|The cumbersome Technicolor blimped camera|
In this, the second part in my series examining a number of motion pictures overlooked and in many cases largely unknown to today's generation of multi-plex weened film audiences, we will be taking a look at the special photographic effects work from one of the biggest films of 1943, Sam Wood's FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. While the film itself is well known - based upon the immensely popular story of partisan fighters in the Spanish Civil War by Ernest Hemingway - and was a huge hit with audiences at the time, the technical aspects of the movie probably slipped by most fans of the film. The three million dollar epic was headlined by two of Hollywood's greats, Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman - both favourite actors of mine though I feel quite miscast in this instance.
Personally speaking, although I've never really read any of Hemingway's prose aside from something back in high school in the mid 70's, pretty much every motion picture adaptation of a Hemingway story has left me cold. I simply don't get the guy. As popular as he was - and still is no doubt - that Hemingway headspace, mindset and especially his use of the English language (at least in the many movies I've seen over the years based upon his writings) in getting his narrative across remains completely lost on me ... period. Generally, films based upon Hemingway's works are, for me, interminable and very much an acquired taste.
Gordon's older brother Devereaux Jennings had also joined the Paramount effects department in 1933 as VFX cinematographer and would work alongside his brother on many films for the next 19 years, shooting miniatures mostly.
|FX cameraman Irmin Roberts, upper middle.|
|Matte artist Jan Domela on the backlot.|
Matte painter Jan Domela (the 'Jan' is pronounced 'yawn') hailed originally from Holland and like long time associate Irmin Roberts would have a very long career in matte work, having joined Paramount around 1927 and remaining with the studio through to the early 1960's when they closed down their special effects department. Domela painted mattes for literally hundreds of films and tv shows, principally for Paramount, though later assignments in the 1960's would see Jan freelanced at MGM, 20th Century Fox, Columbia and Film Effects of Hollywood on a wide variety of projects from epics such as THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY through to smaller things like THE MAN FROM UNCLE television series.
Jan gradually got into the movie business after meeting fellow Hollander Hans Ledeboer while painting at the Panama Pacific Expo of 1915 in San Francisco. Ledeboer would go on to become a movie scenic artist and matte painter at several studios such as Paramount and later Selznick International.
|Jan Domela in his studio at Paramount, probably from the late 1930's.|
|Matte painter Jan Domela (left) with longtime associate effects cinematographer Irmin Roberts (right) on the Paramount lot with a scene requiring matte work being masked off.|
|Miniatures supervisor Ivyl Burks|
|Farciot Edouart wins 1941 Oscar|
The studio's process department was run by Farciot Edouart who was at one point actually in charge of the entire special effects department. Early in his career Edouart dabbled in glass shots as well as early variations upon rear screen projection. Farciot made numerous developments to the science of process projection including multi-strip projection rigs with dual or even triple screens to good effect, at least when used in black & white pictures such as I WANTED WINGS which saw Edouart receive the visual effects Oscar (shown at left receiving 1941 VFX Oscar from Darryl F. Zanuck) for his highly creative application of process and gimballed, highly mobile fighter planes that swoop and dive with very realistic results. Really impressive stuff even now. Edouart knocked out some great process shots in his time, with probably the last being seen in SHIP OF FOOLS. Unfortunately, process projection of the 30's through to the 50's was more often than not a dismal failure when it came to colour, with washed out plates, inexcusable hot-spots and colour mismatch - though this wasn't a problem unique to Farciot's unit at Paramount and was a common liability across the industry. Travelling mattes may have had fringe or bleed through issues at times but at least the elements were crisp and controlled when compared with bad back projected process .
Edouart was yet another long-stay career employee of Paramount and only 'retired' when the studio chiefs actually 'found' him. The story goes that Farciot would deliberately go out of his way to make himself scarce, if not invisible whenever the cost cutting hatchet men were on the prowl and apparently he would literally hide from them, to their continued frustration in an effort to stay on the payroll! Out of sight, out of mind I guess?
Edouart apparently had a flair for rubbing people the wrong way. Irmin Roberts' family told me that Edouart was an arrogant man who always wanted to take the credit for everything. The esteemed miniature trick shot wizards, brothers Howard and Theodore Lydecker had a notorious run in with Farciot at a screening of effects reels for Academy consideration in the 1940's where the Lydeckers' ran their superb shots from the John Wayne war picture FLYING TIGERS, whereby Edouart, who was on the voting committee, vocally dismissed their work outright as unworthy and a waste of his time!
|A good view of the juggernaut that was Technicolor 3-strip.|
Just before we take a look at FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, I would like to include this marvellous photograph (below) that was recently sent to me by the family of Irmin Roberts detailing the shooting of an elaborate in camera special effects scene utilising a large hanging miniature and partial painting from the Paramount film FRENCHMAN'S CREEK made in 1944. It beautifully sums up the sort of specialty work carried out at the time, applied in various forms in many movies of the Golden Era, a time honoured cinematic trick that I think was also utilised in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS.
Special Photographic Effects: Gordon Jennings
Special Effects Cinematographer: Irmin Roberts
Matte Artist: Jan Domela
Miniatures: Ivyl Burks
Mechanical Effects: Walter Hoffman
Process Photography: Farciot Edouart
|Vintage era trailer, the like of which we'll never see in this modern era.|
|Director Sam Wood will always get my vote for directing two of the funniest movies ever made - The Marx Brothers A NIGHT AT THE OPERA and A DAY AT THE RACES ... absolute side splitting masterpieces that never age!|
|It's good to see the actual effects guys getting a name credit as well as the head of department for a change.|
|The urban landscape of the Spanish Civil War of the mid 1930's courtesy of a Jan Domela matte shot where everything on the right side of the post is artwork.|
|I think this shot is pretty good, and I wonder if it might be a Domela glass shot made on location?|
|Split screen with location rapids, probably in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with the buildings, logs and roadway all painted in at left.|
|Two of many top up mattes where additional mountains, night sky and rocky outcrops have been painted in.|
|This one too has me baffled... possibly miniature with painted extensions (lower left foreground rocks and background scenery?). I'm not sure, but my money's on a combination trick shot tied together in camera through clever design.|
|Two more quick matte shots that extend the location by adding in high peaks and snow covered trees.|
|The great Gary Cooper (Super-Duper I hear you utter?) with matte painted mountains and detail added. Much of the film takes place at night, hence the dark frames, some of which I've lightened up slightly to see them.|
|Partisans are partial to parties, but not many people know that.|
|A second wider cut from the shoot out sequence with most of the scene a Domela painting.|
|Very subtle matte extensions here that nobody notices with the upper rock face, sky and tree painted in just above the performers heads.|
|Left upper corner of shot is a Domela matte.|
|Skullduggery by moonlight.|
|Interesting multiple element effects shot. A Domela painting matted with live action horse etc is then used as a process plate for a Farciot Edouart projection shot with a tilt down and follow focus onto a sleeping Bergman.|
|An effects shot yes, but I'm not sure how it was made. Possibly miniature set matted into live action crowd?|
|Half matte art, half location plate as 'Coop' sets off down the path.|
|Left, location with matted in vista. Right, a split screen shot with planes firing upon soldier in trench both as separate elements flawlessly combined.|
|Not sure here. Certainly a painted vista behind Cooper, though maybe a scenic backing or a process plate of a Domela painting due to shallow depth of field.|
|Day for night live action matted against Domela's evening valley and mountains.|
|One of a number of interesting shots in the extended sequence where the Spanish Infantry rolls on toward the bridge. Live action here with matted in cliff face artwork.|
|The extent of the armed convoy is fully revealed in this complex effects shot. Live action upper foreground, matte painted terrain and miniature convoys doubled in down in the valley.|
|Another multi part composite with live foreground, painted mountain terrain and miniature convoys in the distance.|
|An extensive Jan Domela matte shot with live action dirt road and top side of the bridge.|
|Half actual setting, half matte art.|
|A wide shot of the fast approaching convoy. Virtually all a Jan Domela matte painting with only a very small slice of live action traffic doubled in.|
|One of those blink and you'll miss it trick shots... full scale action has been made all the more daring with matted in collapsed road in the foreground, probably a miniature or 2nd unit plate that has been carefully blended in.|
|Another flawed process shot that could have been achieved better using other approaches. A large miniature set in ruins has been rear projected by Farciot Edouart behind foreground action.|