Sunday, 16 September 2018

CATHEDRALS OF MATTE ARTISTRY


Hello there friends.  It's been a little too long since I inflicted another vast and all encompassing blog post upon your unsuspecting selves.  As previously mentioned, I'm always scratching my head as to just how I can exhibit more of the thousands of great mattes that I have in my archive in order that they be seen, enjoyed and discussed in some form of coherent fashion.

I came upon the brainwave just last week of doing a special article on matte painted cathedrals - and what better utilisation of the matte artists' skills could there possibly be?  In past years of touring historic towns and cities in Europe, the magnificence and grandeur of the iconic cathedral has always been a sure drawcard for me and a great many photographs have been taken over the years of said structures, with the most recent being in Bruges, Belgium; Barcelona, Spain and Venice, Italy around 5 years ago.  Unforgettable!


I've gone through pretty much all of my folders of matte shots and have selected some wonderful frames that should please fans of both matte artistry and Medieval architecture alike. In addition to a truckload of the aforementioned grandiose places of worship, I've thrown in a few standard churches, Spanish missions and even a couple of precariously positioned clifftop convents just to round things out (I just love those 'hanging on the edge of the abyss' convents or monasteries, despite the daffy civil engineering that surely never got the right permits and building consent to begin with!).  I wouldn't want you to accuse NZPete of not being 'complete'.



I have some wonderful matte shots here today from a broad spectrum of motion pictures from vast Biblical type narratives through to clunky horror pictures.  The films range from some great early shots dating back to the earliest days of silent cinema, right the way up to the last days of the traditional 'hand painted' era.  Some of these you've probably seen before but many others are fresh and haven't been published until now.  Some are from totally forgotten films and others from most memorable titles.



So, with that all out of the way, let us take our fully guided 'Cook's Tour' of some magnificent sights in some enticing locales, and all without ever having to leave your armchair - though preferably on a decent screen sized device and not a damned i-phone type 'toy' ..... please!

Enjoy the trip...


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Before getting their first actual movie assignment, budding effects men Ken Marschall and associate Bruce Block put together a sample reel on 35mm in 1981 with a variety of challenging matte painted examples to show to prospective clients.  For one of these trick shots, matte cinematographer Bruce Block photographed this actual church near the USC campus in California with the notion of transforming it into an exotic structure somewhere in Seville Spain.

The church plate matted for subsequent re-exposure with Ken's painting to complete a spectacular vista.

The finished composite with Ken Marschall's exquisite painting perfectly married with Bruce Block's USC plate, and as with the majority of their work to follow, all done on original negative.  Ken was extremely generous when I interviewed him a couple of years ago for this very site, and was forthcoming with practically every single effects shot they ever did, including almost all of the original paintings, though sadly this painting appears to be lost.  My extensive three part article can be read here, here and here.  (*Apologies for serious formatting issues experienced on some aspects of those posts - Outside my control)

I've often written here about Norman O. Dawn, the pioneer of matte and trick photography.  Dawn pretty much invented the techniques that would go on and see common every day use by motion picture artists over the next eighty or so years.  This rare frame is from the 1917 Universal production THE BEAST OF BERLIN.

One of the several hundred production cards by Norman Dawn which extensively detail each and every effects shot he made over several decades.  Astonishingly, Norman had the foresight to document every finite aspect of his long and celebrated career, and it is with great good fortune that most of these cards survive, having been bequeathed firstly to Professor Raymond Fielding and thence forth on to the Harry Ransom Centre of the University of Austin Texas, where the collection has been properly curated and digitised.  Researcher's like myself simply can't get enough of this vintage material.
Norman Dawn's in camera matte shot made on the Universal backlot for THE BEAST OF BERLIN (1917) as outlined in the card above.

No, not really a cathedral but I did say there might be some other similar structures.  The iconic shot from Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958) serves a major plot device in what many acclaim as Hitch's best film (I prefer SABOTEUR myself).  John P. Fulton was Paramount's effects chief here, with matte painter Jan Domela and matte cameraman Irmin Roberts creating this and several other shots to superb effect.
The dizzying downview from VERTIGO as painted by Jan Domela (pronounced 'Yarn Domela' BTW), which has far more painted in than you might suspect if you refer to the art director's drawing below.  Domela found working with Fulton to be so stressful due to John's personality and complete lack of 'interpersonal empathy' that great arguments would break out over 'artistic differences' so often that studio optical effects expert, Paul Lerpae was intermediary, and Domela would relocate his matte painting studio way, way off in the back room attached to some soundstage so as to go about his work undisturbed by Fulton

The art director's design for the above matte shot.  Incidentally, matte cinematographer Irmin Roberts actually devised that famous 'reverse zoom/trombone' shot that is used as James Stewart looks down the stairwell and everything distorts to chilling effect - a technique that many directors would subsequently utilise over the years, with the best use being by Spielberg on JAWS in 1975 in a particularly gob-smackingly powerful scene.

Whereas Norman Dawn was the American pioneer of the matte shot, it's more than likely that Walter Percy Day was the pioneer of the method on the other side of the Atlantic for application in British and French cinema dating back to the start of the 1920's.  This shot however is from a much later film, David Lean's THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) and is a superb Technicolor matte of the era.
An early yet very competent glass shot (or hanging miniature) from Erich von Stroheim's THE MERRY WIDOW (1925)



A faded frame of a Jack Cosgrove matte from the original A STAR IS BORN (1937) made by David O. Selznick.

Les Bowie rendered this eerie church and graveyard as a full painting for Hammer's TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1969).  Initially it was supposed to be a glass shot made on a location somewhere but inclement weather saw the director scrap the shot and Bowie was tasked with painting the whole scene as a complete painting back at his studio.

The Laurence Olivier-Marilyn Monroe opus THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957) wasn't too bad (though I bet Monroe's notorious disregard for call sheets and schedules and the like must have driven Larry insane).  Lots of mattes from Rank's effects department which was run by Bill Warrington.  Cliff Culley was chief matte painter with others probably assisting such as Bob Bell and maybe John Stears.  Aside from the mattes, this film is notable for including one of the silliest rear projection sequences EVER committed to celluloid (by Charles Staffell no less!) where plate photography of a Royal procession going along The Mall is projected at Olivier's window as he looks out, yet to our bewilderment, the process plate has been shot with a slow pan across the action, suggesting our leading man (and director) Olivier is in some sort of moving building such is the very weird on screen view(!)  I don't know how that one ever got past the editor's scissors.  It's got to be seen to be believed folks!

I love 1950's sci-fi flicks, and THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT - aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN (1956) was a great diversion, filled with matte shots and wild effects.  Les Bowie was in charge of it all, with up and coming fx names such as Roy Field, Ray Caple, Kit West and possibly Derek Meddings as well all lending a hand.

Among the numerous matte shots in QUATERMASS are a whole lot in and around Westminster Abbey where the barest of minimal sets were substantially augmented by matte paintings by Les Bowie, with help from budding artist Ray Caple.  This is one such shot where practically everything has been matted in later and slips by without notice.

Another Bowie matte from QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT with some nice perspective draftsmanship for the interior, practically all of which is matte art.

Extensive matte art from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (1956) where just a tiny piece of set has been blended with a Bowie-Caple matte painting.

The Ronald Colman melodrama IF I WERE KING (1938) had a number of period mattes courtesy of Jan Domela.
An enlargement of Jan Domela's matte art.

Matte World supplied several mattes for Joe Dante's frenetic GREMLINS 2 - A NEW BATCH (1990), with this beautiful Brian Flora painting being particularly good.

Another matte from GREMLINS 2 which offers an extreme up view of the cathedral just as one of the nasty hybrid creatures swoops down onto the legendary, though unsuspecting Dick Miller.

An MGM pastel matte purportedly from A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935), though no scene like this occurs in the movie, so it may have been left on the cutting room floor.

Another matte reportedly as being from the above film, but again, no such scene appears in the movie.

A nice matte from L.B Abbott's department at 20th Century Fox from PIRATES OF TORTUGA (1961)

For Marty Feldman's hit and miss satire IN GOD WE TRU$T (1980), Albert Whitlock was given some interesting mattes to flesh out the story.  I believe Al's assistant Syd Dutton may have painted this shot.

MGM's  A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) was one of many variations on the timeless 'Scrooge' fable.  This shot may or may not be a matte (I suspect it could be), but the shot below is indeed.

Also from A CHRISTMAS CAROL is this cleverly integrated set extension that's hard to spot.  I love these subtle old time trick shots.

An invisible hanging miniature lends much grandeur to this shot from the Spanish film COTOLAY (1966).  Noted Spanish effects artist Julian Martin was renowned for these sorts of foreground gags.

Okay, so it's not a cathedral but it is a church within a mission station in China after World War II from the excellent CinemaScope Humphrey Bogart picture THE LEFT HAND OF GOD (1955).  Aside from the foreground farm workers, all else has been painted in by Ray Kellogg's matte team at Fox.

For the Korda version of ANNA KARENINA (1948), Percy Day matted in a painted cathedral for a key sequence.  Interestingly, the film has - or had - many great mattes in it, but for inexplicable reasons, a recent remastered release has most of the Poppa Day mattes omitted (!!!)  Whereas glorious painted mattes were integrated as establishing shots for exteriors of palaces and vast ornate interiors in the original version (and early DVD editions), the "new" edition seems to brashly cut from one setting to the next without any visual lead in at all.  Somebody somewhere is in urgent need for a chainsaw enema folks!

A Jan Domela matte from Paramount's SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948).  Domela specialised in ornate church and cathedral interiors and painted so many, dating back as far as 1926 and worked solidly through to 1966 ... that's a hell of a long stretch by anyone's estimation.
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I've always liked the 'last man on earth' genre and this MGM entry wasn't too shabby.  THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1959) had a great title without question, though the movie didn't quite live up to expectations.  Quite a lot of matte shots are scattered throughout depicting a soulless and empty New York city.  Lee LeBlanc was head of matte painting at that time with Matthew Yuricich handling much of the brushwork.  From the 1950's on, MGM were strong advocates, in many instances, of painting their mattes directly atop large photographic enlargements rather than doing the whole shot from scratch purely with paint.

Another shot from the same film with a perfectly blended cathedral interior, as painted by Matthew Yuricich, matted onto a minimal sound stage set at MGM.

A pair of painted shots from TORTILLA FLAT (1942) which had some nice work courtesy of Warren Newcombe's unit.
The made for tv movie HARPER VALLEY PTA, made in the early eighties, had a subtle painted in church added to the neighbourhood as well as some landscape alterations.  Dan Curry was matte painter for David Stipes Productions effects house.

The taut Fred Zinnemann WWII thriller, THE SEVENTH CROSS (1944) had some stylish Newcombe mattes.

One of the magnificent pastel mattes created by one of the many artists under Warren Newcombe for THE SEVENTH CROSS. These sorts of prime artwork really get NZPete jazzed up and they are what this blog is all about.  MGM artists at the time included Howard Fisher, Henri Hillinck, Oscar Medlock, Otto Khiele, Norman Dawn and others.

The 20th Century Fox period musical NOB HILL (1945) displayed a good number of vividly saturated Technicolor mattes from Fred Sersen's effects department.  This shot, like so many Sersen shots had an air of credibility about it by way of gently waving tree branch and leaves superimposed over the matte art.
Peter Ellenshaw was a master, no question about it.  Peter manufactured so many great shots for Disney over his tenure, with many done as a cost saving measure for the studio such as this almost full painting of the chapel inside The Alamo for DAVY CROCKETT - KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1955).  Only the soldiers are real with all else pure Ellenshaw.

Spectacular Sersen matte magic for Fox's HOLY MATRIMONY (1943).
Two glass shots showing the progression of what I imagine must be the construction of that mighty Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona Spain for the movie GAUDI.  Juan Alberto Solar was effects artist.

A classic shot from a classic film - Powell & Pressburger's BLACK NARCISSUS (1947).  As evident at left this is one of the many Percy Day mattes, or 'process shots' as he preferred to term his craft.  At the time Day had some assistant matte artists such as Judy Jordan as well as Les Bowie and Ivor Beddoes, all of whom possibly helped out on this film.

Albert Whitlock's view of Notre Dame during the French Revolution for Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART ONE (1981)
So many of the old time movie stars just had so much screen presence and charisma that is lacking these days sadly.  The great and under rated Errol Flynn was one such performer and as with so many of his generation, his pictures still enthrall me today.  This shot is from Warner Bros' GENTLEMAN JIM (1942), directed by the equally great Raoul Walsh - the helmsman of many a fine movie.  This matte appears to be a full painting of Salt Lake City with a whacking great - presumably non Mormon - cathedral in plain view.  A smoke element has been added too.  Effects probably overseen by Byron Haskin with Ed DuPar as longtime Warners FX cameraman and artists such as Chesley Bonestell or Paul Detlefsen in the busy matte department.


The epic scaled recreation of Michelangelo's calling to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY (1965) was a big matte show for 20th Century Fox.  So big in fact that they were forced to bring in additional help for the many matte shots.  Semi-retired Jan Domela was freelancing around various studios at the time as Paramount's effects department had been shut down to save bucks for the ailing studio.  Domela came to Fox and worked under Emil Kosa jr in painting these mattes which show the various stages of construction under way.

Another of Jan Domela's matte painted shots.

A rare photo of an unfinished test of one of Domela's mattes for THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY (1965).
A blink and you'd miss it painted church set extension from the classy period romantic MGM production THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1934).


Long before Warren Newcombe took over the reigns as head of the MGM matte department he was a New York based title and matte artist with associate Neil McGuire with D.W Griffith's AMERICA (1924) being one prestige pictureAccording to Matthew Yuricich, it was McGuire who did most of the painting during their association and Newcombe would eventually bring Neil out to Hollywood, presumably to MGM way back in the early days.

Though not as bad as the critics would have you believe, William Peter Blatty's EXORCIST III (1990) was a mixed bag that as a straight out cop thriller was really intense, with some spine tingling shock scenes and an always watchable George C. Scott.  As an entry into the EXORCIST series though it kind of missed the mark, with said sequences appearing 'tacked on' at the last minute.  Anyway, Robert Scifo provided this beautiful matte shot.

David Lean's timeless classic OLIVER TWIST (1948) still stands the test of time.  Quite a number of mattes and miniatures were employed by the Rank trick shot department to flesh out Charles Dickens' story.  Joan Suttie was head of the matte department I believe, and according to matte painter Leigh Took this shot was painted by Les Bowie.  Rank-Pinewood recorded all of their effects shots like this on special indexed cards and their were file cabinets filled with them until Cliff Culley (who also worked on this film) had a big clear out one day in the late 1970's, though fortunately, Cliff's then apprentice, Leigh Took managed to grab a box full of them and whipped them on home for safe keeping.

Les Bowie's wonderful full painting, with an additional painted glass depicting the rays of sunlight.

A most intriguing matte here courtesy of Ken Marschall, though Ken just can't recall what it was painted for other than it wasn't a feature and was probably a tv commercial or promotional short for a Funeral Company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Ken couldn't locate any frames of the final composite.

Out of interest, here is Ken's original layout drawing with notes as to what they wanted.

A stunning matte by Russian born artist Pierre Schildneck for the Spanish movie INES CASTRO (1944).  Schildneck had a long and interesting career and worked early on with British maestro Walter Percy Day among others.  He ultimately changed his name to a more accessible 'Pedro Schild' once he became firmly established in the Spanish film industry.

A wonderful Technicolor matte from the Columbia picture A SONG TO REMEMBER (1945).

There were many mattes in the MGM Cold War melodrama THE RED DANUBE (1950), with this being but one.


Marlene Dietrich starred in David Selznick's THE GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936) which was one of the earliest forays into fully fledged 3-Strip Technicolor matte photography.  Jack Cosgrove was Selznick's head of effects and did most of his painting, while cinematographer Clarence Slifer was tasked with somehow shooting plates as held takes and later on Jack's mattes and then bringing it all together on, as I understand it, original negative (or three individual negatives per shot as was the case).  They mastered it and the methodology served them well as later the gargantuan GONE WITH THE WIND would necessitate the biggest matte load yet seen in motion pictures, and all 3-Strip Technicolor held takes on original negative!

Another of the many GARDEN OF ALLAH Cosgrove shots, with the set painted as well as the rays of light.

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH matte by Jack Cosgrove.  Jack was probably helped by Albert Maxwell Simpson and Byron Crabbe, both of whom he'd worked with on other Selznick shows.

An interesting shot from RKO's Bing Crosby popular tear jerker, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (1945).  Note the many unwanted 'artifacts' in the matte art which seem to be specks of dust in the paint or 'sparkles' from ridges of paint or varnish that have caught the light during composite photography.  This was nothing uncommon for RKO and I've seen this sort of error in many of that studio's matte shots, even in CITIZEN KANE of all shows.  There is some rumour that as this film was made during the notorious (and violent) production union strike of the time that mattes were painted elsewhere in secrecy and smuggled onto the RKO lot.  The story goes that the great Willis O'Brien himself painted mattes for this film anonymously of course, and somehow got them through the picket lines and into the studio.  I believe a similar thing happened in the late 50's with Matt Yuricich when he was temporarily employed at Columbia Pictures.
Closer in on the same matte.

Father Bing Crosby ... Man of the cloth at large suspects that the statue may be another Oscar?  I think the prequel the year before resulted in the Oscar Bing. What!! .. no second Oscar ... it must be another Vatican cover up.

Matte painting from THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (1945)

A pair of Jack Cosgrove shots from Selznick's LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY (1936)


A very dark and brooding Scottish film, ORPHANS (1998) featuring the always first rate Gary Lewis and the incredible and multi-talented Peter Mullan, who also wrote and directed, must be the most recent of any film in my blog to contain traditional matte work.  Cliff Culley painted in a recently destroyed rooftop and interior to this Glasgow cathedral. Noteworthy too as the Hall of Fame entry as the film with the most foul language to contain matte paintings ever to feature in NZPete's blogs.  You fucken' well heard it here first, you twat !

Ornate matte painted interior cathedral shot from THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952) with artwork by one of Warren Newcombe's painters at MGM.

An old time in camera glass shot from the silent version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, made back in 1922.

This elaborate effect comprised of a hanging miniature by French effects artist Nicholas Wilke for the film LES HUSSARDS (1951)

Spanish trick shot maestro Emilio Ruiz del Rio is one of my absolute all time faves when it comes to amazing yet utterly straightforward movie magic.  The fact that Emilio provided effects gags on close to 400 films speaks for itself!  These shots and those that follow, were done, as I understand it, as a demonstration for a special full length documentary on the career of Emilio that played in European cinemas several years ago.  I have a copy and it is sensational.  Here, Ruiz is rendering Paris' famed Notre Dame Cathedral on either metal or board for a foreground trick shot.  Note Emilio's handling of light and shadow, which he was a master of in creating invisible shots in so many films.

Emilio Ruiz applies the finishing touches.  Among the hundreds of films he's painted on are Ray Harryhausen's GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and CUSTER OF THE WEST, along with special miniature foregrounds for things like David Lynch's DUNE and tons more.
Emilio and his helpers set up the foreground matte art on a rooftop (probably in Madrid) and also a miniature Eiffel Tower just to sell the shot.


The maestro, as I like to call him, is pictured here alongside noted Italian film director Enzo Castellari, with whom Ruiz has collaborated on many films.

A good solid little thriller from the UK, TOWN ON TRIAL (1956) featured a dramatic climax where a murderer climbs atop a church steeple and local detective played by John Mills, attempts to talk him down.  Les Bowie (credited as Leslie Bowie) painted the church facade while long time associate Vic Margutti handled effects photography and compositing for the various POV's.  I cringe while watching  a n y t h i n g  atop high places or teetering on the edge of buildings. Gasp!

One of my all time fave movies, John Landis' THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) had this dazzling effects shot by Albert Whitlock and Bill Taylor where the clouds part and the sun blasts it's 'heavenly' rays down onto the little church in suburban Chicago.  I'm not sure just how much of this shot is painted - certainly the sky with Al's classic moving clouds gag.  The rays of sunlight creeping along the side of the church and trees would be painted cel overlay animation for sure - another tried and true Whitlock trick that he used in so many movies.

Hammer's HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971) had it's climax inside London's St Paul's Cathedral, which Pinewood effects artist Cliff Culley made possible with a painted dome and other augmentations.  I read somewhere that some shots such as that at upper right, were front projection composites, and if we examine that frame we can see a very well disguised demarcation directly behind the women (and at a point in the hand railing) which suggests a very well orchestrated process plate line up with a foreground stage set.

I'll throw in a couple of wildcards here.  So it's not a traditional cathedral but it might be the ancient Norse variation on one? Disney's ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974) was crammed with matte effects by Alan Maley, Peter Ellenshaw, Harrison Ellenshaw, Deno Ganakes and even one by Matthew Yuricich too!

Great matte from the same film.  It doesn't belong here I hear you say??  Sadly the complaints department is temporarily closed.  There are always other traditional matte shot tribute sites ... or are there?

It's been years since I saw SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943) and I can't recall if this is a convent or a church of some sort.  Whatever, it's a nice Sersen matte from an award winning film.

The famous 'dance up the walls' Fred Astaire hit film, ROYAL WEDDING (1951) ended on this broad painted vista of London as a massive pullback shot.  Oddly, for a Newcombe shot, the perspective layout seems way off the mark to me, which is surprising seeing as MGM's matte artists were undisputed masters of careful, precise architecture and perspective due to the fact of many of the artists came from a technical illustrator background.  Odd.
The end of the pull back shot.

Disney's SUMMER MAGIC (1964) was loaded with delightful mattes by the supremely talented Peter Ellenshaw.  Here are two different mattes of the same setting as shown in various sequences, with almost all of the shots being brushwork.

Not the usual fare for Columbia Pictures as this sort of thing was mostly the domain of Universal, the atmospheric Boris Karloff chiller THE BLACK ROOM (1935) had this painted in set extension that worked well.

One of those impossible to detect fix up mattes that unless you'd seen the before and after frames would never know about.  The film is THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953) and I think Les Bowie may have painted the mattes for this?

Frank Capra directed so many wonderful films throughout his esteemed career.  THE MIRACLE WOMAN (1932) not only had this matte shot but also featured a very well done firestorm climax with the leading lady amid the conflagration by way of Williams Process travelling mattes and optical printing.

A before and after of one of Jan Domela's mattes from Cecil B. DeMille's THE CRUSADES (1935).
Another Jan Domela matte painting from THE CRUSADES.


Despite some horrendous overacting and frenetic direction at times, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1961) eventually becomes fairly entertaining and works it's way up to a good climax.  A massive MGM production with several matte shots such as this (as well as some excellent Gillespie miniature mayhem which I forgot to include in the last blog!).  Lee LeBlanc was in charge of mattes, with Matthew Yuricich painting certain shots.  Matte art was used for a number of scenes set in WWII Paris of marching German soldiers and the like, mostly shot on real locations I think but with trick work to remove modern buildings and unwanted views and no doubt, peering crowds of tourists I suspect, such as for the above tilt down shot, put together by Clarence Slifer.
Ingrid Thulin prays for better times in Lee LeBlanc's matte painted Notre Dame interior from FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.


Matte artist Jim Fetherolf started off as an actor and then wound up one way or the other in the 20th Century Fox matte department, starting there the exact same day as a young Matthew Yuricich in fact.  Jim was a superb artist and loved to paint extremely detailed mattes, with a particular penchant for architecture and marble surfaces, at which he excelled.  Jim moved to Disney in the mid fifties and, along with Albert Whitlock, worked under Peter Ellenshaw for several years.  Albert left after 5 years but Jim stayed on and contributed enormously to films such as MARY POPPINS (1964), as this magnificent painting pictured above will testify. Sadly, the enormous amount of work Fetherolf put into this matte was to little avail as the shot ended up being a blurry, dark montage of soft focus dissolves in the very moving 'Feed The Birds' sequence.

MARY POPPINS Feed The Birds set piece, with Jim Fetherolf's painting barely visible at upper right.

One of Peter Ellenshaw's unforgettable matte views of Edwardian London from MARY POPPINS (1964)

I'm a huge fan of wartime resistance films (and biographical accounts in book form), and NURSE EDITH CAVELL (1939) was a very well acted and directed true story that was also incredibly moving.  Not only a great film but also loaded with very high quality matte shots from RKO's fx department, and not a one with the often seen 'spotty artifacts' that seem evident in many of that studio's matte art.  Very good film.

A rare old matte here from Paramount's THE RETURN OF DR FU MAN CHU (1930).  Jan Domela painted in the top of the church and longtime associate Irmin Roberts composited the shot.

Here's a superb piece of matte art that only a select audience were ever privy to.  It's a very large Rocco Gioffre painting done for a specially commissioned film by and expressly for the Mormon Church titled LEGACY, which I believe was even shot in 70mm no less.

The original live action plate and the final composite of plate and painting.

A few years ago Rocco was selling off many of his old traditional mattes (and I was fortunate enough to purchase a couple, though not this one).  In an effort to make the matte art more desirable, perhaps to 'non-matte enthusiasts' (is there such a species?), Gioffre set about filling in the 'black matted space' with hand painted detail so as to complete the piece, and this was the result.

I like the old Universal horror pictures very much, and THE WOLFMAN (1941) is probably one of their best.  Russ Lawson was the key matte artist for the studio for his entire career pretty much, which extended from the early 1930's to 1961, whereby Albert Whitlock took over.  Russ occasionally had additional help in the matte department with one notable artist being future top Production Designer, John DeCuir.  John worked on a number of Universal films around this period and rendered some great mattes.  This may be one of them.

A nicely rendered full screen painting which starts in close and pulls back out to reveal the bombed out church and neighbourhood in post war London for the Alec Guinness picture THE HORSE'S MOUTH (1958).  I think it was a Shepperton production so that means Wally Veevers would have been in charge, with chief matte artist George Samuels.

A rare before and after from Michael Curtiz' THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

A crisply detailed BluRay grab shows the flawless painting and blending of art with backlot set.  Artists at the time included chief artist Paul Detlefsen as well as Mario Larrinaga, Jack Shaw and Hans Bartholowsky.


I never grow tired of looking at those exquisite old pastel Newcombe mattes from the Golden Era of Hollywood.  This one's from MGM's lavish THE FIREFLY (1937)

Another MGM production was ABOVE SUSPICION (1943) which was an entertaining affair. 

MGM once again (well, they probably contributed more matte shots than any other studio during the Golden years).  FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934).  I love mattes from any era but I think my personal favourite time was the late 30's to late 40's for a certain style and romanticism of the craft.

Rarely seen before and afters from Paramount's original version of THE VAGABOND KING (1930).  Matte artist was Jan Domela.
Also from THE VAGABOND KING (1930)

THE VAGABOND KING - Jan Domela matte shot.

Alan Maley got his start in Wally Veevers' matte department at Shepperton Studios and would also work with Cliff Culley at Pinewood before moving to the US and taking a job with Disney.  This is one of Alan's mattes from the excellent biopic BECKET (1964) - a tremendous film on every level.

One of Jan Domela's mattes painted for Erich von Stroheim's THE WEDDING MARCH (1928).  Matte photography was by Irmin Roberts who enjoyed a massive career with Paramount Pictures as vfx cinematographer and eventually a highly sought after 2nd unit cameraman on films such as SHANE, AIRPORT and SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION.

The Spanish film industry has fully utilised various trick shot techniques over several decades to good effect.  One of the father's of Spanish effects magic was Enrique Salva, who, with assistant Emilio Ruiz painted this and many more vintage mattes on a number of grand productions.  This shot is from LOCURA DE AMOR (1948).
A friend of mine in Madrid, Spain is just as passionate about matte magic and a few years ago published a book on the history of Spanish special effects (though sadly not in English).  This illustration is an extract which has been translated for ignorant English-only speakers such as NZPete.  I must admit that my knowledge of European based matte work is limited, and any semblance of 'authority' purely comes from my communications with Domingo Lizcano, researcher extraordinaire.

A miniature for a change, with this superb structure being from the God-awful Ron Howard film THE DA VINCI CODE (2006).  I believe the book was a verified page turner (I never read it), but the movie was one of the worst films I've seen in eons.

Leigh Took's company Matte and Miniatures were commissioned to build the miniature chapel for the dire DA VINCI CODE.

Miniature chapel ready for a take.

The vast JOAN OF ARC (1948), starring Ingrid Bergman and a cast of thousands, was a glossy production that benefitted from some great effects work.  John P. Fulton and Jack Cosgrove were co-credited with photographic effects, with Fulton handling the miniatures and opticals while Cosgrove looked after matte shots.  With so many mattes in the film Jack enlisted the help of Luis McManus to paint some of the cathedral mattes that the film begins with.

Beautiful matte art from JOAN OF ARC (1948)

Another Jack Cosgrove shot from JOAN OF ARC.
As mentioned earlier, artist Jan Domela almost made an entire career out of just painting cathedrals and church interiors for Paramount.  These are typically gorgeous shots from BROKEN LULLABY (1932).

The Betty Grable picture MOTHER WORE TIGHTS (1947), with a Sersen shot filling out a stage set.
Now here's an odd one, but a cathedral is a cathedral, whether it's on Earth or on a spaceship far, far away. This is a Harrison Ellenshaw matte from Disney's THE BLACK HOLE (1979).  Harrison's father, Peter, was Production Designer on the film.

Though not especially memorable, BALALAIKA (1939) at least had some first rate Newcombe matte shots set in revolutionary era Russia.

A violent and action packed western starring the legendary Robert Mitchum - what's not to like?  THE WRATH OF GOD (1972) managed to sneak in a few subtle mattes of Mexican towns and this hulking great big cathedral.  No effects credited but possibly Matthew Yuricich.
Two atmospheric mattes from SUNDOWN (1941), with photographic effects by veteran Ray O. Binger.

BBQ Witches (I'll take mine well done) are the central theme here of Paramount's THE MAID OF SALEM (1937).  As usual, long serving artist Jan Domela supplied the requisite matte shots.

Percy Day and protege Peter Ellenshaw worked together on the many mattes for the Oscar Wilde play AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1947)

Rocco Gioffre was one of the founders of top flight effects house Dream Quest in the early 1980's when he was asked to recreate 18th Century Paris for a popular DR PEPPER tv commercial.
This is one of Rocco's mattes which I am proud to say I own (buying a matte is one thing but you try shipping it via FedX to the far side of the world and it'll bleed your wallet dry ... especially as it's painted on a very large sheet of hardboard!)

Another of Rocco's mattes that was painted for the same DR PEPPER commercial.

I've never been able to identify the title for this mystery Jan Domela matte??

Another unknown matte, this time one of Percy Day's mattes from a (probably silent) French film.  Any clues?

Doug Ferris got his first fx job working for Wally Veevers on the Peter Sellers film HEAVEN'S ABOVE (1963).  Bob Cuff was principal matte artist.

One of many Russ Lawson mattes from TARAS BULBA (1962).  Interestingly, this is the only film Russ ever recieved screen credit for and it was his final show as far as I know.  Al Whitlock also contributed a few mattes to this film but not via Universal as he was sort of freelancing with Howard A. Anderson and Butler/Glouner at the time, so he must have painted (the canyon shots) for one of these companies, both of which worked on the film.

One of those trick shots we never notice, and this one from THE CROWD ROARS (1938) from MGM.

Close up of matte.

Paramount's GOING MY WAY (1944) won a whole slew of Oscars, including one for star Bing Crosby who repeated the role a year later with THE BELLS OF ST MARY'S.  Gordon Jennings was effects supervisor, with Jan Domela once again painting the mattes.

Partially painted upper interior from GOING MY WAY.

Now this is one of my favourite mattes, and it's from a terrific movie too - John Wayne's BACK TO BATAAN (1945).  Being an RKO show the matte artists could well have been Albert Maxwell Simpson, Fitch Fulton, Mario Larrinaga or Chesley Bonestell.

The original HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1924) looked spectacular through the use of hanging miniatures.  Phil Whitman was a specialist in this sort of trick shot at the time at Universal Studios and devised these and other shots.

Another of Phil Whitman's foreground hanging miniatures from the same 1924 film.

For the RKO version of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939), Vernon Walker's effects department were tasked with turning out a great many mattes, that for the most part, looked sensational.  This one unfortunately, suffered from being re-photographed as a rear projection element behind the actors, which washed out the process image horribly.

The original matte painting.  Artist unknown, but may have been Chesley Bonestell.
Although the production built enormous outdoor sets on the RKO ranch, the sets only stretched so far, so mattes were needed to extend upwards and outwards.

A magnificent painted interior from the same film.

A barely noticeable 'shimmer' just above Charles Laughton's head suggests this is a split screen with the upper part matted in.  Laughton, incidentally, was terrific in this role.

Stunning matte work from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939).  

The start of an immense pull out shot that begins close on Laughton's face and continues far out to reveal the full cathedral (see below).  Note, the shot shown here is all painted except for a rear projected plate of the actor behind a gargoyle.

The extensive pullback ends here with this painted vista.

Although there was another 1950's version, this time with Anthony Quinn, I wasn't able to detect any matte work at all in that one.  The shots shown here are from a much later 1980 made for tv version of the fable.  These shots were the work of Cliff Culley and Leigh Took at Pinewood Studios.

Among the mattes in Warner's SAN ANTONIO (1945) was this view of a devastated Spanish cathedral which was all painted just above the doors.

A nice opener matte shot but not much else in THE WALLS OF JERICHO (1948) from Fox.

Fred Sersen's staff painted these mattes for SEVENTH HEAVEN (1937).  I particularly like that sky.  Painters in the Fox matte room at that time included Emil Kosa jr, Menrad von Muldorfer, Joseph Serbaroli and Ray Kellogg.

The film CIRCLE OR IRON (1978) was so bizarre it was hard to figure out just what was going on, so whether this is a temple, a church or a monastary is anyone's guess - and I've seen the film!

Some spectacular 'glass work' (as it was termed back then) as seen in the silent LORNA DOONE (1922).


A great establishing glass shot from LORNA DOONE (1922).

Two shots by British matte legend, Walter Percy 'Poppa' Day from the Anthony Asquith film THE WINSLOW BOY (1948).

Another of those unknown MGM Newcombe mattes, all rendered with very fine tipped pastel crayon.  I have nothing but admiration for those artists who achieved such incredible results with what I would think would be a difficult medium.

An Emil Kosa jr matte from the tedious DR DOLITTLE (1967).  I'm still astounded this film stole the best effects Oscar from the far superior TOBRUK .... but don't get me started on Oscar injustices!

A barely noticeable full painting from MGM's family film LASSIE COME HOME (1943)

A mystery Paramount film, probably from the 1930's.  Matte by Jan Domela.

Another mystery Domela matte, presumably from the same film.

Yet another Jan Domela matte, almost certainly from the same unknown film.

MGM's super lavish production of ROMEO AND JULIET (1936) starts off with this aerial view of Verona and gradually pushes in to the main cathedral.

There are some lovely mattes in this film, which is a beautifully photographed and designed event in itself and pretty good as far as Shakespeare cinematic translations go.

The town square in ROMEO AND JULIET (1936)

A different angle seen later in the story.  MGM's matte blends were always so good and the joins often impossible to detect.  I put this down to the skills of chief vfx cinematographer Mark Davis who worked on probably thousands of shots in the Newcombe department.

David O. Selznick's massive hit GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) was the biggest effects showcase of it's time, and even though it never had anywhere near the number of mattes that various people claim it had (100 - I think not, less than half that actually, but what the hey), it was still a gargantuan project for all concerned.    Jack Cosgrove had his work cut out for him with the scores of mattes and other effects shots, and all on original negative and in the bulky and cumbersome 3-Strip Technicolor.  Cosgrove had several matte painters working with him, with Fitch Fulton being first artist, followed by Albert Maxwell Simpson and Jack Shaw as additional painters.  The film was nominated for it's matte work but lost out to Fox's THE RAIN'S CAME that year, which admittedly, deserved the Oscar hands down.
Albert Whitlock worked for several years as matte painter at Pinewood in the UK and TRIO (1950) was one of the films he painted mattes for, and received a screen credit!

What would appear to be a huge set or an actual location interior for Abel Gance's NAPOLEON (1927) was in truth a cleverly fabricated trick shot by Percy Day, who at the time was in great demand in the French film industry.
These behind the scenes photos demonstrate just how minimalist the set was, and the trick that Day had worked out to make it look so impressive.
A closer view of Percy Day's foreground glass painting of the columns, walls and beams of sunlight that will augment the tiny stage set.
Detail of the Day glass matte art which will be perfectly aligned with the set during photography.


Another sensational effects film was GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947) which I have discussed at length in previous blogs.  In relation to today's blog we have some great Newcombe mattes of the isolated Catholic convent perched high atop the cliff - a sort of sub genre I'm rather partial to.

The final comp of the above painting.  Norman Dawn was at MGM at the time and contributed 6 or 7 mattes to the film, and Howard Fisher also painted some.

Another moody matte from GREEN DOLPHIN STREET which won the Academy Award for it's visuals to both Warren Newcombe and A.Arnold Gillespie.

A dramatic view up the cliff face to the wind swept convent.  All painted.

There have been numerous incarnations of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, with this version made in 1937 being pretty good.  A Warner Bros film, the effects were overseen by Byron Haskin.

A later version of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER was made in 1962 by Disney and shot entirely in England.  The film is little known today as I think it was primarily a tv movie and known as THE PAUPER KING in some venues.  The effects were by Wally Veevers at Shepperton Studios and there were some really good mattes in the film.  Bob Cuff probably had a hand in the matte work and maybe George Samuels if he was still alive at that point.  Doug Ferris would have just started at the studio at that time so maybe he too was engaged.

A splendid matte from THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER - aka THE PAUPER KING (1962), with some wonderful perspective draftsmanship going on. 
Some of the PRINCE AND THE PAUPER mattes are shown here behind artists Doug Ferris and Gerald Larn.

Yet another incarnation of the same story appeared in 1977 and was, in some territories, titled CROSSED SWORDS.  It was a dashing affair and the story had certainly not outstayed it's welcome.  Oliver Reed and Mark Lester headlined the shot in Budapest production.  Again, Wally Veevers was in charge of all of the effects, which included complex and daring split screen 'twin' shots and rotoscope travelling mattes as well as the painted mattes.  

Also from the 1977 version is this tilt down shot.  The mattes were in fact large hand retouched photo blow ups that were shots on location as foreground gags.  Dennis Lowe was hired by Veevers to hand paint the numerous Westminster Abbey mattes atop the large format photo enlargements.  Doug Ferris also came on board to assist and rework some of Dennis' mattes when Wally was unsatisfied with some aspects of the work.  Ferris was also adept at optical work and worked with fx cameraman John Grant on some of the tricky 'twinning' shots where the two Mark Lester's cross paths and walk around each other ... great stuff!

Two Warner Bros mattes from the Gary Cooper film SARATOGA TRUNK (1945).

One of Percy Day's mattes from the French film AUTOUR DE LA FIN DU MONDE (1930)

Some wonderfully exotic Newcombe shots from the Barrymore triple headliner RASPUTIN AND THE EMPRESS (1932)

An early Paramount show, INTERFERENCE (1929), with Jan Domela's matte art.  Interestingly, this film was directed by Roy Pomeroy who was Paramounts head of special effects for a time, creating such sights as the parting of the Red Sea in the original TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923), and was also head of the sound department at Paramount for a while too.

Disney made several adventures in England and they were quite good.  THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953) was one and it proved to be a field day for Peter Ellenshaw's paintbrush, with some 50 odd painted mattes to tackle.  Here is a prime example of just how extensive Peter's matte art had to be when seen against the minimal, near non existent sets.

Another fabulous Ellenshaw matte which, for the actors, meant nothing more than a few 'flats' and a prop or two.  Peter's masterful painting skills created wonders.  A few of Peter's SWORD mattes still exist.

Gregory Peck was superb as a totally obsessive gambler in the MGM film THE GREAT SINNER (1949). 

This monumental matte from THE GREAT SINNER remains an absolute all time hall of fame matte for me.  Exquisite drawing and camerawork where we tilt up from Peck to the top of the cathedral with shafts of light blasting in.  It doesn't get much better than this my friends.  A masterpiece of the artform, hands down.


Walter Percy Day painted this interior set extension for the French picture MICHEL STROGOFF (1926)

It's been a while but I think these shots from GREEN MANSIONS (1959) were of a ruined church deep in the South American jungle if my memory serves.  A completely forgettable film.  Lee LeBlanc was matte artist.

A very popular family film featuring a young and drop dead stunning Elizabeth Taylor, NATIONAL VELVET (1944) had lots of mattes in it and is one I'd like to see on BluRay some day.  MGM's Warren Newcombe supervised the work.


Here we have another of those wonderful production cards as assembled by effects pioneer Norman Dawn and happily now in the care of the University of Austin, Texas.  This show is an old Universal silent THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS (1918) whereby Dawn worked out several trick shots and better yet took the time to record and file away the details.

Norman Dawn's matte painted cityscape and cathedral from Universal's THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS (1918).


Well folks, that ought to do it for today.  As Ringo Starr once said:  "I've got blisters on my fingers".

4 comments:

  1. Another treat! Many thanks for that!

    Did you forget Percy Day's wonderful recreation of the cathedral in A Canterbury Tale? The place had been prepared against air raids, so it was full of sandbags and windows had been boarded up or removed. The finale, as Dennis Price rocks the Toccata and Fugue on the organ, is magnificent. There are good copies on You Tube...

    The Agony and the Ecstasy is a personal favourite, and great to see you giving space to a longtime guilty pleasure - the ridiculously cast Island at the Top of the World.

    Was ANY of that yarn shot outdoors?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Andy

      Actually I did drop in one very low rez frame from A CANTERBURY TALE right at the start of the article where I'm rambling on about visiting cathedrals in Spain etc. It's from an old VHS as I've never come across any other format! I must look at YouTube. Apparently some of Pop Day's shots consisted of photo cut outs of said cathedral.

      Ahhhh, ISLAND AT TOP OF WORLD - also a guilty fave for me. Always watchable and so chock full of visual fx that one can overlook Donald Sinden and co, thankfully.

      All the best

      Pete

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  2. Wondefull article as always!!
    On the film Circle of Iron (1978) you wrongly wrote Circle or Iron. Also you forgot to mention that the matte artist was Ray Caple.
    About the foreground miniature from Cotolay(1966), Julian Martin worked just as a painter on the sets and models. The certificate of merit must be to art director Enrique Alarcon and construction manager Francisco Asensio. On that same film, scenic artist Antonio de Miguel made a glass painting of the cathedral.
    Emilio Ruiz painted many churches, cathedrals and monasteries throughout his career. He also painted Notre Dame for a TV series of Les Miserables.

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  3. Hi, Pete!

    The two Juan Alberto Soler glass shots you posted from "Gaudí" show the construction of Gaudí's Casa Botines in León and Fontserè's large fountain of Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Botines#/media/File:Casabotines2.jpg

    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascada_del_Parque_de_la_Ciudadela#/media/File:Cascada_Ciutadella1.jpg

    Kind regards,

    Joan

    ReplyDelete