Sunday, 12 December 2010

"Put a top on that set, please": Ceilings, Chandeliers and the matte artist


Before launching into, what will undoubtedly prove to be another enthralling episode into the matte painters world, I'll just update you on some of the new things pertaining to this very blog, firstly some updates.
I've had such good fortune recently in relation to British special effects work with the acquisition of some real matte art treasure from both the golden era of UK glass painting - the 1940's - as well as the more recent late eighties era - probably the last few traditional glass paintings executed in that industry.

To start with, courtesy of Leigh Took and Dennis Lowe I've been sent high resolution images of a number of extremely rare J.Arthur Rank original matte shot log sheets from  the 1940's which represent just part of the quite significant record of each and every matte and miniature special effect produced in the Rank effects department over several decades.  Among the examples I have are the original before and after frame enlargements of the glass shots from David Lean's OLIVER TWIST along with the original artists' description explaining the elements involved - set, models, glass art and so forth.  These wonderful documents were thrown into the trash by chief artist Cliff Culley at Pinewood back in the early 80's as part of a general clear out of the matte department.  Luckily, Cliff's apprentice of the day, Leigh Took seized upon this moment of madness and retrieved as much as he could from the junk, realising the importance of securing the providence of such specialist work.  

The examples I have are a mixed bag of films mostly from the late forties with the work of Les Bowie, Albert Whitlock, Cliff Culley and Joan Suttie, whom I believe was running the matte department at the time.  Whitlock's cameraman, Bill Taylor told me that Al often mentioned his work being overseen by a woman who ran the unit back then, and this would have been Suttie.  I've got a few of these vintage Rank matte log sheets included in today's rather eccentric blog article, and have updated, among others, the Charles Dickens matte blog to add the OLIVER TWIST material there for all those who love such things as I do.

Another wonderful find - again courtesy of my friend Dennis Lowe has been a selection of wonderful glass paintings long thought lost, though hidden away at Shepperton Studios in an equipment storage room.  These paintings are the work of Doug Ferris and cover films such as BARON MUNCHAUSEN, SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET, PRINCESS CARABOO and others I can't identify, but would have been painted by Doug while he was at the Magic Camera Company sited at Shepperton in the eighties.  As if that weren't enough, Dennis has located some of the original Bob Cuff glass paintings that Bob did for GUNS OF NAVARONE way back in 1961 - and they are still in immaculate condition - having been cared for lovingly by matte cameraman John Grant and then one of Bob's sons....and boy do those original glasses look fantastic!
More to come on these wonderful matte artifacts later...

Just when I thought it were safe to relax my rapid heart rate from all of this excitement even more goodies have surfaced...  the legendary matte work of Walter Percy Day no less!  In preparation for his new documentary on the career of the doyen of British matte painting, Dennis has been priviliged to interview Day's grand daughter, Susan, who not only was delighted to reminisce at length about her famous  and , arguably highly complex grandad but is also the official curator and archivist for all of Percy's vast collection of documentation and photographs spanning his long and illustrious career.  Susan's father was Tom Day - long time visual effects cinematographer for Pop from the late twenties through to the late forties.  Among the many artifacts I've been fortunate enough to glimpse in the rough cut of this doco are many rare before and after matte shots from, among other titles, THIEF OF BAGHDAD - including some unused mattes never before seen.  Although I've only seen Dennis' long rough cut of the doco at the time of this writing he's just told me it's now complete and up and running and may be viewed on his site (though any readers out there unlucky enough to be burdoned with the pathetic and utterly unreliable New Zealand internet may find it a long, stop start, crash, start again slog):
It of course goes without saying that anyone who doesn't know who Percy Day was shouldn't be on this blogsite to begin with and should be on one of those digital matte painting forums elsewhere(!)  :(

What a week... after being blown away by Pop Day's wizardry I had still one more surprise to come.  I get quite a few letters from readers  - some of whom are connected to the visual effects world.  Well being a firm supporter of the under appreciated British effects industry I was so thrilled to be contacted earlier today by the grandson of Les Bowie 'the father of UK special effects'.  Well this was really such an unexpected bonus, and one I'm so excited about.  I'm very hopeful that I may be able to produce a tribute article on Les in the near future as I understand there to be many wonderful slides documenting Bowie's long, long career as well as a few original Bowie mattes still in the family.

Now if only they'd release the man of the year, Mr Wiki-Leaks, Julian Assange from those trumped up politically motivated bullshit charges my week would be bloody perfect.   Now where's my Jack Daniels?



I've added alot of new material to various pages here, with the following being notable.
As already mentioned there are some terrific, ultra rare Les Bowie-Joan Suttie OLIVER TWIST matte shot breakdowns on my Charles Dickens mattes page.
Also, my Russell Lawson page has a number of new shots including SIGN OF THE PAGAN, LOVER COME BACK (with a tremendous mountain lake matte), CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (with painted landscapes and teepees).
Over on the Ray Caple tribute are some nice shots from Tim Burton's BATMAN and from  the Edgar Allen Poe flick CITY UNDER THE SEA (aka WAR GODS OF THE DEEP).  Les Bowie's daughter told me she has an original matte painting at home done by Ray, so I'm crossing my fingers that a picture of this rare special effect artifact will come my way.
Jan Domela's page has a great art directors' drawing of Jan's famous tower matte for VERTIGO which deliniates where production designer Henry Bumstead proposed the painting to sit in relation to the plate.

The Warner Bros page has some shots from ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES and some Lou Litchtenfield shots from THE FLAME AND THE ARROW.



If ever there were an idiosyncratic topic for this or any other blog for that matter, it must be this one!  I've always had a bit of a penchant for those 'top up' matte shots - you know the sort of thing - a set is built and more often than not the ceiling isn't normally added due to lighting rigs and so forth - with the director literally telling the effects artist to do just that - "put a top on that set please".  I've read so many accounts where the director literally handed the matte department a can of film, especially in the old days and said "here... put a castle/roof/mountain/sky on that will you".  The bloody cheek of it!

Primarily I've concentrated on ornate ceilings, chandeliers and interior architectural enhancements here today, though as is my somewhat undisciplined nature, I've broken my own boundaries on a few occasions here and have ventured into arguably borderline set top ups with some shots I just like - and because I can.  Hey if you don't like it start your own matte shot blog.   So, for those who are on, and enjoy.   :)

What more grand and magnificent frame to start with - the exquisite Robert Stromberg matte shot from (arguably) Martin Scorcese's worst film, AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993).  The actual painting is a wonderfully loose collection of brushstrokes and colour which shows obvious stylistic attributes from Robert's mentor Syd Dutton and his mentor Al Whitlock's.  The film would certainly have benefitted if Joe Pesci had of cropped up and "popped a cap" in someone's ass!

Shepperton matte painter Gerald Larn is seen here at work on a ballroom matte for Terence Young's THE AMOURESS ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS (1965).

A close view of Gerald Larn finishing off  Peter Melrose's MOLL FLANDERS matte. Note the other glass paintings decorating the walls, with the one directly above Gerald's head from the excellent TUNES OF GLORY.

Greta Garbo's 1935 version of ANNA KARENINA had a number of beautiful mattes executed most probably under Warren Newcombe's watchful eye at MGM.

A reverse view of that same scene from ANNA KARENINA which I don't recall ever seeing in the film.  This rare photo came from the MGM production still archives at the studio.  I have a number of such stills, some of which appear later in this blog.

The classic ballroom glass shot - from ANNA KARENINA - executed with all the panache of MGM

There have been a few versions of ANNA KARENINA, with this example being one of the numerous Walter Percy Day mattes from the 1948 British version starring Vivien Leigh.

Another Pop Day matte from the 1948 ANNA KARENINA.  At this point in his career Peter Ellenshaw had departed and was working independently.  Wally Veevers was Day's effects cameraman along with Percy's son Tom.
Pop Day glass shot enhancement also from ANNA KARENINA

I do love old time train station matte shots, something you never see any more, with this Pop Day matte being another superb example of the master's work as seen in ANNA KARENINA (1948)

I already posted this lovely Russ Lawson ARABIAN NIGHTS matte on his page, but it's good enough for an encore. 

Although poor vhs quality, these frames from the 1946 film BAD LORD BYRON mark Albert Whitlock's first matte shots.

A matte that most people never spot - a full frame Alan Maley painting with minimal strip of live action as seen in the fx Oscar winning Disney picture BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS  (1971). A very youthful P.S (Peter jnr) Ellenshaw saw his first breakout into the world of matte painting on this film under Maley's guidence.

Although a very weak and listless  film, THE BLACK HOLE with generally below par, murky, washed out effects compositing, several of the matte paintings were pretty good, with this tilt down of the so called umbrella shot, as painted by David Mattingly - for a time a first rate matte artist and now a professional illustrator of sci-fi covers I believe.

Yeah, I know, these ain't ballrooms or typical ceilings, but I DID say I'd go out on a limb with some of the mattes here today.  Also from THE BLACK HOLE.  Matte supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw.

The best matte shot in the show - a beautiful tilt down and push in shot which, unlike many of the others doesn't betray it's muddy rear projected comp originsMatte painters were David Mattingly and Deno Ganakes.

One more dramatic up shot from THE BLACK HOLE with alot of painting going on here.
RKO mattes from Bing Crosby's THE BELLS OF ST MARY'S (1945).  I have read that stop motion maestro Willis O'Brien may in fact have painted some of the mattes off the lot and smuggled them in on this show as there was a studio strike on at the time.  Regular studio mate artists at the time were Albert Maxwell Simpson and Chesley Bonestell.

An uncredited matte from the 1954 British adventure THE BLACK KNIGHT.  Being a Pinewood show it's likely that Cliff Culley painted this, along with the other really nice mattes on this film.

One of Percy Day's last effects films, the miscast Tyrone Power picture THE BLACK ROSE (1951)

One of the many superb mattes created by Pop Day's former apprentice, the great Peter Ellenshaw for the (yawn) Gregory Peck  adventure CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER  (1950)

An invisible trick shot, supervised by Lawrence W.Butler for CASABLANCA.  Matte artist likely to be the talented Paul Detlefsen.  Matte cameraman Eddie Linden.

A most curious trio of mattes - all appear alike, yet taken from three different films over a 20 year period, as discovered and noted by my pal Domingo.

Not a ceiling per se, but a roof of sorts - the grotto from CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1968).  Matte by Cliff Culley.

A very early Albert Whitlock matte painting from the 1948 Rank film CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.  This is one of the original Rank effects department matte logs I mentioned in my introduction - one of a number I now have.

The actual technicolor frame from the film.

A direct frame enlargement from the 1948 35mm work print from the old Rank matte effect log books.

CITIZEN KANE (1941) was a major effects showcase which I will cover in an upcoming RKO Special Effects article.  This lovely matte  is either a Mario Larrinaga, Fitch Fulton or Chesley Bonestell painting.

Edgar Allan Poe's CITY BENEATH THE SEA (titled quite incongruously for American theatres as WAR GODS OF THE DEEP) was a Les Bowie effects show, with both Ray Caple and Bob Cuff handling painting duties.

Ray Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS (1980) - either a Cliff Culley-Leigh Took hanging miniature or a painting?

Forgive my poor attempts to paste two frames for this tilt down - a Syd Dutton matte from COMING TO AMERICA (1988)

A Warren Newcombe shot from the Clark Gable film COMMAND DECISION (1944)
Polish born matte painter, Joseph Natanson trained under Percy Day at Shepperton and would move on to paint hundreds of trick shots in Italy in the coming years including this tilt down matte from CONSTANTINE AND THE CROSS (1962).  Natanson passed away only a couple of years ago after a mammoth career dating back to films such as THE RED SHOES right the way through to the Sean Connery picture THE NAME OF THE ROSE.

One of Jan Domela's many mattes from A CONNECTICUTT YANKEE IN KING ARTHURS COURT (1949)

An extensive matte from the Selznick version of DAVID COPPERFIELD, overseen by visual designer Slavko Vorkapich.

A hanging foreground miniature by Eugene Lourie for CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965)

Cecil B.DeMille's THE CRUSADES (1936) featured this Jan Domela painted cathedral interior.

One of Al Whitlock's best painted effects shots - from John Schlesinger's hugely over rated DAY OF THE LOCUST (1974) which sadly loses much of it's glory in the 1.85:1 cropped ratio and looked better full frame on tv years ago.

Albert Whitlock's original painting allows us to appreciate the looseness of the painters hand and seeming simplicity in the technique the master had acquired over some decades in the field.  Interestingly Al never seemed concerned about the obvious perspective lines pencilled in, and still seen clearly on the artwork. He knew instinctively what would (or would not) 'read' on 35mm film stock and only concerned himself with this aspect.
A Newcombe shot from the Spencer Tracy version of DR JECKYL AND MISTER HYDE (1941)
An unidentified painted church interior before and after by Jan Domela from the thirties probably.

The Billy Wilder classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) had this Jan Domela painted ceiling and upper walls.

Fred Sersen's matte department at Fox provided this, and several other shots for the gothic DRAGONWYCK (1946)

Al Whitlock's staggering opening set piece for COLOSSUS - THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969) is revealed here as a before and after matte painted vast set extension. 

Two classic old time set top ups from the MGM Newcombe department from DUBARRY WAS A LADY (1943)

One of my absolute all time favourite films - the Marx Bros classic DUCK SOUP (1933).  A Jan Domela shot.
Spanish film EL CLAVO (THE NAIL) made in 1944 featured matte shots by the premiere team of Enrique De Salva and his then protoge Emilio Ruiz del Rio.

The 1964 picture EL SENOR DE LA SALLE utilised the glass painting skills of Emilio Ruiz for this shot.

An elaborate Jan Domela painted ballroom not used in the final cut of Bing Crosby's THE EMPEROR WALTZ.

An excellent and eerie matte by Bob Scifo from the under rated chiller EXORCIST III  (1990)

An early British historical epic - FIRE OVER ENGLAND (1936) had mattes by Pop Day and Peter Ellenshaw. Ellenshaw's indispensible memoir, Ellenshaw Under Glass, has amusing anecdotes about the mattes on this film.

One of Warner's best matte showcases of the forties, THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949) had many, many great mattes by a large effects crew, with this shot painted by Chesley Bonestell.

An uncredited Spanish matte from the Sophia Loren picture EL CID (1961)
An uncredited matted on top of the fire ravaged evangelical venue that Burt Lancaster sucked in the gullible, from the film ELMER GANTRY (1960).

Pop Day's matte art for Korda's THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939)

James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN  (1931) glass shot probably by Jack Cosgrove.

Cliff Culley painted this ornate ceiling and upper walls for the Bond film FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

An unbalanced test of an Albert Whitlock matte from Norman Jewison's GAILY GAILY (aka CHICAGO, CHICAGO) 

One of the beautiful early technicolor Jack Cosgrove mattes from THE GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936).
*special thanks to Domingo Lizcano for this.

Ingrid Bergman's GASLIGHT (1944) Newcombe shot.

Fred Sersen - Ray Kellogg effects shot from THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR  (1947)

Matthew Yuricich painted in another twenty or so floors to this Spook Central stairwell for GHOSTBUSTERS  (1984)

Mark Sullivan and Yusei Usugi painted in additional arches and set extensions for these shots in GHOSTBUSTERS II

Peter Ellenshaw's mattes, Eustace Lycettes' opticals and some of John Hench's best ever effects animation add much to the rather delightful GNOME MOBILE (1967).  When one compares the dreadful effects animation  and optical comps years later in the huge Disney film THE BLACK HOLE one can but accept that the studio's effects unit had sadly had it's day.

Jan Domela's painted in cathedral walls and roof for the Bing Crosby hit GOING MY WAY (1944).

The Eddie Murphy flop, THE GOLDEN CHILD (1987) did have first rate ILM effects work all the way in it's favour, including this Tibetan monastery painted by Chris Evans and Caroleen Green.  Note the foreground miniature columns to aid in the depth of the push in perspective shift effect. Also of note for many outstanding ILM effects shots including some great Harry Walton stop motion cuts.

Sam Wood's 1939 classic GOODBYE MR CHIPS had several uncredited mattes, possibly done in England by Pop Day, though I'm not able to confirm this.

A glorious ballroom matte, also from GOODBYE MR CHIPS.

Before and after stills from the RKO film GOVERNMENT GIRL 

Jack Cosgrove's painted shot from Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR (1941)

Les Bowie's beautiful ballroom from David Lean's masterpiece GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946)

Probably my number one matte film, GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) is also one of the biggest matte shot showcases ever.  The many mattes were painted by Jack Cosgrove, Jack Shaw, Albert Maxwell Simpson, Byron Crabbe and Fitch Fulton.

GWTW was made at a time when the use of photographic effects to fill in the gaps was at a peak - with this example of the classic painted in ceiling quite typical of the period in film production.

Before and after fx shot from GONE WITH THE WIND

The magic of the Cosgrove shot, as they were known.  Only the lower level was constructed, with everything above the performers heads added in by Cosgrove's busy matte department.  For such a small studio, Selznick had one hell of a gung ho effects department under Cosgrove who somehow managed to turn out not only all the GWTW shots but also trick shots for INTERMEZZO and REBECCA all back to back, which was pretty staggering for a tiny studio effects unit.

For the 1971 horror picture HANDS OF THE RIPPER, Cliff Culley added these interior effects of St Paul's Cathedral.

Danny Kaye's HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON (1952).  This was a Samuel Goldwyn film and had Clarence Slifer running the photo effects department, but I've never been able to discover who ever painted he mattes on the many Goldwyn films over the years?

Ernst Lubitsch's 1943 version of HEAVEN CAN WAIT had some Fred Sersen matte shots, such as this opening view of the foyer to 'Hell', as only Lubitsch could envision it.

The Anthony Quinn-Sophia Loren western HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS (1960) had this Jan Domela effects shot.
One of the mattes from the Italian film HEROD THE GREAT, I think painted by Joseph Natanson

Much more than a mere ceiling, this vast matte by Mark Sullivan is for THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)

A Chesley Bonestell matte for Vernon Walker on the 1939 HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

An Italian film, "I COSACCI", featured this ornate Joseph Natanson matte.

The Morecombe and Wise spy spoof THE INTELLIGENCE MEN - possibly a Cliff Culley-Charles Stoneham matte shot.
Percy Day painted for The Archers, Powell and Pressburger on many films, with this from I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING

The 1934 British historical drama THE IRON DUKE had several shots like this, possibly by Pop Day.

Another elaborate set extension from THE IRON DUKE

Veteran effects cinematographer Roy Seawright prepping the camera as journeyman matte painter Jack Shaw finalises a matte painting of a ceiling for an unknown title.

A hanging miniature set extension from the 1934 Robert Donat film THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.  Fx unknown?

Rare before and after Percy Day glass shot from the 1932 LE BOSSU made during Day's years in the French industry.

Telling behind the scenes photos taken on the set of Abel Gance's 1927 epic NAPOLEON showing an elaborate on set in camera glass shot by Walter Percy Day being utilised to superb effect.  Now this is special effects!

One of the great many glass shots carried out by Percy Day while employed in the busy French film industry, with this beautiful shot from JALMA LE DOUBLE made sometime in the twenties.

One of the many mattes, sadly unidentified, by Jan Domela from an old Paramount film.
Alan Maley's painted hangar from Disney's ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD  (1974)

Elements from a composite matte by Jan Domela, again from an unidentified film.

Another unidentified film from the Jan Domela collection.

A Louis McManus matted cathedral from Victor Fleming's JOAN OF ARC  (1948) for effects co-supervisors Jack Cosgrove and John P.Fulton

Mark Sullivan contributed several mattes to the wonderful KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

This may in fact be a genuine set - or it could be a Cliff Culley shot for A KID IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (1995) - one of Culley's last traditionally painted shows, albeit a digitally composited one at that.
Spanish matte artist Julian Martin painted in this set extension of The Prado Museum for LA HORA DE LOS VALIENTES

Bob Cuff painted these very nice set extensions for Charlie Chaplin's rather funny A KING IN NEW YORK (1957)
Enrique Salva and Emilio Ruiz de Rio painted mattes for this Spanish show, LOCURA DE AMOR (1948)
*special thank you to Domingo Lizcano for his wonderful shot breakdown here.

Percy Day's skillfully painted vast interior for THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP  (1943)
Warner Bros ace Stage 5 visual effects unit painted and shot this end shot with the sun breaking in through the skylight in THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (1937).

Warren Newcombe's painted caravan expo for Lucille Ball's THE LONG, LONG TRAILER (1954)

One of the excellent Spanish made mattes by art director Alfonso De Lucas from LOS ASES BUSCAN LA PAZ (1955)
Another beautiful Salva-Ruiz matte collaboration from LA PRODIGA (1946)

A Russ Lawson augmented aquarium set for Doris Day's LOVER COME BACK (1961)

Some exquisite architecture courtesy of highly regarded British matte man Albert Julian for THE MAGIC BOW (1946)

Billy Wilder's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) needed a Jan Domela roof and walls.
The Pop Day of Spanish visual effects, Enrique Salva painted this atrium set with protoge Emilio Ruiz for the 1948 film MARQUES DE SALAMANCA

This terrific Al Whitlock shot from MAME (1974) is a masterpiece in it's own right.

One of the many mattes, possibly by Matthew Yuricich, from an unsold Irwin Allen pilot THE MAN FROM THE 25th CENTURY  produced around 1968.

A beautiful glass shot from the artists in the Rank matte department from the film THE MARK OF CAIN  (1947)

Another example of those wonderful old Rank matte shot log sheets I mentioned earlier.  It's quite likely that Albert Whitlock may have had a hand in this oneas he was there at time with Les Bowie and Cliff Culley.

A Sersen shot from Tyrone Power's MARK OF ZORRO (1940)

A vintage Warren Newcombe shot from THE MASK OF FU MAN CHU (1932)

Two palatial matte additions for the MGM remake of THE MERRY WIDOW (1952)

A marvellous Newcombe matte addition from an unknown MGM picture of the 1940's.

Percy Day's matte extensions for THE MIKADO (1939) with a young Peter Ellenshaw assisting.

One of the dramatic futuristic sets painted by Albert Whitlock for the curious misfire MILENNIUM (1988)

Bob Hope in Jan Domela's painted 17th Century France for MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1946)

Another Domela shot from MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE

An uncredited matte from the Bond film MOONRAKER (1979).  Visual effects Derek Meddings - Optical fx Robin Browne

Although a poor quality frame, this is a rare Judy Jordan matte from John Huston's MOULIN ROUGE (1952)

One of the dozens of painted mattes from MARY POPPINS (1964) which garnered Peter Ellenshaw a well deserved Academy Award.  Peter's mentor and step-father, Poppa Day lived long enough to see his former protege collect this award.

Jimmie Stewart and the painted skylight above - from the brilliant MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
One of numerous artificial ceilings painted in for MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
Magnificent is a common adjective when speaking of the quality of the matte art that emminated from the Newcombe department at MGM, with this frame from MRS PARKINGTON (1944) being a prime example.

A revealing before and after from the UN sequence in Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) with the large painted backing shown in the lower picture to facilitate actor interaction, and the vast Lee LeBlanc - Clarence Slifer composite of both the backcloth and the glass painting united flawlessly as one. Virtually the entire frame is a trick shot.

A non existent London museum (and fossilised exhibit) totally manufactured by Cliff Culley at Pinewood for the Disney film ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING  (1975)

I'm not certain but I think this shot has some painted element to it, most likely the upper arches and sunlight - from the effects nominated British classic ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1941)
Okay, I know... it's not even indoors!  I've always loved this shot from OUR MAN FLINT (1966).  Effects by L.B Abbott and matte art by Emil Kosa jr.

A full painting of the opera house by Emil Kosa for OUR MAN FLINT.
Some of the many painted additions to Hitchcock's less than sensational THE PARADINE CASE (1947)

Again, from THE PARADINE CASE with an elaborate effects composite for the jail sequence. The original matte art is shown above, and as hard as I've tried over the years, I've not been able to figure out just how Clarence Slifer put this shot together.  The original art was up for auction recently, along with numerous other Selznick matte paintings.  Spencer Bagtatoplolis was matte painter on this busy effects film, producing some amazing shots that consisted of no set to speak of, with exclusively painted in settings.

The Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin vehicle PARDNERS (1956) required this Jan Domela painted rodeo arena.

The wonderful, ethereal Gary Cooper film PETER IBBETSEN (1935) directed by Henry Hathaway was yet another showcase for long time Paramount matte artist Jan Domela in filling out  partially constructed interior sets and exteriors.

Another Domela fabricated interior from PETER IBBETSEN (1936)

A hanging miniature from an unknown film supervised by John P.Fulton

The atrium above the door that must never be opened... from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945)
I'm pretty convinced that this tilt down from the top of Westminster Abbey for THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957) is a visual effect.  I suspect that the lights and some of the architecture has been altered by Pinewood's effects dept to present a more accurate turn of the century flavour.

Another matte, probably painted by Cliff Culley, from Laurence Olivier's THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957).

Errol Flynn's THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1937) probably painted by ace Warner Bros matte man Paul Detlefsen.

Dennis Lowe painted out all the modern aspects of Westminster Abbey by working directly upon a large 10 foot photographic blow up of the interior and instilling a more period flavour for the 1978 version of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (aka CROSSED SWORDS).  Wally Veevers and Doug Ferris were also involved with several views.

David O. Selznick's superior 1937 version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA features ballrooms a-plenty, with maestro Jack Cosgrove as primary matte painter and effects supervisor.  Albert Maxwell Simpson, one of the longest working career matte artists in the business, painted with old associate Cosgrove and possibly Byron L.Crabbe also on the brushwork. Visual effects cameraman was the great Clarence W.D Slifer.
More of the plentiful and rather exquisite 1937 PRISONER OF ZENDA mattes

Zenda according to Cosgrove.
Shot for shot an identical, though somewhat lacklustre affair, the 1952 technicolor remake of ZENDA had the requisite high standard Newcombe shots as evidenced here in the colour frame and a higher quality b/w frame reproduction from the original 35mm print.

Although a technicolor film I have included these high quality black and white ZENDA frame enlargements from the MGM production stills archive as they allow better examination of the shot.  The original matte painting shown above was part of a vast private collection, having been rescued from the trash when the MGM matte department was bulldozed in the mid seventies.  After years of gathering dust the majority of this 2000 piece collection found it's home at the University of Austin, Texas.

Bette Davis and Errol Flynn made THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (1939) which featured Oscar nominated visual effects, mostly limited to a dozen matte shots.

The neat little tv movie THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974) was actually a pilot for an unrealised weekly series.  Albert Whitlock painted several great mattes for it, which don't really fit my criteria on today's blog, but to hell with it, I'll post 'em anyway.

MGM's 1942 Ronald Colman drama RANDOM HARVEST was yet another Newcombe department showcase.

Another great Newcombe shot from RANDOM HARVEST

Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940) was a class act for matte artists Jack Cosgrove and Albert Maxwell Simpson

More Oscar nominated Cosgrove mattes from REBECCA

The ballet classroom from Powell-Pressburger's THE RED SHOES (1948) with matte art by Ivor Beddoes, Joseph Natanson and Les Bowie.  Contrary to popular folklore, Pop Day and Peter Ellenshaw had nothing to do with the mattes in this film according to matte cameraman, the late  Leslie Dear who shot the effects.

One of Percy Day's mattes from the Charles Laughton picture REMBRANDT (1936)

I'm drawing a long bow with this one I know, but here's a nice 'top up' matte by either Charles Stoneham or Bob Scifo from RETURN TO OZ  (1987)

The most basic effects shot in a sea of amazing matte shots found in RHAPSODY IN BLUE (1945).  Go to my Warner Brothers Stage 5 blog special for many other amazingly grand mattes comps and camera moves found in this film.

Peter Ellenshaw painted most of this interior for ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952)

One of Hitchcock's best ever films, and in my mind, his best effects showcase, SABOTEUR (1942) had dozens and dozens of fabulous mattes by Russell Lawson under he supervision of effects head John P.Fulton.  For a full lowdown on this great film check out my SABOTEUR blog page.

Wally Veevers oversaw the many mattes and miniatures for the 1957 British sci fi show SATELLITE IN THE SKY with George Samuels, Julius Kay and Bob Cuff on matte painting duties.

MGM's esteemed Newcombe department provided many painted mattes for this show.

One of Newcombe's numerous climactic matte composites from SCARAMOUCHE with audience movement suggested here with several areas of scratched away paint in selected parts of the painted crowd, then given pseudo 'movement' by means of an interference device behind the artwork - a classic gag that was still in use right up till the last days of traditional matte trick shots.
Leslie Howard's THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1935) had numerous hanging miniatures by Ned Mann and a few Percy Day mattes, with this shot possibly being one or the other.  Generally Mann's work was so effective to be undetectable.

An artist trained in the medium by veteran Warner Bros matte pro Louis Litchtenfield, Bob Scifo executed a jaw dropping glass painting of the interior of The Vatican for the Demi Moore anti-christ thriller THE SEVENTH SIGN  (1988) This picture is 'borrowed' from Craig Barron's indespensible tome, The Invisible Art - an absolute must read and must own for all perveyors of matted art.

The composite original negative shot from THE SEVENTH SIGN.  Slightly off track here, I also recommend this average film to fans of special make up effects work as it has a ripper of a prosthetic pregnant tummied Demi Moore in her birthday suit  - totally convincing!

Pioneering matte creator, Norman Dawn did alot of painted ceilings over his career, as evidenced by the meticulous records he kept of every single effects shot.  Sadly the visuals are hard to come by so this one example he did for SEE HERE PRIVATE HARGROVE (1932) during his tenure at MGM off and on over the 30's and 40's will need to suffice.

One of Albert Whitlock's more imaginative perspective paintings, from the 1952 British adventure THE SEEKERS (aka LAND OF FURY) set and mostly shot here in good old New Zealand - which was a very big deal in the day!

Russ Lawson's magnificent ballroom from the original SHOWBOAT (1936) made by James Whale of all people!

A Jack Shaw painted matte shot for Jack Cosgrove's unit on SINCE YOU WENT AWAY which was nominated for the visual effects Oscar for the plentiful and superb matte art throughout.

Percy Day did Queen Victoria proud with his glass shots for SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS (1938)

Although a poor image, A STAR IS BORN (1937) had nice Jack Cosgrove matte work.

Peter's son Harrison Ellenshaw (then still known as Peter jnr by the way) painted this iconic, landmark glass shot for the conclusion of the first (and by far the best) STAR WARS (1977).  One of the great mattes from the 70's.

An obscure and utterly invisible painted in ceiling for the NASA Control Room in SUPERMAN II (1980) - probably painted by Ivor Beddoes or Doug Ferris.

One of legendary Peter Ellenshaw's biggest and best ever matte shows, Disney's British production of THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953) had a multitude of castles, sailing ships, banquet halls and regal scenery.  Future A-list matte exponent Albert Whitlock first met Ellenshaw on this film and worked on it painting the titles, with Peter's mastery of the paint brush having a profound effect upon the technique for Whitlock as he often acknowledged.

Two more angles of Ellenshaw's SWORD AND THE ROSE banquet hall work.  I have all of the mattes from this hard to find film and will do a special blog on Peter's British Disney films in the future... so stay tuned.

Selznick's outstanding Ronald Colman version of THE TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935) had dozens of terrific MGM matte shots by the roster of artists, with these two nice interiors ideally executed.

Walter Percy Day, better known as Poppa Day painted this nice interior glass shot for Korda's THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940) with the assistance of Peter Ellenshaw.  Day's son Arthur was key draftsman and typically would draw in all of the pre-paint work while his brother Thomas was Pop's matte cameraman and shot all of the matte art effects.

Pinewood's Cliff Culley added significant height and detail to this grand set from THUNDERBALL (1965).  The film has always been a sore point for this writer, partly as it was an interminable bore with way too much underwater confusion for much of it's over inflated running time, and more so as it inexplicably stole the Oscar for visual effects from the vastly superior GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD... but don't get me started on bloody Oscar injustices!

I can't be certain here, but I suspect this lovely BluRay grab from Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS (1939) may have matte trickery, or even Schufftan manipulation?

Al Whitlock out did himself for Hitchcock's TORN CURTAIN (1965) with a staggering wall to wall trick sequence with a half dozen exquisite matte paintings of the East German Art Gallery.  Bill Taylor considers this and Al's invisible work in TOPAZ to be Whitlock's career best and told me how dazzled he was as a young effects optical cameraman then at Film Effects of Hollywood when he visited Whitlock in his studio for the first time and saw these shots being put together.

TORN CURTAIN had, among it's matted delights this stunning full painting with even the individual artworks on exhibition being replicated on the glass by Albert.  The only live action element is the tiny area of staircase under and immediately behind Paul Newman - all else is pure Whitlock.  Al's regular matte cameraman for years, and in fact Universal's key visual effects cinematographer for around 40 years, Roswell Hoffman shot and composited all of those trick shots beautifully.
One of Ray Caple's delightful set extensions from the odd Terry Gilliam film TIME BANDITS (1980)

Whitlock again - and this time an early Ken Annakin show, TRIO (1950) with Al even received screen billing on this one.
An Italian-Spanish production dealing with Ceasar and Cleopatra, UNA REINA PARA EL CESAR (1962) had the skilled brushwork of the great Spanish maestro himself, Emilio Ruiz del Rio.

A good example of the artform is this before and after I obtained from the old Rank special effects collection in the possession of Leigh Took, with this being from UNCLE SILAS (1947) with Les Bowie in the matte department at the time with Albert Whitlock, Peter Melrose and Cliff Culley.
Another matte from UNCLE SILAS, credited to Joan Suttie at Pinewood

I can't place a title to this film unfortunately.  It's one of the rescued from the dumpster MGM collection of classic mattes which I spoke of earlier in this article, from which I purchased recently the last two original MGM Newcombe paintings. If anyone can identify this show please let me know and I'll amend this caption.

A stunning period mansion entrance way from the Debbie Reynolds show THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1964) which then 35 year industry matte veteran Jan Domela painted on.

James Stewart is enchanted by Kim Novak in Jan Domela's matte augmented gallery for Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1956)
This grand ballroom is an Enrique Salva-Emilio Ruiz glass shot from VIOLETAS IMPERIALES (1952)

One of Ray Kellogg's lovely CinemaScope mattes from Bette Davis' rather good THE VIRGIN QUEEN (1955)

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1944) had this detailed train station added in Warren Newcombe's matte department.

Okay, so I realise there are no chandeliers or even a regular ceiling in this effects shot, but it's a hell of a good matte before and after sequence of photos given to me my David Stipes showing a very young Mark Sullivan painting his (I think) very first movie matte for David's effects house for the film WHAT WAIT'S BELOW, made in the early eighties.

Whitlock's new age revision of 'Oz' for Sidney Lumet's THE WIZ  (1978)

Matthew Yuricich used the staple photo collage mounted on board trick on many films while at MGM including this shot from THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1959) from which Matt, under head of department Lee Le Blanc, would paint the necessary alterations directly onto the photo blow ups.  He did this extensively for LOGAN'S RUN and DAMNATION ALLEY in the seventies too.
Under Les Bowie's supervision, long time assistant and collaborator Ray Caple painted this upper set and ceiling for the 1950's Hammer film X - THE UNKNOWN

ILM's Caroleen Green painted this expansive and cavernous ceiling and other details for the oddball film YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (aka PYRAMID OF FEAR...a misnomer if ever there was one) in 1986.  Craig Barron, who photographed the matte painting told me that initial attempts to composite a live action rear projection plate of the boys skating down the face of the structure failed due to an un noticed flicker in the plate due to camera motor issies.  To remedy the situation, ILM's matte man Christopher Evans ended up providing seemless stop motion figures of the children to the painting.


  1. Amazing blog and posts, although it could be even greater if you would also explore non-US Hollywood films(European,Asian etc.).Salut

  2. I try to cover all, though it's pretty hard to ever find matte shows from other countries. I look at alot of foreign films but rarely find such shots. I post whatever I have, pretty much.

    I'm fortunate in that my friend in Spain allows me to use many of his Italian and Spanish matte collections. If it's any consolation, I regard Emilio Ruiz del Rio as one of 'the' greatest matte artists and miniaturists of all time.

  3. Hey Pete-

    Great post! FYI, the Pyramid matte painting from “”Young Sherlock Holmes” was rendered by Caroleen Green not Mike. I remember the live action of the boys sliding down the pyramid was flickering because the camera motor shot in London was not staying consistent make a match via rear projection impossible. Chris Evans ended up animating two small puppets as a solutions to our technical problem.


  4. Now I can gouge my eyes out with a nice steak knife! I mean, after seeing these A M A Z I N G examples of such pure talent - it's like staring into the face of GOD! There's just nothing worth looking at, after this!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your collection and knowledge of a nearly extinct art form, with the rest of the world!

    I'm a H U G E fan of the "old school" stuff (foreground miniatures, matte paintings, etc), with total admiration for all those guys, Peter Ellenshaw, Albert Whitlock, Eugène Lourié... (I was lucky enough to get to meet Eugène's sidekick, Paco Prosper, while working on a film, in Spain!)


  5. Doing a flickr tribute series to V. TOURJANSKY, I surfed in here on a Search for "The Cossacks" = I cosacchi (1960) and found:

    I cosacchi (1960) @ IMDb is *here*:

    I have always LOVED classical matte [hanging/travelling/painted etc] and have felt movies are WAY emptier without this magic.

    Your site fills a REAL need.

    I'll be back.

  6. Also found another TOURJANSKY
    "Una regina per Cesare" / Una reina para el César-Cleopatra (1962) aka "A Queen for Caesar"

    Una regina per Cesare (1962) @ IMDb *here* :

    Good show.

  7. Wonderful blog, but I'd like to point out that the hanging miniature credited to Robert Donat's COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO belongs in fact to Henri Fescourt's MONTE CRISTO (French, 1929) whose special effects are credited to Nicolas Wilke and Paul Minine, who designed such effects for many European films (mainly French) from the 20s to the 50s.

  8. Fantastic post! Thought you would want to read this updated version of chandeliers in film.

  9. Thanks for this brilliant website. I am trying to read even more articles.
    Thanks again!

  10. Yes, I have read that Peter trained under the tutelage of Percy in the book THE INVISIBLE ART. Wonderful book by the way, absolutely love it. Who was it that Albert Whitlock trained under again? Love reading these and seeing the magnificent photos too.

  11. I had the privilege to meet Peter Ellenshaw at an exhibition of his artworks... much non-film related ...landscapes....the Hammer Gallery NYC... he was very nice

    1. I envy you and would love to have met Peter. A great gentleman by ALL accounts.