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It's the Extras that Count


brianNH
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Now, I take a back seat to nobody in my enjoyment and enthusiasm for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."  I happen to find it one of the funniest doggone movies around.  What with knock-out songs from Styne and Carmichael, and of course -- Monroe, Russell, Reid, Noonan, Coburn, and the rest, all at the top of their game in this one.

But, for some peculiar reason that my doctors over the years have failed to diagnose, I always have my attention drawn to backgrounds, scenery, and those cast as extras in crowd scenes.  I'm forever looking at ceratin faces in various pictures, wondering who they are and in which other movies have I seen them.  

This brings me to "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," for there is one woman whose appearance has always intrigued me.  She's in the "Bye, bye, baby" number at the beginning of the movie, and you see her also in the shipboard gymnasium.   She's blonde, she's stylishly attired, and she's carrying a poodle around.  For goodness sake, with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell singing, why am I watching this other woman?  As I said earlier, I just find it interesting to look at the other people who were there at that partiular time to make that particular piece of entertainment.  

So I'm curious to know if any of you out there also are susceptible  to this odd malady.  Not necessarily for GPB, but for any movie where your attention goes to the background for a moment or two -- or maybe a little longer sometimes.

Thanks,

Brian

 

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About 15 years ago there was a thread that took off here about the brunette that appeared next to Judy Garland on the trolley in Meet Me in St. Louis. She made quite an impression somehow but no one could identify her. So no, you're not alone. 

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19 minutes ago, brianNH said:

So I'm curious to know if any of you out there also are susceptible  to this odd malady.  Not necessarily for GPB, but for any movie where your attention goes to the background for a moment or two -- or maybe a little longer sometimes.

I like to watch the backgrounds of location shoots in postwar films, when location shooting really took off. Specifically, city scenes. People driving in cars that have no idea that they have been preserved in that moment, or people in the background of a shot- people who aren't extras in the film. Buildings that no longer exist, things like that. A lot of films noir have some really nifty locations that are long gone.

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9 hours ago, unwatchable said:

I like to watch the backgrounds of location shoots in postwar films, when location shooting really took off. Specifically, city scenes. People driving in cars that have no idea that they have been preserved in that moment, or people in the background of a shot- people who aren't extras in the film. Buildings that no longer exist, things like that. A lot of films noir have some really nifty locations that are long gone.

I like it when I can find buildings that do still exist and I can look at them and make "then and now" comparisons. It's interesting to me how the landscape can change but the man-made structures, if cared for, retain their qualities over time. Lots of television dramas the 50s and 60s shot on location, like Highway Patrol, the Mark VII shows from Jack Webb. I found a series that was shot in and around NYC in the late 50s called Decoy where they would just set up a camera and roll on the street, with passersby often looking into the camera wondering what was going on.

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This kind of stuff fascinates me. If I recall correctly, this was background footage for the film Undertow, 1949, with this stuff shot in 1948. Bunker Hill and downtown L.A.. The people on the sidewalks who have no idea that long after their bones would be in the ground, a shadow of them would still remain.

 

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I like to look at props in home interiors in movies. That's how I discovered the adult "Boudoir Doll" fad popular in the teens/twenties. 

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(there's 2 in that photo) But more delightful is when spotting some common household item used as a prop that I actually own, like the Gothic Clock in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and the "Fiesta" string holder in Burt Lancaster's kitchen in ATLANTIC CITY.

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Recently a photo of Sally Kellerman in a Western was posted here & she was wearing the exact same pearl crescent brooch of my Mom's-mass produced by Monet in the 60's. I printed out the photo & put it with my brooch in the jewelry box.

Return_Engagement_Lotta_Crabtree_28Sally

That's what comes from inheriting stuff from several generations.

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As a mathematician, I am always attracted to  any formulas I see in the background, which occasionally amount to gibberish. Here are three examples:

1. Killers from Space (complete nonsense ... the mathematics, as well as the film)

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2. The Giant Behemoth  (I couldn't figure out what this was saying, nor could any of my colleagues , although we all recognized the symbols)

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3.  All That Heaven Allows    This one is brilliant on multiple levels. Not only are the trigonometric formulas and the drawing correct, but the drawing suggests the pedagogical approach to teaching the trig functions. This method  was prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries, which, given the film's setting, is right on the money. Bravo!

3x7l4hE.png

 

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4 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

I like to look at props in home interiors in movies. That's how I discovered the adult "Boudoir Doll" fad popular in the teens/twenties. 

98b7a2384fad3b2de473faf3ef927558.jpg

 

Like the one in CITIZEN KANE? (when Kane was destroying Susan's room after she left him).

Yeah, I'm often noticing other stuff in movie scenes not germane to the story or  the actor's involved(except for the KANE doll, which did resemble the Susan character).  Cars, furniture, and yes, sometimes odd looking(to me) "extras" milling about.  And I'm drawn more it seems, to old time radios and phonographs.

Sepiatone

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In my case and considering that I've been an avid motorcyclist since my teenage years, while watching some old movie which might for instance feature a scene in which a motorcycle cop will pull over a driver of car in order to cite him for some infraction, I'll always attempt to identify the make of the cop's bike.

If the American film was made during the silent movie era through to the 1950s, the motorcycle in question will either have been made by the Indian or Harley-Davidson concerns. In British-made films, the cop will usually be riding a Triumph or BSA brand.

(...and just to be clear here, this little movie-watching practice of mine isn't limited to just this sort of instance, as anytime I see a motorcycle in a movie, I will do this very thing, and which is something that I doubt anyone not into motorcycling seldom if ever does)

 

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Thanks, everybody.  This is really fascinating to find so many different things that people focus on in all sorts of movies.  It's all what each of us brings with us, I guess, while a group of people (movie-makers) are trying to tell us a story.   

Aside from the faces or actions of various extras, I tend to look closely at the scenes where "professional" chefs or just plain old cooks are working.   Sometimes the attention to details are pretty darn good, while most often there is only a passing resemblance to the fact that someone is actually trying to cook something. Usually doesn't spoil the entire film for me though.  It's just that, for me, I know that someone has gone to some trouble to portray accurately the actions of a tradesman or craftsman.  

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51 minutes ago, Dargo said:

In my case and considering that I've been an avid motorcyclist since my teenage years, while watching some old movie which might for instance feature a scene in which a motorcycle cop will pull over a driver of car in order to cite him for some infraction, I'll always attempt to identify the make of the cop's bike.

If the American film was made during the silent movie era through to the 1950s, the motorcycle in question will either have been made by the Indian or Harley-Davidson concerns. In British-made films, the cop will usually be riding a Triumph or BSA brand.

(...and just to be clear here, this little movie-watching practice of mine isn't limited to just this sort of instance, as anytime I see a motorcycle in a movie, I will do this very thing, and which is something that I doubt anyone not into motorcycling seldom if ever does)

 

Well DARG,  I'm not "into" motorcycling, insomuch as I never learned to operate one or owned one.  But always did have a "thing" for motorcycles and also do that very thing too when seeing old movies with motorcycles in them.  And on the lookout in war movies which show Nazi soldiers operating motorcycles with sidecars to see if they use actual restored ZUNDAPPS  or just dress up a BMW.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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7 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

Well DARG,  I'm not "into" motorcycling, insomuch as I never learned to operate one or owned one.  But always did have a "thing" for motorcycles and also do that very thing too when seeing old movies with motorcycles in them.  And on the lookout in war movies which show Nazi soldiers operating motorcycles with sidecars to see if they use actual restored ZUNDAPPS  or just dress up a BMW.  ;) 

Sepiatone

Ah, so then Sepia, you probably also know the "German military issue" motorcycle that McQueen here famously commandeers in The Great Escape isn't really either a Zundapp nor a BMW, nor for that matter even German-made at all.  ;) 

great-escape.jpg

And btw, I gotta say I was really impressed that you'd not only know the difference between a Zundapp and a BMW (and which are very similar in basic design and what with their common "Boxer" flat twin engines), or that you'd even know of the now defunct Zundapp brand at all.

 

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12 hours ago, Dargo said:

 I was really impressed that you'd even know of the now defunct Zundapp brand at all.

When it comes to motorcycles, Dargo knows all. It pays to hang around an internet group...you get to find out everyone is knowledgeable about something.  

I always love when a newbie comes here trying to impress us with their film knowledge, writing in  superfluous flowery language and is instantly,  simply corrected by some long time member who is expert on the subject.

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Thanks Dargo for that pic of Ann-Margaret on a motorcycle. Is it from THE SWINGER '66?

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The image is now included in my jewelry glass charm line. 

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15 hours ago, Dargo said:

Ah, so then Sepia, you probably also know the "German military issue" motorcycle that McQueen here famously commandeers in The Great Escape isn't really either a Zundapp nor a BMW, nor for that matter even German-made at all.  ;) 

great-escape.jpg

And btw, I gotta say I was really impressed that you'd not only know the difference between a Zundapp and a BMW (and which are very similar in basic design and what with their common "Boxer" flat twin engines), or that you'd even know of the now defunct Zundapp brand at all.

 

Back in high school a buddy of mine then had an uncle who was a WWII vet and somehow was able to bring an uncommissioned Zundapp  back with him at war's end.  I really don't know how he managed that, but it was impressive.  Ran good too.  I went for several rides in the sidecar.  Had a blast.  Sadly I have NO idea whatever became of it OR my buddy(who I've not seen or spoke to since  '70).

And I remember your pointing out that McQueen's motorcycle in THE GREAT ESCAPE was a dressed up Triumph.  I never noticed it before until you mentioned it, and now every time I see the movie I can't help but notice.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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