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The Prince And The Showgirl


cigarjoe
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And that was Jack Cardiff, one of the great cinematographers. I wasn't aware there had been a new restoration, so I'll watch if it's broadcast again. HD is a blessing for movie lovers, but also kind of a curse for the filmmakers of old whose shortcomings and shortcuts are brought into sharper relief. In this case, it's not like using grainy stock footage of wildebeests for a Tarzan movie; it would have been Cardiff's own footage used for backgrounds so you'd think more attention would have been paid to integrating it.

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Rear projection works best when the "blacks & whites" of the foreground match the background correctly.

If the projected scenery is far away, as in the case of mountains, the "blacks" should be lighter, say 70% gray, as darkness fades with distance. If the projection is close to the action, as in the case of a mansion doorway, the black in the actors shadows need to match the black areas of the doorway.

This is why talented photographers are needed to pull rear projection off.

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On 11/29/2018 at 9:21 AM, TopBilled said:

All rear projection in color looks fake from that time period. Black-and-white cinematography is better at masking the phony backgrounds, probably because they can cast shadows over some of it.

Hitchcock's rear projection in 'North by Northwest' (specifically, the airport tarmac conversation) is a 'good' example of bad color rear projection. Surprisingly bad, in fact.

But there is bad B&W rear projection in good films too, e.g., the New Haven sidewalk conversation in 'All About Eve'. So bad it distracts from the scene's importance.

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3 minutes ago, Brrrcold said:

Hitchcock's rear projection in 'North by Northwest' (specifically, the airport tarmac conversation) is a 'good' example of bad color rear projection. Surprisingly bad, in fact.

But there is bad B&W rear projection in good films too, e.g., the New Haven sidewalk conversation in 'All About Eve'. So bad it distracts from the scene's importance.

I think a lot of it depends on how the scenes are lit. The lighting of the on-location footage has to match the interior studio lighting. It requires precision. 

I also think it works better if they don't put the actors right up near the screen. A b&w British noir I watched recently had the leads down front near the camera, live actors (extras) in the middle ground, then the rear projection way in the background. Because those other actors were moving around in between the leads and the projected footage on the back wall it seemed more realistic and it was easier to ignore the fact the backdrop had been filmed earlier in a different place.

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Frankly it never bothers me one way or the other no matter how 'bad' it 'supposedly' is. If one can watch 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' --and find it effective-- why not this? If one can watch 'Three Stooges' shorts and laugh one's butt off--as 'bad' as the cinematography was there--why not this? I go along with the notion that all theater is in the mind rather than the eye. Just sayin.

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24 aeons ago, TikiSoo mouthed:

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If the projected scenery is far away, as in the case of mountains, the "blacks" should be lighter, say 70% gray, as darkness fades with distance.

Too true, Talluh! And it was practically all worked out four hundred years beforehand, by painters during the Italian Renaissance.

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I'm not bothered that much by rear projection unless I try hard to pay attention to it, in which case it could be a distraction, but overall I'm okay with it.  A film I saw a while back, The Good German (2006), directed by Steven Soderbergh, looked it like it used rear projection.  The film was shot in color and then changed in post, so it looks like a 1940s film noir, and a beautiful one at that.  It looks incredible.  The cinematographer was Peter Andrews and the editor was Mary Ann Bernard, both of who are ... Steven Soderbergh, the aliases he uses from time to time.   

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I've been watching a lotta stuff and posting a lotta reviews, this (copied and pasted) entry of mine in the I JUST WATCHED thread was from this past weekend, so you might've missed it:

Caught 2/3 of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL- Which I had never seen before, in spite of being a big fan of Marilyn. 

I liked it much better than I thought I would...It’s a little like someone tossed BORN YESTERDAY and MY FAIR LADY in a blender, but Marilyn- Despite whatever problems she might’ve been having in her real life at a time – pulls it off magnificently. She IS the movie, Which must’ve cheesed off everybody who worked with her and had to put up with her and spend hours waiting on her.

TERRENCE RATTIGAN Was the writer, and between this and THE WINSLOW BOY, I have to say I’m very interested in his work now. 

It’s worth taking the time to note though, that many of the coronation crowd scenes are marred by some very poor and obvious backdrops.

It makes a curious companion piece, with a lot of notable similarities to the same years’s THE IRON PETTICOAT- although this film is way way way way way way way better than that one.

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I caught up with The Prince and the Showgirl from the TCM menu and can totally see what cj was talking about. The first example you see is of the two diplomats looking out the window to watch a carriage pass by on the street. It's actually a somewhat elaborate shot: the background shows the carriage approaching, moving directly in front of the window, and then moving away, so that in the background shot the camera had swiveled by at least 90 degrees. That's matched by a camera movement in the foreground from right to left, with the two men framed in the window. The overall combined effect is of the two men at the window watching the approach and departure of the carriage all in one take, beautifully done. BUT, there's the aforementioned problem of the mismatching foreground and background, very noticeable and very distracting. I think TikiSoo's point that background should fade with distance is correct, but it seems that may work better for black and white than for color. The background in the TPATS sequences was indeed faded, but looked washed-out and unrealistic. It seems that a better way to deal with the problem in a color film would be to adjust the focus, not necessarily the color. I know it's cheeky for us amateurs to be second-guessing a renowned cinematographer, but it's difficult to understand how he could have been happy with the results of that scene after having been so painstaking in matching the camera movement in the foreground and background.

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