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Movie Credits, Then and Now


Snook
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Today's movies seem to have many hundreds of people credited in the production of the movie. When I watch a classic it seems there are only a few dozen credited. I understand that today's productions are much more complex but did the classics simply not list the people involved except for the principals or did it really take so few people to make a movie then? I've looked at the credits for "Gone with the Wind" and can find less than 60 people in the production, not counting actors. I wonder how long the list would be if it were filmed today?

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I think they just didn?t list everyone in the old days. They didn?t list all the assistants, lighting technicians, helpers, stunt men, costume makers, prop makers, carpenters, etc. Even an editing and film-handling crew might involve a dozen people, but not all of them were listed.

 

In the earliest films just the actors, director, producer, and maybe the cameraman were listed. I think the tradition might have come from the stage productions, where only the cast, writer, and director were listed.

 

I think the tradition of listing everyone mainly started in the 1970s when a lot of small independent film companies started making films, and they wanted the public and other film companies to know that they spent a lot of money to make it and they hired a whole lot of people to make their movies. This was also done sometimes with a few big-production, long, and expensive films earlier.

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Today's movies seem to have many hundreds of people credited in the production of the movie. When I watch a classic it seems there are only a few dozen credited. I understand that today's productions are much more complex but did the classics simply not list the people involved except for the principals or did it really take so few people to make a movie then? >>

 

During the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Studio System, the people who worked on the movies were employees of the studio. The Directors could request certain cameramen, sound men and editors, but much of the behind the scenes (below the line today) work was done by men and women who were employed long term with the various studios. The thinking back then was you were receiving a paycheck, you didn't need credit.

 

The magic of filmmaking was more magic than it is today. Today, more people have an idea of what it really takes to make a film (and, thanks to computers, more people feel like they know how to make movies) than ever before in the history of film.

 

The fewer magicians you had to credit, the more money you saved. Titles back then were often created by hand and typeset by hand. So, long credits were also expensive. Craftsmen and women didn't care so much about the credit because they were working steadily because the studios were each putting out approximately 35-50 films a year.

 

With the break down of the Studio System, not only was there a rise in Independently made films, but almost everyone became a freelance worker. By the late 1960s/early 1970s, many of the men and women working on films weren't paid a great deal while working on a film (there was always the promise of money once the film sold, made money, etc). Credit became a bargaining chip. Okay, I'll take less money for working on the film but I want my name in the credits kind of deal.

 

As the magic of filmmaking has gotten more complex, more people were added to the crews. especially the effects crews.

 

We've come a long ways from the glass matte days that's for sure..

 

American Graffiti is one of the first films to run credits at the end and list the men and women who worked on the film. Before that, film credits were mainly run at the beginning of the film with The End title card signaling the movie was over.

 

Hope that helps!

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The fewer magicians you had to credit, the more money you saved. Titles back then were often created by hand and typeset by hand.

 

Common titles were painted on glass, an art that disappeared for good about 10-12 years ago. For certain specialized main title sequences (we've all seen them), calligraphy was applied to paper or parchment -- whatever effect the titles called for.

 

As for the paucity of credits in the old days, versus the copious down-to-the-last-on-set-caterer today, very little has changed, actually. By the mid-1930s, credits were determined contractually. If an individual, or the union the worker belonged, to had negotiated a contract calling for the artist to get screen credit, then they got it.

 

As the decades passed, unions got stronger, more artists got credit (the same formula applied and applies to films' print advertising). In many cases, credit is now assigned in place of additional monetary compensation, a trade-off the studios and signatory producers are more than willing to agree to.

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We all understand that there can be hundreds of people involved in the making of a movie, but I wonder if the makers really expect an audience to sit through a listing of hundreds of names. This is why, I suppose, the listing of the technical people is scrolled at the end of the movie, not at the beginning where we see the stars and the writer(s), producers(s) (and just what is a "co-executive producer" and why are there so many of them? and how can there be more than one "executive producer"), etc.

 

I do think that, in the case of a movie with special effects, it boders on the absurd to try to take in the seemingly endless list of technicians, computer experts, animators, model makers, painters, and what have you. Also, do I really care who the caterer, insurance carrier and attorneys were who contributed, however tangentially, to a film? It seems to me to be a case similar to where you agree to display the sign of a roofer or contractor on your lawn to get a 5% discount. Maybe a better way to do it would be to display a theater card at the entrance with all those names, so anyone who is interested could read it carefully at his leisure.

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I'm sure it's less about whether anyone will sit through them as it is important for the unions to have their people listed. The only benefit is if you like the soundtrack you get a few minutes of music. (This is only good at home so you can dothings and listen to the music.) I'm sure your average movie couldn't care less about any of the credits.

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True, although there are times occasionally when I wonder who was responsible for something in the film and I do want to see the name. However, in these days of easy Internet availability, I could just as easily look up that information online.

 

The only time I stay for the credits is if the film is running the outtakes at the end. Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice had the clever conceit of having the people named in the credits take a bow by singing a song as their names were shown. That at least puts a human face to the production team.

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> I'm sure it's less about whether anyone will sit

> through them as it is important for the unions to

> have their people listed. The only benefit is if you

> like the soundtrack you get a few minutes of music.

 

 

I stay to the end of every movie I see either to see where it was filmed or to listen to the soundtrack. We've had some nice discussions with the clean up crews about the films while they are waiting for us to leave. Sometimes the sound track is really great and I've gone right out and bought it. Then there are the out-takes that are sometimes the best scenes in the movie. My husband just doesn't get why the caterers are listed.

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I don't mind the credits myself, especially the opening credits because that's how you learn names and their importance to a film or company. I remember once how surprising it was to see an MGM film that didn't have Cedric Gibbons listed as the art director. It is funny sometimes on movies that are very high tech to see how many names they can get on the screen at the same time.

 

My family use to practically beg to fast forward over the credits. They don't anymore.

 

rainee - The nice thing about end credit music is it's uninterrupted. That can be a very enjoyable 6 or 7 minutes.

 

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Add me to the list of those who always stay in the theatre through all the credits. I have some friends in the business and look for their names; I usually have questions about the soundtrack that will be answered in the credit; sometimes want to know where the locations were shot, etc.

 

rainee said, "My husband just doesn't get why the caterers are listed."

 

He'd get it if he were the caterer. ;)

 

Often these days, movies have an additional scene that pops up at the end of the credits. Sometimes this last shot ties up a question about the plot, or changes the intent. I have a movie night with a pal, and we always laugh when this happens as we're among the few who stayed and saw this shot.

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In the old days, you saw names of the "masters" or key executives in the beginning credits. Although Cedric Gibbons was always listed as designer at MGM, he often only had a supervisory role and if there was a name beneath his, you can believe it was this unknown who had actually done the set designs. The same went for costume designers. While Adrian was MGM's in-resident clothes designer, he often just made the sketches while his small army of clothes makers did the actual work. It's ironic today that one is rarely certain just who made a movie. When I watch a movie from today, it usually flares at the beginning wth the studio's name. Then it'll have another company that adjoins it. Then it has "A film by Johnny Doe." Then comes "A Jane Doe Production." Then another Studio Question Mark that declares: "A Johnny Doe F ilm, in association with Briarcliff Manor Productions." This goes on and on for another ten minutes. I wish today's films would take a page from HOllywood's golden age when each major production always identified an actor with a few seconds from the movie itself. I never know these days whose who in movies and a brief filmic introduction at the beginning would. Look at "Dinner at Eight," each character was introduced in the beginning with a five second intro.

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"Look at 'Dinner at Eight,' each character was introduced in the beginning with a five second intro."

 

I was watching Marked Woman last night and appreciated the same idea of an opening credit introduction of characters; a portrait of each actor in the role. Sometimes they've done this at the end of the movie. The Gang's All Here with the floating heads of the stars making a "curtain call" or The Bad Seed where the curtain calls were recreated from the Broadway version of the show.

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I like the early 1930's 'tradition' of showing each of the main characters in short clips with their names as well; it's certainly helped me learn the names of some classic (and sometimes obscure) actors and actresses. It served the studios to introduce their (future) sound era 'stars' to the audiences, even if it was problematic to certain storylines (e.g. where those characters weren't introduced until late in the film, or even some whose roles were cut significantly during editing).

 

I'm not sure when the habit of running most or all of the credits at the end (and few, if any, at the beginning) began, but I do agree that their length and totality has gotten a little out of hand in some cases. When I first noticed "Assistant to Mr. so and so", I always assumed it was the actor's lover, drug dealer or alcohol supplier, or such;-) I do know that when I see a film such as Bombardier (1943), which TCM airs fairly regularly and has virtually no opening credits (they're all run at the end), it is surprising and therefore noteworthy.

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I agree, path40a.

 

Being more of a 'visual' learner, I appreciated being able to associate faces and names in those opening [or closing] credits.

 

I suppose when the whole concept of product endorsements arose and with the advent of movie tabloids and the like, the idea fell out of fashion. Regrettable, that today's actors are so omnipresent that we tend to know the face first and the talent [or lack thereof] last.

 

I might rather see pictures of the numerous special effects people, for example, involved in a particular film. I realize, being a union activist, that there may be obligations attached to displaying the names of people but the faces for me are a better representation of the scale and effort of a production.

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