performances of the actor and the singer created an absolutely perfect illusion: Deborah Kerr and Marni Nixon as Anna in "the King and I."

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 8th, 2010, 11:26 am

HG, what is the purpose of trying to get the sound right during a people/complicated shot (cameras and booms not CGI on green) rather than backing off the mics and using what they record for reference in re-recording dialog etc later?

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 8th, 2010, 1:13 pm

Looping is where the actor re-records dialogue for various reasons, usually that the sound isn't "clean" so it won't match other portions of the soundtrack when it is edited in. The skill and craft of "getting it back" in the studio is necessarily applied by every film actor in almost every project.
But, ideally, the filmmakers try to capture the whole performance at once.
Musicals have a lot of ambiant noise, but, I think a lot of the singing for "Across the Universe" was, through modern technology, recorded live.
Marni Nixon has done it both ways. In "the King and I," she worked with Deborah Kerr and she recorded before the filming.
When she over-dubbed Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood, those performers had done their own pre-records, then, acted to them.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 8th, 2010, 1:23 pm

Thanks HG - I've been puzzling over the compromises needed to get clean sound and still keep it directional - say in the movie 'Alien' right after the creature makes it's tabletop appearance, hisses, and leaves the dining room, there's some dialog the audience can hear as the crew spreads out and in the theater their voices can be heard coming from different directions. Capturing that sense of direction along with the visuals- especially with a moving camera seem a nightmare for keeping the mics out of shot.

houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » December 8th, 2010, 4:25 pm

Those mikes were probably wireless and worn on the actors. Then each actor's sound is on a separate channel for starts.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 8th, 2010, 4:49 pm

All of that sound was probably ADR'd afterward.
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JohnShaun
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby JohnShaun » February 16th, 2012, 10:39 pm

Wow, I'm amazed that you sang "charade". I was just watching that Columbo episode and when I heard that song, I had to look it up to find out who the singer was, what a great voice! Is your version on Youtube?

houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » February 18th, 2012, 4:23 pm

That was me. It was 1975 and I was actually making my living lecturing on Houdini in the colleges, but, always trying to get acting roles or actor/singer roles. Getting that part on that Columbo was a very happy thing for me.
The cast was dynamite--all real method guys. I got to watch Falk and Cassidy shoot three great scenes. What a match.
Robert Loggia was in it, Nehemiah Persoff ("Little Bonaparte" in "Some Like Ir Hot"), Redmon Gleason, George Sperdakos, Cynthia Sikes (former "Miss Kansas") and me.
I showed it to my kid when he was about ten. By that time, I was 57 and he couldn't recognize me at all. Now he can see that is a younger version of me. I had fun with Mark Wilson on that show, too.
Cassidy loved magic. He wanted to portray Harry Blackstone Sr.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Gregory Edmonds » February 18th, 2012, 6:04 pm

While I'm not up to visiting here too very often, I do miss David's insightful threads. He is missed.

I do, however, have a correction. While, as David noted, the late Bill Taylor ... is the only magician I know of who has his own Academy Award,"

In fact, there's a magician/mentalist and creator of same living today who's not only won a Academy Award, but also a Tony and an Emmy!

I'm a bit surprised, with David's association with the Southern California magic scene, that he didn't know this gentleman.

Anyone venture a guess as to his name? (Don't cheat by looking on Google, please).
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houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » February 18th, 2012, 9:06 pm

The Bill Taylor I was remembering is at the upper left of this photo of the guests at Bessie Houdini's 1934 Christmas party at 2435 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
http://www.houdinisghost.com/laurelcanyon.html
He wasn't a matte painter, I've been informed, but a matte camera operator--which is also a very big deal.
I think his son followed him into the business.

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Gregory Edmonds » February 18th, 2012, 9:53 pm

The triple award-winning gentlemen of whom I wrote is Jack Kent Tillar, who has many fans in the mentalism routine market.

Jack's Oscar, Tony and Emmy, however, all came from him primary source of income, composing music for motion pictures, television and the stage.

Greg

By the way, Ghost, I've looked at the Columbo episode you speak of a couple of times and also failed to recognize you. Nice work! I didn't look at the credits, but know my (probably our) old buddy Dennis Marx wrote some of the Columbo episodes, and if not this won, is, I think, the individual responsible for broaching the thinly-veiled Geller vs. Randi episode during the waning years of the program.
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houdini's ghost
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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby houdini's ghost » February 18th, 2012, 10:33 pm

A fellow I've run into at the Castle wrote "Now You See Him" on Columbo. He's Michael Sloane. I later worked on some "Kung Fu--the Legend Continues" episodes that he produced and wrote.
I remember Dennis best for "Wonderama."

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby Gregory Edmonds » February 19th, 2012, 2:25 am

Dennis, in passing, mentioned he had something to do with one of the Columbo programs, perhaps pitching a/the plot? Whatever, he did say, I THINK I recall, that it was magic-related.

Here's wishing you all the best in your life and career, and I think your own biography would make fascinating reading. Any plans in that direction?

Greg

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Re: Movie Illusions

Postby JohnShaun » February 23rd, 2012, 10:42 pm

Thank you so much for the great reply. Please forgive my being so far off topic, but I'd never imagined that through the 'magic of the internet' I'd be able to correspond with a hollywood performer and actor, I'm an east-coaster, so it's very unusual and - a big thrill, to be honest. Those episodes had such great production value - looking at the sets (I'm guessing that was a real night club and not a set?), and the range of actors, people like yourself who not only act but also sing and do magic, it speaks volumes for that shows ability to recognice and pull in talent. I really enjoyed and appreciated very much you sharing your perspective on the show - so nice of you. I won't bother you any more in your private professional discussions, but thank you again, its an honor, a thrill and a great surprise - it magic to me.


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