Friday, 15 February 2013

THE SKY'S THE LIMIT - PART 2: More matte magic

One of the greatest matte paintings of all time, Peter Ellenshaw's legendary glass shot from Stanley Kubrick's often overlooked epic SPARTACUS (1960).  The artwork here is nothing less than masterful in every aspect.

Firstly, I'd like to thank those readers who wrote me telling how much they enjoyed the first part of The Sky's The Limit.  As promised in my last blog, I'm back with the substantial (and I do mean substantial) second half of The Sky's The Limit with literally hundreds of magical matte shots from a wide variety of films from the silent era through to the end of the photo-chemical era with many rarely seen matte shots along with some more familiar to us.

In addition to the studio matte art we're more familiar with I'm delighted to include a number of extremely rare mattes from European, Latin American and Russian cinema from many films largely unknown to those of us outside of those countries.  For these I am seriously indebted to my friend, Madrid based special effects man and VFX historian Domingo Lizcano - a man who truly knows his mattes and the many, largely unrecognised artists behind them.  Domingo has researched and collected material on effects artists such as Pierre Schildnick, Emilio Ruiz, Enrique Salva, Nicholas Wilke, Charles Assola, Ralph Pappier and many other masters of European and Latin American cinema that I'd be none the wiser of had it not been for Domingo's tireless research efforts.  The frame at left is the work of Spanish art director and glass artist Enrique Salva with assistant and future effects genius Emilio Ruiz del Rio.  Matte artist Pierre Schildneck was an interesting figure in advancing the artform in European cinema.  Of Russian birth, Pierre would work alot in France as a set designer with Walter Percy Day and ventured into miniature work in the thirties and later glass shots.  Schildneck would move to Spain whereby he would adopt the name of Pedro Schild, which to me is interesting when you consider to what lengths Italian actors and directors would go to in the 60's and 70's to 'Anglicise' their names for American audiences - often with hilarious consequences.  Anyhow, as usual, I digress! 

I have a correction in regards to one of the mattes I included in the first part of this lengthy piece.  The sunset shot of the palace in sillhouette from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (right).  Craig Barron, who photographed the shot for ILM wrote me that it wasn't a matte painting in the true sense of the word - rather a cleverly conceived and executed masonite cut out profile by Michael Pangrazio of the palace with limited painted detail that was actually taken out of doors and set up against a real sunrise, with the spectacular results being a first generation original negative effect.  I recall Craig achieved a similar effect a few years later on THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK to excellent result.  I think Mark Sullivan may also have employed a similar trick in the third INDIANA JONES picture, THE LAST CRUSADE.

Al Whitlock matte shot from the really atrocious RED SONYA (1985)
So, without further ado let us stroll once again down that picturesque boulevard of cinematic creativity that we all appreciate and miss so much.... the sheer magic of the matte painted sky.


The Spanish costume film LOCURA DE AMOR (1950) featured some exquisite glass shots by art director and effects designer Enrique Salva with his matte assistant Emilio Ruiz del Rio.
The concluding Emil Kosa jr matte composite from Fox's JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1959).
Cecil B.DeMille's THE CRUSADES (1935) with mattes by Jan Domela under Gordon Jennings' supervision.

The solid Charlton Heston bio-pic KHARTOUM (1965) featured Cliff Culley's painted mattes such as this skyscape.
French cinema would often utilise glass shot methods in numerous films, often supervised by effects man Nicholas Wilke.  This matte shot is from BOULE DE SUIF (1945) and was probably painted by Charles Assola.

The Mario Bava cult classic BLACK SUNDAY (1960) with painted cutout castle and moving glass painted sky beyond.

George Samuels matte shots from the 1953 Laurence Olivier picture THE BEGGAR'S OPERA

Uncredited matte from the RKO film AT THE SWORD'S POINT (1952), possibly by Albert Maxwell Simpson.
A Doug Ferris matte from the beautifully sensuous and so elegant LES AMANTS aka THE LOVER (1992)

A rare early screen credit for Albert Whitlock in the British 1953 sci-fi thriller THE NET (aka PROJECT M7) which had some very interesting mattes and effects shots and is screaming out for a DVD release some day.

Alan Maley's spectacular full painted vista from BECKET (1964)

The master, Albert Whitlock, would contribute hundreds of terrific painted skies and atmospherics to as many films, with this lovely subtle work in the John Wayne movie CAHILL: US MARSHALL (1972) being characteristic of Whitlock's 70's work ethic.

The quite heavy going Errol Flynn costumer, KIM (1950) was notable for the beautifully designed and assembled Newcombe shots depicted in the final part of the film.

Ray Caple's eerie painted castle, sky and animated bats from Hammer's KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963)

MGM Newcombe shot from LASSIE COME HOME (1943) which I believe was their first Eastmancolor monopack matte.

Byron Crabbe glass shot from the 1935 RKO version of LAST DAYS OF POMPEII with effects supervised by Willis O'Brien

Albert Whitlock's Dawn of Man landscape and trademark Whitlock cloud design from Steve Martin's very funny THE LONELY GUY (1984). This is part of a very broad pan across from live action, beautifully comped by Bill Taylor.

Uncredited Columbia mattes from the film LORNA DOONE (1951) - maybe Juan Larrinaga.

Alan Maley's loose and impressionistic closing birds eye view from Disney's THE LOVE BUG (1968)

Atmospheric matte from the Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy LOVER COME BACK (1961).  I'm unsure whether Russell Lawsen or Albert Whitlock painted this as it was around the time Universal's matte department changed hands.

Albert Whitlock mattes from the 1977 bio-pic MacARTHUR - a lowish budget film that was loaded with great matte shots
Stunning period mattes by Albert Whitlock from the Lucille Ball musical MAME (1974).  The lower frame is practically all paint with just a mid section of the airplane and people being real, with all else masterfully composited by Al's first rate cameraman Ross Hoffman.  Just love that gorgeous haze and those late afternoon hues.

Dramatic skies from MADAM CURIE (1943)

Although there are some wonderful painted mattes in MAJOR BARBARA (1941), I can't decide whether this shot is a large miniature or one of Percy Day's glass paintings?  Possibly a combination of both. The picture has several outstanding mattes

If ever a frame typified the excellence and style of the MGM Newcombe department, it would have to be this salt of the earth pastoral view from the 1945 OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES.

Close up detail of above.  Note the delicate pastel crayon attention to detail, an MGM staple.

One of the RKO mattes from the fx Oscar winning MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949) with matte art by Jack Shaw, Fitch Fulton and Louis Litchtenfield.

Fox's Fred Sersen photographic effects department made this matte for THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)

Percy Day and Peter Ellenshaw created several unique visions to A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946)

Joan Crawford was never better than she was in the outstanding Michael Curtiz drama MILDRED PIERCE (1945) - a film that was loaded with great matte paintings by Paul Detlefsen and other Warner Bros artists.

John Huston's MOBY DICK (1956) was an all round top notch visual effects effort, worthy of at least an Oscar nomination in my book (*see my special blog on the film's effects).  No idea as to who did the matte shots, or whether they were made in the UK or the USA.

Cliff Culley had a long association with the James Bond franchise with this barely noticeable glass shot being from the 1975 THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.

I personally found MARNIE (1964) to be Hitchcock's most arduous and tiresome picture, though some will disagree.  Albert Whitlock's mattes were great, though I'm told Universal's executives took a strong dislike to them, especially the shot with the ship, and asked Whitlock to remove them all from his showreel for some reason.

Oh boy, do I love this one..... simply delirious Peter Ellenshaw full painting of London from MARY POPPINS (1964) - a painting that's as 'Ellenshaw' as it gets.  Classic backlight, sillouettes, violet hues and misty density all being Peter's hallmarks.  Peter of course took home the Oscar for this wonderfully timeless fantasy that hasn't dated a day/  Let's just hope no one tries to remake, or as they say now, 're-invent' the P.L Travers classic.  I'll slit my wrists.

The massively overwrought, not to mention overlong tv miniseries MASADA (1981) had the talents of Albert Whitlock, Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor to pull off a succession of period matte shots.  Why these producers persist in stretching out a tale to 6 hours which could be told in 85 minutes is beyond me!

Another Whitlock/Dutton matte from MASADA.  Don't ya just love that sky?

A Warner Brothers matte painted shot from the Errol Flynn show THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953)

An unknown matte from possibly RKO or Universal.  Anyone out there recognise this shot?
Ken Marschall and his cameraman partner Bruce Block contributed a number of generally undetected mattes throughout the 80's and into the 90's, with this shot from James Cameron's mega hit THE TERMINATOR (1984) being typically Ken.

An interesting shot from the 1961 Richard Matheson adventure MASTER OF THE WORLD.  Not sure who painted this but I think it was a Butler-Glouner effects show, so it's possible that Albert Whitlock may have worked on it as he did on many of their assignments around that period.  I do like that sky.

An utterly sensational and larger than normal matte painting that both Rocco Gioffre and Mark Sullivan worked together on for the bizarre HIGHWAY TO HELL (1989, though unreleased until '92).  The shot starts with the main characters ascending a staircase which was used as a rear projection plate and projected into the cutout area at the bottom of the masonite painting.  The camera then pans upward to reveal the full extent of the skyscraper and demonic sky above.  In both photography and classical art I personally love the sunlit foregrounds juxtaposed against dark, moody skies...there's just something so arresting in that natural phenomenon.
From Mexico we have this uncredited glass shot from the film CUANDO LOS VALIENTES LLORAN (1947)

From Spain, pioneering glass artist and art director Enrique Salva would make this matte with the help of up and coming visual effects artist, Emilio Ruiz de Rio who himself was making major contributions to the special effects side of Spanish and Italian cinema.  The film is CUENTOS DE LA ALHAMBRA (1959)

The incredibly talented and intuitive Paul Lasaine created this amazing and totally invisible matte painted shot for the Eddie Murphy picture THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN (1992).  Simply astonishing.

Painted top up to a stage set for the Spanish film DON JUAN DE SERRALLONGA (1948) with glass paintings by the film's art director Alfonso de Lucas.

Doug Ferris split screen matte from CHARLEMAGNE made in the 80's.

An uncredited matte shot from Burt Lancaster's western THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL (1962)

The sorely under rated 1979 time travel picture, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN was a great little flick all the way, and despite criticisms by some, I rather liked these time warp shots, designed by Bond title man Maurice Binder and shot and composited at Shepperton Studios.

Shepperton's matte department was no doubt responsible for this shot from HOW TO STEAL THE WORLD (1968)

The 1944 Spanish picture INES DE CASTRO would utilise the services of Russian born art director Pierre Schildneck to paint the glass shots.  Schildneck had worked alot in French cinema of the 1930's, largely as set designer with Percy Day.  He also worked very often with miniatures and also executed matte paintings on various French films prior to moving to Spain.

Uncredited matte art from Joe Dante's THE HOWLING (1980) - a film notable for some positively cringe worthy rotoscoped opticals during the fireside lovemaking sequence that failed miserably.
Percy Day mattes from Alfred Hitchcock's JAMAICA INN (1939) with those evocative 30's skies.

Another superb example of Pierre Schildneck's matte work, from the Spanish film LA DUQUESA DE BENAMEJI (1949)

Stunning narrative matte art by Ralph Pappier, an art director and glass shot wiz who was active in the Argentinian film industry through the forties.  This film is LA GUERRA GAUCHA (1941).

Shepperton's Gerald Larn would enhance some sequences without anybody being any the wiser in David Lean's mammoth DR ZHIVAGO (1965) such as this watery looking winter sky and other snow additions to the Spanish locations doubling for Russia.

The popular (and still running 50 years on) tv series DOCTOR WHO spawned two reasonably entertaining feature films, with this shot being from DALEKS: INVASION EARTH 2150 (1966).  Matte artist was Gerald Larn, with all of the ship, tops of the ruined buildings and the sky painted on glass at Shepperton.

A Pierre Schildneck matte shot from the French film LE DISPARUS DE ST.AGIL (1938).  Most of the house, surrounding trees, scenery and night sky are all painted.

The upper part of the village and sky was painted by an uncredited artist for the Mexican film LOS TRES HUASTECOS (1947)
Ray Caple and Bob Cuff painted together on the excellent Poe film MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)
An unusual picture for John Ford for sure, MARY OF SCOTLAND (1936) had some nicely atmospheric mattes.
An MGM Newcombe shot from the 1952 version of THE MERRY WIDOW.

A pair of mattes from the Spanish film MARCELINO PAN Y VINO (1955).  Matte artist Pierre Schildneck adopted the name 'Pedro Schild' once he gained work on Spanish films.  Interestingly, whereas the other key figures in Spanish visual effects, Enrique Salva and Emilio Ruiz would execute their tricks in camera with perspective miniatures or on location glass shots, Schildneck would typically complete his matte shots in post production as composites.. 

Two Jan Domela matte shots from Bob Hope's classic MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1946)

Polish born matte artist Joseph Natanson would work extensively in European cinema, especially in Italy in the 1950's and 60's.  This shot is probably Natanson's last matte shot, executed for the fascinating Medieval whodunnit THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986).  Among his many other credits are the beautifully designed matte art for the Powell-Pressburger classic THE RED SHOES (1947)

A jaw dropping Albert Whitlock painted landscape and sky comprising most of the frame from the 1971 western ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB.

The dismal sequel to the highly enjoyable Doug McClure romp THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, titled, wouldn't ya know it, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977) had this odd and anonymous matte shot.

It just has to be an Ellenshaw shot I hear you say??  Yes, it is.... from Disney's THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL.

Bob Cuff painted mattes from RICHARD III (1955)

The aforementioned classic THE RED SHOES (1947) with matte art by Joseph Natanson, Ivor Beddoes and Les Bowie.
A pair of really delightful though uncredited mattes from the Russian film THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN (1967).  From the numerous examples I've seen of Russian matte and effects work I've been extremely impressed and would like to know more.  I'm confident my friend Domingo will reveal all sooner or later, such are his detective abilities in this field.

Republic weren't all that known for matte shots, though they cornered the market on amazing Lydecker miniatures -this shot is from a 1944 Anthony Mann flick called STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
The opening shot from George Roy Hill's hugely successful 1973 film THE STING as painted by Albert Whitlock and composited by Universal's long, long time effects cameraman Ross Hoffman.

An Argentine film, SU MEJOR ALUMNO (1944), with matte shots by Ralph Pappier.

Early 20th Century Boston as painted by Peter Ellenshaw and Jim Fetherolf for SUMMER MAGIC (1963)

The 1942 Alan Ladd feature THIS GUN FOR HIRE with matte painting by Jan Domela.

Although not to be confused with the Verdi opera or the Harold Pinter play of the same name(!), TROLL (1986) had this nice matte painted shot by Steve Burg

The very creepy ghost story, THE UNINVITED (1944) saw Ray Milland take on more than he bargained for in Jan Domela's matte painted haunted house and barren locale.

A substantial, though uncredited matte addition by Syd Dutton for the Robert Redford directed film THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (1988)

Japanese bug invasion epic MOTHRA (1961).  Matte artist unknown.

Early Universal matte from the Mae West-W.C Fields comedy MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (1940) which may have been worked on by future art director John DeCuir, who was in the Universal matte department at that time with Russ Lawsen.

Fred Sersen's department at 20th Century Fox executed this matte for John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)

Variations, I believe painted by Mike Pangrazio, for a key shot in NEVER ENDING STORY (1984)
A magnificent Jim Danforth matte shot - one of his best in fact - from NEVER ENDING STORY (1984) and better than all the other ILM shots in the movie put together.
For the immediate sequel, NEVER ENDING STORY II: THE NEXT CHAPTER (1990) the mattes would be overseen by Albert Whitlock, with Syd Dutton painting most of them such as this spectacular shot.

Another of Syd Dutton's mattes from the above film.

A tilt down Newcombe matte shot from MGM's hit NATIONAL VELVET (1944).
The best thing about MGM were her beautiful 'end' shots as painted under the supervision of Warren Newcombe.  The studio never cheated us in putting that paint 'n pastel up there on the screen and became almost as trademark as Leo the Lion.  This is one such shot of utter poetic joy from NATIONAL VELVET.

Peter Ellenshaw's sunrise matte from the Disney classic, OLD YELLER (1957)

For David Lean's OLIVER TWIST (1948) I'm unsure whether these shots are painted, though probably are.  Pinewood matte supervisor Joan Suttie with Les Bowie as primary matte artist.
More from OLIVER TWIST.  May or may not be matte work, but look great nonetheless.

Definitely an effects shot from OLIVER TWIST.  Miniature of St Pauls cathedral and some buildings, painted foreground and moving painted sky by Les Bowie under Joan Suttie's supervision.  Terrific 'Dickensian' shot.

The 1951 Doris Day romp ON MOONLIGHT BAY with matte art possibly by Lou Litchtenfield.

For the Bette Midler chase movie, OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1986) former Disney matte artist Michael Lloyd painted this and several other views for a key climactic action sequence.

The 1944 Greer Garson wet hankey picture MRS PARKINGTON utilised several mattes courtesy of Warren Newcombe's matte department at MGM.  This one appeared in a few other Metro pictures, and I think even in colour for one show.  Norman Dawn supplied at least one matte, of a busy NY street scene, for this production.

My absolute favourite movie as a kid - and one I'd see more than a dozen times on various double features from the late 60's through mid seventies, MUNSTER GO HOME (1966).  This of course is an Albert Whitlock matte shot, and as I have a definite liking for haunted house mattes, this one's always been a winner for me.

Even the popular Muppets get a look in on NZPete's blog, with THE MUPPETS TREASURE ISLAND (1996) with Doug Ferris and John Grant supplying requisite matte shots.

The very good and somewhat undervalued 1962 version of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY had staggering effects work all round - from miniatures, huge screen multi projector process and of course matte art.  This is probably one of Matthew Yuricich's mattes made under Lee LeBlanc's supervision.  Clarence Slifer even added a gentle 'rocking' motion to the final composite on his beloved optical printer to add that extra touch of authenticity.
Now, I bet these frames haven't been seen by many folks.... the 1929 version of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND no less!  Sure, the skies here are pretty flat and uneventful, but I couldn't think of how else to use these great mattes, and as it is my blog I can do what I please (no damned publisher to satisfy!).  Effects supervised by the great James Basevi, with Irving G.Ries on effects photography, and I presume a young Warren Newcombe providing matte art.  Many thanks to my pal Domingo for these, and a number of other frightfully rare and obscure mattes which are present in today's blog.

...and now some mattes from the later Ray Harryhausen 1961 version of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, which was a really good film even though the matte art wasn't always up to scratch and as grainy as hell in composite photography.  I've read differing stories on just who painted these.  Ray himself stated that they were made at Shepperton by Wally Veevers' matte crew, while some publications claim that Les Bowie and Ray Caple painted them??  We may never know.
One of the best sci-fi or nature gone ape-shit films of all time, THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954) was loaded with outstanding effects work by the great John P.Fulton including many mattes by career Paramount artist Jan Domela.  The George Pal film really should have been a contender for visual effects as all the work - from outdoor miniatures, split screens and complex optical combinations, was uniformly excellent.

The wild, freewheeling, out of control W.C Fields comedy NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK  (1941) was another big John Fulton effects show, with mattes by Russell Lawsen and probably John DeCuir who was painting for Lawsen and Fulton at the time.

One of the darkest and most sinister films of the 50's, the Charles Laughton helmed masterpiece NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) was packed with threat and disturbing imagery (who could forget that shot of the car under the water viewed from above...Jesus!).  The late, great Robert Mitchum was at his best here, as was cinematographer Stanley Cortez.  Among the cleverly employed opticals and split screens was this Irving Block matte shot.

John Wayne's rollicking NORTH TO ALASKA (1960) had a wonderful hit theme song and several good punch ups with The Duke.  Emil Kosa jr and Bill Abbott supplied some matte shots such as these depicting the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis to good effect.

Nominated for a special effects Oscar in 1943, THE NORTH STAR had these forboding matte shots among the various photographic effects shots, all supervised by Clarence W.Slifer.

As already stated, I'm constantly blown away by the standard of the special photographic effects work to come out of the Soviet Union, with these beautiful, haunting matte shots from MAN OF MUSIC (1953).  No idea on effects artist here.

The 2001 French historical film LADY AND THE DUKE (LA ANGLAISE ET LE DUC) was a curious affair with a vast number of traditionally painted mattes (as far as I'm aware) combined digitally to basically empty green screen soundstages, with the cast, horses & wagons etc all filmed on non existent 'sets' and dropped into artificial environs depicting 18th Century Paris.  All in all, an ambitious project though not entirely successful.  Visual effects were overseen by Olivier Dumont and Patricia Boulogne of BUF Films, Paris.  I must do a blog on the show as there are dozens and dozens of mattes.

Some more lovely matte art from Soviet cinema - with these being from ILYA MUROMET (1956), effects artist unknown.

The 1994 Belgian film FARINELLI had an interesting sequence with forboding skies.  The location is genuine with the sky split screened in with what appears to be a cloud tank gag that's most effective.

British matte artist Bob Cuff painted this full frame shot in the Shepperton special effects department under Wally Veevers for the opening sequence of the Peter Sellers comedy TWO WAY STRETCH (1960).

Pierre Schildneck painted this historic view of old Lisbon for the 1946 film CAMOES.

One of the many spin offs of JAWS was this one, the 1976 Richard Harris whale epic, ORCA.  I'm pretty certain this is a matte painted sky split screened into a large scale tank effects set up. Being a Dino De Laurentiis show it utilised the services of Frank Van der Veer's effects house, so most probably Louis Litchtenfield was resident matte artist.  This is the one and only film you'll ever get the chance to witness a killer whale blow up an entire town.  Don't laugh.... the George C.Scott show DAY OF THE DOLPHIN had cuddly dolphins blow up presidential yachts etc!

Damn, I do love MGM matte work, and these gloriously saturated Newcombe shots from the Esther Williams flick PAGAN LOVE SONG (1950)

More from the illustrious MGM matte department - PAL JOEY (1957)

Jan Domela matte from the classic Bob Hope spoof THE PALEFACE (1948)

While on Paramount, we can't overlook the iconic mountain logo which too was painted by matte artist Jan Domela, with this one being the VistaVision Motion Picture Hi-Fidelity incarnation of the mid fifties.
A great matte shot that nobody ever spotted in the still fantastic original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) - a great piece of sci-fi that never ages.  I think this was Fox career matte artist Emil Kosa jr's last film.  Avoid at all costs the teeth gnashingly awful Tim Burton version, though by all means check out the very good recent one with Andy Serkis, which should have taken the Oscar for it's groundbreaking WETA visual effects and mo cap work....but don't get me started on bloody Oscar injustices.

I believe this is a Mike Pangrazio glass painting which ILM contributed to the 1984 German hit NEVER ENDING STORY.

One of the very, very rare occasions matte art has ever featured in a New Zealand film, with this being a shot from THE QUIET EARTH.  No idea really who did the shot as we never had anything remotely resembling 'special effects' people back then in the pre-WETA era, but may be Paul Radford who was the show's scenic artist?

Such a well executed matte shot this one, and nobody ever knew it.  The early eighties arse numbingly long and drawn out mini series THE THORN BIRDS used Matthew Yuricich and David Stipes to extend settings in a few shots, and beautifully executed they were too.  I'd never have known myself had it not been for David sharing the matte art and wedge tests with me.  Thanks David!
I've not been able to locate the title but this is a Jan Domela matte painting, likely from an early thirties Paramount picture.
Mark Whitlock painted this dramatic view for the 1990 sci fi show PREDATOR II and was one of three matte artists on the film - the others being Rocco Gioffre and Mark Sullivan.  It's easy to see the influence of Mark's dad, Albert in those clouds.
The majority of this scene from the W.C Fields film POPPY (1936) is in fact a Jan Domela matte shot, with most of the trees, sky and even the signpost added in later.

Syd Dutton's extensive painted opening shot from PSYCHO III (1986).  I saw this and many other Dutton/Whitlock shots on some showreels decades ago and seem to recall that it's almost all paint except a small area of ground where the actress is walking and a tiny 'flat' behind her representing a couple of windows.  Excellent work from a true master.
David Selznick's haunting PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948) was a large matte shot project for Jack Cosgrove and Clarence Slifer.  Many beautifully designed effects shots by J.MacMillan Johnson with the film taking the Oscar for it's mattes.

Some more exquisite matte art from PORTRAIT OF JENNIE.  Matte artists were Jack Shaw, Spencer Bagtoutopolis and Hans Ledeboer.  Many of the mattes still survive today and are very large, confidently executed pieces.  There are also some that never made the final cut still in existence.

Two of the many exhilerating Albert Whitlock matte shots from the rather dire and inexcusably bad Peter Sellers rendition of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1979).  Lots of great split screens and opticals by Bill Taylor.

I've harped on at length in the past over the amazing resoursefulness of the Warner Brothers Stage 5 effects department, and PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (1944) is no exception.  A staggering number of trick shots from painted mattes to huge and complicated mechanised miniatures of everything from bombers, battleships to even entire stretches of French countryside complete with mechanical cattle and tractors!  Incredible work, supervised by Jack Cosgrove with Byron Haskin, Paul Detlefsen and Edwin DuPar all heavily involved.  Superb work that should have been a runner in the FX Oscar lineup.

Cecil B.DeMille's first Technicolor epic, NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE (1940) with Jan Domela's matte art.
Roger Corman's THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) was given the illusion of grandeur which far exceeded it's low budget by way of sensational Albert Whitlock matte shots.  I've always been mystified however, as to why this shot is so oddly framed with much of the castle cropped out?
Another Whitlock matte from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.  Just love that sky!!

MGM again took home an Oscar for the special effects work, this time for THE PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952).  Outstanding miniature storm sequence and tank work plus a few Newcombe shots in the final act of the story.

I remember seeing POLTERGEIST (1982) on first release and being blown away by the visual effects - both in variety and in application.  ILM did some superb work here and along with all the ghoulish goings-on's, artist Mike Pangrazio contributed a half dozen barely detectable matte shots such as this doozy with the very ominous sky moving over the house.
Not sure of the film, possibly WAIKIKI WEDDING with Bing Crosby maybe (?) - but another of my many unidentified Paramount mattes which Jan Domela created under effects boss Gordon Jennings.

The Samuel Goldwyn company's PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942) with Gary Cooper was a nominee for visual effects, largely mattes, with Jack Cosgrove and Albert Maxwell Simpson teamed up once again.

Errol Flynn's 1937 THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER saw some great matte work and camera tricks by Byron Haskin.

The inexplicably popular THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) had several mattes by Bob Cuff and Doug Ferris, though I think this one may have been by Ken Marschall, who did some additional work on the film.

Stirring closing shot from the 1937 version (though not the first, nor the last) of the timeless PRISONER OF ZENDA with Jack Cosgrove running the effects unit.  Byron L.Crabbe and Jack Shaw were matte artists and Clarence W.Slifer photographed and assembled the mattes and various brilliant 'twin' gags.
Meg Tilly does a runner!  The not too shabby PSYCHO II (1982) was better than I'd expected, with a great surprise ending and some nicely chilling mattes such as above.  Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton painted the mattes with Bill Taylor doing some marvellous travelling matte combinations to bring actors right into the matte.

Paramount's 1940's western WHISPERING SMITH with Jan Domela matte work.

Lee LeBlanc and Matthew Yuricich shared painting duties on William Wyler's BEN HUR (1959)
Poor Peter Ellenshaw - he contributed hugely to the glory and spectacle of QUO VADIS (1950) yet was denied his promised screen credit on the show.  All told, magnificent work in all of the effects categories on QV - with sublime matte art, convincing miniatures and good opticals.  It really should have been an Oscar nominee.......but..........................!!!!!!

A pair of Les Bowie-Ray Caple mattes from a pair of QUATERMASS films:  THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (left) and QUATERMASS II (right).  The second film may well have been a Pinewood matte job as the effects team were solid Pinewood guys, so whether Bowie and co did the shots I can't verify.

Alan Maley matte art from the Disney film RASCAL (1969)

One of my favourite films, Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940) was a winner all the way in my book, with Jack Cosgrove's mattes and miniatures just icing on the cake.  Beautiful work, with Albert Maxwell Simpson as primary artist.
Roger Donaldson's excellent 1984 version of THE BOUNTY is not one to be sneezed at.  All three Bounty films are terrific in my mind and despite being a remake of a remake, THE BOUNTY is a hell of a good show.  Subtle matte work in a couple of shots by Frank Van der Veer, so it's probable that Lou Litchtenfield or Bob Scifo painted mattes here.

Ralph McQuarrie did wonders in 'selling' George Lucas' vision to the moguls with his conceptual art, but Ralph also painted mattes and here is one of his EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) matte shots.  Harrison Ellenshaw supervised all matte art.

Stanley Kramer's THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION (1957) opened with this Jan Domela matte painted shot.

Many mattes feature in MGM's 1949 'commie' expose THE RED DANUBE.  Warren Newcombe was in charge here.

For the gut wrenchingly miserable Schwarzenegger epic RED SONYA (1985), Spanish SFX shot expert Emilio Ruiz contributed numerous perpective tricks seemlessly, with some combined with matte art later on by Albert Whitlock.
RED SONYA matte shot by Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton.

A tilt up Newcombe matte shot from the atypical John Wayne picture REUNION IN FRANCE (1942)

The beautifully told story of George Gershwin, RHAPSODY IN BLUE (1945) was a large scale visual effects showcase which I've often discussed in previous blogs.  These are two of the more subtle mattes, with Chesley Bonestell and Paul Detlefsen painting and Edwin DuPar on fx camera, from which mindblowing effects camera moves were achieved.
The quite ethereal and unique PETER IBBETSEN (1936) was a joy to behold.  Jan Domela painted several mattes including the various moody moving skyscapes which would be matted behind Ivyl Burks' miniature castle.

I had very much hoped to have the original Sersen RAZOR'S EDGE matte painting photographed and posted here, but unfortunately not.  At least it's still in care of the Sersen family with Fred's grandson.  Maybe next time.

Disney's RETURN TO OZ (1985) was a mixed bag, though the effects were many and impressive.  Matte art by Charles Stoneham and Bob Scifo.
The great Peter Ellenshaw painted hundreds of mattes over his long and prestigious career, with this stunning tilt down of such grandeur as seen in the Disney film THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952)

More magnificence from Peter Ellenshaw - the Sheriff of Nottingham's lair from ROBIN HOOD.  This shot is around 90% paint and 10% live action.  Love Peter's sky so much, and that's no surprise as Ellenshaw was the sky master!
One more ROBIN HOOD masterpiece by Peter Ellenshaw.

I can't resist just one more ROBIN HOOD with Peter's gorgeous closing matte shot - all paint except for the man!
Bing Crosby's A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (1947) was another large effects show for Gordon Jennings at Paramount.  Jan Domela painted these and many other mattes, and even received screen credit!

An unknown RKO matte shot, from whence, I've no idea.  Nice use of the studio main gate as basis for matte top up.

Albert Maxwell Simpson's matte art from the largely unknown 1940 version of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON.

Syd Dutton's flood drenched farm painting from the Mel Gibson 'salt of the earth' saga, THE RIVER (1985)

Probably from an RKO film, though the title isn't known to me.
Michael Pangrazio's eye popping view of Jerusalem from Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD - PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991).  It's all paint except for the tiny little piece of balcony immediately in front of the holy man, played, incidentally by the matte artist himself!  Go Mike!
Bob Hope made a lot of hilarious films for Paramount, and CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT (1941) is one of those.  Among several nice matte shots is this Jan Domela painted army base and skyline.

Fairly ordinary sky, but, hell.... it's Mars dude!  Whitlock matte from ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964)
W.S Van Dyke's ROSE MARIE (1936) with lovely Newcombe matte art.

One of Hitchcock's very best films, and certainly his biggest show matte shot wise, SABOTEUR (1941) is a veritable rollercoaster ride from start to finish...and what a finish.  Sensational matte packed finale supervised by the very talented John P.Fulton, with mattes by Russ Lawsen and John DeCuir. 

Warner Bros. western SAN ANTONIO (1945) opened with this Technicolor saturated matte sequence.

Jan Domela sky added to California location for the Hope & Crosby fun movie ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942)

One of the duo's best movies, ROAD TO UTOPIA (1946) was an enormous matte and trick shot show, loaded with gag effects and matte art.  Nice skies here amid the hilarity.  Matte artist Jan Domela.

Bob and Bing were possibly the first to throw movie in jokes into their pictures, with the audiences of the day most likely bewildered at first at the whole ploy.  This one's a corker - Bing & Bob on sleigh spot a suspect looking mountain... Bob say's "Look, it's bread and butter".....Bing responds, "no, it's just a mountain"..... Bob comes back with "Well it may just be a mountain to you, but it's bread and butter to me" just as a curious ring of stars and a certain Paramount typeface magically appear!  Jan Domela and Paul Lerpae matte shot from ROAD TO UTOPIA.

Powerfully dominant castle and sky by Peter Ellenshaw from the film ROB ROY, THE HIGHLAND ROGUE (1954)

Michael Curtiz' 1940 Errol Flynn western SANTA FE TRAIL was yet another Warner Bros show packed with palpably wonderful matte art - all so well designed and drafted out before the fact to ensure superb pictorial effect.  Mattes painted by Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga and Hans Bartholowsky.

More Warner Bros matte work - from SARATOGA TRUNK (1945)
A rare Mario Larrinaga original matte painting from SARATOGA TRUNK with comp at right.

Federico Fellini's SATYICON (1970) had photographic effects and mattes by Polish born Joseph Natanson.  The skies shown in these shots may in fact be real but have been split screened into first unit sets.

Gary Cooper's classic SERGEANT YORK (1941), with mattes by Warner Bros Stage 5 effects unit under Byron Haskin.
Byron L.Crabbe's matte art from the excellent 1935 version of SHE.
Universal horror pic THE SHE WOLF OF LONDON...not to be misconstrued with the Shakespeare play by the same name!

Albert Whitlock's Civil War era South, as seen in SHENANDOAH (1965)

John P.Fulton handled the effects work on the original version of SHOWBOAT (1936) with some excellent miniature river boat work composited into live action along with those magnificent storybook clouds.
One of the Newcombe mattes from the 1951 remake of SHOWBOAT.

Another film containing dozens of eye opening mattes, Selznick's SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944).  I'm not 100% sure that the frame at left is a matte, but I reckon it probably is as it's such a fantastic, perfectly composed  cloudscape that a genuine 2nd unit shot would be one in a million.  Jack Cosgrove was primary matte artist with Jack Shaw and Spencer Bagtoutopoulis.  Clarence Slifer was matte cameraman.

The one of a kind, never to be repeated SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES (1961).  Mattes by Emil Kosa,jr

The thrilling 1948 British film of Robert Falcon Scott's South Pole expedition, SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC had several effective mattes by Ealing matte artist Geoffrey Dickinson, with this sequence depicting curious atmospheric anomalies.

MGM's delightful 1949 THE SECRET GARDEN with effective Newcombe matte shots.
I really enjoyed THE SHADOW (1994 and found it a refreshing, fun journey.  Tremendous matte work throughout  - split between Matte World and Illusion Arts, with the above shot being a MW shot painted by Mike Pangrazio.

Close up detail from the superb Mike Pangrazio painting for THE SHADOW.
Early Technicolor matte from Albert Whitlock, from the Rank adventure THE SEEKERS (1954).  The film was set and largely photographed here in New Zealand with Whitlock's art required to add period enhancements to the pioneer era.

Bernardo Bertolucci's THE SHELTERING SKY (1990) with visual effects by Martin Body, which lends me to think Doug Ferris probably painted as he and Body worked together often.

A Geoffrey Dickenson matte shot from the British film THE SHIP THAT DIED OF SHAME (1955)

Albert Whitlock's extensive matte art (ship included) from SHIP OF FOOLS (1965)

Syd Dutton with one of his many matte paintings made for the tv series STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION.

Another Illusion Arts matte from the same series, painted either by Syd Dutton or Robert Stromberg.

One more (for now) from either ST-TNG or DEEP SPACE NINE.... I never know which as I've not seen any of those shows.

Clark Gable's SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (1955) with sky and fx animated lightning.

Sensational glass shots from SON OF KONG (1933) which out class those in the original KONG, despite the 2nd film being a shoddy affair in almost all departments.  Byron L.Crabbe and Mario Larrinaga were matte artists.

An all time favourite matte shot for me.... SOUTH PACIFIC (1958).  Emil Kosa jr was chief matte artist.  This painting still survives in someone's garage and I'd sure like to see how it shapes up now.
Another visually stunning matte from SOUTH PACIFIC.

Uncredited matte from Alfred Hitchcock's STAGE FRIGHT (1950), possibly executed in the UK by a British artist.

One of Albert Whitlock's STAR TREK (1966) matte paintings as used on the tv series.  I believe Linwood Dunn had a garage full of these some years ago and sold them all off, this one included.
A Christopher Evans matte from either STAR TREK IV or V - I lose track of those things.

Michael Pangrazio painted this one, and I love it - again from one of the STAR TREK features, maybe part V or VI - again, I apologise as I get lost in those, aside from the first one.  I know that Craig Barron did a bang up job assembling this terrific shot at Matte World - a dynamic company that recently closed it's doors for the last time sadly.

Robert Stromberg painted this one at Illusion Arts for the STAR TREK - NEXT GENERATION tv series.

Claudette Colbert's SO PROUDLY WE HAIL (1943) was a tense, well acted war time drama and would see Oscar nominations for Gordon Jennings and Farciot Edouart's photographic effects.  As usual, matte art by Jan Domela.

Universal's THE SON OF ALI BABA was one of a long line of Arabian Nights inspired Eastern fantasies, with sneering villain, bodacious harem girls and a dashing square jawed hero.  Mattes by Russ Lawsen and possibly John DeCuir.

Whereas MGM cornered the market in glossy musicals, Warners did tough war pictures and Paramount had their westerns, Universal maintained a steady stream of generally excellent monster and horror pictures, with the frames here being from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) on which I've recently learnt future art director John DeCuir painted mattes for.

SON OF LASSIE (1943) wasn't too bad, and had some nice skies and painted landscapes representing England.
Bob Hope's original PALE FACE  was a huge hit so a sequel was inevitable - and thus came SON OF PALEFACE (1952) which was a great laugh.  This final scene is a travelling matte with multiple elements.  Whether the sky is a genuine 2nd unit sunset or a painted one, I don't know - but would lean towards 'the real deal'.

RKO's 1945 pirate epic THE SPANISH MAIN had a number of nice miniatures with painted sky backings.

The first ever Oscar for best special effects went to this exciting show, SPAWN OF THE NORTH (1938).  Here we have one of Art Smith and Ivyl Burks' miniature tank set ups that has been expanded significantly with Jan Domela's matte art.

Ken Marschall added an entire environment to a limited exterior location for the film STAND BY ME (1986)

The great Matthew Yuricich painted mattes such as this for STRANGE BREW (1983)

None of these new age so-called 'super hero' films hold a candle to the 1978 Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE.  The film is still as rich and entertaining as ever and the Oscar winning effects work a treat.  This is a Les Bowie matte shot with a 'cloud tank' gag burnt in to simulate the nuclear blast.  Les was assisted by long time associate Ray Caple.

Hitchcock's SUSPICION  (1941) with matte art by RKO's camera effects department .
A bona fide classic, THE TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935) has some of my all time favourite matte paintred shots, such as this stunner of Paris and better still, the shot below... 

TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935) matte art from Warren Newcombe's matte department at MGM.
The Poe thriller, TALES OF TERROR (1962) had some excellent matte shots, with this one being a winner all the way.  As it was a Lawrence Butler-Donald Glouner effects contract I'll bet Albert Whitlock painted the mattes.  That sky is Albert all the way!

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were the ideal duo for TAMING OF THE SHREW (1967) -  a boisterous, frantic piece if ever there were one.  Several nice mattes from the Shepperton special effects department with Gerald Larn, Bryan Evans and Doug Ferris all contributing mattes.
The Tarzan series would provide ample opportunity for spectacular mattes, and this is probably my number one such shot from the series, TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE (1941) though I think it was used in others of the genre. 

RKO put out a series of vine swinging adventures of their own, with TARZAN TRIUMPHS (1943) illustrated here. 

Britain got in on the Tarzan game too with TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI (1957).  Tom Howard ran the Elstree effects department and Judy Jordan was his matte artist.  Judy started matte painting under Percy Day.

Another from the RKO Tarzan stable, TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS (1945).  Effects supervised by Vernon Walker with Russell Cully on effects camera.  Matte artists most likely Albert Maxwell Simpson and maybe Chesley Bonestell.

MGM's last one, TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE (1942) featured these skies, though I'm certain they came from an earlier Tarzan flick.
One of the all time great special effects films, THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944) hit bullseye in all departments, with sensational, groundbreaking miniatures and arresting matte art such as this shot.  Numerous artists contributed to the delicate and meticulous pastel 'paintings', though I have evidence that suggests pioneer Norman Dawn may have painted this particular shot.  Other artists working then were Howard Fisher, Henry Hillinck, Joe Duncan Gleason and others.

The murder mystery TENSION (1949) with a classic Newcombe sky to enhance menace.
Peter Ellenshaw and Jim Fetherolf sunburst effect from SUMMER MAGIC (1963)
Michael Pangrazio matte from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

Mike Pangrazio at work on a JEDI painting.

One of Peter Ellenshaw's biggest matte shot shows, THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1954) is a sheer delight.

The huge Cecil B.DeMille epic THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) won John Fulton another Oscar.  Skies, mountain and painted additions here are Jan Domela's matte work.  Irmin Roberts was matte cinematographer.
Although no matte art was employed for sky effects in the famous Red Sea set piece, rather a cleverly devised and expertly photographed practical smoke effect with alot of optical manipulation, the sequence remains unforgettable and is among the most high impact moments in the history of cinema.  One hell of a lot of trick work went into the Red Sea set piece with massive amounts of optical printing of a truckload of separately filmed elements.  Stirring stuff indeed, and with Elmer Bernstein's phenomenal score..................................WOW!

Wally Veevers special effects unit at Shepperton created this, and many other great shots for SILENT ENEMY (1957).  The ships are models matted into actual sea plates, with the sky painted.  Matte artist was Bob Cuff.  Great film!

The somber closing moments from a much neglected masterpiece, John Boorman's EXCALIBUR (1979).  One of the most magnificently photographed and designed films of it's genre, and should well have been rewarded by the damned Academy for these attributes, and the film's intelligent to boot.  This, I'm sure is a front projection process shot by Wally Veevers though I don't know whether the sky is painted or real.  Doug Ferris was matte artist on the film

David Lean's A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) was superb, no question - and a fitting final project it was too.  A number of mattes and miniatures are in the film including this lovely sky shot.  Robin Browne was visual effects supervisor and cinematographer and I understand that up and coming VFX man Peter Chiang painted some mattes on the film.

The Sandra Dee comedy THAT FUNNY FEELING (1965) was a Universal picture with Al Whitlock doing the mattes.  Other non-matte effects shots however were subcontracted to Project Unlimited such as this train crash miniature whereby Jim Danforth painted the sky backing.
I love old time Warner Bros matte effects, it really had a quality and vibrancy all of it's own.  Proof is in the pudding as they say, and here are a series of utterly dynamic mattes from the big 1941 Raoul Walsh epic THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON.  Superb work overseen by Byron Haskin with Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga, Hans Bartholowsky painting.
More magic from Warner's THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON.
Peter Ellenshaw -  Walt Disney's TOBY TYLER (1960)
A pair of mattes from the riveting George Raft thriller THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940) with New York and San Francisco both depicted from the same Warner Bros backlot set.

MGM Newcombe shot from the 1942 Spencer Tracy picture TORTILLA FLAT.

Bob Scifo matte shot from the original TOTAL RECALL (1990)

Mattes that forever embaressed Les Bowie with what he revealed as being cotton wool cloud stuck on a nail into a painting.  The film is THE TROLLENBERG TERROR (1958)

J.Arthur Rank's TROTTIE TRUE (1949) centrepiece is this multiple component trick shot.  Small live action foreground with clothes line, an extensive painting with houses and chimneys, a second painting with moving clouds and a miniature balloon in flight.  I believe Les Bowie had a hand in this and was almost certainly assisted by Albert Whitlock and Cliff Culley - both of whom worked under Bowie at the time in Pinewood's matte department.
John P.Fulton created some amazing miniature pyrotechnics and mayhem in TULSA (1949) and some matte art was employed in several scenes.  Not sure who was artist but possibly Jack Shaw or Luis McManus?

A Rocco Gioffre matte which I think was original negative, for the 1983 major lawsuit disaster that was THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  Except for the road and car, this is all Rocco's paint, and it looks sensational with the lens flare effect.
Another late add on for THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON.
A very dull and quite uncharacteristic fizzer for Alfred Hitchcock, UNDER CAPRICORN (1949) with a great number of painted mattes required to create pioneer era Australia.  Fantastic matte work though.
I really love this shot.  Also from UNDER CAPRICORN.  No effects credit, but it was revealed recently that Mario Larrinaga painted some shots, and they are real Warner Bros looking skies if you ask me, so probably other WB artists contributed too.  Beautiful work in a very mediocre, ill chosen project.

Walter Percy Day's iconic Technicolor matte of of Baghdad from the 1940 THIEF OF BAGHDAD.  The sky is a separate painting to the city and moves across horizon.  Peter Ellenshaw assisted Day with Wally Veevers as fx cameraman.

Russell Lawsen's painted vision of Metaluna from THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955)

MGM Newcombe shot from the Gene Kelly-Lana Turner interpretation of THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948)

Albert Whitlock's expansive original negative mattes from John Wayne's THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973)

The brilliant UK nail biter TUNES OF GLORY (1960) with matte art probably by George Samuels and Bob Cuff.

Raoul Walsh's 1940 Errol Flynn war picture UNCERTAIN GLORY with Warner Bros matte work.
Debbie Reynolds' THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1962) was a big effects show with many matte shots.  Jan Domela painted several and I'm sure Matthew Yuricich did likewise.  Clarence Slifer shot and comped the mattes.

VELVET GOLDMINE (1998) glass shot, possibly by Leigh Took.

Another textbook Hitchcock image - the unforgettable Spanish mission tower and temperamental sky from VERTIGO (1958) as painted by Jan Domela.  John P.Fulton was effects chief, with Irmin Roberts photographing and compositing the various mattes.

Irving Block painted these and other shots for Roger Corman's VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT (1957) - which of course is not to be confused with David Mamet's play of the same name (!)

They've just got to be Warner Bros matte paintings....from Michael Curtiz' film VIRGINIA CITY (1940)

Lee LeBlanc final matte shot from the Marlon Brando film VIVA ZAPATA (1952).  According to Matthew Yuricich Lee painted some mattes on the film, under Emil Kosa

A thrilling, action packed WWII true account, WAKE ISLAND (1942) is notable for it's thunderous full scale action and battle sequences, accompanied by superb sound effects editing as well.  Gordon Jennings'  special photographic effects include several Jan Domela painted horizons and skies with Paul Lerpae's effects animation and superimpositions which look really good.

Illusion Arts matte shots from A WALK IN THE CLOUDS (1995), supervised by Syd Dutton & Bill Taylor.

A minor, though frequently necessary use of the glass shot - to conceal studio trappings and add more sky than would otherwise be possible.  The film is the King Vidor directed Audrey Hepburn version of WAR AND PEACE (1956)

L.B Abbott created some literally flaming skies for Irwin Allen's feature film of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961).  I'm trying to recall Bill's method, I think practical flame thrower elements combined with a colossal amount of optical printer manipulation.  Universal's Bill Taylor would concoct something not too dissimilar over 15 years later with the amazing finale of THE CAR (1977).
Oscar winning mattes and effects from George Pal's WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), with Gordon Jennings at the sfx helm and reliable Paramount matte artist Jan Domela painting the many mattes in saturated 3-strip Technicolor.

Albert Whitlock matte shot from Charlton Heston's THE WARLORD (1965)

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1968) was a major Hammer production and a huge effects challenge for Jim Danforth, who not only provided all of the stop motion but also painted most of the mattes, including this large backing.

Bela Lugosi's WHITE ZOMBIE (1932), with a splendid glass shot by Conrad Tritschler.

Henry Hathaway's 1953 Fox film WHITE WITCH DOCTOR was one of Matthew Yuricich's earliest matte assignments.

Classic movie, classic matte shot... THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)... enough said!

Pastel crayon matte painting, which was something Warren Newcombe instigated upon his arrival at MGM.  I'm not aware of any other studios using pastels, which I'd imagine to be extremely difficult, yet Newcombe pulled it off for decades with superb results.

One more from THE WIZARD OF OZ
Fifties Universal pirate yarn YANKEE BUCCANEER with Russ Lawsen mattes and a curious multi-plane shot at left where the moving sky is completely out of focus!!

Everybody who's read my blogs knows how much I like the James Cagney musical YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and how I was blown away by the incredibly complex photographic effects work.  This is one of the rare static matte shots from the film, designed and supervised by montage director Don Siegel.

A painted sky and added air force squadron from an unknown Warner Bros WWII propaganda short film

Breathtaking panoramic matte by Albert Whitlock from Andrew V.McLaglen's THE WAY WEST (1967)

A very, very recycled Warner Brothers matte painting by Paul Detlefsen which has appeared in films such as ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and DON JUAN among others, with this frame from a Warner short subject - the name of which escapes me.

Oscar winning mattes from George Pal's WHEN WORLD'S COLLIDE (1951), as painted by longtime Paramount matte artist Jan Domela.  The shot at upper right required a considerable amount of rotoscoping to carry the numerous extras across Irmin Roberts' matte line and into Domela's painted sky.

WHEN WORLD'S COLLIDE:  I believe Chesley Bonestell painted this, though only as a rough test and not intended for inclusion, though the executives apparently liked it and decided it stay as final shot, much to everyone's chagrin.
MGM's 1944 wartime weepy, THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER.

Substantial Newcombe matte art and limited set from WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

The old 1945 British picture THE WICKED LADY featured some stunning skies and landscape mattes, possibly painted by Albert Julion.
I believe Percy Day painted these shots from William Wyler's WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)

It rarely gets much better than this... Albert Whitlock's mindblowingly complex matte and optical sequence from THE WIZ

Another of Whitlock's mattes from Sidney Lumet's THE WIZ (1978)
The sky after the storm... THE YEARLING (1946).  One dynamite Newcombe shot

One of the gloriously delicate pastel matte paintings executed in the MGM matte department under Warren Newcombe for THE YEARLING (1946).  *photo courtesy of Craig Barron

Early British Hitchcock - YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1937).  Effects artist unknown

A couple of nice Technicolor MGM mattes from the Stewart Granger period picture YOUNG BESS (1953).  Curiously, the matte on the right showed up years earlier - in black & white - in another MGM film, MRS PARKINGTON with a few changes such as the tower at right being absent (?)

The controversial John Frankenheimer gang picture THE YOUNG SAVAGES (1961) with uncredited matte art.

Disney's television series ZORRO had matte art by Albert Whitlock and Peter Ellenshaw, with this signature shot being a winner on every episode.  Not sure if it's real photography or matted in horseman?

Inspired by Hudson River classicist, Albert Bierstadt, Illusion Art's Syd Dutton painted this spectacular final shot for STAR TREK V (I think it was 5...or maybe 6?  Can't recall with any is 3 in the damned morning here...give me a break!)



  1. First! ;-)

    I've not read this new entry yet, but I would like to say thank you in advance for the second part of this wonderful thread.

    And now I pour myself a glass of Whisky and enjoy the magic and wonders of good old fashioned matte painting. Thank you, Peter!

  2. Wonderful as Always, Peter.
    Thanks for taking the time to write those enjoyable articles. Your Blog is a torchlight in this dark forest of digital effects.

  3. I'm so happy that you guys enjoyed it. It's an epic sized blog post for sure and I still have material that never made it in, such as more Ellenshaw mattes from things like THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN and others!
    Thanks again Domingo for your tireless expertise in those 'foreign' matte artists. I've learned so much from your research and can't wait to see your forthcoming book.


  4. Hi Pete -
    I'm a longtime (if generally silent), huge fan of your blog, and I suspect there are VERY many of us such followers. Keep up the fine, fine work, I look forward eagerly to each and every one.

    A question for you and/or any artists out there. I dabbled in pastel work many years ago, and have always been curious about Newcombe's insistence on the form for the Metro mattes. First, it's a dry medium, and I think it may generally be faster to execute a large matte. Second, I used to find it easier to get detailed leaves and such when you want it, but broad fuzzy cloudlike forms when you want just suggestive strokes. I'd be delighted to hear opinions from the pros.

    Thanks again.

  5. Hi there

    It's always been a head scratcher to me as well how Newcombe's boys made such fine, beautiful matte art with pastels. I'll ask a few pro's like Mark Sullivan and see what I can find. I once spoke with Shepperton's Gerald Larn about it and he couldn't explain that odd MGM modus operandi either.

    Thanks for your kind words on my blog - I'm always glad to get good feedback.


    1. I've just written to both Mark Sullivan and Harrison Ellenshaw on this, so let's see what they come up with.


    2. Well, here are the replies from both Mark Sullivan and Harrison Ellenshaw - both of whom seem to feel it wouldn't have been at all easy:


      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for asking me, but I don't think I can give you a good answer about the use of pastels in the Newcombe era, MGM matte department.

      Offhand, I would guess that the pastels might have been used with another media, like gouache, that might have been painted in to establish flat, broad tonal areas in the image, and the pastels where used on top of the dried paint, for finer details and certain blending effects. The pastels might have been handled very much like working with charcoal, using wadded tissue paper to soften and blend large areas, small paper "stumps" to blend and smudge smaller forms, and then an application of a workable fixative to seal completed portions. But, I'm only guessing, and I am basing my guess upon what you've mentioned you've noticed studying your original Newcombe piece. I had a set of both 1/4" pastel crayons, and pastel pencils during my art student days, but it would never have occurred to me try to use them with working on a matte painting. It seems like it would be very difficult for an artist to make many changes, without having to start over again.

      Will be interested to read some other's opinions on this.



      (Mark Sullivan)


      Harrison Ellenshaw

      12:47 PM (22 hours ago)

      to me
      I have also wondered about the pastel use. I must have seen one of those mattes for real at some point, but I can't remember right now. My guess is (and it's just a guess) that since there are many different types and brands of pastel that it may be a bit of an oversimplification. Usually people use pastels to get a rough "artsy" look, but some pastels can be dipped in water and achieve a fine line. And I think you are absolutely right that there is a combination of gouache, pastels and pen and ink. I've done mattes where I used oil paint and acrylic and even magic marker on one painting --- anything that i could make work I would use. I'd love to se that Newcombe matte of yours. Maybe one day.


    3. Well, Pete, seems like my guesses for "why Newcombe + pastels" didn't hit the mark with the experts. No surprise, I suppose. I expected that, given the large number of MGM movies per year and the smallish number of artists for the mattes, that speed and a dry board might be a criterion - but maybe not. I especially appreciate Harrison's remark about "whatever works" - applies across so many disciplines...

      Nevertheless, your inclusion of a number of wonderful Metro mattes in this and other blogs shows a stylistic difference to my eye with the pastels, and I seem to see more detail where I want to, and the rest of the image just suggestive, so I'll stick to that theory until "artfully" disputed! Thanks for getting input from two outstanding experts in the field.

    4. Yes... It's really whatever works. It was common practice at Fox and Warners back in the day to paint over photographic enlargements, and in the later days at MGM Lee LeBlanc would instigate similar methods. I think the pastels era ended some consideral time prior to Newcombe leaving in the late 50's. It's all so fascinating, and as Mark said, it must have been hard to make changes or corrections over pastel.


  6. Do you or anyone know if the Russian films are available on dvd/blu ray ?
    Where did those images come from ? Thanks.

    1. Hi Steve

      Well, most of those shots came from Domingo Lizcano in Spain, so he must have a connection there. Those mattes are really nice and I'm constantly delighted to see more of them. I'll ask him where he got them from.


    2. Hi Steve and Peter.

      Yes, some of those Russian films are on DVD. You can find at The pictures I sent to peter were from The tale of Tsar Saltan witch is available at that link.
      There must by some other places where to find those films, I advice a Google search.

      Some other films are not on DVD, but you can find them at you tube. Obviously at low quality. I recommend to look for Sadko (1953) or Ulya muromets (the sword and the dragon, 1956) There are also lots of sci-fi Russian films.


  7. Great blog! Just found it.

    The Spartacus painting at the top can be viewed at the Kubrick exhibit at LACMA in Los Angeles. It is wonderful to view in person.

    1. Hi Rick

      Thanks for that, it's always appreciated. Gee, I'd love to see Peter's matte in the flesh, but I'll just have to make do with the numerous close up photos I have of it. A masterpiece for sure.


    2. It's always nice to see matte paintings in person. Before I entered the industry, I got to see some mattes from Ghostbusters and some Hitchcock films up close and it blew my mind. I've been a matte painting fanatic ever since. This blog is truly a gem. Thanks for creating it.

  8. Whitlock's period matte in MAME (the bottom one) and the PRISONER OF ZENDA ones were gorgeous. Looking forward to the next one!


  9. I couldn't agree more on those Whitlock mattes. I saw a number of his before and afters in 35mm 25 years ago and never forgot them. So much magnificent artwork, so superbly assembled in magical 'realistic' final comps. Breathtaking to say the least.


  10. "An unknown matte from possibly RKO or Universal. Anyone out there recognise this shot?"

    "Glorious Betsy" (Warner Brothers, 1928), with Dolores Costello and Conrad Nagel.


    1. Hi Clark

      Many thanks for identifying that mystery matte shot. I'll amend my archival collection. Incidentally I'll be doing a blog sometime soon on nothing but unidentified mystery mattes, so stay may just be the man with the answers.



    2. Peter,

      Unlikely. The only reason I recognized this one is because I just recently watched a DVD-R of "Glorious Betsy." I stumbled upon your blog earlier today and have had an enjoyable few hours reviewing your posts. I look forward to future entries.


  11. Spectacular shots, especially The Ten Commandments. And some I was astonished by their subtlety, like Distinguished Gentleman. Great page