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The Unsung Heroes of the Movies

Richard Kimble

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Dedicated to the notable figures of film history who deserve to be remembered as more than just names in a credits roll



Lajos Bíró






A former journalist turned novelist, playwright (he wrote the play source of Five Graves to Cairo) and screenwriter, Biro left his native Hungary for Hollywood in 1924. In 1932 he went to England, where he became the scenario chief and right-hand man for Alexander Korda at London Films.

Some of the classics he helped write:








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Dedicated to the notable figures of film history who deserve to be remembered as more than just names in a credits roll









Howard and Theodore Lydecker, always known - and billed - as such, were Howard "Babe" Lydecker (June 8, 1911-September 26, 1969) and Theodore Lydecker (November 7, 1908-May 25, 1990), a special effects team primarily working as contract staff members of Republic Pictures. They are best remembered as the producers and photographers of some of the best miniature effects of their time.


Their miniature effects made Republic serials the best for visual effects, far outstripping their competitors at Universal (where special effects maestro John P. Fulton, ASC was forbidden from working on serials) and Columbia Pictures. Their success came from building large, detailed models and filming them in natural light, often in forced perspective to create realistic impressions that they were in fact life-size in relation to other objects and people in a shot, instead of the small models used by others, and the use of slow motion to give the models the appearance of realistic weight when in motion. For instance, in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, the visuals of Captain Marvel flying appear to be an actual man in flight, not a matted or superimposed image.




The plane crashes train shot from Flying Tigers:










A biography of the brothers (which I have not read) has been published:






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Dedicated to the notable figures of film history who deserve to be remembered as more than just names in a credits roll




Norman Dawn (1884-1975) was an early film director. He made several improvements on the matte shot to apply it to motion pictures, and was the first director to use rear projection in cinema.







Dawn's first film Missions of California (1907) made extensive use of the glass shot, in which certain things are painted on a piece of glass and placed in between the camera and the live action. Many of the buildings which Dawn was filming were at least partially destroyed; by painting sections of roof or walls, the impression was made that the buildings were in fact, whole. The main difference between the glass shot and the matte shot is that with a glass shot, all filming is done with a single exposure of film.

Dawn combined his experience with the glass shot with the techniques of the matte shot. Up until this time, the matte shot was essentially a double-exposure: a section of the camera's field would be blocked with a piece of cardboard to block the exposure, the film would be rewound, and the blocked part would also be shot in live action. Dawn instead used pieces of glass with sections painted black (which was more effective at absorbing light than cardboard), and transferred the film to a second, stationary camera rather than merely rewinding the film. The matte painting was then drawn to exactly match the proportion and perspective to the live action shot. The low cost and high quality of Dawn's matte shot made it the mainstay in special effects cinema throughout the century.



The following album was apparently prepared by Dawn as a resume to show the studios:
























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Dedicated to the notable figures of film history who deserve to be remembered as more than just names in a credits roll








Robbins Barstow, Home-Movie Maven, Dies at 91


NOV. 13, 2010



Robbins Barstow, a Connecticut man who, movie camera whirring, documented every aspect of his family’s life for decades, yielding a vast body of work that formed the cornerstone of the recent home-movie revival and has lately garnered a huge following online, died on Nov. 7 at his home in Hartford. He was 91 and previously lived in Wethersfield, Conn.




Robbins Barstow editing his home movies in 1997.






In naming “Disneyland Dream” to the registry, the Library of Congress called it “a priceless and authentic record of time and place.” The movie is also noteworthy as the uncredited first screen appearance of a young Disneyland employee named Steve Martin, then 11, caught by Mr. Barstow’s camera as he hawked guidebooks.






Mr. Barstow, who got his first movie camera at 10, was an ardent public champion of home movie-making. He was also an ardent disseminator of his work, first through neighborhood screenings and later through public-access television. Several years ago, he posted his films on the Internet at archive.org, a digital repository of film, video and much else.

Sixteen of his movies can be seen on the site, including “Disneyland Dream,” which has been downloaded more than 76,000 times. Another, “Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge” (1936), a stirring jungle drama he made at 16 in the Connecticut woods, has been downloaded more than 150,000 times.








Mr. Barstow’s films are noteworthy for straddling the line between home movies and independent films. They chronicle the stuff of daily life, but they do so artfully, with strong narrative elements. He sometimes “directed” his family, as in a dramatic scene from “Disneyland Dream” in which, on learning they have won a trip to Anaheim, they swoon with theatrical joy on the front lawn.








Originally, the pleasure in Mr. Barstow’s films lay in their wide-eyed enjoyment of the larger world — a world that many mid-century Americans would not otherwise have had the chance to see.


Today, there is pleasure of a bittersweet kind. There is the tree-lined street and the white clapboard house. There is the happy family, dressed alike in Davy Crockett jackets. There are the neighbors, come to wish them godspeed.


As it unfolds in faded color on the computer screen, the Barstows’ world is as distant and enchanted for modern viewers as Disneyland was for them.


All my life I have had two primary aims in my movie and video making: create meaningful records of people, places, and events; and to share these "moving images" with other people. -- Robbins Barstow



Disneyland Dream (1956):



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