The Characteristic Features of Hollywood Scenographical by jnyjhtw

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									The Characteristic Features of Hollywood’s Scenographical
                        Stylization
                       (1930-1939)
                                       by
                                  Bassim Sannah

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
                              Doctor of Philosophy
                        (Department of M edia Sciences)

                                     at the
                           Ruhr University of Bochum


                                   June 21, 2004
Some titles of bibliographic records are shortened throughout this study as the following:

AC American Cinematographer
AV Communication Review Audio-Visual Communication Review
IP International Photographer
JSM PE Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers
JSM PTE Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
PR Psychological Review
SA Scientific American
TSM PE Transaction of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers
                               Table of content


1 Introduction                                                      4

2 Film Scenography: familiarization with the field                  10
 2.1 The process of image-sound juxtaposition                       15
 2.2 Hollywood’s Film Scenography: a period of formation            22
 2.3 Definition of the Classical Scenographic Space                 32
 2.4 Analysis of 1930’s Film Scenographical Stylization             53

3 Status of the Scenographic Space in classical photoplay           95
 3.1 Canvas art and the Film Scenography’s pictorial application   101
   3.1.1 The Scenographic Space’s narrative composition            109
   3.1.2 Quattrocento Pictorial Art and the Film Scenography       121
   3.1.3 Impressionism and Film Scenography                        125
 3.2 Stereoscopic Perspective in the spatial configuration         128
 3.3 Mobile compositional image framing                            136
   3.3.1 The screen’s surface data                                 143
   3.3.2 Horizon-Eye Line                                          145
 3.4 Interior Scenographic arrangement                             149
 3.5 Exterior spatial organization                                 172

4 Hollywood’s cinematography: a historiographic background         186
 4.1 Conventional Hollywood cinematographic stylization            189
 4.2 Camera-Angle                                                  194
 4.3 Fluid-Camera: spatial representation                          204
   4.3.1 Reframing: Panning Shot                                   209
   4.3.2 Tracking-Dolling: Perambulator camera shot                211
   4.3.3 Zoom shot                                                 214
   4.3.4 Tilting shot                                              217
   4.3.5 Crane shot                                                218
 4.4 Camera lens: focus and exposure                               220
 4.5 Orthochromatic-Panchromatic emulsion                          228
 4.6 Technicolor process and aesthetic cinematography              235
 4.7 Sonic Perspective: acoustic control                           243
 4.8 Illumination effect and the Scenographic Space                249
   4.8.1 High-Key: flood lighting the set                          258
   4.8.2 Direction-Selective light                                 262
   4.8.3 Low-Key illumination: diffused light                      267
5 Scenographic Space-Beholder: the interaction discourse   270
  5.1 The illusional filmic space                          281
  5.2 Aesthetic Triangle: summary and conclusion           291
  5.3 Final redaction                                      298

6 Appendixes                                               302
  6.1 Appendix A                                           302
  6.2 Appendix B                                           308
  6.3 Appendix C                                           314
  6.4 Bibliography                                         318
1 Introduction

      At the end of the 1920's, the world was greatly affected by the introduction of
      sound into the motion picture, and by the New York Stock M arket Crash that
      occurred in October, 1929.1 The outcome of these two events refashioned the
      film industry for decades to come. Hollywood was influential enough to reflect
      the impact of the Great Depression in the United States. Hollywood’s presence
      was greatly notable during the critical times of the 1930's. Film historians even
      today reflect on the Golden Age Decade.

      T he w orld-class Hollywood of the 1930's exercised its own distinctive
      convention of film-making (film style). Hollywood’s filmic stylization regressed
      during the transition from silent to sound film,2 because the balance between the
      image and the new technological breakthrough (sound) was not in unison.
      Throughout this time, the new film style was characterized by:

           a. Art Deco, chic, heyday film scenographic style, which was introduced in
           canned theater, office sets, or open spatial conception, of the M oderne of
           “rise and fall” motion picture in addition to the “confession movies” (fallen
           w omen) and “shyster” films.3 On the other side, Hollywood’s
           cinematographic interpretation demonstrated eye-catching camera
           movement, and multiple-camera takes. The newly adapted story telling
           stylization was concentrated on tracking the action by chasing the characters
           through corridors and aisles, which induced a notable degree of spatial

      1
              B y 1 933, 10 Million unemployed were registered. Lifestyles (art, social, psychological) were affected by the Stock
      M a rk e t Crash; see Ulrich Gregor and Enno Patalas, Geschichte des Films 1895-1939. Vol. 1, München: Verlagsgruppe
      Bertelsmann 1976, p. 205; about the historical and social backgrounds and effects of photoplay between 1927 and 1947;
      see Pierre Norman Sands, A Historical Study of the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences 1927-1947. Ph. D. Diss.,
      U n i v e rs i t y o f Southern California, September 1966 (Rep. New York: Arno Press 1973); thanks to the Roosevelt “New
      D e a l -Politic”, by 1934, the U. S. market began to recover, see: Dieter Prokop, Hollywood Hollywood: Geschichte, Stars,
      Geschäfte. Köln: Verlagsgesellschaft 1988, p. 120.

      2
          During these years, a great number of Hollywood stars also found themselves in a regression of their careers where they
      c o u ld not adapt to the new film-tech (sound film), such as: Asta Nielsen, Gloria Swanson, Emil Jannings; cf. Adolf
      H e i n z l meier, Bernd Schultz, and Karsten Witte, Die Unsterblichen des Kinos: Stummfilmzeit und die goldenen 30er
      J a h r e . B d . 1, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch 1982, pp. 26,64&71; George Fitzman was a talented director in
      t h e s i lent period, but with the advent of talkies he couldn’t conform, see Charles Higham, Hollywood Cameramen:
      Sources of Light. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press 1970, p. 138.

      3
           “Rise and fall film”: Expressed that wealth and high life style proved incapable of making anybody happy, and instead
      brought just sadness; whereas the “confession movies” which emerged following the ‘True confessions school of
      literature,’ were about girls who had to use their torsos in order to keep their jobs during the Great Depression in
      A me ri c a ; see Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood. New York:
      S t . Martin’s Press 1985, pp. 81&82; see also Arthur Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies. New
      Y o rk : M a c millan Publishing 1957, p. 137; Gerald Mast, A History of the Movies. Indianapolis: Pegasus 1971, p. 230;
      “ S h y s t e r M o v i e s ” dealt mainly with lawyers, newspapermen and politicians from the corrupt underworld; cf. Andrew
      B e rg ma n , W e ’r e in the Money: Depression America and It’s Films. New York: Harper and Row 1974, p. 18; Howard
      Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood. New York: St. Martin’s
      Press 1989 (Introduction); like “office sets, open spatial conception” emerged in the silent film period and continued into
      the 1930's.
      depth. Likewise, the camera may start by a close-up and follow by a full shot,
      or p an to re-frame a moving composition. Four years of this mood of
      storytelling were called Hollywood’s transitional years and endured until
      1931. By the early Thirties, re-framing a composition along with the mobile
      camera techniques allowed Hollywood to control the spatiotemporal
      continuity and lend to the screen image a sense of the novelty of depth cue.4

      b. From the mid- to late Thirties, conspicuous film scenographic balance was
      achieved by the introduction of Functional spatial organization, followed by
      Ultra-Modern mingled with “Early American” or traditional styles.5 It did not
      take long until the new film style met the high expectations of the tutored
      beholders of the classical screen, and was in accordance with the new talking
      image. Hollywood cinematographers, by then, started exploring with depth
      cue representation, faster films, various lenses and with the newly improved
      lighting units, throughout the 1930's.6

For a better understanding of Hollywood’s scenographic stylization during the
Golden Age, we disclose Alfred Krautz’s account, in pointing out the absence of
a sufficient body of literature in the film scenographic field:

      ‘ Di e B erufsgruppen der Szenographen ... gehören zu denen, für die es kaum
      wi s senschaftliche Grundlagen in Bezug auf die ideologisch-ästhetischen
      W i rkungsabsichten ihrer Arbeit gibt. Es existieren weder Nachschlagewerke ...
      noch methodische Darlegungen der ästhetisch-künstlerischen Aufgaben.’ 7

As a fundamental in the film, the term Scenographic Space should be defined


4
   Close consideration was taken regarding the relationship between the “transitional years” and the mechanical innovation
o f t h e A me rican film industry by: David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood
Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. New York: Columbia University Press 1985, pp. 298-308; see also
M y ron Osborn Lounsbury, The Origins of the American Film Criticism 1909-1939. Ph. D. Diss., University of
Pennsylvania 1966 (Rep. New York: Arno Press 1973).

5
       See Anson Bailey Cutts, Homes of Tomorrow in the Movies of Today, in: California Arts and Architecture, Vol. 54
(N o v ember 1938), pp. 16-18; Hollywood’s film Scenographic artistry in the form of Streamlined Moderne which
i n t e rmi n g l e d with traditional and Early American styles, refashioned the architectural as well as the scenographic world
i n L o s A n g e l e s a t the time; cf. David Gebhard and Harriete von Breton, Los Angeles in the Thirties 1931-1941. Los
                                                 nd
A n g e l e s : Hennessey & Ingalls 1975 (2 Ed. 1989), p. 96&97; Three Sets From the Picture “Shall We Dance”, in:
C a l i f o r n i a Arts and Architecture, Vol. 52 (October 1937), P. 30; Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Forties Screen
Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood. New York: St. Martin’s Press 1989 (Introduction).


6
    The newly adapted cinematographic style was concentrated upon depth cue representation of the space. Spatial aesthetic
a n d d e e p focus cinematography were portrayed in a paradigmatic way in the classical photoplay during the 1930's. Cf.
D . B o rdwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Film Production
to 1960, pp. 341-349.


7
    A l fre d Krautz, Film Szenographie und Kostümbild: Kommentierte Quellen, aus Theorie und Praxis des Films. Hsg.:
Betriebsakademie des VEB/DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilme 2/1980, p. 5.


                                                                                                                              5
more clearly. The interaction between the spatiotemporal, film style and
scenographic organization, should be analyzed in form, function, aesthetic, as
w ell as in accordance with        the technological breakthrough.8 Spatial




             Illustration 1: Interaction cycle: Scenographic Space-beholder

ext ernalization inspires in the film beholder a full range of emotions and
thoughts. The Scenographic Space-beholder relationship can be only attained by
the participation of the cinematography as a transformance aesthetic sign.9 By
maintaining this, we are dealing with a communicational equation of an aesthetic
triangle (cycle, Illustration 1).

When the spatial stylization of the film Scenographer is signified by ambiguity
and complexity, the interaction between the Scenographic Space and beholder




8
   Spatiotemporal interaction may conclude in a single scene, or it might obtain variable possibilities: ‘physical time,’
‘manipulated time,’ ‘contiguous space,’ or ‘extended space.’ See Calvin Pryluck, Sources of Meaning in Motion Pictures
a n d T e levision. Ph. D. Diss., Department of Speech and Dramatic Art: University of Iowa 1973 (Rep., New York: Arno
Press 1976), pp. 174-177.

9
    The beholder responds to the visual stimulus presented by the camera on the screen; see Julian Hochberg and Virginia
B ro o k s , T h e Perception of Motion Pictures, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of
P e rception: Perceptual Ecology, Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 296; ‘Cinematography’ outlined John
R o b e rt Gregory, ‘is the process of fixing on film the images which carry the communication.’ See John Robert Gregory,
S o m e P s y c h ological Aspects of Motion Picture Montage. Ph. D. Diss., Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois 1961, p.
3 ; s ee also Edward Branigan, What Is a Camera? In: Patricia Mellencamp and Philip Rosen (Ed.), Cinema Histories,
C i n e m a P ractices. Los Angeles: The American Film Institute 1984, pp. 87-107; John Arnold, Cinematography-
Professional, in: W. D. Morgan (Ed.), The Complete Photographer. Vol. 2, New York: National Educational Alliance
1942, p. 754.


                                                                                                                          6
disintegrates completely, after which the beholders’ mental set declines,10 even
t o t he degree where they may no longer concentrate on the dramatic action
presented in the picture (they may begin watching their neighbors, snacking, or
even dozing in their seat).

Based on this concept, European and American scholars have emphasized the
importance of the film scenography. Specifically, studies and critiques of the
classical film style are incomplete without film scenographic knowledge. It is
clear, although, that any theory about the film as a “set of signs” had not been
formed without utilizing one aspect of the film aesthetic; otherwise, these film
theories would not have any exceptional quality.11 Hollywood’s spatial concept
of the Golden Age has an immediate correlation to the aesthetic principles of
classical pictorial art, which granted film scenography a lawful narrative meaning
to its beholder.

The following tasks are seen in the classical spatial stylization:
a. Narrative source to the beholder.
b. Interpretative guide toward the picture’s message.
c. Highly effective means of sustaining the pictorial communication (screen
   image-beholder).

Correspondingly, these tasks make it clear that the most observed narrative role
of the film scenography is partially covered, but shifting into the background.
With regard to the communicational stream “Scenographic Space-beholder,” it
is distinct that this form of communication consists of three basic foundations:

       Scenographic Space              (Source)
       Cinematography                  (Transformance aesthetic sign)
       Beholder                        (Cycle end)
Yet the question regarding the interrelationship between the scenographic
organization, cinematographic treatment and beholder has not been yet


10
      "Mental set” was termed by Gombrich as an expectation of the beholder; see Ernst Hans Gombrich, Art and Illusion:
                                                                                                           nd
A S t u d y i n t h e Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York: Bolingen Foundation 1960 (2             Ed., New York:
Kingsport Press 1961).

1 1
          R e spectively, the following papers have extolled the motion picture’s aesthetical aspect along with its enhancement
o f t h e fi lmic narrative; Vladimir Nilsen, The Cinema as Graphic Art. Tr. by Stephen Garry, New York: Hill and Wang
1959; Nilson’s analysis could be seen as being among the most authoritative analysis regarding the motion picture’s
a e s t hetical conceptualization; James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: AV Communication Review, Vol.
1 (1 9 54), pp. 3-23; George Amberg (Ed.), The Art of Cinema: Selected Essays. New York: Arno Press & The New York
Times 1972; Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art. Berkeley: University of California Press 1967; Calvin Pryluck, Source of
M e a n i n g i n M o tion Pictures and Television. Ph. D. Diss., Dept of Speech and Dramatic Art, University of Iowa, July
1 9 7 3 , (R ep. New York: Arno Press 1976); David Bordwell/Kirstin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading,
M a s s a c h u s etts: Addison Wesley 1979; Louis Gianneti, Understanding Movies. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-
Hall 1972 (1976, and 3 rd Ed. 1982); Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New
York: Macmillan 1953; Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963.


                                                                                                                            7
ext ens ively discussed. Today, it is certainly no longer controversial that the
spatial organization (as the cryptogram of the film Scenographer of Hollywood’s
G olden Age) had its own concept, mode and own distinguishing trademarks.
H olly w ood, along with film historians, should be appreciative of the film
Scenographers’ contribution to the film style. Furthermore, Hollywood’s film
Scenographers of the 1930's and beyond belong to the motion picture’s most
celebrated artists of the film production team, yet they are the least
acknowledged individuals, despite their aesthetic responsibility of lending a
picture its most distinctive visual style.

This study deals with Hollywood’s spatial code, its relation to the narrational
stream, and its impact on the beholder’s mental state. Certainly there are other
aesthetic signs of the motion picture resting beyond the scope of this study, some
of which were developed throughout the history of the filmic practice; each of
these aesthetic signs deserves an independent dissertation.12

An introduction to this study is founded on the points of: the film scenography
of the 1930's, and the process of image and sound juxtaposition (Chapter 2). In
addit ion, further spatial analysis should be used as a term of reference
classifying the interior and exterior Scenographic Space, and their composition
of the classical Hollywood photoplay (Chapter 3); it will be fundamentally
necessary to enlighten the technique of the spatial representation in relation to
the aesthetical, technological and historical context (Chapter 4). Finally, Chapter
5 will focus on the scope of the pictorial communication, image-beholder, and
its psychological structure.

Treatment of the above formulated concept was profoundly structured and
deepened after being related to such unique discussions as disclosed in the works
of: Jan M ukarovsky, Siegfried Kracauer, David Bordwell, Rudolf Arnheim,
Andre Bazin, and Ray L. Birdwhistell. An investigation such as the one proposed
above has never taken place in German literature.13

12
        T o mention a few instances in this regard such as: the spatial code of the stage’s dramatic art in the late nineteenth
c e n t u ry a n d its impact on Hollywood’s early motion picture spatial conception; the influence of the Germanic
E x p re s s i o n i s t motion picture school on Hollywood’s film scenographic development; the contribution of sound to the
p h o t o p l a y ’s continuity editing after the introduction of dialogue into the motion pictures, in terms of adding new
p o ssibilities to the image-beholder narrational stream; and also special effect development and its use in the Scenographic
Space alongside the new possibilities of sound, and its influence on the communicational stream (screen image-beholder).

13
       My representation of the interaction cycle (Scenographic Space - Cinematography and Beholder) is based on the most
s i g n i fi c ant of the following works: Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German
F i l m . New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1947; David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson, The Classical
Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (among the most informative of literary works regarding
H o l l y w o o d n a rrative codes); Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley:
U n i v e rsity of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974); Jan Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays By
Jan Mukarovsky. Tr. and Ed. by: John Burbank and Peter Steiner, New Haven: Yale University Press 1978; Andre Bazin,
Qu-est-ce que le Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 1 ( Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What is Cinema? Vol. 1, Berkeley
a n d Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967); Ray L. Birdwhistell, Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body


                                                                                                                            8
Sketches,14 along with their interpretations from Joseph Urban, Hans Dreier,
Carroll Clark, Richard Day, William Cameron M enzies, Charles D. Hall, Anton
Grot and Cedric Gibbons, will impart a contemporary discussion to the European
continent for the first time. Historic and qualitative fundamentals are the basis
for the compilation of films. M y intentions will be described in detail by this
Film List.15

M ukarovsky, Kracauer, Bordwell, Arnheim, Bazin, and Birdwhistell were all
helpful references in the examination of filmic communication.




Motion Communication. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1970.

14
     Sketches are the subject of this investigation, which are mostly stationed at some American archives, such as: Academy
o f M o t i o n Picture Arts and Sciences and Academy Foundation/The Margaret Herrick Library, Southern California (where
mo s t of Paramount, Radio Keith Orphium (RKO), and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM’s) reference materials are located).
U n iversity of Texas at Austin, Humanities Research Center, where a great deal of Willian Cameron Menzies’ sketches
a n d fi l m scenography are present; and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, New York, where
a significant portion of Joseph Urban’s collection is currently located.

15
       I have compiled a list of films essentially from the following sources: The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion
P i c tures Produced in the United States: Feature Films 1931-1940. Berkeley: University of California Press 1993; J.
V e rmi l y , T h e Films of the Thirties. Secaucus, New Jersey 1982; The 1996 Movies Unlimited Video Catalog. 18 th Ed.,
P h i ladelphia, PA: Movies Unlimited 1996; Ronald Bergan, Graham Fuller, and David Malcolm, Academy Awards
Winners. London: Prion 1994; Microsoft Cinemania: Interactive Movie Guide. Microsoft Corporation 1992.




                                                                                                                          9
2 Film Scenography: Familiarization With the Field

      In t he film scenographic field, both German and English languages cause
      confusion by utilizing a varying terminology relating to the creativity of the
      scenic externalization: Filmausstatter, Filmdekorateure1 , Filmarchitekten2 , Film-
      Szenenbildner3 , Filmszenographen4 ; the corresponding English terminology is
      no different: Production Designer, Art Director, Set Designer, and Supervisory
      Art Designer5 . The elusiveness of these terms in both languages in the credits of
      foreign films leads to mistakes in the depiction of the main task of the film
      scenographical field. Alfred Krautz addressed this question:

             ‘Sollte man sich wie in dieser Publikation auf den Ausdruck Szenograph



      1
          F i l mausstatter and Filmdekorateure are currently used for the same purpose in Germany, in film as well as in the stage
      scenographic field.

      2
          See Helmut Weihsmann, Gebaute Illusionen: Architektur im Film. Fulda 1988.


      3
           With this, the essential film Scenographers in Germany called themselves “Filmarchitekten” or “Film-Szenenbildner”;
      s e e Film+Television Design Annual: Jahrbuch des Verbandes der Szenenbildner, Filmarchitekten und Kostümbildner
      in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. 6 Jahrgang, Regensburg: Aumuller Druck 1992/93.

      4
         Alfred Krautz, Filmszenographie und Kostümbild: kommentierte Quellen, aus Theorie und Praxis des Films. Hsg.:
      Betriebsakademie des VEB/DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilme 2/1980.

      5
          E v e n t o d a y , this terminology is still being used in contemporary Hollywood film production; see Terence St. John
      M a rn e r a n d M i c hael Stringer, Film Design. New York: A. S. Barnes 1974; Oregon: Film & Video Directory. Portland,
      O re g o n : O re g o n Media Production Association 1995; the structure of the art department hierarchy in Hollywood is as
      follows:

                   1. Production Designer -William Cameron Menzies was the first in Gone With the Wind (1939)- is responsible
                   fo r t h e p i c t ure visual stylization, and to represent consistent film scenography throughout the film; the job
                   d e fi n e s a l s o t he main camera shots on paper, the tonal treatment in accordance with the dramatic action, as
                   well as the characters’ composition.
                   2. Art Director: reports to and assists the Production Designer.
                   3 . (1 -2 or more) Unit Art Directors: support the Art Director, and have their assistants: One is responsible for
                   the period and style research, and the second is responsible for color and light of the film.
                   4 . A v e ra g e of two (or more depend on project size) Assistant Designers: both Assistant Designers supervise
                   the setting construction (carpenters, painters, light technicians, iron workers, sculptors, color and furniture).
                   5. Script Supervisor: is responsible for furniture positions, costume details, takes continuity notes and pictures,
                   d e t a i l a bout the consumable objects (e.g., how full a glass of water is allowed to be, or cigarette length). In
                   a s ma l l p ro j e c t, dressing the set is usually done by the film Scenographer; see Leon Barsacq, Le Decor de
                   F i l m. Paris: Editions Seghers 1970 (Tr. by Michael Bullock and Ed. by Elliott Stein, Caligari’s Cabinet and
                   O t h er Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design. Boston: Little, Brown 1976), pp. 163-172; Barsacq/Stein’s
                   work belongs to the early and dependable papers on the film’s scenographic field in general and Hollywood’s
                   S c e n o g ra p h ers’ work and life in particular; see also John Koenig, Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore: Baltimore
                   Museum of Art 1942; and John Harkrider, Set Design from Script to Stage, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 29, No. 4
                   (October 1937), pp. 358-360.
       ei ni gen, der in den meisten Europäischen Ländern gebräuchlich oder
       verständllich ist. Dazu ist allerdings der Zusatz ‘Film’-oder ‘Fernseh’-nötig.’ 6

Krautz’ suggestion provides the proper definition regarding film scenography,
and elaborates upon what has been considered elusive for a long time.

When dealing with a setting, the film Scenographer has the task of translating the
dreams of the society into forms, lines, perspective and tonal values. A set may
challenge the beholder’s curiosity during the filmic communication, or perhaps
may lead to questions relating to the spatial interpretation. No matter how long
or short the duration of a picture, the film’s spatial arrangement has its meaning;
w het her consciously or unconsciously it is always perceived. The film
Scenographer is one of the most important members of the film team since a film
cannot be produced in an empty space.

By definition, film scenography is understood as a selection of scenes for a film,
and the organization of the characters’ surrounding. Plot (Syuzhet) and the
revival of the spatial arrangement are two equal dramatic means corresponding
t o t he narrative quality of the picture. The film story alone is incapable of
p rojecting authenticity onto the screen because the cinematographic process
conveys only ‘what is there, not what someone hoped or imagined or planned to
be there.’7

In t rans lating the beholders’ feeling into creative images, the motion picture
deserves to be an effectual communicational medium yet to be discovered. To
sustain highly dramatic value in the set, the film Scenographer is challenged to
invite simplicity and organic unity into the spatial.8 The film Scenographer would
go down every avenue available to secure the maximum artistic quality in the set.
This artist does not imitate the visible world, but tries to reconstruct reality in




6
    Alfred Krautz, Film Szenographie und Kostumbild: komentierte Quellen aus Theorie und Praxis des Films. Hsg.:
Betriebsakademie des VEB/DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilms 2/1980, p. 30.

7
    Richard Griffith, Anatomy of a Motion Picture. New York: ST. Martin’s Press 1959, P. 86.

8
   Edward Carrick, Moving Picture Sets: A Medium for the Architect, in: The Architectural Record, Vol. 67 (January-June
1930), p. 440.




                                                                                                                   11
order to become an integrated part of the picture’s narrative quality.9

A scenographic exposition is projected in terms of a spatial interpretation: mise-
en-scenes, their forms, colors, light, and shade, in addition to the dramatic action
depicted within the space. Out of this organization emerges a world that conquers
the beholders’ attention and invokes inspiration and illusion. The structurization
of the filmic spatial is more than an aesthetic depiction; a setting stimulates and
opens the idyllic horizon of the beholder. It has the tendency of being simplistic
in order to be grasped by its beholder with ease.10 This means that the mise-en-
scene serves not only as a frame for the characters, but it influences the picture’s
dramatic action as it inspires the action of the characters, or even the concept of
the director. The film Scenographer should strive toward a certain conceptual
work and hold to a certain discipline in order to achieve the ideal of the picture.
A scenographic task must reflect the philosophic impression and the mental sense
of the subject matter. In addition, the Scenographer should introduce into the
s p at ial organization the sociological background with its history and cultural
context. All these must harmonize dramatically with one another.11 A
scenographic representation should interpret the setting’s occupants’ sociological
and psychological states. Even before a character is seen, the set should deliver
to the beholder information about the characters’ status in the society, and it
should be integrated smoothly with the action.12

Hollywood’s persistence in its film-making in the 1930's allows a paradigmatic
narrative quality on the screen. This includes its Spatial concept. Hollywood’s
scenographical code, I propose, is a part of the classic film identity, and the two

9
     M u k h t ar Abd Al-Jawwad, Historical Introduction to the Understanding of Spatial Organization in the Motion Picture,
i n : C i n e matic Studies, Vol. 1, by the Film Academy, Algiza, Egypt/my translation (January-February 1987), p. 58;
i n t h i s s tudy we are mainly dealing with the big American studios, their Scneogrphers and their works: Van Nest
P o lglase/Carroll Clark (RKO), Charles D. Hall (Universal Studios), Anton Grot (Warner Brothers), Hans Dreier
(P a ra mount), Richard Day (Goldwyn/United Artists), Cedric Gibbons and his associates (MGM), in addition to some
fre e lance masters of the film scenographic field such as Joseph Urban, William Cameron Menzies, and Lyle Wheeler,
w h o a l o n g with their associates contributed remarkably to the Renaissance Age of the classical Hollywood visual style,
and invented the most memorable film scenography of the Golden Age and beyond.


10
      D e n i s B a l b e t , The Revolution of the Stage Design in the 20th Century. Paris and New York: Leon Amiel 1977,
(introduction).

11
      S e e G e bhard Helwig, Szenenbild in Film und Fernsehen: Aus Theorie und Praxis des Films. Studienmaterial. Hsg.:
Betriebsakademie des VEB, DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilme 12/1984, p. 13.


12
     L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 125&126.


                                                                                                                       12
cannot be separated from each other. Simplicity and homogeneity characterize
this correlation.

H olly w ood film practice from the classic era combined a set of unified and
integrated aesthetic norms.13 After the arrival of the talking film, Hollywood’s
production went into its turbulent or transitional period, when film-makers had
not yet mastered the new medium (sound). This resulted in the aesthetic qualities
becoming secondary to film technique.14 Later in the decade, Hollywood started
exploring with mobile camera, shooting in depth, and with long takes.15 Yet in
its transition to sound, Hollywood film-making was accused favoring sound at
the expense of its aesthetical values. Some filmers’ production continued with
the same aesthetic stylization and quality from the past, but were able to invent
new ways for exploring sound. ‘A series of technical discoveries -closer framing,
camera movements, various sorts of editing, the expressive use of setting and
lighting- gradually revealed the resources of ‘film language.”16

With the arrival of sound, film meant the simultaneous juxtaposition of sound
and image on the screen.17 Noel Burch observed the current juxtaposing of image
and sound a positively accomplished fact.18 This enhancement of filmic reality
by the addition of sound to the image relies profoundly on the pictorial
vis ualization of the image completing the narrative cycle, i.e., the pictorial
communication. This suggestion coincides with Raymond Durgnat’s indication,
that the motion pictures’ architecture contains drama, and the film is the best



13
    Cf. D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema : Film Style and Mode of Production
to 1960, pp. 4-5.

14
     D . Bordwell, The Power of a Research Tradition: Prospects for Progress in the Study of Film Style, in: Film History,
Vol. 6 (1994), p. 60.

15
     B y t h e n , H ollywood studios concentrated on an image which was formed from an enhanced depth cue as well as
camera movement in the space; ibid., p. 67.

16
     Ibid., p. 60.

17
     Calvin Pryluck, Source of Meaning in Motion Pictures and Television. Ph.D. Diss., Department of Speech and
Dramatic Art: University of Iowa 1973 (Rep., New York : Arno Press 1976) pp. 176&177.

18
     S e e Noel Burch, Praxis du Cinema. Paris: Editions Gallimard 1969 (Tr. by Helen R. Lane, Theory of Film Practice.
New York: Praeger Publishers 1973), p. 90.


                                                                                                                      13
medium to represent drama and architecture together.19 Subsequently, the film
s cenograp hy, as the other side of the architectural form, had a significant
cont ribution to the dramatic balance when juxtaposed with sound, since the
motion picture medium is an image-driven one.

T ow ard the end of the silent film period, after the institutionalization and
structurization of the film industry, Hollywood was the fourth largest industry in
the United States, with a product that was seen worldwide.20 After 1917, classical
Hollywood film-making began influencing the world’s film production, and the
latter’s form of story-telling (happy ending) was an accent that was borrowed
from the American classic attitude of film production.21 By the nineteen-forties,
H olly w ood had adapted a new form of practice shot/reverse shot and flood
camera, which were notable and unambiguous representational means in telling
the story. Yet Hollywood during the Forties presented ‘that the sound cinema
w ill be that which explores the theatrical and novelistic resources of the
medium.’22 By the early 1950's, Hollywood preserved a continuation of older
tradition, i.e., through the narrative quality of acoustic control, adapting same
balance formulae, the centering of the compositional image on the screen, and
by defining the filmic space.23

In summary, film scenography contributes a great deal to the picture’s narrative
quality, and without it, the filmic scene is empty and meaningless. None of the
beholders will have an interest in the film without the colorful and attractive
environment of film scenography. Should someone assert that the motion
pictures’ scenography and its artistic visualization in the film are unimportant,
then they are not accurate and compromise the film, because the setting is very


19
     A spatial organization may attribute a dream or lifestyle to the film; see Raymond Durgnat, Film and Feelings.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1967, pp. 99&100.

20
     See Pierre Norman Sands, A Historical Study of the Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Sciences 1927-1947. Ph.D.
Diss., University of Southern California 1966 (Rep. New York : Arno Press 1973), p. 4.

21
     C f. D . B o rdwell, Classical Hollywood Cinema : Narrational Principles and Procedures, in :Philip Rosen (Ed.),
Narrative Apparatus, Ideology: A film theory reader. New York: Columbia University Press 1986, p. 31.

22
      D. Bordwell, The Power of a Research Tradition: Prospects for Progress in the Study of Film Style, in: Film History,
Vol. 6 (1994), p. 68.

23
    See also D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema : Film Style and Mode of Film
Production to 1960, p. 53.


                                                                                                                      14
       much a part of the film. The artistic accuracy of the film scenography entertains,
       and provides the beholder with information about the quality of the film.24 A
       qualitative spatial configuration may decide extensively on the narrative quality
       of the film. It should be tasteful and must always match the action and inform the
       beholder. A well planned setting by the film Scenographer may offer inspiration
       to the untutored beholder, and maintains smooth communication during the
       unfolding of the dramatic action on the screen.

2.1 The Process of Image-Sound Juxtaposition
       N early a half-century prior to the introduction of dialogue into the film,
       experiments were taking place for securing the juxtaposition of image and sound
       simultaneously. Arche typically, there had been attempts made with ear tubes for
       sound recording, followed by Thomas Alva Edison’s ‘Kinetoscope’ and
       ‘P honograph’ in 1894. Carl Laemmle imported the ‘Synchroscope’ from
       Germany for the same purpose. Still, innovations for sounded motion pictures
       continued to emerge, like Thomas A. Edison’s ‘Cameraphone’, Dr. Lee De
       F ores t ’s ‘Phonofilm’ and David Wark Griffith’s contribution of the
       ‘Photokinema’ apparatus, which he had used in Dream Street (1921).25
       M eanwhile, however, there had never been an entirely silent motion picture,
       since film signified a ‘vaudeville or music-hall presentation,’ where musicians
       tried to accompany them with some kind of appropriate pianistic tone according
       to the musician’s justification. From 1912 forward, large scale “specials” began
       emerging from Europe that played sound simultaneously with the picture.26

       Edison was credited as the father of the talking film for his innovations of the
       Phonograph (for sound recording) and Kinetoscope (for image projection) in the



       24
            C f. Rosa Lachenmeier and Werner Jehle, Architektur fur die Nacht. Katalog der Ausstellung im Architekturmuseum.
       Basel von: 23.11.1990 bis 20.1.1991, p. 80.

       25
           Some film chronicles date the Kinetoscope back to 1893; cf. Rupert Hughes, Early Days in the Movies, in: The
       Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 207, No. 40 (April 6, 1935); Daniel Blum, A New Pictorial History of the Talkies. New York:
       G . P . P u t n a ms 1 9 5 8, p. 7; see also Scott Baldinger, Hollywood Talks!, in: The Editors of Variety (Ed.), The Variety
       History of Show Business. New York: Harry N. Abrams 1993, pp. 42&43.

       26
           Arthur Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies. New York: Macmillan Publishing 1957, p. 124;
       b y t h e p re mi e r release of David Wark Griffith The Birth of a Nation (1915) the picture was presented using the same
       me t h o d of sound effect where a symphonic score accompanied the picture’s projection, Ibid. p.125; Knight presented an
       impressive historical account of the American motion picture industry from its origins to the early 1950's.


                                                                                                                               15
late years of the nineteenth century.27 Experiments for recording sound were
cont inued by various celebrities in the U.S. Among the most significant
innovations was the amplifier (audion tube), which was invented by Dr. De
F ores t in 1907. DeForest’s innovation increased the electromagnetic signals,
which made radio broadcasting possible. Despite being principally at discovery
for the radio, it was also a significant turning point for sound recording,
transmitting, or reproducing. A decade and a half later, in 1922, Dr. De Forest
offered an additional breakthrough. It was another sound recording system
named Phonofilm.28

M eanwhile, the motion picture industry was willing to try anything and every
technique available in order to make their product more attractive to the public
and thereby ensure a greater box-office return. At this stage in the history of
sound recording, the adaptation of organs in the neighborhood movie houses was
a somewhat practical answer for the juxtaposition of image and sound. It was
economical, and more easily managed than the orchestra. ‘The elaborate
keyboard and pipes of the grand organ were capable of producing the sounds of
a variety of musical instruments and ensemble, not to mention special effects’.29
P rogressively, musical instruments became varied. A large and powerful
Wurlitzer had some tremendous changing sound effects, and was accompanied
by a few other instruments in order to sustain the images’ dramatic impact. One
of its functions was to draw the patron’s attention away from the noise of the film
projector and the squeak of the seats, but primarily its aim was to cover the
whispers of disgruntled viewers. Increasingly, more instruments were added in
the theater to create a better sound effect and presentation until about the middle
of the nineteen-twenties.30


27
      Rupert Hughes, Early Days in the Movies, in: The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 207, No. 40 (April 6, 1935), p. 18;
re s p ectively, a great deal of effort was spent regarding the technological breakthrough process of the sound systems
between (1888-1928): Kinetophonograph, Chronophone, Cameraphone, Cinephone, Kinetophone, Synchroscope,
P h o n o g raph, Phonofilm, Vitaphone, Movietone, Vocafilm, Voiceaphone and the Photophone in addition to their impact
on Hollywood transition to sound; cf. John Douglas Gomery, The Coming of Sound to the American Cinema: A History
o f the Transformation of an Industry. Ph. D. Diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison 1975 (Rep., Michigan: University
Microfilms International 1992), Chap. 2&3.

28
    Thomas W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, pp. 205&206.

29
    J o s e p h M . Valerio and Daniel Friedman, Movie Palaces: Renaissance and Reuse. New York: Educational Facilities
Laboratories Division, Academy for Educational Development 1982, p. 20.

30
     A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, p.125.


                                                                                                                   16
In 1883, a Jewish family emigrated to the U.S. from Poland that would also
prove to be significant in the development of sound in motion pictures. Warner
Brothers’ father was a butcher by trade. He settled in Ohio where he had four
sons and two daughters. Popular were: Harry, Albert (Abe), Sam, Jack, and Rose.
Harry started a career as shoemaker, while his brothers Sam and Abe undertook
showingmovies in the early years of this century. Two years after exhibitions of
mot ion pictures -such as The Great Train Robbery [1903]- the Brothers
progressed in 1905 to further success with the nickelodeon in New Castle,
Pennsylvania. Jack vocalized in the pit while his sister Rose accompanied him
on the piano. In 1917, Warner Brothers founded their own film company in New
York, which marked only the beginning of the Brothers Warners’ future empire
in the motion picture industry.31 In Hollywood, the industry and the art form
together became an increasingly promising prospect going from good to better.
Soon after the First World War, American film dominated the motion picture
market around the world. By then, Hollywood was synonymous with movies, and
the film production center of the world.32

Paramount, M etro-Goldwyn, First National and Fox were emerging as serious
competitors by the mid 1920's in the motion picture industry. They, in turn, had
affect ed the success of Warner Brothers. Warners attempted to escape their
economical dead-end and dilemma, ‘So they tried sound.’ As a step toward the
transition to sound, in 1925, Warner Brothers signed a contract with Western
Electric under the name Vitaphone to produce sound film. On August 6, 1926,
Don Juan was the result of that agreement. The characters’ lines and a music
score played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra were both synchronized
with the film, and the introductory speech of Will Hay, the president of M otion
Picture Producers and Distributors of America, was recorded on the film. The
comedy-drama The Better’ Ole [1926], and the romantic costume drama When




31
       Warner Brothers, in: Fortune, Vol. 16, No.6 (December 1937), p. 111; for more about the historiographical
b a c k ground of Hollywood tycoons (founders) who emigrated from middle and eastern Europe to America in the late
n i n e t e e n t h c entury, their power and their odd policies in the studio system; see Philip French, The Movie Moguls: An
Informal History of the Hollywood tycoons. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1969; as well as Ethan Morden, The
H o l l ywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1988; in the proceeding
analysis we will see how the Warner Brothers’ success, by their switching over to sound, contributed to the reshaping of
Hollywood’s history and the film style.

32
     Kenneth W. Leish, Cinema. New York: Newsweek Books 1974, p. 31.


                                                                                                                         17
a Man Loves [1927], were produced using the same synchronization technique.33

With Western Electric Company’s copyrighted product, the Vitaphone, Warner
Brothers followed with the “All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!” The Jazz
Singer in October of 1927. The tremendous success of the part-talky picture had
draw n t he studio’s attention to the profitability of sound at the box-office.
William Fox now started joining this new technological event with his ‘Fox-
M ovietone.’ In mid July (1928), Warner Brothers released The Light of New York
in their own New York theater. The melodramatic picture was credited as ‘the
first all-talking feature film ever made.’ With the introduction of The Light of
New York into the market, the birth of the talking motion picture began.34 In an
article written in Fortune in December of 1937, the editor highly praised the
p roduction quality of Warner’s studio. ‘And yet by all movie standards -
H ollywood’s, the box office’s, and the critics’- Warner Bros. is conceded to
make very good pictures indeed.’ The Jazz Singer’s success precipitated further
advancement for the studio, enabling Warners to edge ahead of the rest of
Hollywood’s studios in converting to the talkies.35

When the very first of all talkies, The Light of New York, earned four million
dollars with a production cost of seventy-five thousand dollars, it was financially
a convincing enough aspect to alert the rest of Hollywood’s studios into eagerly
adapting to the new sound technology. The New Yorker Wall Street financed,
and later controlled, this very expensive conversion to the up-to-date
technological breakthrough. In 1929, approximately seventy-five percent of the
U.S. theaters were equipped with sound technology, and by 1930, the transition
to sound was complete.36 The Baltimore Daily Post credited the pioneer talky,


33
    A. R. Fulton, Motion Pictures: The Development of an Art from Silent Films to the Age of Television. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press 1960, p. 155.

34
     Daniel Blum, A New Pictorial History of the Talkies. New York: G. P. Putnams 1958, p. 11; see also Daniel Cohen,
M u s icals. New York: Bison Books 1984, p.10; see Scot Baldinger, Hollywood Talks! In: The Editors of Variety’s (Ed.),
The Variety History of Show Business. New York: Harry N. Abrams 1993, pp. 42-47.

35
     Warner Brothers, in: Fortune, Vol. 16, No. 6, (December 1937), pp. 110&111; it was a turning point in motion picture
history, in the part- talky The Jazz Singer (1927), when Al Jolson sang and phrased to his mother: ‘come on Ma! Listen
to’ and ‘you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!’ Jolson’s voice marked the unusual, in which the public witnessed a sounded image
for almost the first time in film history.

36
       K e n n e t h W. Leish, Cinema. New York: Newsweek Books 1974, p. 68; for further information about the historical
background of the Wall Street investment and interest in the new technological event (sound) of Hollywood studios
b e t w e en (1929-1939); see Lewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. New York: Teachers College


                                                                                                                     18
The Light of New York, as a sensational event, that was perceived considerably
by the public, ‘with its fast action and its Vitaphone dialogue. For the first time
in t he film industry every character in this film speaks, virtually eliminating
subtitles.’37 Hollywood studios used or abused the new medium (sound track)
w herever they thought fit in the production, to the extent that some studios
advertised their pictures as literally having “100% talking, 100% singing, 100%
dancing.”38 In 1929, the advent of talkies gained new dimensions, and the
exhaustive use of the new technological breakthrough exposed American film-
making in its early dialogue period to valid criticism. Sound picture making
became more of an artificial than a true art form, distancing itself from the old
aes t het ic tradition. In its early stages, sound was not introduced in a highly
artistic fashion into the screen image. Sound was either exhaustively abused, or
the spoken lines came ahead or behind the character’s plot.

During the early days subsequent to the addition of sound, the microphone’s
immobility and over-sensitivity to ambient noise caused somewhat of a
nightmare for the film production: lights made noise, as well as long fingernails
and shoes, and even the characters’ accessories had to be replaced with rubber
rep licas in order to avoid unwanted sound. Filming exterior scenes on the
studios’ lots was an even greater challenge. Some studios outfitted their garbage
trucks with special balloon tires to reduce noise. They even had crew members
standing with flags on roofs to warn airplanes to stay away. Under limitations
such as these, film production was limited to almost ten minutes of filming per
day.39 Such critical conditions as mentioned above meant film production on the
sound stage could be done only under artificial conditions. The camera had to be
locked in a soundproof booth to keep the noise of its motor from being recorded
with the actual dramatic action. But the soundproof sheds were tremendously hot,
which created constant interruptions every few minutes of the film production.40


Press 1939, pp. 419-432.

37
     The Baltimore Daily Post (September 11, 1928).

38
     A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, p. 129.

39
      T h o ma s W . Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren With Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 215&216.

40
    Scott Baldinger, Hollywood Talks! In: The Editors of the Variety’s (Ed.), The Variety History of Show Business. New
York: Harry N. Abrams 1993, p. 47.


                                                                                                                   19
Amid this period of turbulence in film-making history, Rouben M amoulian
demonstrated a creative approach in his musical drama, Applause (1929). At
P aramount, Rouben M amoulian devised his own way to overcome these
technical difficulties. His theatrical background from Broadway helped him to
be inventive on the sound stage. He came up with the notion of putting the
s oundproof cage on wheels and moving it around in the sound stage while
filming. By doing this, M amoulian mobilized the camera from its fixed location.
He went even further with his new idea by employing two recording channels,
and disregarding the traditional method of placing the microphone between two
s ep arate sources of sound to record both simultaneously. By doing this,
M amoulian obtained a so-called sound overlapping, in which one pitch is higher
than the other. In Applause, he employed two microphones, one for the prayer
and the other for recording the song: Helen M organ’s song “lullaby” overlapped
her p ray ing daughter’s voice in the background. Shooting in silence and
synchronizing his scenes with sound was another artistic benefit of the camera’s
liberation from the restrictions imposed by sound. M amoulian delivered high
realis m in his picture in an age where most film makers were frightened by
s ound. Coincidentally, King Vidor ventured with the new merger technology
(sound) in his musical drama, Hallelujah (1929) at M GM . The musical was the
first black musical to date. Vidor used the synchronization technique, after he
shot silent on location in Tennessee and Arkansas, and added the sound later. At
Universal Studios, Lewis M ilestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), and
Ernst Lubitsch’s, The Love Parade (1929) at Paramount, were also shot using the
synchronization technique.

Wit h the switch-over to dialogue, the scenographic configuration gained an
additional narrative quality. The emergence of sound was perceived as a dramatic
means aiding in the film’s spatial organization, explained the film Scenographer
Joseph Urban. ‘The sound picture’ said Urban, ‘brings with it the possibility of
greater simplicity of setting.’41 Howard Hughes, one of Hollywood’s financiers,
well realized the dramatic depth in the juxtaposition of image and sound. After
Hughes spent about three million dollars on the silent version of Hell’s Angels
(1929), he added another million, believing that a sound version of the picture
would make it more attractive. Hughes’ productions of the early Thirties notably
us ed t he new technical innovation, mixed with tempo rhythm, violence and


41
    Joseph Urban, The Cinema Designer Confronts Sound, in: Oliver M. Sayler (Ed.), Revolt in the Arts: A Survey of the
Creation, Distribution and Appreciation of Art in America. New York: Brentano’s Publishers 1930, p. 242.


                                                                                                                  20
beauties, resulting in an outcome that was as distinctive as it was expected.42 The
Front Page (1931), or Scarface (1932), both introduced the new technique in a
way that served and enhanced their narrative quality. Sound medium revealed a
great deal of realism in these pictures on the screen.

Ernst Lubitsch had his own distinguished movie making format. At Paramount,
his p ictures were simplistic and were accentuated with a “touch” ‘of arch
erot icism,’ while Rouben M amoulian managed a smooth and kaleidoscopic
image balanced with sound. These two simplistic formulas paved a free path for
establishing a new identity for the musical film.43 Lubitsch’s One Hour With You
(1932) typically carried the Lubitschian formula of a romantic comedy mixed
with Boudoir and songs.44

Europe’s misfortune with World War I benefitted Hollywood with countless
artists and technicians who contributed to the rise of the Hollywood Renaissance
Age after they settled on the west coast. The film-maker’s flooding of the
A merican continent would continue over the following two decades. Emigres
dominated many Hollywood studios, some of which include film Scenographers,
directors, characters, and technicians. Paramount had a wide range of German
newcomers to America, who migrated west to Hollywood, including the studios’
chief film Scenographer, Hans Dreier, his associate Ernst Fegte, the director
Ernst Lubitsch, the cinematographer Theodore Sparkuh, the scenarist Hans Kraly
with his Austrian colleague Billy Wilder, and such artists as Pola Negri, Emil
J annings, M arlene Dietrich and the Austrian director Josef Von Spielberg.
Whereas Universal Studios had a mix of newcomers, including Karl Freund,
G erman cinematographer. The chief film Scenographer, Charles D. Hall, the
director James Whale and Boris Karloff were English. These men were the talent
behind making legendary horror pictures. Paul Fejos, the director of Broadway
(1929), was Hungarian. Warner Brothers, themselves, came from Poland, as did
t heir master Scenographer Anton Grot. M eanwhile other Hollywood studios
resisted having their outlook defined by such European newcomers. M GM , for

42
    The producer and supervisor of Scarface (1932) , Howard Hughes’s success and distinguished landmark production,
was mostly gained during the transition period by employing the sound effect to serve the pictures he produced, e.g., Hells
Angels (1930), and The Front Page (1931); see RKO: It’s Only Money, in: Fortune, Vol. 47, No. 5 (May 1953).

43
     Ethan Mordden , The Hollywood Musical. New York: ST. Martin’s Press 1981, p. 37.

44
     Initially George Cukor was assigned by Paramount to direct the picture. After a dispute occurred between Cukor and
Maurice Chevalier about Cukor’s direction, Ernst Lubitsch took over the direction.


                                                                                                                       21
       instance, refused to accept this influence. M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer’s scenographic
       department worked very hard to create the pure Americana landmark and to form
       the studio’s own identity. It is rare, therefore, to see something related to the
       Europ ean Expressionist movement, perspective distortion, painted light or
       shadow in M etro’s spatial stylization.45 RKO introduced the same opulence and
       penthouse type of spatial arrangement, as we will see later in the forgoing
       analy s is , and we will analyze how RKO and M etro’s artists sketched their
       studio’s trademark “house style.”

2.2 Hollywood’s Film Scenography: A Period of Formation
       In the early period of filming, a motion picture set was constructed by well-
       known painters or artists from the stage as an imitation of the theater stage or
       vaudeville. M ise-en-scenes were painted on the walls in approximate perspective
       and anachronism.46 In those early years of film production, three-dimensional
       objects were hardly present in the space: ‘little, if any, attention was paid to the
       background.’ When sets were not borrowed from the stage, the action was
       contained by featuring three-dimensional objects only around the action, such as
       a chair, table or bed. The setting’s background was painted on canvas with other
       objects, like book cases, windows and pictures, and when a character opened or
       closed the door the entire set shook.47

       Duringthe first decade of the 20th century the film crew had the task of fulfilling
       certain assignments on the set over and above their filming job. The production

       45
             M ary Corliss and Carlos Clarens: Designed for Film: The Hollywood Art Director, in: Film Comment, Vol. 14 (May-
       June 1978), p. 30; we are mentioning here only a few names from the masterminded and skillful artists whose contribution
       to the motion picture’s art and history are evidence, and which won’t be forgotten.

        46
               S e e T h e Architecture of Motion picture Settings, in: The American Architect, Vol. 118, No. 2324 (July 7, 1920),
       pp.1&2; D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson: The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production
       to 1960, pp. 214-221; ‘Before 1900 it was more or less common practice to do without the elaboration of much furniture
       or other set dressing . In fact most of the early picture makers, notably Biograph and Vitagraph, painted part of the
       furniture on the canvas walls of their sets. It was a common sight to see a piano with a vase of flowers on top painted on
       a w a l l . ’ See Earl Theisen, In the Motion Picture Prop and Research Department, in: I. P., Vol. 6, No. 7 (August 1934),
       pp. 4-5&23.


       47
            By then, the spatial organization was drafted by a head carpenter or a scenic artist without previous study, i.e., on an
       o l d envelope or on the studio’s floor, see William Cameron Menzies, Pictorial Beauty in the Photoplay, in: Richard
       Koszarski (Ed.), Hollywood Directors 1914-1940. New York: Oxford University Press 1976, pp. 241&242.




                                                                                                                                22
crew ‘had no property men, no carpenters, no wardrobe facilities’ to perform
these particular functions. Even the director had to take care of all the paperwork
and other administrative functions.48 In 1909, Edward W. Townsend illustrated
t he dat e’s scenographic operation in the production of moving pictures.
Townsend commented that a scenic artist and a painter were responsible for the
s etting, whereas a stage carpenter was in charge of assembling the set. Three
color tones, of gray, were applied in painting to the set.49 Film scenography was
somewhat unimportant in the film-makers’s view. They hired anyone they
cons idered as a handyman to take care of the setting, but increasingly they
realized that the more elaborate the spatial they organized, the more likely that
t heir p icture would survive. Then the economic progress of film-making
mot ivated Hollywood to invest more in the settings, allowing more three-
dimensional objects to be featured in the set.

Up to the Teens, sets were still borrowed from the stage, and spatial constituents
were still painted on the background of the set. Sometimes the entire set was
painted on canvas, that would shake or was at risk of collapsing when a character
slammed the door during the action.50 In Inceville (Thomas H. Ince’s production
lot in Santa Ynez canyon), muslin was hung over an uncovered setting in the
open air in order to diffuse the harsh light of the sun. Tarpaulins were hanged
over the sets either to protect them from the rain or to dim the daylight in an
after-dark scene.51 By 1915, Hollywood had established its infrastructures of film
production for all times. Hollywood had its stars, records of attendance at the
box-office, and blockbuster movies. These fundamentals were founded to remain

48
       G e n e G a u n t i er, Blazing the Trail: A Fascinating and Authentic History of the Early Motion Pictures, in: Woman’s
H o me Companion, Vol. 55, No. 11 (November 1928), p. 170; sometimes the film director was in charge of handling his
p i c tures’ settings during these early days of motion pictures history, e.g., David W. Griffith and Erich Von Stroheim; see
Cahrles Spencer, Erte. New York: Clarkson N. Potter 1970 (2 nd Ed., 1981).

49
      Edward W. Townsend, Picture Plays, in: Outlook, Vol. 93 (27 November 1909), p. 704; see also Larry Robinson: A
B ri e f H i s t o ry of USA Local 829, http://www.usa829.org/USA/hitory1.html, accessed June 25, 2003, part one and part
two.

50
     J ames Hood MacFarland, Architectural Problems in Motion Picture Production, in: The American Architect, Vol. 118,
No. 2326 (July 21, 1920), p. 66.

51
     G e o rg e Mitchell, Thomas H. Ince was the Pioneer Producer Who Systematized the Making of a Movie, in: Films in
Review, Vol.11, No. 8 (October 1960), p. 472.

52
    Richard Dale Batman, The Founding of the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry, in: Journal of the West, Vol. 10, No.
4, (October 1971), p. 623; Putting the Move in the Movies, in: The Saturday Evening Post (May 13, 1916), pp. 14-15,
96-8, 100&101.


                                                                                                                          23
H ollywood’s property, and would not undergo a major alteration until the
nineteen-twenties.52 Intolerance’s (1916) setting was praised by Scientific
American as ‘the greatest set that has ever been constructed’ in Hollywood. Its
walls reached 100 feet high. ‘The towers of the set stand 135 feet high, and the
various structures cover[ed] a ten-acre tract of land in Hollywood,’ and it took
t he construction crew about six months to built the settings. Intolerance’s
expenditure reached a sum of $50,000. Thomas H. Ince’s Civilization (1916) cost
approximately about $35,000. Its settings’ construction took from M ay through
November of 1915. Close to 600,000 feet of lumber were needed to construct the
picture’s sets. An amount of glass was used that could cover some 200 windows,
and a side walk which reached near 1,200 feet together with all its curbs. The
project required six and-a-half acres of land to accommodate enough space for
the sets.53 Skilled men such as Frank ‘Huck’ Wortman and Walter L. Hall were
in charge of Intolerance’s large scale settings in its four separate periods:
A ncient Babylon, sixteenth-century France, Judia, in addition to the
contemporary stylization.

By the early Twenties, the job of carrying out a spatial arrangement for a picture
s t art ed landing in the hands of gifted artists in related fields. Stage
Scenographers, such as Joseph Urban, started becoming engaged in the planning
of those settings.54 In addition to his activity at the M etropolitan Opera and
F lorenz Ziegfeld’s theater, Joseph Urban drafted the sets for Enchantment
(1921). Joseph Urban’s assignment enhanced the popularity of M arion Davis.
Enchantment was credited as a matchless vehicle of Davis to date.55 In 1920, Fox




53
    Artisans of the Motion Picture Films, in: S. A., Vol. 115, No.10 (September 2, 1916), p. 225; today Civilization’s film
Scenographer is neither credited nor known!

54
     See Donald Chase, Film making the Collaborative Art. Boston: Little Brown 1975, p.156; C. Blythe Sherwood, The
A rt D i re c t o r i s A ccredited: The Vision That Makes “Dream Street” Come True, in: Arts & Decoration, Vol. 15 (May
1 9 2 1 ), pp. 36&37; occasionally I will highlight Joseph Urban’s role and his contribution to the stage, primarily in this
p a per to film scenography , as an acknowledgment to the great master whose deserved place was denied him and escaped
attention to date, on both sides of the Atlantic.

55
     See Earl Anderson, Marion Davis, in: Films in Review, Vol. 23, No. 6 (June-July 1972), pp. 326&327.

56
    The Fox Film Building, in: Architecture and Building, Vol. 52 (January-December 1920), pp. 53&54; see also Motion-
Picture Colony Under One Roof, in: S. A., Vol. 210, No. 25 (June 21, 1919), p. 651.

57
     David C. Hill, City Spotlight: Warner Bros. Studios, in: Action West ( 3 rd Quarter 1996), pp. 4&5; the American unit


                                                                                                                        24
Film Corporation included a scenographic department in Fox’s new building in
New York City. ‘There [in the new building] will be a variety of shops. One of
these will be for carpenters, another for artists who make plaster casts for sets,
a room for scene artists, three working prop rooms, a sewing room, a drapery
room, a wardrobe department’. The new studio facilities would also include a
‘storage space for studio properties and a studio library where information
regarding locations, costuming, etc., will be assembled and catalogued for the
convenience of directors.’56 Today the only remaining and functioning original
scene monuments of those early days are to be seen at Warner Bros. Both the
“New York Street”, built in 1923, and the western town of “Laramie Street” from
t he 1930's, are preserved at Warner’s 110 acres of completed facilities of all
production phases in Santa M onica, California.57

By the mid 1920's, the U.S. officially refused to accept the assertive rules and
conditions set by the French for joining the “1925 Exposition Internationale des
Arts Decoratifs et Industriels M odernes”, which took place in Paris and permitted
only creative art.58 The American authorities’ refusal to the worldwide modern
convention was clear. ‘Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, declined
t his invitation. There was, he [Hoover] explained, no modern decorative art
movement in this country [America].’59 During this time, creative art was poorly
advertised in the United States. When the secretary of commerce rejected the
assertive French invitation to the 1925 Exposition Internationale, the modern art
tendency in America was towards a redundancy of other cultures’ styles.60 This
reality was hard to accept by the American Secretary of Commerce, Hoover, who



of measure acre=4000 square meters=43560 square feet.

58
       C f. Sheldon Cheney, The New World Architecture. New York: Tudor Publishing 1930, p. 191, fn. 1; respectively,
C h e n e y b e l o n g s to the respected pioneer theoretician of the modern Aesthetic Revolution in the first half of the 20th
century.




59
     Paul T. Frankl, Form and Re-Form: A practical Handbook of Modern Interiors. New York: Harper & Brothers 1930,
p. 1; see also Emily Genauer, Modern Interiors Today and Tomorrow. New York: Illustrated Editions 1939, p. 14.

60
     Jeffrey L. Meikle, Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America 1925-1939. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press 1979, p. 19.


                                                                                                                            25
had no less than an inferior feeling when considering the modern art movement
in the United States.61

After attending the Exposition Internationale in 1925, M GM chief film
Scenographer Cedric Gibbons’ scenographic style was fundamentally influenced
and reshaped for two decades to come.62 With Gibbons’ style alteration, M etro-
Goldwyn-M ayer’s image on the screen was altered as well. Toward the end of
the silent film period, after introducing Our Dancing Daughters (1928), and Our
Modern Maidens (1929), M etro’s scenographic department delivered the sound
picture, Our Blushing Brides (1930), among other landmark pictures of Art Deco
s t y lization. This trilogy’s spatial stylization was characterized by Art Deco
heyday. M etro, RKO, and Paramount’s featuring of the M oderne on the screen,
right from the late 1920's, introduced the modern art movement to the American
public. Hollywood continued adapting the new spatial concept, and this lasted
throughout the 1930's.63

A rt Nouveau and Bauhaus styles were two art movements that signified the
dream of the manufacturer and mass production.64 Hollywood’s new film
scenographic style (Art Deco chic) had its roots in both styles. In introducing the
new style into the studio’s scenography, Hollywood’s Scenographers realized the
economical and aesthetic advantages of Art Deco. It was practical, providing
great aid to the film industry’s mass production. After adapting the M oderne for
the screen, each studio of the Golden Age started defining its own method of
artistic interpretation, in order to project the studio’s own outlook on to the


61
     It would have been extraordinary if American authorities had sent the modern master, Frank Lloyd Wright, to the Paris
Exhibition. But, sad to say, no one on the Government’s level even knew much about the great master architect, or cared;
S h eldon Cheney, The New World Architecture. New York: Tudor Publishing 1930, p. 191, fn. 1; even among architects
i n t h i s country (U. S.). Later, we will see how notably Wright’s architectural style influenced Hollywood’s scenographic
style.

62
     S e e H o ward Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood. New York: St.
Martin’s Press 1985, p. 10.

63
         A rt D e c o heyday style was introduced in the architectural world in the U. S., so some actual neighborhood movie
houses were built in Art Deco style after 1925, e.g., the auditorium of Oakland Paramount in 1931; regarding the modern
a rc h i t e ctural tendency in the European movie houses and German architectural superiority and unconventionality in their
s t y l i z a tion compared to their European contemporaries see; P. Morton Shand, Modern Picture-Houses and Theaters.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott 1930.

64
   Rudolf Rosenthal and Helen L. Ratzka, The Story of Modern and Applied Art. New York: Harper&Brothers 1948, pp.
158&189.


                                                                                                                        26
screen (house style).

When the modern art movements emerged from Europe in the early years of the
20th century, they favored the geometrical shape, angularity and the machinable
product: straight lines combined with an accent of simplicity, organic unity, and
pure color. It was a response opposing the conventional arch adornment and the
obsessive use of curved lined styles from the past. This motive laid the
foundation for the emergence of Art Deco.65 Some of these art styles were taking
place in film scenography before the advent of Art Deco, such as Expressionism,
Cubism, the Vienner Sezession, or Art Nouveau.

A closer look at Art Deco of the 1925 Exposition reveals the origins of this
modern movement, which relates to the International Aesthetic Revolution from
thelate 19th and early 20th century. As mentioned earlier, Hollywood adapted this
modern s patial form for the screen, because of its practicality and aesthetic
efficiency. Evidently, Art Deco provided high dramatic value and true functional
aes t hetic on the silver screen. Art Deco met the artistic expectations of
Hollywood’s spatial conception well, and maintained a paradigmatic narrative
quality on that screen.

The Glasgow school in Britain and the Wiener Sezession school in Austria were
t he original styles that inspired Art Deco. Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism, Art
Nouveau, Bauhaus style (Dessau-Germany), Egyptian art (mostly in shape of
pyramid and friezes of ochre and gold), Native Aztec (pyramid and cactus), and
American Indian art also contributed to the formation of Art Deco style.66 Art
Deco met with Cubism in borrowing ‘the Cubists’ transformation of coherent
picture space into an oscillating surface.’67 On the other hand, Art Deco’s relation


65
       Y v onne Brunhammer, The Art Deco Style. Paris: Baschet et cie (Tr. by David Beeson, New York: ST. Martin’s press
1 9 8 4 ), p p. 7-18; an important portion of modern Art Deco style’s conception after 1925 can be traced in some of early
re v o l t a rt ’s features from the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century (e.g., Art Nouveau, Cubism, Expressionism,
V i e n n e r S ezession and Fauvism as well); cf. Ibid., Lo Stile 1925. Milan: Fratelli Fabbri Editori 1966. (Tr. by Raymond
Rudorff, The Nineteenth twenties Style. London: Paul Hamlyn 1969), pp. 9-41.

66
    See Bevis Hillier, Art Deco of the 20's and 30's. New York: Schocken Books 1968 (2 nd Ed., 1985); see also Ibid., The
W o r l d o f A r t Deco: An Exhibition Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, July-September 1971. New York: E.
P. Dutton 1971, (Introduction); Alain Lesieutre, The Spirit and Splendour of Art Deco. New York: Paddington Press 1974,
(In t roduction); and also Cervin Robinson and Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York. New York:
Oxford University Press 1975, pp. 35-81.


67
     See ibid. p. 49.


                                                                                                                           27
to the French Fauves and German Expressionistic architecture lies in sharing the
use of vivid color. Therefore, Leon Bakst, the Scenographer and costume maker
of t he Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet (Scheherazade), borrowed the bright colors
from these two styles, and his work is just as sought after as the originator of the
bright color used on his stage.68 Walter Gropius founded and fathered the
St aatliche Bauhaus in 1919, in the Weimar Republic, Germany. Bauhaus
represented a core conception of the twentieth century Aesthetic Revolution. As
Sibyl M oholy-Nagy identified, ‘The house’ in this modern art movement
‘became t he measure by which to evaluate color and structure, space, light,
form.’ Staatliche Bauhaus maintained balance between a qualitative applied art
and mass production, and that made a revolutionary impact on the state of art
throughout the world.69

Erte, born in Russia, worked in France, and then Hollywood. He was admired
amongthe pioneer Scenographers and costumers. Art Deco’s unconventionality,
commented Erte, emerged from the style’s balance between pure and applied
a r t . 7 0 T rue, Art Deco borrowed styles from the past and contemporary art
traditions and gave the resulting combination a new identity of straight lines,
angular shape, and color. Its origin, nevertheless, was questioned by some art
historians, artists, and architects, who came to agree: that the 1925 Pariser
Exhibition was not the birth place of a style. On the contrary, it was the origin of
an ‘eclectic amalgam of styles.’ Art Deco was born in Vienna. From there it
moved to Germany, to the Scandinavian countries, then to Holland, Belgium, and
Serbia, before finally culminating in France.71

M eanwhile, the tempo of the twentieth century was in full swing. Technological


68
    Ibid. p. 57, fn. 59; the dynamic utilization of the Expressionistic form, space, and chiaroscuro light-shade effects were
re ma rk a b l y p o rt rayed in Hans Poelzig’s spatial arrangement in The Golem (1920) ; see John R. Clarke, Expressionism
in Film and Architecture: Hans Poelzig’s Sets’ for Paul Wegener’s The Golem, in: Art Journal, Vol. 34 (Winter 1974/75),
pp. 115-124.

69
        C f. S ibyl Moholy-Nagy, Experiment in Totality. New York: Harper&Brothers 1950, pp. 33&168; regarding the
A e s t h etic Revolution in Europe together with its correspondence to the new technological innovations in the early years
o f t h e t w entieth century, and it’s progress; see Raffaele Carrieri, Futurism. (Tr. by Leslie Van Rensselaer White, Milano:
Edizioni Del Milione 1963), pp. 7-28&120-29.

70
     Erte [Romain de Tirtoff], Things I Remember: An Autobiography. New York: Quadrangle 1975, p. 119.

71
    Cf. Cervin Robinson and Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York. New York: Oxford
University Press 1975, pp. 59&60.


                                                                                                                          28
innovations reached everyone’s life, including Hollywood’s. By the mid 1930's,
the geometrical, angular shapes and lines of Art Deco began to disappear, and
were replaced by streamlined form (Art M oderne, or Art Future), i.e., through
smooth and organic forms.72 The new style, Streamlined Art M oderne, emerged
from hydrodynamic, aerodynamic science, and aesthetic principles, which
symbolized the “Teardrop” and the speed age. But in more cases, it featured the
excellence of life that came in a large quantity of artistic products: airplanes,
t elep hones, trains, automobiles, ships, or electrical devices.73 Contemporary
science fictions of the 1930's were an additional participant in the formation and
emergence of the Streamlined M oderne, observed Kathleen Church Plummer.74
Hollywood was more likely to welcome dealing with fantasies in the production;
in fact, Things To Come (1936) may highlight an impressive landmark fantasy
of the decade. The picture introduced the accent of Streamlined Art M oderne,
which lent a sense of life to the film.

F aking the outlook of the rare material from the Twenties continued to be
popular in the Thirties. Streamlined M oderne found in this copying of the
expensive material’s outlook a great advantage for forming the new style.75
Again, economy, function, in addition to the increasing interest in the abstract
form were among the main reasons that contributed to the popularity of the
M oderne. Their characteristics were well matched with the machine age that
p laced the M oderne ahead of its predecessor’s styles.76 In this regard, the


72
       See Donald J. Bush, The Streamlined Decade. New York: George Braziller 1975, pp. 15-42; after 1925's Exposition
In t e rnationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes there has been Chicago Century-of-Progress 1933 and New
Y o rk World Exhibition 1939. Both events re-introduced Art Deco and Streamlined Moderne to the U.S.; cf. Donald
A l b recht, Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies. New York: Harper&Row 1986. (Ubrs. u. hrsg. von
R a l p h E u e , Architektur im Film: Die Moderne als grosse Illusion. Basel: Birkhauser Verlag 1989), pp.21, 32&34;
e v i d e n t l y S treamlined Moderne style must have received wide acceptance in the architectural style, in order for the
Auditorium of Philadelphia’s 1938 Chelten Theater to have been built in the same style.


73
     Sheldon Cheney and Martha Candler Cheney, Art and the Machine: An Account of Industrial Design in 20th-Century
A m e r i ca. New York: Whittlesey House 1936, Chap. 6&7; Donald J. Bush, The Streamlined Decade. New York: George
Braziller 1975, Chap. 1&2; the industrial revolution had also reached the transatlantic routes, where passengers could
c o mmunicate through a radio telephone via the Atlantic to their people or businesses back home, and even to the rest of
the world; The New York Times (August 3, Sunday 1930).

74
     Kathleen Church Plummer, The Streamlined Moderne, in: Art in America ( January-February 1974), pp. 46&52.

75
     Ibid. p. 49.

76
    See Joseph M. Valerio and Daniel Friedman, Movie Palaces: Renaissance and Reuse. New York: Educational
Facilities Laboratories Division, Academy for Educational Development 1982, p. 28.


                                                                                                                        29
advance of the manufacturing of the expensive and the rare was the opposite side
of t he coin, and served well the motion pictures’ spatial formula. Expensive
products now can be copied and still go unnoticed by the camera, such as
Leopard, Cow, Zebra skins, or expensive looking furniture, rugs, friezes, et al.
By definingits attributes in the Thirties’ motion picture settings, Streamlined Art
M oderne was characterized by curved walls and corners, flat, white and stucco
surfaces. The Art Future had porthole windows (i.e., a circular shaped window),
projections in the wall surfaces, with a horizontal accent in terms of grooves or
lines. These characteristics were presented persuasively in Richard Day’s drama
Dodsworth (1936) at Samuel Goldwyn (see Illustration 71). Day’s set depicted
a modern luxury liner ship, and it won Day an Academy Award for the best
setting of the year. RKO’s Shall We Dance (1937) was another masterpiece by
Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase. Their ocean liner setting presented
landmark Streamlined M oderne on the screen. Parallel to these pictures’
streamlined form, Hans Dreier and his associate John Goodman planned the sets
for the drama, Miss Fan’s Baby is Stolen (1934). They maintained the outlook
of modern and functional aesthetics in their setting. And at M GM , Arthur I.
Royce, W. L. Stevens, and Alex de Sakhnoffsky’s Topper (1937), carried the
s ame accent of the M oderne. In Topper the hydrodynamical products, e.g.,
automobiles and elevators, are present. The picture’s spatial organization offered
spatial aesthetics, smooth surfaces, curved walls and bookcases, combined with
glas s brick and staircase grooves as another variance of the style. William
Cameron M enzies-Lyle Wheeler’s comedy-drama, The Young in Heart (1938),
at Selznick International, continued the same tradition of the M oderne on the
screen.

Julian Hochberg defined ‘The “law” of simplicity’ as: ‘we see what is simplest
to see’ and perceive.77 This canon of perception in its fundamentals applies to
both styles of modern art movements, Art Deco and Streamlined Art M oderne,
because both signify the tendency of smooth surfaces, and clean and straight
lines. Abbreviation in the spatial organization and its smooth perception relates
t o t he heart of these styles, but also to the general abbreviation of crowded
adornments in the Scenographic Space.78 Whatever the artistic period might be,
modern or conventional, artists share the same formulas in creating their


77
     Cf. Julian Hochberg, Perception. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall 1968. (2 nd Ed., 1978), p. 156.

78
     C l o s e r consideration of the visual perception, and the communicational process with the spatial properties (mise-en-
scenes) will be the focus later on in this investigation (Chapter Five).


                                                                                                                         30
p roducts. ‘M athematical system-arithmetical and geometrical- lies hidden
beneath the structure of the work of all great artists, painters, architects and
[Scenographers].’79 This explains the conceptualization behind the M oderne
whenever it was introduced to the classic screen.

Toward the end of the decade, Hollywood’s film Scenographers found, ‘livable’
and ‘softer’ tests in Ultra-M odern, or Functional aesthetic when mingled with
t raditional styles in the interior setting and its composition.80 This balance
between Ultra-M odern or Functional spatial organization and traditional styles,
including American, was notably illustrated in Robert Haas’ Hollywood’s Hotel
(1938); Lyle Wheeler and Edward G. Boyle’s A Star is Born (1937) at Selznick
Int ernational; M GM ’s, Man Proof (1938), which was a scenographic
collaboration between Gabriel Scognamillo, Edwin B. Willis and Cedric
G ibbons, in addition to Carroll Clark-Van Nest Polglase’s Shall We Dance
(1937), and Carefree (1938). Yet this scenographical style suited the law of
s imp licity and achieved its high level of narrative quality on the Hollywood
s creen late in the 1930's. In Chapter 3, this balance between traditional and
Functional spatial interpretation will be deliberated upon in detail.

Formulating an artistic product, expressed R. M yerscough-Walker, is something
that ‘enters into the Spirit and Reason of a subject outside the realm of
Thoughts.’81 Achieving that balance between the spirit of the M oderne and the
reason of its form was notably secured in Hollywood’s spatial organization;
again, many of the styles that came through the Aesthetic Revolution prior to Art
Deco and Streamlined Art shared the formula of abbreviation (reductivism) and
escaped the overcrowded conventional image. In the industrial world, when
Streamlined Art M oderne resembled the natural organic shape “Teardrop”, the
intended reason behind it was to reduce resistance to its minimum and to have
the maximum efficiency of speed, hygiene, economy, logic, and reason. Yet from
t he s cenographical point-of-view, Streamlined Art M oderne was the proper
answer to the requirements of Hollywood’s mass production. Its form was simple
and easy to reproduce. Still, the style was the main stream of its age. These

79
     S e e Paul T. Frankle, Form and Re-Form: A practical Handbook of Modern Interiors. New York: Harper & Brothers
1930, p. 33.

80
    Anson Bailey Cutts, Homes of Tomorrow of the Movies of Today, in: California Art and Architecture, Vol. 54
(November 1938), pp. 16-18.

81
     Raymond Myerscough-Walker, Architect and Perspectivist. London: Spin Offset 1984, p. 26.


                                                                                                               31
        reasons combined together to enable the M oderne to be projected remarkably
        onto the classic screen.

2.3 Definition of the Classical Scenographic Space

        I
        A significant body of studies and articles began emerging about the analysis of
        motion pictures in the second half of the 20th century.82 This model of studies
        may define two main critical traditions: one dealing with film aesthetic, and the
        other with the formalistic theory of the movies.83 But both schools dealt with the
        same subject matter utilizing different vocabularies to formulate one question,
        namely, What exactly does the scenographic product cause, and what does the
        ar tistic quality of the film’s Scenographic Space indicates? To answer such a
        ques tion we firstly must calculate the definite achievement of the film
        Scenographer. Jan M ukarovsky reflects:

             ‘Any phenomenon, any action, any product of human activity can become an
             aesthetic sign for an individual or even for a whole society.’ 84

        According to Professor M ukarovsky’s point-of-view, the scenographic
        vocabulary, as an artistic product of the film Scenographer, became accepted as
        an “aesthetic sign”. This means that the film’s spatial organization as a whole
        contains a set of signs.85 M ukarovsky suggested that the “aesthetic object” has
        an association with the aesthetic tradition and material processing. Still, ‘the
        work of art is in its very essence more than a mere expression of its author’s




        82
             S e e Myron Osborn Lounsbury, The Origins of American Film Criticism 1909-1939. Ph.D. Diss., University of
        Pennsylvania 1966 (Rep., New York: Arno Press 1973), preface.

        83
              A considerable amount of literature conventions might be found criticizing the aesthetical qualities of the motion
        picture. The focus of this study is mainly concentrated on the body of literature treating spatial organization together with
        its narrative cause and attributes in the film.

        84
           Cf. Jan Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays by Jan Mukarovsky. Tr. and Ed. by John Burbank
        and Peter Steiner, New Haven: Yale University Press 1978, p. 21.

        85
           The film “Sign Systems” exists, see also Calvin Pryluck, Sources of Meaning in Motion Pictures and Television. Ph.D.
        Diss., Department of Speech and Dramatic Art: University of Iowa 1973 (Rep., New York: Arno Press 1976), p. 22.


                                                                                                                                 32
personality.’86 Furthermore, M ukarovsky suggested that the material used
qualifies in providing the faculty of what he termed ‘aesthetic norms’.87 In this
respect, M ukarovsky’s approach pertains, to some degree, to disequilibrium,
while the innovative role or stylization of the artist did not clearly obtain enough
attention. This may lead to an empty philosophical thought towards the artistic
accomplishment. In this regard there is no communication between the artist
(film Scenographer) and the beholder, i.e., the weight is concentrated only on one
side of the scale, namely: on the material, and aesthetic tradition. The artistic aim
should clearly manifest the philosophical thought of the product originator, to
have effective and complete communication with the beholder.

David Bordwell, during his examination of the technical norms of conventional
film practice,88 avoided any systematic discussion about the spatial and beholder
relationship in pictorial communication. David Bordwell underrated the
“narrative cause and state of the Film Scenographical Cryptogram” produced by
t he film Scenographer.89 His meaning being, that two equal weights exist in
pictorial interaction between the filmic space and its beholder.90 We respectfully
accept Bordwell’s thesis, but what he suggested should be taken with caution; a
cinematographic transaction of the Scenographic Space and its mise-en-scenes
by a “pan or zoom” camera shot may qualify the beholder to classify the three-
dimensional characteristics of the filmic space. But in the case of camera
movement such as those of “dolly and tracking” shots, depth cue representation
may be contradictory to the point of being uninformative. Such irritating camera
shots may provide the beholder with all adequate visual information and depth
cues data, appertaining to the spatial organization of the scene. Yet they will not


86
     Jan Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays by Jan Mukarovsky. Tr. and Ed. by John Burbank
and Peter Steiner, New Haven: Yale University Press 1978, p. 64&65.

87
     Ibid, p. 53.

88
     See D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production
t o 1 9 6 0 , p. 5; In his 1985 papers, the student of modern film formalistic theory, David Bordwell, attempted to examine
a v a riety of technical norms of classical Hollywood films. David Bordwell convincingly succeeded breaking the old
c o n v e n t i o n s a nd traditions of film formalism; this study is generally respected as one of the most authoritative models
related to new film formalism and theory in the last two decades.

89
        In this respect, I prefer using the term “Film Scenographical Cryptogram” because it contains more than one aesthetic
sign.

90
   Cf. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, p. 59.


                                                                                                                             33
supply the beholder with the ‘vestibular and other proprioceptive information’
regarding the shot.91 The preceding will be detailed elsewhere (Chapter 4).

What is missing in the account of Jan M ukarovsky and David Bordwell, as I see
it, is the question of inception in the assignment of research, in that the untutored
beholder cannot remain interactive with the complex, or unidentified aesthetic
cryptogram of the film scenographic product. This tradition of motion picture
criticism may, unconsciously, lead to the favor for ambiguity in pictorial
communication.

On the other side of this “ambivalence of aesthetic signs” in the motion pictures,
Rudolf Arnheim sees a tremendous importance in the visual effectiveness of the
artist’s role. As he states:

     ‘The artist realizes that he cannot simply rely on what the viewer knows about
     the physical world. Such knowledge must always be restated with visual means
     i n order to be artistically effective, and it is easily undercut by perceptual
     counterevidence.’ 92

Furthermore, renewal of interest in effective communicational process, event-
beholder, was revealed by Ray L. Birdwhistell, in that ‘the communicational
stream can be made up of multiple behavioral patterns existing on different time
levels’. Under such analysis Birdwhistell maintained that ‘both the specific
structural meaning of an event at a given level and the cross-referencing function
of it at other levels of analysis become manifest.’ In this regard, because we
absorb these levels and their characteristics, the communicational organization
will operate progressively smoothly.93 Birdwhistell’s identification, of the


91
       S e e J u l i an Hochberg and Virginia Brooks, The Perception of Motion Pictures in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton
P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, pp. 274-
76&296; for more information about the human eye and the visual perception in relation to a moving stimulus; see Eugene
R . W i s t , H . C. Diener, J. Dichgans and Th. Brandt, Perceived Distance and the Perceived Speed of Self-Motion: Linear
Versus Angular Velocity? In: Perception and Psychophysics, Vol. 17, No. 6 (1975), pp. 549-554; cf. Richard Held,
J o hannes Dichgans and Joseph Bauer, Characteristics of Moving Visual Scenes Influencing Spatial Orientation, in: Vision
R e s e a r c h , Vol. 15 (1975), pp. 357-365; under certain conditions of the representation of an absent space, panning the
camera may become ambiguous as well. The undertaking will be addressed in Chapter 4.

92
    See R. Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974), p. 248.


93
    C f. Ray L. Birdwhistell, Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion Communication. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press 1970, p. 88.


                                                                                                                        34
equilibrium between the message and its beholder, further intensifies the
simplistic order of the communicational interaction.

Siegfried Kracauer confirmed Rudolf Arnheim’s and Ray L. Birdwhistell’s
theory. ‘Inner life’, stated Kracauer, ‘manifests itself in various elements and
conglomerations of external life,’ and, Kracauer maintained, ‘especially in those
almost imperceptible surface data which form an essential part of screen
treatment.’94 Between 1930 and 1940, American motion picture making,
observed Andre Bazin, attained a state of incomparability. For one, Hollywood
delivered precise and unambiguous rules and cycles of film-making. These rules
or film genres, according to Bazin, were highly effective in attracting the
worldwide beholder to the American screen and lending it a form of captivating
perfection. In addition, in this decade, Hollywood achieved a great balance in the
image-sound juxtaposition, accompanied with a highly stylized
cinematography.95

I found the accounts of Arnheim, Birdwhistell, Kracauer, and Bazin acceptable-
t hey appointed the simplicity, and disclaimed the complex communicational
formula. The subsequent study, thus, is centered on the following questions:

1. What are the spatial attributes of Hollywood’s production during its Golden
A ge, and to what extent does Hollywood spatial code employ the aesthetic
measures of simplicity and balance in the spatial organization?

2. What form of narrative causality was introduced by the spatial representation
on the classical silver screen?

3. Does the Film Scenographical Cryptogram of the “Golden Age” narrate to its
beholder more than was assumed, or did Hollywood’s spatial interpretation of the
nineteen-thirties contributed in forming any form of qualitative communication




94
     See Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. New Jersey: Princeton
University Press 1947, p. 7.



95
     See Andre Bazin, The Evolution of Film Language, in: Peter Graham (Ed.), The New Wave. London: Secker&Warburg
1 9 6 8 , p p . 31-50; ibid., Qu-est-ce que le Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 1 (Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What is
Cinema? Vol. 1, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967), pp. 28-40.


                                                                                                                     35
with its beholder?

T o comprehend the function and properties of the Film Scenographical
Cryptogram of the 1930's, we must recognize the lack of literary work. This
deficiency of references does not allow for a high standard of comparison which
could aid in representing this study more clearly.96 However, the fact that the
literary work which is obtainable is immature has made it difficult to conclude
or pronounce judgement.97 We will still observe previous film scenographic
literature more closely, and specifically, that related to the Golden Age. It is
clear, however, that a significant part of film theory has not been created without
going down the path of the film aesthetic. Those which did not would not have
any exceptional quality.98

In this study, I suggest, the spatial setting, as a clear cryptogram of the film
Scenographer, should be observed as a milestone of film style. To my
knowledge, no one has previously attempted such a classification. I suppose, the
ongoing analysis may open some new and meaningful horizons, or explore
further perception and recognition of Hollywood’s film scenography in its
Renaissance Age and beyond.

II
Looking closely at the narrative stream and its cycle shows that its source
emerges from the repertoire of the ‘producer’ (artist) in the incarnation of a
‘product’ (artistic output), to be served up for appreciation to the ‘consumer’




96
      Regarding the motion picture perception, see Julian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks, the Perception of Motion Pictures
in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York:
A c a d e mi c P ress 1978, pp. 259-304; James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: AV Communication Review,
V o l. 1 (1954), pp. 3-23; about the film’s pictorial aesthetic and communication; see Calvin Pryluck, Sources of Meaning
i n M o tion Pictures and Television. Ph.D. Diss., Department of Speech and Dramatic Art: University of Iowa 1979 (Rep.,
N e w Y o rk: Arno Press 1976); see Roy L. Birdwhistell, Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion Communication.
P h iladelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1970; and Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan
1963; David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 1979.

97
       In the absence of film scenographic literature: ‘Publikationen uber das Szenenbild im Film ... uber seine Konzeption,
R e alisation und filmische Umsetzung sind rar.’ See Gerhard Helwig, Szenenbild im Film und Fernschen: Aus Theorie
und Praxis des Films. Studien Material. Hsg.: Betriebsakademie des VEB/DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilme 12/1984, p. 5.

98
     See Calvin Pryluck, Sources of Meaning in Motion Pictures and Television. Ph.D. Diss., Department of Speech and
Dramatic Art: University of Iowa 1973 (Rep., New York: Arno Press 1976), pp. 16-17.


                                                                                                                        36
(beholder). This is what Kendall L. Walton named: ‘the cobbler model’.99 In
applying Walton’s model to scenographic organization, as a product of the film
Scenographer, we can see how the communicational stream is cycling between
the film Scenographer’s artistic assignment and the beholder’s expectation. Yet
in order to have a smooth and active communication between the spatial setting
and its beholder, the scenographic product should meet with a “certain concept,”
which would lend to it a definite level of quality; As defined by George Kubler,
shape, meaning, and time of the artistic product were the components of visual
style.100 This means that these artistic components of visual style determine the
aesthetic quality of the artistic product, rendering it either highly effective, or
agreeably ineffective. By extrapolation, what is the real identity of the well-
known term, style? As a definition, style has been described by The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as: ‘The combination of distinctive
features of literary or artistic expression, execution, or performance
characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.’101 By comparison, style
was observed by the interior Scenographer Paul T. Frankl of the 1930's modern
school, ‘as the external expression of the inner spirit of any given time.’102

But how close was Hollywood’s film scenographic product to that course defined
as a style during the Thirties? Hollywood’s studios of the decade were committed
to mass production, similar to an assembly line fabrication. In this respect for
instance, each of the big studios produced between fifty to sixty feature-length
pictures a year. If each film had thirty-five sets, and sometimes as many as fifty,
the total would accumulate to more than two thousand sets a year. Yet these
scenographical products had constantly to rank on something inventive and fit
into the artistic formula of the picture.103 At the same time, these sets had to be

99
   See Kendall L. Walton, Style and the Products and Processes of Art, in: Berel Lang (Ed.), The Concept of Style. Ithaca
and London: Cornell University Press 1979 (2 nd Ed. 1987), pp. 74&75.

100
    Cf. George Kubler, Toward a Reductive theory of Visual Style, in: Berel Lang (Ed.), The Concept of Style. Ithaca and
London: Cornell University Press 1979 (2 nd Ed. 1987), pp. 163-173.

101
      The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 3 rd Ed., Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin 1992.

102
     Paul T. Frankl, Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors. New York: Harper & Brothers 1930,
p. 27.

103
     See Ralph Flint, Cedric Gibbons, in: Creative Art, Vol. 11 (October 1932), p. 117; see also Cedric Gibbons; The Art
Director, in: Stephen Watts (Ed.), Behind the Screen: How Films Are Made. London: Arthur Barker 1938, p. 49; to
me n t i o n a few instances of a large number of sets being produced in one single feature-length, Marie Antoinette (1938)
h a d a b o u t ninety-eight sets, Confession of a Nazi Spy (1939) had eighty-three sets, whereas The Wizard of Oz (1939)


                                                                                                                      37
differentiated from other studio’s productions as well. However, how it could be
possible that Hollywood’s film scenographical departments preserved a
constancy of visual quality, and did not run out of ideas in this overwhelming
per iod of mass production, unless they were committed to certain formula of
artistic conception, i.e., film scenographical style, in order to keep up with the
ever increasing high expectation of the beholder and achieve a first class and
persuasive narrative quality.

After the film Scenographer defines a distinctive conception and interpretation
of the spatial arrangement, (e.g., modern, Ultra-M odern, period style, et al.), an
exhaustive study concerning the particularities of the Scenographic Space’s
vis ualization takes place: its attributes, requirements and the possibilities
available. The film Scenographer delivers the maximum aesthetical efficiency
with the minimum cost to the screen. So, the spatial organization has to undergo
a great deal of research, and the film Scenographer confers with the script writer,
director, and cinematographer. Each aesthetic sign of the set has to be determined
separately in advance: effects, camera set ups, lenses, angles, and focus, so there
will be no wasting of time or material.104 Yet most instrumental in the process is
governing the spirit of an artistic product. ‘You [film Scenographer]’stated
Cedric Gibbons’ associate Preston Ames, ‘have to know all about styles . . . be
able to give the illusion of them.’ In doing this, you will be able to catch up with
t he des ired period outlook.’105 An equal share provides the representational
t reatment with its own cinematographical quality. ‘There are no two
photographers who photograph the same, as there are no two artists who paint the
same’, stated Hollywood’s cinematographer James Wong Howe. This makes it
clear that, each way of telling the screen story is interpretative, differentiating the
w ork of its master from the others’ art.106 Both scenographic and
cinematographic interpretations of the screen story are essential contributors to
film visual stylization. Again- what is the aim of the artist’s style, and how far


included sixty-five sets. Through these settings, we have seen the world throughout the hundred and seventeen acres back
lot of MGM, and WB’s hundred and thirty two acres back lot.

104
    See Gordon Wiles, Small Sets: Maximum Production Value With Minimum Cost, in: A. C., Vol. 13, No. 5 (September
1932), p. 12.

105
      P re s t on Ames, Art Director, in: Mike Steen (Ed.), Hollywood Speaks! An Oral History. New York: G. P. Putnam’s
Sons 1974, p. 234.

106
     See Donald Chase, Filmmaking the Collaborative Art. Boston: Little Brown 1975, p. 118; Chapter 3&4 of this study
are devoted to dealing with both: the film spatial organization and its representational stylization in detail.


                                                                                                                    38
can the style correspond to its beholder’s everyday life?

Joseph Urban considered the quality of a true art form to rest in the function of
the art, since the latter has the aim of formulating life and nature in terms that
serve every individual’s needs. Alongside this nobility of the artistic mission, art
is a vehicle for creating a relationship between people’s life and surroundings.107
This means that a true and balanced art form could be presented in the spatial
organiz ation of a motion picture, as long as its settings were loaded with
dramat ic meanings, and manifested the spirit of their period as well as their
occupant’s way of life; otherwise such scenographic art would be pointless.108
Such conceptual art in the film scenography was elegantly illustrated in
Hollywood’s film-making throughout the Golden Decade. Charles D. Hall, for
instance, was among those artists who contributed to the landmark visualization
of this distinctive era. At Universal Studios, his well-balanced scenographical
treatment was evocatively manifested within the Teutonic, Gothic and
metamorphic horror of Dracula and Frankenstein (1931). The same is true for
the scenographic visualization by Hans Dreier and his associate W. B. Ihnen in
Duck Soup (1933)- Dreier-Ihnen’s spatial configuration provided the concept of
true art. The settings’ streamlined lines and smooth forms, together with a mood
of light tonal values matched well between the M oderne and the spirit of M arx
Brothers’ burlesque comedy. It is of note that Paramount’s masterpiece was not
p rais ed by the film critic until recently. The same level of qualitative
scenographic interpretation was successfully applied by Anton Grot at Warner
Brothers, where a counterbalance was extraordinarily achieved between Busby
Berkeley’s kaleidoscopic choreography and Grot’s dramatic settings for the
sequels of the Gold Diggers (1933, 1935, 1937). In all of these masterpieces we
can trace the ‘principle of unity’ like a thread.109

Warner Brothers was a studio that reflected the spirit of the age, and produced
art reflecting the Great Depression and people’s need. The essence of the period
w as remarkably represented in the gangster genre at Warner’s studio, where
‘s ocial conscience’ was manifest. Warner Brothers historical and musical

107
       Joseph Urban, Theatres. New York: Theatre Arts 1929, (Theatre).

1 08
     Cf. Jerome Lachenbruch, Interior Decoration for the “Movies”: Studies from the Work of Cedric Gibbons and Gilbert
White, in: Art & Decoration (January 1921), p. 204.

109
     The ‘principle of unity’ lies in the heart of a style distinction; see Ernst Hans Gombrich, The Sense of Order: A Study
in the Psychology of Decorative Art. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press 1979, Chap. 7.


                                                                                                                        39
biographies in addition to the melodrama, were far from being produced in
splendor; this way of practice lent the studio its ‘down to earth’ trademark. In
emp hasizing its own image, the studio went even further and caricatured the
principal characters who highlighted Warners’ down-to-earth image. Warner
Brothers’ male characters were ‘short, tough, aggressive,’ while the females were
‘more waspish, less lady-like’ compared with other studios’ principals.110 All
t hese aesthetic signs from the inner and external life -combined together-
manifested themselves in terms of surface data on the American screen, to
present the essential ingredients of the spirit of the decade, i.e., in the term of
house style.

As a masterpiece of the gangster cycle, The Public Enemy (1931) was observed
by Frank M anchel as a movie that ‘became the yardstick to measure all future
gangster films by . . . it became the model for crime stories right up to the present
day.’111 In relation to this, we may apply the same measure to other gangster
pictures such as, Little Caesar (1931), Scarface (1932) and I am A Fugitive from
A Chain G ang (1932), as well. This genre carried in its essence a landmark
s cenography in the early years of the decade, and the crime cycle revealed a
thrilling realism in its scenographical stylization: its composition combined well
with wisely distributed shadows, a thrilling lighting mood, an attention-capturing
sound track, in addition to a tempo rhythm. These aesthetic signs worked under
one roof of organic unity to maintain the dramatic potentiality of the character’s
s ocio-historical background, and the dramatic impact of the filmic image was
persuasively sustained with skillful cinematographic translation. The
visualization of these pictures of the early 1930's induced the lawlessness of the
underworld of America after the Depression, and this image had an immediate
correlation with the people’s everyday life. It suggested solutions, and created
a vis ual model for the future Film Scenographical Cryptograms of the crime
cycle.

T he prototypical American western’s visual image was underscored by its
exterior cinematographic treatment. Walter Wagner Productions’ Stagecoach
(1939), for instance, is regarded by film critics as a turning point in classic
western history. The picture’s narrative formula had bold rhythm in the action,


110
    Philip French, The Movie Moguls: An Informal History of the Hollywood Tycoons. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
1969, p. 131.

111
      Frank Manchel, Gangsters on the Screen. New York: Franklin Watts 1978, p. 35.


                                                                                                              40
but was wisely limited in its camera angles, specifically in M onument Valley.
Bert Glennon and Ray Binger’s formula of simplicity in the representational
translation balanced well with John Ford’s dramatic pace. The camera tried to be
selective regarding the best image available in the exterior, and lent the picture
some accent of high visual and thus narrative quality.

In the early days of the motion picture, the motive behind its rapid progress and
high attendance was related, as Garth S. Jowett put it, to the ‘deep social and
cultural need of the American people’. This form of narration, in its decades-old
history, elevated the American social and cultural experience from its emphasis
on neighborhood thinking to the level of nationwide consciousness, which we
witness today.112 This wake-up call to the nation emerged from the screen image,
i.e., from the artist’s product, and was successfully perceived by the public as a
guide in their everyday life. Correspondingly, there is only one defensible
justification of how we may commit to the definition of the conceptual approach
of Hollywood’s film scenographical and cinematographical model, and how we
may classify it. M eyer Schapiro elaborated that the concept of style was ‘a
system of forms with quality and a meaningful expression,’ and in addition, it is
a participative progress that translates the inner spirit of its innovator (artist), and
exp res s es the external mood of its beholder. M oreover, style is the
dy namometrical medium for defining and restoring the society’s interrelated
measures (e.g., art, tradition, social, and cultural experience). Professor M eyer
Schapiro furthered his identification of the concept of style. ‘By considering the
succession of works in time and space and by matching the variations of style
with historical events and with the varying features of other fields of culture,’113
in another respect, style would be just an empty form or a slim tradition.

J ames Gunn labeled, Things to Come (1936) among the most ‘outstanding
science fiction films of all time.’114 Under William Cameron M enzies’
s up ervision and Vincent Korda’s spatial interpretation, the picture reached


112
     See Garth S. Jowett, The First Motion Picture Audiences, in: Journal of Popular Film, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter 1974),
pp. 39&40.

113
      Cf. Meyer Schapiro, Style, in: Melvin Rader, A Modern Book of Esthetics: An Anthology. New York: Holt , Rinehart
and Winston 1935. (1952, 1960, and 4 th Ed. 1973), pp. 270&271; respectively, Professor Meyer Schapiro’s introduction
to ‘style’ can be observed among the most dependable papers on the subject.

114
     James Gunn, Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall
1975, p. 194.


                                                                                                                   41
magnificent visualization and stunning beauty in its scenographic cryptogram (in
Metropolis’ setting for a glass-based society, who sent their first rocket mission
to the moon, the impact of science on the life of the society is revealed). The
futuramic picture was stressed as source of inspiration for the cycle of science
fict ions during the 1950's and 1960's. Still, M enzies-Korda’s masterpiece is
inspired, and serves as a measure for any futuramic production for decades to
come. On the other hand, at Warner Brothers, Busby Berkeley’s success could
be used as a yardstick for any musical form and future spectacle. His oscillation
bet ween surrealistic and kaleidoscopic choreographical and dynamo-
cinematographical taking was matchless. Berkeley demonstrated these aesthetic
signs and their data persuasively at Warner Brothers in his backstage musical
42nd Street (1933). Berkeley’s dynamism to the space and its setting (low-high
camera angle, close-ups, shot, reverse shot, and restless camera conception) was
repeatedly employed in the musicals that followed at Warners throughout the
decade. 42nd Street was the celebrated musical of the year and one of the top
money-makingpictures at the box-office; it won an Academy Award Nomination
for the Best Picture, and Best Sound Recording.

Within a certain time frame, art theory had strong ties to the psychological level
of t he artist’s product. Art, therefore, is a social expression. The artist is
classified with the commission that is assigned to him by the society with which
t he artist is associated.115 This duty of the artist was fully perceived and
comprehended by the artists themselves. Innovators of the Film Scenographic
Cryptogram are aware of what the society is expecting from their ideal. The film
Scenographer Edward Carrick clearly manifested this artistic aim. ‘We artists in
this new medium have in charge a trust of enormous value. Upon our studies, our
devotion, and enthusiasm must depend upon the thoughts and emotions of
coming generations,’ Carrick maintained, ‘for the film has become the most
p op ular of the arts and through it millions derive their entire inspiration and
perception of emotional values.’116 In other words, since the film Scenographer
rep res ents the society from which the artist is emerging, with a certain
conception that is assigned to the artist by that society, the artistic product would
have a translated definition of the beholder’s life and surroundings. This provides

115
       C f. E rnst Hans Gombrich, Tributes: Interpreters of our Cultural Tradition. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University
Press 1984, p. 100.

116
       ‘Never before in history has the artist been in a position to command such a gigantic audience ... never before was
h e so responsible to civilization.’ See Edward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio
Publications 1941 (2 nd Ed., Designing for Films, 1949), p. VIII.


                                                                                                                      42
us with a substantially valid reason to suggest terming Hollywood’s film
s cenographical concept together with its aesthetical visualization as a style.
Based on the fact suggesting that a style of any given age can be approached as
the identity of that particular period, it is the expression of the tendency of time
and excellence. But more importantly, style indicates a system of forms, i.e.,
formulas to follow a certain consistency and certain measures in order to be
compared with other civilizations’ achievements. Style must provide answers to
t he society’s social difficulties. Hollywood Scenographers after the Great
Depression met these expectations well through the Thirties’ spatial code.

III
‘T rue art was admitted only in the high cultures,’ reflected M eyer Schapiro,
‘where knowledge of natural forms was combined with a rational ideal which
brought beauty and decorum to the image of man.’ Only Greek and Italian High
Renaissance art set a precedent against which the quality of all other arts can be
measured.117 This means that comparing this measure of ideal art with a given
artistic output may reveal the quality level of that artistic product. In this regard,
the first question which might be asked is: can we apply this chief measure for
judging the art of the motion pictures, which concludes by the camera technique
meeting with its beholder on the screen? George A. Huaco reflects, that film-
makers’ exhaustive use of the technological possibilities available is what
granted the film its title as an art form.118 Still, during its Golden Age, Hollywood
delivered a form of art (film genre) that was recognized around the world.119 If
Hollywood’s artistic output received that level of recognition worldwide, this
s hould indicate that this age of art has some kind of quality when measured
against those standard measures of classical art.

Evidently Hollywood stressed a distinctive and popular aesthetical style that
granted to the 1930's its name the “Renaissance Decade”. This title pertains to
a w ide range of artistic stages across film production, including Hollywood’s
s patial code. Its concept, like the cinematographic one, is the norm that was


117
    Meyer Schapiro, Style, in: Melvin Rader (Ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An Anthology. New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston 1935 (1952, 1960, and 4 th Ed. 1973), p. 274.

118
       See George A. Huaco, The Sociology of Film Art. New York: Basic Books 1965 (Introduction).

1 19
       See Andre Bazin, The Evolution of Film Language, in: Peter Graham (Ed.), The New Wave. London:
Secker&Warburg 1968, p. 31.


                                                                                                                 43
established by Hollywood to be used as a frame of reference for any future filmic
product and category. The following few examples may ratify this suggestion:
the gangster melodrama Public Enemy and Little Caesar (1931); westerns like
Stagecoach (1939); the horror dramas Dracula and Frankenstein (1931), The
Bride of Frankenstein (1935); the backstage musical 42nd Street, and, Footlight
Parade (1933), the comedy musical Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), or
musical fantasy like The Wizard of Oz (1939).120

Certain styles of art may offer ‘conceptual images,’ reflected Ernst Hans
Gombrich, and these images’ data may suggest a complete story of a specific
event and particular era.121 Yet when forming an image, artists may create form,
depth cue, or a meaningful theme on their pristine canvas by their use of hatching
lines or the technique of gradients. Correspondingly, this artistic product would
cap t ure our attention, since the unification of these lines may deliver a
meaningful event.122 What does this have to do with a spatial organization, or is
it applicable to film scenographic art? The film Scenographer, M ukhtar Abd Al-
Jawad, responded to such an inquiry. Abd Al-Jawad’s states that it is, because the
principles of composing a spatial arrangement relate to the formation of specific
lines, forms and perspectives, and putting them together in the same context. Out
of this spatial convention, the film Scenographer will match together the spirit
of the screen story and the dramatic mood of the setting.123 In this respect, we see
how close the relationship is between art and the setting of the motion pictures.

When discriminating between styles, we base our classification on differences
in the application of traditions, materials employed, and techniques used in the




1 20
      Certainly many other productions might be used as a source of inspiration for any scenographical or
cinematographical works in times to come. I am suggesting in this investigation that only the main stream of Hollywood’s
productions will be the subject of analysis throughout the decade.

1 21
     Cf. Ernst Hans Gombrich, Illusion and Art, in: R. L. Gregory and E.H. Gombrich (Ed.), Illusion in Nature and Art.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1973, p. 228.

122
       See ibid., pp. 236&237.


123
       Mukhtar Abd Al-Jawwad, Historical Introduction to the Understanding of Spatial Organization in the Motion Picture,
i n : C i n e m atic Studies, Vol. 1, by the Film Academy, Algiza, Egypt/my translation (January-February 1987), pp. 55-58.



                                                                                                                       44
formingof the artistic product.124 Yet over the course of time, these change from
one age to another. By looking back at the history of style in art, we see that its
constituents are an ever-changing-phenomenon. ‘Stylistic changes come about,
not only because society alters, but because peoples’ day-dreams change.’125 This
means shifting from one period stylization to another relates closely to society’s
day -dream and desire of having a better way of life. The M oderne on the
American screen was a response to the society’s machine age, in which people’s
taste shifted toward obtaining that advanced way of life. Hollywood’s adaptation
of t he M oderne was a response to the growing ideal among individuals of
A merican society. This answer came mostly in the form of Hollywood’s
scenographical form, quality, technique and material related to the M oderne. At
M G M , Richard Day and Cedric Gibbons’ setting for the studio’s last silent
picture, The Kiss (1929), could be labeled as a landmark of the Art Deco dream
in s cenographic history (Illustration 2). Its settings’ clean, straight lines and
forms , its contrasted tonal values and indirect lighting sustained the roles of
Greta Garbo and Anders Randolf in their spatial surroundings. Day-Gibbons’
s cenographic visualization was perceived by the film critic as a vehicle that
enhanced M etro’s house style. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ musical, Shall
We D ance (1937), carried the same spatial accent, in which a floating liner’s
interior reflected supreme Streamlined Art M oderne; the picture’s scenographic
stylization (form’s relationships, material, quality and modern aesthetic tradition)
provided attention-capturing simplicity and organic unity. These were suggested
by the objects’ smooth surfaces, black and white tones, chrome furniture and
horizontal accents in the background. The picture’s modern settings were
projected under an indirect lighting effect that transformed the interior setting of
the ship into a spatial dream.

In visual stylization, streamlined form combined technological efficiency and
fas hion,126 specifically on the large screen on which such an equilibrium was
more graphic than anywhere else the M oderne has reached. From about the mid-
to late- 1930's, the response from moviegoers to Hollywood’s production was

124
     Cf. James S. Ackerman and Rhys Carpenter, Art and Archaeology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall 1963,
p . 1 8 2 ; see also Meyer Schapiro, Style, in: Melvin Rader (Ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An Anthology. New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1935. (1952, 1960, and 4 th Ed. 1973), pp. 272&273.

125
      See Alain Lesieutre, The Spirit and Splendour of Art Deco. New York: Paddington Press 1974, p. 7.

126
     Ernst Hans Gombrich, Style, in: David L. Sills (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 15, New
York: the Macmillan 1972, p. 356.


                                                                                                                      45
sustained with a weekly attendance of sixty million, and this was no coincidence.
F ilm-makers, as samples of their society’s cultural and social traditions,
inevitably serve the socio-cultural depth and spirit of their society. In this
respect, Hollywood movies ‘depicted things lost or things desired.’ Hollywood’s
art backed up the American spirit during the harsh Depression to keep the society
spirit high. Hollywood pictures appealed to every individual in the society to
move t ow ard their own ideal, and this was projected in the dreams being
achieved by a hero.127 Furthermore, as Hollywood reflected the Great Depression
by way of a useful concept in the filmic spatial, Art Deco and Streamlined Art
M oderne were framing the solution being introduced to sixty million Americans
every single week on the screen. It was the motion pictures’ art that etched the
spatial image of the M oderne into every beholder’s mind throughout the decade.

Tableaux in the silent film had a leading role, when compared with the advent of
dialogue. ‘Actors were unwittingly being trained for the silent film.’128 After
converting to sound, dialogue not only began obtaining its dramatic value in the
film, but it started becoming an essential dramatic means in its juxtaposition with
the screen image, specifically in the melodrama and the drama genre. Late in the
T hirt ies , Hollywood had reached a commanding place in this dramatic
juxt aposition of image and sound. Warner Brothers’ historical drama, Juarez
(1939), manifested the studio’s trademark, and the picture was regarded by film
historians as Warners’ most ambitious and “prestigious” picture to date. Anton
Grot’s settings were concluded after a great deal of exhaustive research into both
English and Spanish references. Every detail in the picture was studied very
carefully to match the spirit of the time. Anton Grot provided 3,643 sketches to
be used by engineers to draft 7,360 blueprints for both interior and exterior sets.
T he res ult was a complete M exican Village on the studio’s lot, while the
dramatic impact of the picture’s sound track stressed the idealism of the M exican
Villagers for having their own independence from the French. The period style
was Rococo, reproduced in the setting of Louis Napoleon of France. Its visual
met ap hor carried out an intended abbreviation in the opulence around the
M exican throne. In breaking the rules, Anton Grot’s setting signified the unreal
and fraudulent French throne in order to underline their supremacy in M exico.


127
       Andrew Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: Harper& Row 1971
(Introduction).

128
      S e e A . Nicholas Vardac, Stage to Screen: Theatrical Method from Garrick to Griffith. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press 1949, pp. 42&43.


                                                                                                                   46
Samuel Goldwyn’s historical romantic drama, Wuthering Heights (1939), was
selected as the best picture of the year. The routine of the pictures’ dramatic
act ion w as underlined by revenge, romance, death, jealousy, ghosts, and
weddings. This dramatic dominance was depicted in settings that featured Gothic
horror. Alexander Toluboff and James Basevi’s scenography carried the 18th
century angular setting of early Georgian and 19th century Regency style. This
highly effective visual stylization of the gloomy melodrama was sustained
evocatively with dramatic sound, and by Gregg Toland’s moody and
Expressionistic cinematography. Its visual style won Toland an Academy Award,
and Basevi an Academy Award Nomination for his interior sets.

Each film genre of the 1930's was addressed to a certain class of the society. In
t his decade, the motion picture reached the extended base of Americans.
Progressively, the American film industry started elaborating the art of its sound
and image juxtaposition, and succeeded in reaching the level of a paradigm. But
simplicity and organic unity hallmarked these productions. Hollywood’s sound
track and storytelling, combined with conceptual settings, started securing for the
film a new quality of art for the first time in its age. Some film-makers
int roduced sound to elevate the drama of the image, and they succeeded
admirably. Hollywood’s film Scenographer and director Edgar G. Ulmer
basically refused to be bound by the studio system at Universal Studios. After his
masterpiece The Black Cat (1934), he left the studio. Ulmer’s self belief was
evident in his artistic vocabulary. He elevated even the most thin screen story to
breathtaking narrative. The artist prioritized the aesthetic vocabulary, and relied
on a modicum of necessary props in his cryptogram. Ulmer electrified the
characterization within dramatic setting under the frame of simplistic
int erpretation, and dramatic manipulation of light, shade and form. All these
together lent Ulmer his distinctive identity: style.129 Edger G. Ulmer’s talented
interpretation in The Black Cat corresponds to his experience at the Bauhaus,
specifically his participation on The Golem (1920) version. In The Black Cat,
Ulmer together with Charles D. Hall treated the picturer’s scenography with an
Expressionistic accent, and placed it under artificial control, i.e. painted light and
shadows, painted silhouettes, indirect lighting, open spatial conception and a
thrilling horror sound effect.



129
      Myron Meisel, Edger G. Ulmer: The Primacy of the Visual (1972), in: Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn (Ed.), Kings
o f t h e B s : Working with the Hollywood System, An Anthology of Film History and Criticism. New York: E. P. Dutton
1975, pp. 148&149.


                                                                                                                  47
‘What we call a good design’, stated George Nelson, ‘is on which achieves
integrity -that is, unity or wholeness- in balanced relation to its environment.’130
When the film Scenographer overcrowds the film setting with numerous mise-en-
scenes, the spatial principles are violated. Complexity would mark the space, and
cons equently the scenographic and dramatic task would be thrown out of
balance.131

A highly praised or qualified artistic product draws inspiration for its means and
vocabulary from the real world. Yet before the artist can start dealing with these,
he must command the secret of the trade.132 In Warners’ gangster and horror
genre, the spatial vocabularies of Anton Grot’s sets were often accentuated by
Expressionistic or Teutonic outlooking scenography. Warner Brothers’
Scenographer’s motives were inspired by working-class house interiors, most of
w hos e inhabitants were crushed by the harsh Depression. ‘The unswerving
righteousness of the American middle-class dream was tied to the Hollywood
image.’ Hollywood succeeded in establishing these ties with the middle-class of
U.S. society, after dealing with their everyday questioners.133 Hollywood studios
responded to the problems of the mass unemployment class (Warner Brothers,
Universal), and to those of the upper class as well (M GM , Paramount, RKO),134
it means ‘escapism is hardly a useful concept. People do not escape into
s omet hing they cannot relate to.’ The term is not applicable to Hollywood
production during the years of Depression America.135 Hollywood did not escape
the Depression with its lavishly produced musicals; on the contrary, Hollywood
danced to the pain of the Great Depression.


130
      See George Nelson, Problems of Design. New York: Whitney Publications 1957, p. 11.

131
        In his initial sketches for An American in Paris [1951], MGM film Scenographer Preston Ames introduced a cluttered
s p a t i a l c o mposition, more than was necessary to the degree that the spatial arrangement was thrown out of balance; see
Donald Knox, The Magic Factory: How MGM Made an American in Paris. New York: Praeger Publishers 1973, p. 149.

132
       C f. Ernst Hans Gombrich, Truth and the Stereotype, in: Melvin Rader (Ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An
Anthology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1935. (1952, 1960 and 4 th Ed. 1973), pp. 45&46.

133
      D a v i d G e b h a rd and Harriette von Breton, Los Angeles in the Thirties 1931-1941. 1975 ( 2 nd Ed., Los Angeles:
Hennessey & Ingalls. 1989), p. 20.

1 34
       We are dealing here mainly with the “big five” Hollywood studios that produced around seventy percent of motion
pictures during the Sound Decade.

135
        A n d re w Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: Harper & Row 1971,
(Introduction).


                                                                                                                         48
Catching up with the style in the motion pictures’ setting requires the creative
work to find the best answers available to each technical question concerning the
artistic vocabulary in the Film Scenographic Cryptogram: the set should provide
smooth movement to the dramatic traffic, tonal values of light and shade, camera
set ups, pictorial composition; there are also questions regarding the set’s size,
textural treatment and material used, acoustic control and cost. The set should
respond to the script and directorial needs, so it can be ready for the action.136
After all these aesthetic signs are prepared separately and put together in the
Scenographic Space, their unification must provide an accent of simplicity,
enabling the beholder to ‘grasp the whole scene and its meaning at a glance.’137
This is because these aesthetic signs are related to “the law of simplicity in the
spatial,” and correspondingly they have been through various stages of study and
research finally to emerge as perceivable appearance; after all, when the beholder
p ay s attention to the dramatic action and the scene’s background, its setting
s hould represent and reflect its occupant’s celebrity and experience.
Sp at iot emporal parallelism, in this representation, is highly required. An
anachronism must be avoided at any rate.138

The distinctive aesthetical style of storytelling was notably balanced with true
artistic painting with light in Charles Rosher’s, Lee Garmes’ and William
Daniels’ cinematography. Whereas Gregg Toland and Hall M ohr had their own
label in this artistic representation, M ohr was known as a motion picture
portraitist, while Toland employed moving camera and deep-focus technique to
an interesting degree, so he could ensure the most narrative image possible.139 On
the studio’s level, M GM , for example, manifested its own image on the silver
screen featuring an exquisite ‘brightly lit, sharp-edged intensity that conveys the
spirit of the country and period, . . . M etro’s sets achieved a verisimilitude and
elegance of production few studios or individuals have matched.’140 After each
of the American studios’ created its own artistic label on the screen, they secured
their own landmark image, that consisted of visible cues and what psychologists

136
      See Leo Kuter, Art Direction, in: Films in Review (June-July 1957), pp. 253&257.

137
      A. B. Laing, Designing for Motion Picture Sets, in: The Architectural Record, Vol. 74 (July 1933), pp. 62&63.


138
      The Architecture of Motion Picture Settings, in: The American Architect, Vol. 118, No. 2324 (July 7, 1920), pp. 2&3.

139
      Richard Koszarski, Moving Pictures: Hall Mohr’s Cinematography, in: Film Comment (September 1974), p. 48.

140
      John Baxter, Hollywood in the Thirties. New York: A. S. Barnes 1968, p. 16.


                                                                                                                      49
call ‘cues of location and orientation.’ They are a great asset to the perceptual
encoding of the image’s constituents.141 When Hollywood made effective use of
s uch landmark characteristics, it allowed the American studios to form their
dis tinctive house style. American film had settled on a spatial code for an
unchallenged film scenography and for ever. Simplicity highlighted that style,
and emphasized it as a model of inspiration for spatial codes to come.

In summary, as we reviewed Hollywood’s spatial and representational practice
during the 1930's, it was made clear that this period’s production established its
own aesthetical style, which was hallmarked by “the canon of simplicity.” The
decade following the introduction of sound into the motion picture and Great
D ep ression conveyed a highly perceptual scenographic style, the latter’s
correlationship with the spatial realism of the M oderne, logic and reason
qualifying Hollywood’s spatial code to be an exemplary one.

IV
A comparative degree of realism was demonstrated in Fred Astaire-Ginger
Rogers’ pictures. Their cycle manifested the forming of a realistic world that was
balanced with those expressive dramatic means of their musicals. Astaire-Rogers
tended to act according to each beholder’s perceptual capacity and make their art
available to all.142 Astaire-Rogers relied profoundly in their musicals on
demonstrative settings and their representation, which, notably, contributed to the
p ercep t ual efficiency of the cycle’s image. In this relationship, the film
Scenographer’s product may contribute to the question of whether a picture is
going to have a favorable outcome, or decline.143

By its nature, film scenography has the task of taking the beholder to the spirit
of the scene and maintaining persuasive narrational patterns.144 In its heyday,
film scenography was praised by critics as a frame to the characters in their

141
     C f. J u l i a n Hochberg and Leon Gellman, The Effect of Landmark Features on Mental Rotation Times, in: Memory
& Cognition, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1977), p. 23.

142
       J . P . Telotte, Dancing the Depression: Narrative Strategy in the Astaire-Rogers Films, in: Journal of Popular Film
and Television, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall 1980), p. 18.

143
     George P. Erengis, Cedric Gibbons: Set a Standard for Art Direction that Raised the Movies’ Cultural Level, in: Films
in Review (April 1965), p. 217.

144
      Hans Dreier, Motion Picture Sets, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 17, No. 5 (November 1931), p. 789.


                                                                                                                       50
surrounding, which looked like a daydream as stories unfolded within settings
that translated the average man’s emotions.145 A film Scenographer such as
Joseph Urban was perceived by Photoplay in 1923, as an artist ‘who sees and
feels human drama in pictorial form as opposed to the laudable, but not lator of
furniture and bric-a-brac.’146 Nobert Lusk suggested that Urban was an artist who
‘has given to [the] motion pictures something of his imagination and feeling.’147
On the other side Hermann Rosse, Universal’s Scenographer, celebrated this kind
of style-maker: they must be encouraged, so they can continue responding to the
questions of the masses.148

Keeping the visual style in accordance with the average beholder’s grasp calls
for a realistic accent in the scene’s visualization. This form of expressive
equilibrium should be preserved in its highest order. Otherwise, for instance,
even an exaggeration in the costume making would not have any attraction to the
average woman.149 Simplicity and balance should be prioritized in the pictorial
communication. Setting alone should not capture the attention of the beholder for
it s own sake it should sustain the action.150 A setting should relate to the
beholder’s life and experience. Hollywood maintained a great deal of balance in
its scenography. Lloyd Shearer confirmed in his writing in House Beautiful that
H ollywood’s scenographical stylizations ‘not only represent the desires of
millions of Americans, but . . . the way American taste in homes is tending.’151
Lastly, after having interacted with the real world and traditions of the society,
and having been observed and attended by more than sixty million Americans a

145
      Palmer White, Why the Movies are Influencing American Taste, in: House Beautiful (July 1942).


146
                                                                           .
      See Joseph Urban is a Master of Lighting Effects, in: Photoplay (1923)

147
    Nobert Lusk, Joseph Urban Bring Scenic Art to Motion Pictures. 1921 [papers from Columbia University: Rare
Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection].



148
      Hermann Rosse, The Wasted Gifts of the Scene Designer, in: Oliver M. Sayler (Ed.), Revolt in the Arts: A Survey of
the Creation, Distribution and Appreciation of Art in America. New York: Brentano’s Publishers 1930, p. 201.

149
      Screen Glamour to Sell Fashions to Fans, in: Commercial Art and Industry (July-December 1935), p. 19.

150
       Percival F. Reniers, Upon Mr. Urban’s advent into Moving Pictures: Mr. Urban’s Ideas, in: The Evening post (July
3, 1920).

151
     Lloyd Shearer, The 3 Most Popular movie Sets of the Last 20 Years ... and What they Mean, in: House Beautiful, Vol.
83, No. 12 (December 1946), pp. 218-221.


                                                                                                                    51
week in the neighborhood theaters, Hollywood’s sets from the Thirties emerged
as a valid narrative source in the communicational stream. They were highly
credible. Hollywood’s scenographic norm of this classic era was admirably
adapted in the American home.

A true artist is one who has the ability to feel and is able to translate that feeling
into a conceptual artistic means.152 This transformation from the sketching board
to the fulfillment of the artistic task must be a smooth process, far from any
accent of disequilibrium, complexity, or repetition. M onotony is capable of
killing the beholder’s interest in the screen image. Any accentuation of
complexity distracts or causes the loss of interest in the picture. In applying this
formula to Hollywood’s production after the arrival of the talkies, all the studios
clearly tried to milk the possibilities of the newborn technology to enhance their
aes t hetical style. It caused Hollywood to have a disequilibrium in the image
sound juxtaposition, and the resulting image was poorly performed within the
canned set. Hollywood tried -mostly in the musical genre- to make the best use
of the new technology by singing or dancing in a theatrical form to accommodate
the technique, instead of reversing this equation. M etro’s, The Hollywood Revue
of 1929 (1929), and The Broadway Melody (1929), Fox’s Sunny Side Up (1929),
Warner’s Gold Diggers of Broad way (1929), and RKO’s Rio Rita (1929) were
typical examples of Hollywood’s turbulent and static year when it converted to
sound.

With its ability to unite separate aesthetic signs organically together, and to lend
them a form of narrative efficiency, the motion pictures medium is qualified to
be a communicational medium combining separate cues, that are less qualified
to obtain the same narrative paradigm ‘in a mere summation of those units.’153
Combining these aesthetic signs of the motion picture together needs a skilled,
but talented artist, who is able to attribute the principles of unity and balance to
those signs. In summing up, Hollywood’s Scenographer and cinematographer of
t he 1930's secured this conceptualization persuasively in their works. These
artists replied with their feelings to the society’s questions, and their product was
expressed in terms of a collective form, quality and tradition. In doing so, they
tightened the boundaries of the real world of Depression America and the society

152
       J e ro me Lachenbruch, Art and Architectural Artifice, in: The American Architect, Vol. 118, No. 2341 (November 3,
1920), pp. 563-568.

153
       J ohn Robert Gregory, Some Psychological Aspects of Motion Picture Montage. Ph. D. Diss., Urbana, Illinois:
University of Illinois 1961, p. 89.


                                                                                                                     52
        of t he machine age. Finally, the principle of unity and balance allowed
        H ollywood’s scenographic concept to be comprehended by the average
        individual at first glance. Still, it could not have happened by chance that
        Hollywood’s film scenographical style from the Thirties was used as source of
        inspiration for the American home and its occupants. This conceptualized spatial
        form deserved the recognition to be treated as a style.

2.4 Analysis of 1930's Film Scenographical Stylization

        In classic film-making, Hollywood invoked the impression of actual depth on the
        flat screen. Characters’ and camera movement sustained this illusion and
        manifested the cue of kinetic depth.154 But projecting this illusion of depth onto
        the screen was maintained by the impressive structure of new-born technologies.
        After the emergence of sound, film art progressively started attaining new stages
        of technological innovations, and new cameras, incandescent light, faster films
        and lenses all started contributing to the enhancement of the aesthetic of the
        screen image, and therefore its narrative quality. By then, modern technology
        was in demand in America.155 It reached into Hollywood’s spatial stylization.
        Wit h t he introduction of modern technology in the film setting, each scenic
        dream was able to be implemented.

        The art of today’s motion pictures, said William Cameron M enzies, is a clear
        reflection of the time’s tastes, feelings and traditions.156 This was in reference to
        t he age of the late nineteen-twenties. Still, this art of echoing the time’s
        conventions does not mark the conclusion of that time, and had its boundaries
        with the past, because there is no art without its traditional schemata.157 When

        154
             See D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production
        to 1960, P. 52.

        155
               In his introduction on Thanksgiving, the Editor of The American Home adored the prosperity and conveniences in
        t h e American home; see Thanksgiving 1929, in: The American Home, Vol. 3, No. 2 (October 1929, to March 1930); for
        a c o mic critic of the new lifestyle during the 1930's (England); see Heath Robinson and K. R. G. Browne, How To Live
        in a Flat. London: Hutchinson, pp. 27-44; the new lifestyle up to modernity was advocated in the 1930's; Dieter Prokop,
        Hollywood Hollywood: Geschichte Stars, Geschafte. Koln: Verlagsgesellschaft 1988, p. 129.

        156
              Cf. William Cameron Menzies, Pictorial Beauty in the Photoplay, in: Richard Koszarski (Ed.), Hollywood Directors
        1914-1940. New York: Oxford University Press 1976, p. 240.

        1 57
                See Ernst Hans Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York:
        B o l i ngen Foundation 1960 (2 nd Ed., New York: Kingsport Press 1961), p. 175; in later chapters (Two and Three), I will
        a d d re s s technological development in further detail and its association with Hollywood’s film scenographic and


                                                                                                                              53
each artistic or technological invention of the 1930's induced narrative screen
image, they were built upon the formulas and achievements of their predecessors
from the past.

Commercially, a motion picture set has no sales value. It has only a
cinematographic significance.158 But this pictorial quality of the set would decide
whether the motion picture medium is going to ascertain its high claim as a true
art form or not. Evidently, it provided the high cinematographic level during the
Thirties. In that decade, we see how Art Deco and Streamlined Art dominated the
aesthetical form and outlook of Hollywood’s spatial stylization. In the interior,
as in the exterior settings, the M oderne, with its simplistic accent, provided the
action with matchless surroundings. M etro’s chief Scenographer Cedric Gibbons
exp res s ed: ‘there is no reason why they [the M oderne] should not become
increasingly popular.’159

Cedric Gibbons observed an almost non exceptional realism in the modern
settings. In the plan, there is a great similarity between arranging a modern living
space and a contemporaneous set, but it is not necessary that all rooms of the set
are connected together.160 Hollywood established its codes not only in the
s cenographic arena, but in all other stages of the film production. When
Hollywood formed its tradition of film-making, the studios were canonizing their
p ractice across all stages. This codified the screen image and lent it a unique
outlook compared with the rest of the world’s production. Hollywood’s style was
assessed on three levels by David Bordwell: devices, systems and the relations




cinematographic stylization.


158
       A setting for motion pictures does not always exist from a cardboard or stretched canvas on a wood frame. In places
(s t aircase, roofs, balconies, etc.) where action is going to take place involving more than one character, the settings’
construction must meet the standard of the insurance and state’s building code and regulations. If the script calls for a fire
o r e x p l o sion, walls and backings of the studios must be fireproof. These regulations require constant collaboration
b e t w een the film Scenographic department and the entire film crew; see Hans Dreier, Designing the Sets, in : Nancy
Naumburg, We make the Movies. New York: W.W. Norton 1937, pp. 87&88.

159
      See Cedric Gibbons, Motion Picture Sets, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14 th Ed., 1929-1939, p 859.

160
     Sometimes the hall-way is connected to the living room, while the dining room was arranged on another stage; ibid.,
p. 858.


                                                                                                                         54
between these systems.161 After the arrival of sound, new variations of films and
filming were possible, and Hollywood responded with a whole new pallet of
productions that marked the screen throughout the Thirties.162 Representing these
sound genres on the screen, was the other side of the coin compared to forming
the visual style. Sketching was in the hands of talented artists, who behind their
cameras shared notably in the codification of Hollywood’s screen image.163 In
latter chapters of this investigation, this process will be highlighted further. The
same is true for Hollywood’s Scenographers, who addressed these film genres
in their three-dimensional form, and contributed to the formation of the Golden
Age’s visual style. When addressed in depth, the 1930's film cycles will provide
a far-reaching appreciation of these mens’ lives and products.

However painful it may sound or hard it is to accept, it is a historical fact that the
great pioneer Scenographer Wilfred Buckland (Illustration 3), committed
suicide on July 18 of 1946 at the age of eighty, after shooting his own mentally
ill son. He was left alone during and after the Depression with no significant job.
Buckland applied his stage lighting effects to the motion pictures’ scenographic




161
         G e n erally, those canonical levels formed the classic narrative style of American film-making; D. Bordwell, J. Staiger
a n d K . Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960, p. 6; after securing
t h i s s o l i d foundation of narrative codes, Hollywood shifted the action towards a more narrative style, whilst still under
the beholder’s analytical control.

162
        The following film genre characterized the decade following the coming of sound: 1. Film Musical 2. Gangster Film
3. Monster Film 4. Comedy Film 5. Western Film 6. Psychological and Social Drama 7. Burlesque Film; cf. Andre Bazin,
Q u -est-ce que le Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 1 (Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What is Cinema? Vol. 1, Berkeley
a n d L o s Angeles: University of California Press 1967), p. 28; ibid., The Evolution of Film Language, in: Peter Graham
(Ed.), The New Wave. London: Secker&Warburg 1968, p. 31.

1 63
     See Charles Higham, Hollywood Cameramen: Sources of Light. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press
1970, (introduction).


                                                                                                                            55
art, after he mastered them during his days at Belasco’s theaters, in New York.164
Wilfred Buckland was a pioneer, yet he also revolutionized scenic art by putting
the set under artificial lighting control in order to reflect any mood desired by the
screen story (as we will see in Chapter 4). Buckland left a considerable body of
early spatial stylization behind, some of which included: The Virginian (1914),
Male and Female (1919), Robin Hood (1922) in association with others, such as
Almost Human (1927). He also worked on the early sound comedy Madam Satan
(1930).

Another pioneer film Scenographer was Joseph Urban, who refused accepting
the studio system and was his own boss in his own right (Illustration 4). Joseph
Urban was a book illustrator, painter, sculpturer, architect, civil engineer, interior
and stage Scenographer, costume maker, and founder of many spatial concepts
in film scenography. Urban’s lighting effect was magical. By twenty-six years
of age, Urban had already acquired an international reputation. He worked in
Vienna, Cairo, Budapest, London, Leningrad, Paris, at Boston M etropolitan
Opera, Reinhardt Theater in New York, and Los Angeles.165 He was a man, who
had similarities to the Renaissance artists.

Joseph Urban was born in Vienna in 1872, where he studied fine art, polytechnic,
and architecture. In 1904, he visited the United States for the first time through


164
       L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 200&201; another important
fi g ure among the pioneer film Scenographers, Ben Carre, born in Paris in 1883, emigrated in 1912 to the United States.
B e n C a rre was the artist who introduced a new standard of aesthetic to early Hollywood’s film scenography; see Kevin
Brownlow, The Parade’s Gone By. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1968, p. 242; L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other
G r and Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 201&202; Ben Carre contributed to Warner Brothers’ scenography in the
fi rs t p a rt -t a lkie, Don Juan (1926), and The Jazz singer (1927). Ben Carre’s excellent sketching style had always been
n o t a b le ever since the Teens and Twenties (where a scene used to be painted on the background of the dramatic action).
H i s mastery in the spatial arrangement can be followed in all of his spatial configurations: The Blue Bird (1918), the first
talking western, Rider of the Purple Sage (1931), A Night at the Opera (1935), Great Guy (1937), and The Wizard of Oz
(1 9 3 9 ). These are only a few examples of his work. His sketching ability, composition, silhouette and color affinity lent
a high aesthetical efficiency and magical power to his Scenographic Space. The artist circulated in most of the big studios,
w h e re h e t y p i c a lly did not receive any credit for his work, whilst others did. Ben Carre died in 1978 in Hollywood,
Cheviot Hills, California.




165
         J o s eph Urban re-arranged the Abidin Palace in Cairo for the Egyptian monarch Al-Khudawy Ismail; a castle for the
H u n g a rian Count Esterhazy; the Hagenbund exhibition building in Vienna, and worked in the Vienna Royal Opera, the
P a risian Champs-Elysees Opera, the Convent in London, and engineered the Trotsky Bridge over the Neva River in
Leningrad; see Nobert Lusk, Joseph Urban Bring Scenic Art to Motion Pictures. 1921. [Paper from Columbia University:
R a re B o o k s a nd Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection]; see also Randolf Carter, The World of Flo Ziegfeld.
New York: Praeger Publishers 1974, p. 38&40; Oliver M. (Ed.), Revolt in the Arts: A Survey of the Creation, Distribution
and Appreciation of Art in America. New York: Brentano’s Publishers 1930, p. 341.


                                                                                                                         56
the Austrian exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. He must
have liked it, as he emigrated to America in 1911. Joseph Urban attained an
unsurpassed degree of fame during the Twenties. His talent and mastery
exceeded any of the artistic work of his contemporaries.166 Urban brought to the
U.S. his own artistic concept. He manifested his belief in liberating art from the
aristocratic saloons, and making it accessible to all.167 The master introduced new
techniques and formulas into the scenographic field in America for the first time,
and today these are considered as a standard in spatial organization. His portals,
platforms, and no lack of solid color use were something conceptual. Urban used
the overall tones, painted or forced perspective and reduced his setting for the
important dramatic vocabulary.168 In New York, at Ziegfeld Theater, he balanced
between the richness of color and the simplicity of form.169

After he directed the Cosmopolitan Production’s art department, Joseph Urban
fat hered modern film scenography in the United States and pioneered the
introduction of the M oderne to American screen. In his setting for the “Tearoom”
in the comedy-drama, Enchantment (1921), Urban called for a horizontal accent
in t he pattern of the curtains, and accentuated it by placing planter boxes
separatingthe upper third of the wall from the rest of the papered portion. Urban
arranged the windows in the upper third of the set for light penetration. In doing
so, he substituted the commonly-used ‘from above’ lighting principle, and kept
the set naturally lit while it was roofed. The lighting formula of these windows
relates to the Gothic’s clerestory windows and lighting principle. The modern
Sezession style was manifested in the set’s motives and objects, which included
chairs, ceiling motives, flowers, and light fixtures. On the other hand, Joseph
Urban’s setting for the “Dining Room” in the same picture, introduced an accent
of heyday Art Deco chic. In the plan, as in the Tearoom, the set overcame the
conventionality of the square living space and became semi-oval. The height of
t he ceiling was highlighted by mapped walls with various sizes of angular,


166
         S e e C ervin Robinson and Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York. New York: Oxford
U n i v ersity Press 1975, p. 19; Nobert Lusk, Joseph Urban Bring Scenic Art to Motion Pictures. 1921. [Paper from
Columbia University: Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection].

167
         Joseph Urban, Real Screen Drama Greatest Need, Declares Joseph Urban [undated Papers from Columbia
U n i v e rs i t y : R a re Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection]; see also Oliver M. Sayler, Urban of the
Opera, the “Follies,” and the Films, in: Shadowland (1921 or 22 [?]).

168
      Cf. Randolf Carter, The World of Flo Ziegfeld. New York: Praeger Publishers 1974, pp. 38, 40-1&44.

169
      Sheldon Cheney, The New World Architecture. New York: Longmans, Green 1930, p. 355.


                                                                                                                         57
circular, or square forms. Some of these were filled with chevron signs of Art
Deco. The table rested on definite rectangular legs, in keeping with the forms of
the high chairs and every other angular line within the set. On each side of the
walls there were almost six circles, some of which were porcelain plates filled
with motives related to Art Nouveau. Light fixtures, the table cloth, rug, flowers
on t he t able and in the background, angularity and smooth lines are all
cons t it uents of early Art Deco. Urban employed a symmetrical accent that
conveyed balance in the Scenographic Space. He pushed the spatial organization
to its limits concerning the degree of richness, but notably preserved a level of
simplicity in the set, which could convey its message to the average beholder at
the first glance. This modern set was praised by the critics for being among the
finest Art Deco stylizations throughout the style’s history (see Illustration 5).
Further modern stylization followed in The Young Diana (1922) and Snowblind
(1924), which were two other highlights of the M oderne. His last two pictures,
t he historical melodrama East Lynne (1931) and the medical-drama Doctors’
Wives (1931), carry Urban’s signature of reliance on the essential and simplistic
form.170

By 1929, Urban was at the height of his fame in America, and his
cont emporaries, who lacked Urban’s talent, tried creating controversial
contentions against him by identifying Joseph Urban with Hitler’s artist Albert
Speer.171 Urban’s opulent and rich style treated the characters as components of
his set’s attributes. Unarguably, Joseph Urban’s dramatic visualization in
Ziegfeld Follies enhanced this attribute’s association with the spectacle. Ziegfeld
Follies had definite influence on Hollywood’s musicals during the 1930's and
1940's. ‘Busby Berkeley evolved a bizarre style of his own in purely cinematic
terms, but his basic concepts also sprang from Follies extravaganza.’172 After the
arrival of sound, the early Hollywood canned set musicals were talking the
Urbanistic and Follies’ language in terms of their scenographical composition.
Warner Brothers’ scenographic and choreographic stylization of Gold Diggers
of Broadway (1929) and Gold Diggers of (1933, 1935, 1936) sequel rests chiefly


170
       A ll the twenty-five drafted pictures by Joseph Urban may reveal his artistic thought, that was balanced between the
principles of simplicity and richness in his settings.

171
      See Randolf Carter, The World of Flo Ziegfeld. New York: Praeger Publishers 1974, p. 136.

172
      ‘Other choreographers such as Sammy Lee and Roger Edens were similarly motivated.’ Ibid., p. 166; Ziegfeld Follies:
n a me d after its American theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld (1869-1932), who was famed for his extravagant revues
(Follies). They were produced annually from 1907 to 1931 (except 1926, 1928, and 1929).


                                                                                                                       58
on the great master spatial concept and the Follies. M GM ’s Broadway Melody
(1929, 1935, 1937), and the studio’s 1940's biographical musicals are no
exception regarding the usage of the same formula of spectacle.

In his early years in the U. S., Urban was received by the public as a chief in the
profession of modern stagecraft.173 His exotic but persuasively narrative spatial
stylization was and would remain a source of inspiration for the motion picture’s
opulent setting. His uncomprehensible and early death in 1933 was a tremendous
loss to scenographic history, and to millions whose feelings and language Urban
had translated, into a visual style. In truth, Joseph Urban was severely neglected.

An attention-capturing accent of organic unity and balance was achieved by the
master Scenographer of Warner Brothers, Anton Grot (Illustrations 6-7). Both
his interior and exterior settings invoked the clear dramatic mood of his pictures.
Anton Grot’s scenographical stylization of Little Caesar (1931), reflected the
Zeitgeist of the “prohibition world” in America. His scenographic technique was
a homage to balance within the principles of simplicity and beauty. Grot’s spatial
visualization was simplistic in its essence.174 Warner’s scenographical
dep art ment notably sketched poor outlooking film spatials, relating to the
average American class’ accommodations, apartments, residences, and hotels.
This film scenography lent a thrilling realism to the gangster genre throughout
the decade.175 Grot mastered and created this aesthetical style, and he was one of
the main figures in Warner’s scenographical department who contributed to the
formulation of the studio’s pictorial identity (style) on the screen.

Born in Kelbasice, Poland, in 1884, his native name was Antocz Franciszek
Groszewski. Anton Grot studied art in Crakow, Poland, and continued his
education in illustration and interior scenography at the Technical College in
Koenigsberg, Germany. In 1909, he immigrated to America. Four years later he
started working at the Lubin Company for the producer Sigmund Lubin, and on
G eorge Fitzmaurice’s films, remaining there until 1917. He then worked for

1 73
     Cf. Sheldon Cheney and Martha Candler Cheney, Art and the Machine: An Account of Industrial Design in 20th -
Century America. New York: Whitlesey House 1936, p. 152.

1 74
      See Donald Deschner, Anton Grot: Warners Art Director 1927-1948, in: The Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 15 (Fall 1975),
p p . 1 8 -2 2 ; the Prohibition era was the period (1920-1933) during which the 18th Amendment forbade the manufacture
and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

175
      S t e p h en Louis Karpf, The Gangster Film: Emergence, Variation and Decay of A Genre 1930-1940. Ph. D. Diss.,
Northwestern University 1970, (Rep., New York: Arno Press 1973), p. 86.


                                                                                                                   59
Paramount with the directors such as Louis Gasnier and George B. Seitz among
others. In 1922, Grot moved to Hollywood and started working with Douglas
Fairbanks, who recognized his talent and assigned him, jointly with others, to
The Thief of Bagdad (1924). From 1925, he spent the next two years working for
Cecil B. DeM ille. From 1927-1948 Grot was a member of Warner’s
scenographic department. He invented the “ripple machine” for light and adverse
weather effects, which won him a special Academy Award in 1940.176

A nt on G rot’s illustrative background helped him profoundly in forming his
visual style. The artist used ink, charcoal, and sometimes watercolor in his
sketches. Anton Grot featured his scenographic sketches with attention-capturing
details. He assigned the lighting effects of the set, camera angles, and settled the
main s cenes’ composition, and then wove the details elegantly together in a
frame of organic continuity. Grot had a remarkable ability to capture the spatial
to serve his artistic formula. His use of perspective is notably unique. This high
s t y liz ed s cenography of Anton Grot was manifested in The Private Life of
Elizabeth and Essex (1939). The picture’s spatial stylization revealed the
at t ention-capturing juxtaposition of light and shade. Its tonal treatment,
composition technic and silhouette technique hallmarked Grot’s spatial
interpretation. Warner Brothers’ strict economical policy re-oriented the master
toward a scenographic trend of abbreviation in the settings’ mise-en-scenes or
toward adapting some accents of German Expressionism. He employed painted
light and shade in his sets, introduced highly perceptual perspectives and the
least costly mise-en-scene. These artistic vocabularies were greatly illustrated in
Svengali (1931), Doctor X (1932), and Captain Blood (1935). M oreover, Anton
Grot introduced a distinctively Expressionistic style of treatment in the horror,
mystery, and last two-color Technicolor process Mystery of the Wax Museum
(1933). Warner Brothers’ economical restrictions imposed their limitations on
the studio’s settings, and this in turn was felt in the representational treatments
in terms of limited camera angles and movements within a confined setting’s
space.

Anton Grot’s spatial organization contributed notably to the successes of the
crime cycle, and he contributed significantly to the popularity of the gangster
genre and its enhanced realism on the screen. Warner Brother’s scenographic
department played an unquestionable role in the studio’s box-office success. Art

176
    L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 211&212; Donald Deshner,
Anton Grot: Warners Art Director 1927-1948 in: The Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 15 (Fall 1975), pp. 18-22.


                                                                                                                60
Deco and Streamlined Art M oderne and splendor were not of significant concern
to Warner Brothers’ executives. Anton Grot’s contribution to classic American
film-making during the 1930's, is equal to the progress of Busby Berkeley,
M ervyn Le Roy, or M ichael Curtiz. The latter received the credit for the master’s
hard work and efforts in the spatial aesthetic after Curtiz and his
cinematographers followed, but had copied Grot’s sketches and story-boards and
lightingeffects step by step, while the true style-maker was left out in the cold.177
Sup p os ed film historians accrediting aesthetical stylization to Curtiz should
remember that his visualization emerged from Anton Grot’s sketching board
(Illustrations 8-13). Like Joseph Urban, Anton Grot was a team player and a
much admired hard worker. He loved his associates, and his associates loved
him. He never abused another’s talent for his own gain. Grot died in 1974 in
California.

Warner Brothers’ pictures presented a novelty of visual style on the screen. The
studio sometimes offered Baroque style, another dramatic low-key style of
lighting that enhanced the effect of the cheap looking mise-en-scenes. Warner’s
s et s were arranged as resemblance to the average class contemporary
s urroundings. Notable characters’ grubbiness in the Scenographic Space
background reflected a maximum artistic efficiency with the limited possibilities
available.178 Warner Brother’s studio had a unique association of artists from
various backgrounds (illustrators, stage Scenographers, and architects). The
studio’s scenographic department was not run by architects or even by a head of
department like M etro, Paramount, Universal or Columbia. Each artist was doing
his job independently, which introduced a relative kind of artistic freedom into
the scenographic stylization. But these artists were masters of their profession in
their own merit. Arranging the set in the most narrative and simple quality for
Anton Grot, for instance, involved a great deal of artistic knowledge and
research. His spatial composition helped in telling the story and in guiding the
average class’ attention to the picture’s message. In this regard,
‘foreground/background relations in the mise-en-scene’ stated Bordwell and
T homp s on, ‘often guide our “reading” of the shot . . . Lines and shapes,



1 77
         Cf. John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood: Fifty Years of Art Direction. London: Thames
T e l e v i s i on 1979, pp. 31& 32; ‘Grot is considered instrumental in the development of Curtiz’s style in these years
[1 9 3 0 ' s ]’; see also Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and
London: McFarland 1990, pp. 128&129.

178
      See John Baxter, Hollywood in the Thirtieth. New York: A. S. Barnes 1968, pp. 50-69.


                                                                                                                        61
light/dark patterns and expressive movement also play a part.’179 Applying this
formula to Warner Brothers’ scenography may explain to us the meaning of some
artistic aspects in Anton Grot’s scenographical cryptogram. Grot favored placing
a large object in the foreground, on one side or other of the front of his set, or
s ometimes in the middle, surrounded by the characters’ composition. This
s ep arat ed the front from the background, where smaller objects are situated
s erving as spatial properties. This scenographical conception, sustained by
dramatic light, proper camera angles and composition, would lead the beholder’s
eye, inevitably, to scan the Scenographic Space from the front to the background.

In his spatial organization for Little Caesar and Public Enemy (1931), Anton
Grot reflected the Depression and the age of lawlessness. The gangster’s home
interior strongly depicted its occupant’s way of life. M edium shots revealed a
great portion of the scenographic composition. The character in the foreground
is always interacting with the groupings in the background, and is an inseparable
part of the setting. Switching in lighting tones, and oscillating between gloomy
and bright patches reflects the instability in the mind of the hero: Rico Bandello-
Little Caesar (Edward G. Robinson), or Tom (James Cagney), who may draw
their guns to shoot at any time. They are spontaneous, and only believed in their
fights, guns and raising to the top. Rico, like Tom, gained his experience in the
cut-throat world, and never liked theoretical views. The silhouette in the spatial
conveyed the isolation of the criminals from their surroundings (society). The
limited spatial concept was emphasized with the Scenographic space’s angular
w alls . Low ceilings conveyed a claustrophobic atmosphere in both pictures.
Anton Grot’s spatial translation in Little Caesar and Public Enemy pointed to an
original accent of the gangster genre’s scenographical style, and laid the
cornerstone of the crime cycle’s spatial code of the prohibition era.

Immediate links were formed between Hollywood gangster films and the
organized crime in the American society. Crime emerged in the large cities, after
the mass waves of European immigrants arrived in America in the late 1880's.
These people were lured to the land of opportunity and ‘the young nation’s stress
on individualism and success’ as a way of life.180 After the federal government
declared the prohibition of liquor in America, organized crime came in


1 79
     Cf. David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley
1979, p. 87.

180
       Frank Manchel, Gangster on the Screen. New York: Franklin Watts 1978, pp. 10&11.


                                                                                                           62
increasing waves. It was lead by certain individuals, who acted forcefully in their
own way and in their right to climb to the top: Al Capone in Chicago and Arnold
Rothstein in New York were taken by Hollywood as source of inspiration to
p roduce a cycle of biographical gangster pictures. Public Enemy (1931), was
bas ed on Hymie Weiss’ life, and Little Caesar (1931) was inspired by Al
Capone’s. Even after the latter went to prison in 1931 and Rothstein was
murdered in 1928, history was made that carried on their names. This would
supply Hollywood with drama for decades to come.181

Warner Brothers’ executive Darryl Zanuck established an economical formula
for the studio by adapting stories from the headlines of the daily newspapers.
T hos e s t ories dealt with the topics of people’s daily lives during the Great
Depression. These were themes of serious social content. Warner’s studio gained
a reputation by calling for social conscientiousness in society, and was the only
major studio that cared about ‘what is going on in America.’182 The studio
achieved great success in the industry. Little Caesar’s considerable acceptance,
along with other successful sound pictures allowed Hollywood to make an easy
transition through the hardest and earliest months of the Depression.183 As a part
of the studio’s landmark-image and as in other genres of Warner, the crime cycle
creat ed its own aesthetical image on the screen by reflecting underworld
violence. The crime cycle illustrated its own screen image. In particular in the
nighttime pictures, that portrayed lifeless streets and vacant localities, had a
thrilling mood of lighting and eerie camera work. All Warner Brothers’ pictures
of the Thirties reflected a rapid rhythm which dealt with the age’s themes and
matters, but were at the same time socially and politically oriented.184

In the second half of the decade, the gangster’s violent accent and


181
           S e e J o hn Baxter, The Gangster Film. New York: A. S. Barns 1970, (Introduction); Scarface (1932) was an
unforgettable gangster drama based on the legendary figure, and the head of Chicago’s underworld, Al Capone, who
g a i n e d h i s n i c kname “Scarface” from two side by side three-inch scars on his left cheek. Capone resembled most
Americans of the Depression era, and the success and individualism of the young nation.

182
       Warner Brothers, in: Fortune, Vol. 16, No. 6 (December 1937), p. 110.

1 83
     The weekly attendance of the American theaters in 1930 recorded 110 million; two years later this record went down
to 60 million, and by 1933 was even lower. Hollywood started partially recovering by the mid of the 1930's; see Kenneth
W. Leish, Cinema, New York: Newsweek Books 1974, p. 75.

184
     Ethan Mordden, The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
1988, pp. 77&236.


                                                                                                                    63
uncomp romising narrative started shifting toward a more didactical and
comp romising tone. The gangster film started focusing its narrative on the
motives of crime in American society, instead of being attracted to violence. The
outlaw hero changed accordingly. He started thinking about his actions. He
searched for relief and love, and not to achieve power as he used to. The hero
was no more a hard tough guy. He was alone and weak, isolated from society. It
was an instructive message to the public.185 Warner Brothers’ Bullets or Ballets
(1936) incorporated this changing tone toward law and order enforcement: after
Ward Bryant (Henry O’Neill) is murdered, the first suspicion falls on the outlaw
Al Kruger (Humphrey Bogart). The captain, Dan M cLaren (Joseph King), heads
an investigation. M cLaren is a friend of the former police detective Johnny Blake
(Edw ard G. Robinson), who was fired from M cLaren’s investigation for no
obvious reason. While walking in the Bronx, Kruger asks Black to syndicate to
his organization, but it does not happen because Johnny is committed to staying
hones t . H is friend Lee M organ (Joan Blondell) offers him a position in her
games, but again Johnny does not accept. Instead he reconsiders Kruger’s offer
under order of his undercover police partner. Another anti-crime drama from the
late Thirties stressed the same formula. In The Roaring Twenties (1939), Eddie
Bartlett’s (James Cagney) old love Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane) loves the
attorney Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn), who was Eddie’s friend and lawyer
defending his liquor hijacking and bootlegging business. Later Eddie quits his
life of crime to return to his old job as a cab driver. George Hally (Humphrey
Bogart) while under criminal charge of liquor bootlegging, learns that his friend
Lloy d has gathered evidence against him while he is working in the district
attorney’s office. George sends a death threat to Jean, the latter goes for help
from Eddie, who in turn goes to George and tries to cool him down, so that he
dowsn’t hurt Lloyd and his wife Jean. George decides to take Eddie’s life, but the
latter pulls his gun and shoots George, before George’s partner shoots Eddie to
death. The same anti-crime accent was revealed in Samuel Goldwyn’s Dead End
(1937), in which the hero is alone and searching for love.

The gangster genre was the only genre that projected the possible progress of an
individual in declining society, in which the authorities and the structure of the
legalit ies were bankrupt. Hollywood’s crime cycle was not so much
concentrating on the absence of the law as focussing on the individual
achievements and success portrayed by the hero. This myth of individual success

185
    See Richard H. Pells, Radical Vision and American Dreams: Cultural and Social Thought in the Depression Years.
New York: Harper & Row 1973, pp. 271-72&274.


                                                                                                              64
‘was still at the core of what Americans held to be the American dream.’ Caesar
Enrico Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) signified that dream, by following the
model of success established in the late nineteenth-century, i.e., reaching the top.
But his ultimate reward was his death.186 After the social conditions of society
changed, the gangster film had to shift with them. Hollywood’s obsession with
us ing and reusing the same gangster formula of the prohibition world and
“headline news” repeatedly for a decade, wore out the genre and caused a decline
in public interest. Toward the end of the 1930's, thrills to the nation were no
longer emerging from within the society. Instead they were coming from
abroad.187 M oreover, what made the gangster film so popular in its heyday was
the fact that it emerged from an era in which crime was familiar to everyone.
When that time passed, the gangster became a legend of the past. Yet this cycle
would be remembered as being some of the most dramatic art that had reached
the American screen.188

A fter Nazi Germany declared war in Europe in 1939, the crime cycle had to
adapt to a new style. Confession of a Nazi Spy (1939) was the first anti Nazi film
produced in Hollywood. Its story was based on the United States government
agent Leon G. Turrou’s book, who discovered a German spy ring in America.
Carl J ules Weyl planned eighty-three sets for the Confession of a Nazi Spy,
breaking all the records for the number of sets at the studio. The National Board
of Review designated the picture as one of the best films of 1939.189 The picture
w as followed by Warners’ Underground (1941), then by the United Artists
comedy-drama The Great Dictator (1941) and Paramount’s The Hitler Gang
(1944).

Warner Brothers’ house style had another label during Hollywood’s Renaissance
A ge, and that was the musical. It established the studio’s reputation as a
matchless style-maker in the field. The mastermind behind this was Busby

186
       Andrew Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: Harper & Row 1971, pp. 7&9.

187
       See Frank Manchel, Gangster on the Screen. New York: Franklin Watts 1978, p. 51   .
188
       John Baxter, The Gangster Film. New York: A. S. Barnes 1970, p. 14.

1 89
       The German Counsel in Los Angeles sent a letter to the Production Code Administration (PCA) demanding the
p re v ention of Warner Brothers producing the picture. Confession of a Nazi Spy achieved a record high at the box-office
w o rl d w i d e , despite the film being banned in eighteen Latin American and European countries, including: Belgium,
Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Japan; see the PCA and Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA)’s film and collection.


                                                                                                                     65
Berkeley, who came to the studio from Broadway to revolutionize the dancing
tradition, and liberate it from ‘the grip of the Broadway stage show style, largely
variations of the old, military formation, rigidly controlled Jazz-tap format’. In
s uch theatrical presentations ‘a precision group of high steppers would go
through as series of routines based on simple movements in time to the music.’
During the transition years, the immobility of the camera created static scenes
when filming such musicals that involved heading-on dances with some camera
angles. Berkeley electrified the spatial by introducing a kaleidoscopic expressive
dance style to the musical, with dynamic visualization, rhythm, and vitality.190
Berkeley’s new dance form ushered in a new era in dance interpretation with the
camera. His discovery of the camera’s bird eye view allowed him to experiment
with his flowery and kaleidoscopic patterns that kept moviegoers on the edge of
their seats. Berkeley utilized spatial forms and attributes to help him form the
characters/dance’s composition. Spatial organization was a significant part of
Busby Berkeley’s kaleidoscopic narrative composition on the screen.

Like the gangster cycle, the musical genre was Warner Brothers’ home
speciality. The two film genres were done well at the studio. In Hollywood’s pre-
Code era, Warner’s musicals exceeded every other production in this genre.
Berkeley’s work was ‘arguably’ superior even to the Astaire-Rogers musicals at
RKO.191 Busby Berkeley’s liberation of the camera from its immobility when
recording his expressive choreographic dance in 42nd Street (1933) and Fred
A s t aire’s true dance art in Flying Down to Rio (1933) at RKO, brought
uninterrupted attention to the musical genre for two decades to come.192 But
toward the end of the 1930's, like the gangster film, the musical started shifting
toward a new form of romance and comedy in its treatments. The new tradition
in the musical pushed Berkeley’s style into the background, since it was less in
public demand.193 In particular, after Busby Berkeley left Warner Brothers for
M GM in late 1939, the same scale of Berkeley’s art was not seen again. The
mus ical started incorporating the new axiom of teenage sons’ and daughters’


190
      See Ronald Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980, p. 146.

191
    Dale Thomajan, Poetry Without a Poet: Warner Bros. Pre-Code, in: Film Comment, Vol. 32, No. 2 (March-April
1996), p. 70.


192
      Tony Thomas, That’s Dancing! New York: Harry N. Abrams 1984, pp. 13&90.

193
      T e d Sennett, Hollywood’s Golden Year 1939: A Fiftieth-Anniversary Celebration of Great Hollywood Movies and
Hollywood Musicals. New York: ST. Martin’s Press 1989, p. 160.


                                                                                                               66
dreams. These were called the back yard, and were low budget musicals. At
M et ro, Berkeley directed the last number of the musical drama, Broadway
Serenade (1939), followed by his direction of the whole musical comedy, Babes
in Arms (1939).

M any great artists contributed with their signatures to the formation of
Hollywood’s scenographical style during its Golden Age. William Cameron
Menzies was one of them. He was the first film Scenographer ever to receive an
A cademy A w ard for his work on The Dove (1927). His concept of spatial
organization was characterized by his mastery of perspectival treatment and
composition layout. Art historians speak of Menziesian perspectives that are
described as ‘broken diagonal barriers which cross the frame like jagged slashes
and usually turn up during scenes of tension, grief, and separation in the form of
fences, walls, palisades, [and] railings.’194 M enzies’ artistic translation included
lines , tonal and compositional treatments, light, shade, elaborate form
deformations, point-of-views and interpretations, which hallmarked his settings
and lent M enzies his unique place in scenographic history. Therefore, it is not
surprising to see that M enzies ranked among Hollywood’s most celebrated and
highly paid film Scenographers of that time. We might find a close relationship
between M enzies and Anton Grot’s conceptual work. Both artists utilized their
illustrative background to serve their dramatic description, while translating the
script in terms of dramatic settings. This close artistic match between the two
masters goes back to the days when they worked together at Fort Lee Studios.
The Naulahka (1918) is one example of their association together.

Like Grot, M enzies had great talent for integrating spatial and perspective. His
work with Ben Carre in the part-talky and boxing drama The Iron Mask (1929)
revealed M enzies’ sense of expressive abbreviation, and concentration on the
essentials of the action. It was balanced with the characters’ composition, spatial
s ep aration (foreground, middle and background), manipulation of forms, and
contrasted light and shade. M enzies was a preferred film Scenographer of the
1930's. The conceptual pre-layout of the pictures he was working on guided the
production team to the most dramatic: camera angles, lighting values, and even
the proper lens for the shot, which was a clarification rarely done by the age’s
Scenographers. It made the job easier for everyone working on the set with
M enzies. His watercolor- and pencil- and sometimes ink-sketching technique


194
      L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, p. 227.


                                                                                                    67
manifested his artistic talent and confidence. William Cameron M enzies’ spatial
concept revealed a highly visual efficiency and narrative quality.

M enzies’ highly effective visualization and artistic vision allowed him to bridge
s moot hly between two dissimilar scenes in Gone With the Wind (1939). He
secured this organic unity through his use of color and composition, which he
used to preserve a dramatic constancy in the screen image.195 M enzies sketched
around two-thousand five-hundred frames advising both the camera and director
on every possible camera setting, angle, color, composition and light.196 M enzies-
Lyle Wheeler’s (Illustration 14) work in the historical romance, Gone With the
Wind, illustrates what I would prefer to call post-card image principle. Each
frame of the feature had been transformed into a post-card composition on the
screen (see Illustrations 15-31), with painstaking period details and consistency
throughout 20,300 feet of (220 minutes) film. It won both masters an Academy
Award for their contribution. Today we might ask how the picture’s aesthetical
outlook would have appeared on the screen without that level of scenographical
and artistic participation.197

Expressionistic scenographical stylization in the motion picture ‘provided an
opportunity to investigate the psychological effects of form and space.’ This
art istic outcome was recommended for study for those architects who had
concerns regarding the suggestive form because Expressionist spatial code has
‘expressive values of foreground, middleground and distance, of descending or
ascending diagonals, of a high and of a low horizon, of the space that sloped
downwards and the space that soared upwards.’198 This spatial formula was

195
      The actual translation of W. C. Menzies’ conception of the color organic unity in Gone With The Wind was executed
b y t h e film Scenographer Lyle Wheeler and Edward G. Boyle, who added the period details to the picture; see Ronald
Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980, p. 247.

196
       T ed Sennett, Hollywood’s Golden Year 1939: A Fiftieth-Anniversary celebration of Great Hollywood Movies and
Hollywood Musicals. New York: ST. Martin’s Press 1989, pp. 223&22.



197
           W i l l iam Cameron Menzies: (1896 New Haven, Connecticut - 1956 Hollywood, California), educated at Yale
U n iversity and at the Art Students League in New York. Menzies started as a children’s book illustrator. This illustrative
label is apparent in Menzies’s style throughout his oeuvre, e.g. , The Son of The Sheik (1926), and Beloved Rogue (1927),
t h e w a r s c e nes in Cavalcade (1933), that accent is visible even in his association with Lyle Wheeler in The Young in
Heart (1938).

198
             S e e W o lfgang Pehnt, Die Architektur des Expressionismus. Sttutgart: Gerd Hatje Verlag 1973 (Tr. by J. A.
U n d e rw o o d and Edith Kustner, Expressionist Architecture. New York: Praeger Publishers 1973), p. 167; for further
d e t a i l s a bout German Expressionism and its manipulation to the filmic spatial see; Ben J. Lubschez, The Cabinet of Dr.


                                                                                                                        68
evocatively adapted in Hollywood’s Scenographic Space. But when Hollywood
borrowed from this Germanic spatial style, American studios altered it to a form
of their own. Some studios’ scenographical departments altered the style in the
form of a Teutonic outlooking spatial, balanced with impressive camera angle
orthodoxy (low-high, or skewed angles), low key indirect lighting, contrasted
images with painted light and shadow. This aesthetical visualization was present
within Universal’s spatial organization, which lent Universal its soubriquet as the
house of the horror.

Ever since Universal’s release of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), the
studio launched a visual style of horror that was previously unknown to the
motion picture.199 With this freakish visualization, Universal shifted from being
on the edge of bankruptcy to being the most profitable studio of the year at the
box-office. Dracula or the monster (Bela Lugosi) was deliberately meant to
fright en the audience and to be the center of perception. Dracula reached a
convincing degree of horror. ‘Nurses were stationed in some theaters to be on
hand should any of the patrons faint in terror.’ During this time of Depression,
the picture achieved enormous success. People were captivated by its mystery.
It was something people had never seen before.200 Richard H. Pells observed the
Thirties’ productions of the horror genre as being the most unsettling, with their
creat ion of a thrilling mood in the form of ‘lifeless forests and fog-bound
swamps, crumbling castles and frightened townspeople, demented scientists and
alien monsters.’201 Apparently these aesthetic signs of the horror genre kept
moviegoers sitting constrained in their seats and waiting for the monster’s next
move.

Duringthe 1930's, some monsters of the horror cycle were closely related to the
concealed anxieties of Americans. Throughout this time many people were left
w it h no work or food. Americans felt trapped by the Depression. M ovie
audiences had sympathy with King Kong, because seeing him trapped in chains


Galigari, in: Journal of the American Institute of Architects, Vol. 9 (January-December 1921), pp. 213-216.

199
      Drake Douglas, Horror! Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press 1989, p. 67.

200
         T h e s u c cess of Frankenstein reached the level where children were dressing as the monster for Halloween; Peters
B ro o k s , M o n s t e r Madness, in: The Editors of the Variety (Ed.), The History of Show Business. New York: Harry N.
Abrams 1993, pp. 52, 54&55.

201
     See Richard H. Pells, Radical Vision and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years.
New York: Harper & Row 1973, p. 269.


                                                                                                                         69
reminded them about the nation’s power and struggle against the unknown.202
T he horror cycle had a distinct standpoint regarding the threat of man-made
innovation. In some way the monster’s thrilling behavior assisted in underlining
every one’s disbelief when faced with new innovation in society. Imagine the
mons t er not adapting to the known conventions of society. He should be
forcefully changed or physically executed. The message of the horror genre to
the American viewer in the Depression era was: do not toy with unpredictable
s olut ions and mysteries, as it may lead to unsatisfactory and treacherous
circums t ances. Still, in the next half of the decade, this horror tone began
changing. It started introducing toleration and acceptance of the new as is,
without tinkering with it.203

When t he monster in Frankenstein (1931) refused adapting to the villagers’
values and measures, it had to be destroyed. The monster was a resulting
fabrication of the mad scientist, who tried only experimenting with the new
without considering any emotional or ethical thoughts. In the Cairo M useum in
The Mummy (1932), the mummy wakes up from a deep death in the sarcophagus,
killing the scientist whose ambition leads to its discovery, the former having not
considered the consequences of his work. Aesthetically, this scene is probably
the most frightening ever produced in Hollywood’s horror genre. The Bride of
Frankenstein (1935) reflected the same venture into the unknown, where Baron
Frankenstein is blackmailed by Doctor Pretorius into reviving his monster and
fabricat ing a wife for him, which leads to a disastrous end. Pretorius, the
monster, and his mate are all killed by the explosion of the tower.

Essentially, horror film relies in its narrative efficiency upon three foundations:
on the ‘mysterious’ in addition to the ‘tremendous’ and the ‘fascinating.’204 These
components of the ghoulish image were convincingly introduced, for example,
in D racula (1931), and The Black Cat (1934). Whether it is camera-work or
setting, each of these two artistic interpretations of the picture compliment each
ot her. Dracula’s setting reflected a Gothic stylization in the form of Count
Dracula’s castle, and this freakish visualization was persuasively translated in


202
      Tom Powers, Movie Monsters. Minneapolis: Lerner publications 1989 ( Introduction).


203
      Richard H. Pells, Radical Vision and American Dreams: Culture and Social thought in the Depression Years. New
York: Harper & Row 1973, p. 270.

204
      See Thomas G. Aylesworth, Monsters from the Movies. Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippicott 1972, p. 17.


                                                                                                                    70
K arl Freund’s cinematography. Freund’s camera work realized the maximum
dramatic efficiency of the set. Charles D. Hall, Herman Rosse, John Hoffman,
and R. A. Gausman’s scenographic stylization in the interior of the centuries-old
vampire’s castle and surroundings, introduced organic unity matching with the
spirit of the mysterious. The ascending stairway to the castle interior is vast,
wide, worn out and surrounded by cobwebs in every corner. Its handrails have
crumbled over centuries, telling the visitor that the castle has been abandoned for
ages . The large lancet arch window looking to the stairs is Gothic. It was
constructed in a wall built from the large stones of medieval times, and the tree
t hat had grown through the window manifested the times past in the lifeless
castle. All this has an immediate correspondence to the tremendousness of
T r ans ylvanian mystery. Beams of light arrive on the set through the lancet
window and make its surroundings visible, while the rest of the Scenographic
Space was left gloomy to appeal to the beholder’s imagination. This atmosphere
matched well the vampire’s life, who lives off the blood of humans and cannot
withstand the light of day. Our reading of this ghoulish composition starts
gradually with the English businessman, Renfield (Dwight Frye), as he is greeted
by Dracula himself, and we start looking up the stairway to the Count. He stands
in front of the window exposed to the light, just to win the trust of his next victim
(Renfield). The background lays in a patch of mysterious darkness to manifest
the unknown behind, where Dracula’s Gothic room was filled with out-of-shape
objects and moody illumination. In that backroom, mise-en-scenes contradict
every vocabulary of those in the real world. Everything is over-dimensional. The
same dreadful image of a Teutonic and Expressionistic atmosphere is present in
the magnificent cemetery and castle in The Black Cat. These boundaries of style,
combined with other aesthetic signs -of indirect and contrasted lighting, mobile
camera, and frightening sound effects- placed the horror picture among the most
extraordinary of the horror genre during the Thirties.

T he artist who stood behind this masterful scenographic visualization of the
horror genre and its Teutonic image in its most memorable era, was the film
Scenographer Charles Daniel Hall (born 1898 Norwich, England, died at the
age of seventy in Hollywood -Illustration 32). He received his training in art,
and began his career as an assistant in an architectural bureau. Hall moved later
to the scenographic field at Fred Karno’s shows. In 1908 he moved to Hamilton,
Ontario/Canada. By the following year he had settled in Hollywood.205 From

205
     John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood: Fifty Years of Art Direction. London: Thames Television
1979, p. 45; L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 212&213.


                                                                                                                71
t here, Hall progressively climbed his way up to become one of the major
contributors to Universal Studios’ aesthetical and trademark style, the house of
horror. Charles D. Hall’s working period at Universal Studios was the most
fruit ful era of the horror film genre. In addition to his Gothic and Teutonic
Expressionist scenographical style, the great film Scenographer proved his talent
in dealing with the M oderne. Hall provided this modern stylization, for instance,
in his over-dimensional and striking setting of the Paradise Night Club in the
backstage musical Broadway (1929), and in the shyster drama Counsellor at
Law (1933).

Charcoal and watercolor were used in Hall’s sketching technique. His sense of
organic unity, Teutonic mood, and dread-inspiring composition were highly
effective in his horror pictures. Despite Universal’s strict economical policy and
budget restrictions in spending on film scenography, Hall placed horror
scenographical style on a historical level. We could ask: would these horror films
have reached that high level without Danny Hall’s visualization, and what could
Hall have achieved on the screen without the limitations imposed on him by the
studio? Apparently Hall was not satisfied with the studios’ regulations, as he left
Universal Studios so early, after finishing The Road Back (1937).206 After Hall
quit from Universal, he did not produce any dramatic art of the same quality to
rival that which he had achieved at the house of horror. He devoted himself to
commercial film scenography at Hal Roach Studios, and spent the final stage of
his career as a freelance Scenographer for various studios.207

For Hollywood’s contemporary horror writer, Anne Rice suggested, maintaining
a high level of narrative visual quality in the horror film requires the horror
formula to be complete when constructing a scene. This would be reached by
‘building scenes carefully, lighting them so that you go into the mood of the
scene and you share the mood of the people on the screen.’ In addition to this
dramatic surrounding, the characters should offer certain degrees of tragic



206
      Originally the anti German, war-drama, The Road Back, was produced at Universal Studios to be an equivalent
production to the success of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). The picture never achieved that high dramatic level,
nevertheless, the picture’s earnings listed it at the top of box-office revenues in 1936-37.

 207
       B y the time Charles D. Hall decided to continue his career as a freelance film Scenographer in 1948, the Supreme
Court declared the end of the monopoly incorporation of film production and exhibition within Hollywood studios. This
als o  me a n t t he end of the studios central control on the film Scenogrpaher’s activities, thereafter they were more
independent as freelancer in the film productions.


                                                                                                                    72
dimensions.208 This conception of the narrative quality of horror films was
persuasively achieved in the first half of the Thirties. During this time, the horror
cy cle provided dramatic balance and conceivability between the dramatic
implication of the monster and the space he was living and moving in. Charles
D. Hall’s association with Herman Rosse in Frankenstein (1931), revealed this
dramatic equilibrium in the screen image. The picture’s sets included an exterior
cemetery, dreadful and gloomy, a Bavarian village, a windmill, and the interior
setting for the laboratory of the mad scientist Henri Frankenstein (Colin Clive).
These aesthetic signs, together with their data, were the essential components of
t he p ict ure’s narrative and visual quality. When the picture was released in
neighborhood movie theaters, it began with a prologue from an announcer, who
would step from behind a curtain to warn the patrons of the horrifying nature of
the picture they were about to see: in the main story at the funeral (the cemetery
scene) the mad scientist Henry Frankenstein, assisted by the dwarf Fritz (Dwight
Frye), dig up a freshly buried body claiming that the corpse is waiting for a new
life. They move a man hanging from a gibbet whose neck is broken, and the
situation requires that a new brain be found. The best place to obtain this is the
Goldstadt M edical College, where Doctor Waldman, Henry’s former professor,
lectures. After dropping a bottle containing a normal brain, Fritz leaves with
another containing the brain of a criminal. The next set is a principal one in the
unfolding of the screen fabula. It is Henry’s laboratory: a watchtower in the
mountains, which is equipped with up-to-date, high tech power and lighting
equipment to charge their electrical mechanisms, and to lend life to the pieced-
together body. The set is equipped with chains, an anatomy table, and power
channels. It was illuminated by Thomas A. Edison’s new incandescent light. The
laboratory walls are overwhelmingly high, resembling the trapped nation and
involvement in the unknown (Depression). After the new body comes to life, the
monster kills Fritz, drowns little M aria from the Bavarian village, then escapes
t o t he mountains. The final set we see is a resemblance to an old looking
windmill- Hall and Rosse inspired this setting from a building in Los Angeles
which housed a local bakery, Van de Kamp, which displayed a large windmill
as its corporate logo. Villagers go through the mountains by torchlight until they
find the monster hiding in the abandoned mill. The mob sets the mill in flames
in order to end the life of the monster. The same narrative formula is present in
The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Black Cat (1934), and The


208
     Cf. Anne Rice, The Art of Horror in Film, in: Christopher Golden (Ed.), Cut!: Horror Writers on Horror Film. New
York: Berkeley Books 1992, p. 200.


                                                                                                                 73
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) among others. If any of these mysterious, dreadful
and sensational aesthetic signs in this film genre are missing, it means generally
that we are dealing with horror as an after thought, and not with the true art form
of the horror film.

Gangster pictures, like monster pictures, called upon the beholder’s imagination
to relinquish their antisocial actions. The two cycles ‘appeared to act as a safety
valve for the latent feelings of violence and hostility to which men were
ordinarily inclined.’209 Toward the late Thirties, major changes started happening
at Universal that caused a definite alteration in visual style of the house of horror.
After Charles D. Hall left Universal Studios in 1937, the decline of the horror
film genre began. Karl Freund, the artist behind the horror image on the screen,
also left, then the director James Whale followed Hall’s departure. Almost all
of the masterminds behind the ghoulish image were no longer at Universal.
M eanwhile, horror pictures started suffering from the routine repetition of the
themes and aesthetic formulas of the early pictures. They started adding more
monsters onto the screen who fought together, without any of the old aesthetical
honesty. The monster became a character you might laugh at instead of being
fright ened.210 With these alterations to the accent of the horror formula, the
horror genre started losing ground and became funny, not scary. The genre
s t art ed relying on the tremendous, and not paying attention to the visual
importance and the original style of the mysterious. In the Son of Frankenstein
(1939), and the Tower of London (1939), we miss such artistic originality and
organic unity in the scenographic stylization. The Son of Dracula (1943) paid
more attention to the character’s appearance, and betrayed inconceivable
handling. This concentration on the one side of the horror formula at the expense
of the other caused disinterest in the late horror films.

Bauhaus notably inspired various American art fields and their modern
conceptions, especially after some American students graduated from the
Bauhaus, came home, and were followed by the Bauhaus’s teachers after 1933's
German revolution. Applied art, stage scenography, architecture, painting,
chrome chairs, and fixtures were among other modern art forms that became

209
      Richard H. Pells, Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years. New
York: Harper & Row 1973, p. 274.

210
        See Ethan Mordden, The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf 1988, p. 350; and also Edward Edelson, Great Monsters of the Movies. Garden City, New York: Doubleday 1973,
pp. 53-54.


                                                                                                                74
influenced by the Dessauer Bauhaus in America.211 M oreover, the Bauhaus’
influence reached Hollywood, and in particular changed Paramount’s aesthetical
style, since the latter had its sisters’ studios UFA-EFA providing Paramount with
its most notable style-makers, as we have seen earlier.

Paramount’s Scenographical stylization was integrated as an essential part of the
studio’s pictures. Spatial properties were enlightening, but sometimes
commanded the overall flow of the pictures’ dramatic mood. Paramount’s
cinematographers used a skillfully diffused and soft lighting effect, which loaded
even the thinnest story with dramatic significance.212 With the emergence of
sound into the motion pictures, the new medium influenced the comedy film the
most. To adapt to the new change, comedy started relying more on voiced humor.
O ld forms of silent comedy started disappearing. M arx Brothers’ burlesque
comedy emerged at Paramount. It relied on the advantage of sound and
sometimes on their picturesque tableaux. They expressed their art in ‘dadaistic,
stream of consciousness dialogue that provided the true comic dimension to their
characters.’213 By shifting the comedy’s manner from the visual action to the
spoken word, Hollywood’s need for trained voices was urgent, since the new
talent had to be able to deal with the new medium (sound). Hollywood attracted
a great number of vaudevillian characters, some of whom came from Broadway.
Among these newcomers from the stage were M arx Brothers (Groucho, Chico,
Harpo, and Zeppo). Each of the M arxs had his own distinctive artistic quality.
With their uncommon performing style, they soon became internationally known
comedic figures.214 The M arx Brothers combined the essential constituents of
American sound-visual comedy in their pictures. M arx’s visualization quality
matched well with their characters, action and comic lines.215 This concept of the
dadaistic sound comedy was notably present in the burlesque classic Animal


2 11
       See Leonardo Benevolo, Storia dell’architettura moderna. Bari: Editori Laterza 1960 (Ubers. Von Elisabeth Serelman,
Geschichte der Architektur des 19. Und 20. Jahrhunderts. Munchen: George D. W. Gallwey 1964), p. 323.

212
       John Baxter, Hollywood in the Thirtieth. New York: A. S. Barnes 1968, pp. 33&34.

2 13
          Due to their international popularity and distinct performance style, the three master artists (Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd)
c o n t i n u e d to produce silent films and were able to overcome the transition; see Thomas W. Bohn and Richard L.
S t ro mg ren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred
Publishing 1975, pp. 218&220.

214
       A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, pp. 142&143.

215
       See Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies. Indianapolis: Pegasus 1971, p. 289.


                                                                                                                            75
Crackers (1930) in which Groucho and Chico were wondering how and where
a very valuable painting has been lost from the house:
Groucho: Suppose nobody in the house took the painting?
Chico: Go to the house next door.
Groucho: Suppose there isn’t any house next door?
Chico: Then, of course, we gotta build one.

The M arx Brothers’ sound comedy of the early Thirties eased, or tried to ease
p ainful memories cause by the harsh Depression. Their destructive bent and
disorderliness kept people laughing, and kept them aware of the hard real world.
Artistically, these early pictures of M arx’s are ageless. They delivered a new
narrative style. The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey
Business (1931), Horsefeathers (1932), or Duck soup (1933) all have their
artistic qualities. The M arx Brothers’ last dadaistic sound comedy at Paramount
reached t he heights of anarchy and lawlessness, not to mention streamlined
stylization in its settings. Wealthy widow Gloria Teasdale (M argaret Dumont)
forces the Freedonian government to accept Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho M arx) as
the republic leader. Firefly does not behave as a president is supposed to. This
encourages the Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania, with the help of Vera M arcal
(Raquel Torres), to take the control over the Freedonian republic, after marrying
M rs . T eas dale. The picture resembled a typical chaos formula of the M arx
Brothers: war, land-caricature, conflicts, wealth-hunters and trials. On the other
hand, at Paramount, Ernst Lubitsch had another form of sound comedy, but his
had a European accent, witty and sly. Monte Carlo (1930), One Hour With You
(1932), and the high polished and romantic comedy Trouble in Paradise (1932)
are classified a typical Lubitschians. Trouble in Paradise might be described as
Lubitsch’s most sparkling and effective sound comedy after the advent of the
talkies. Lubitsch took the most advantage of sound in this picture. Using either
s p arkling dialogue or feeding music into the background Lubitsch could
highlight and underline the picture’s dramatic moments.

By mid-decade, Hollywood introduced a new form of comedy, ‘warm and
healing, yet off-beat and airy.’ “Screwball” comedy, as the new form was termed
by film critics, reflected solidarity against weakness in a classless society and
cooperative America.216 Screwball cycle was the reaction to Depression America.
This new narrative form of comedy reunited people after being separated by the

216
      A n d re w Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: Harper & Row 1971, pp.
132&133.


                                                                                                            76
effects of the Depression and its impact on the American social life. Its
“ w ackiness” brought family members back under one roof again, fixed failed
marriages and associated separated classes with each other. By contrast to the
chaotic and disorderly manner of early 1930's comedy form (M arx Brothers’),
or t he witty and sly (Lubitschian) form, screwball comedy (mostly Frank
Capra’s) was implosive, fixing what the Depression destroyed.217

At Columbia, Frank Capra’s work reflected that warm, highly esteemed and
healingnarrative form. Capra’s picture’s touched upon the sentiment and dreams
of the average classes during the hardest days of their lives. It Happened One
Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take It With You
(1938), and the masterpiece political comedy-drama Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington (1939) are typical Capra comedies. In his latter picture, he stressed
M r. Smith’s (James Stewart) idealism and struggle against the political
corruption in America, opposing the fraud between the United States Senators
and the American political bosses. M r. Smith never forgot where he came from
and he struggled to bring order and peace to the people who elected him.

A romantic accent was something unimportant in M arx Brothers’ early burlesque
comedy. The exception to this was The Cocoanuts (1929). Romance took off in
their films until they moved to M GM in the next half of the Thirties. Under
ins t ruct ions from Irving Thalberg they altered their style from disorder and
lawlessness to one which was more organized and less chaotic, involving more
dialogue with affair involvements. Yet M arxian’s dadaistic, verbal form of
contradiction and irrelevancy continued delivering somewhat surrealistic visions
from their early pictures: like Harpo’s attempt to light his cigar with a telephone
receiver in Duck Soup (1933); in At the Circus (1939) they matched the same
accent. When Groucho and M argaret Dumont play a romance scene next to the
window, Groucho declares his love to her. Suddenly a giraffe’s head appears
through the window, and the giraffe starts licking Dumont’s exposed back.

The MarxBrothers’ tribute to the world of comedy matched well with American
ideals and progress. Their art was a criticism aimed at any model of control,
authority, schooling and culture of human fabrication that destroyed the innocent
nobility of human kind. The M arx Brothers’ brand of optimistic comedy is very



217
      Ibid. pp. 133&134.


                                                                                77
valuable in our present age, in which many are so disoriented or pessimistic.218
Paramount’s sound comedy was sustained with the idol of the M oderne: smooth
lines and surfaces, chrome chairs or streamliner all furnished the background of
the comedy and maintained its mood. Not much is spoken today about the space
that was framing M arx’s pictures. It notably enhanced the narrative quality of the
burlesque genre, and sustained it achieving the high dramatic level that it
reached.

Paramount’s highly praised chief film Scenogapher was born in the Hansestadt
Bremen, Germany, in 1885. He received his professional training in architecture
from the University of M unich. After working as an architect supervisor for the
G erman Imperial Government in Cameron, West Africa for three years, he
returned to Berlin in 1919 to work at the UFA studios. Hans Dreier (Illustration
33) joined Ernst Lubitsch on two pictures of Emil Jannings, from 1919-1923. He
emigrated to America in 1923 -after Lubitsch’s invitation- to lead Paramount’s
film scenographical department.219 Hans Dreier remained at the studio for the rest
of his career. Hans Dreier made scenograpic history throughout his twenty-seven
y ear career at Paramount. Simplicity, organic unity, balance, richness, and
inventiveness hallmarked his scengraphical style. Hans Dreier’s spatial
interpretation delivered a remarkable degree of balance between the M oderne
and t he architectural form. His spatial conceptualization maintained a true
equilibrium between the pro-Americana internal manner and rhythm, and the
Europ ean outlook. Dreier combined modern architectural stylization and the
Functional aesthetic in his settings; in Trouble in Paradise (1932), the picture
exhibits a highly stylized form of Art Deco setting: mirrors, beds for dreams, and
other mise-en-scenes calling for the M oderne. Dreier brought the Bauhaus’ ethic
and artistry with him from Germany. He introduced a new accent of flat white
and abbreviated surfaces, with the essentials of the M oderne, e.g., clocks, forms,
chandeliers, chrome components, light fixtures, glass brick, and spaciousness, all
of w hich were portrayed under diffused, soft and indirect lighting effects.
Dreier’s charcoal, and ink sketching technique revealed his sharp sense for the
spatial and its composition. Yet Dreier had the talent of capturing a simplicity in
his settings that was integrated with the dramatic means of the screen’s narrative
action. These spatial attributes were elaborately manifested in Paramount’s Softy

218
        See Allen Eyles, The Marx Brothers: Their World of Comedy. South Brunswick, New York: A. S. Barnes 1966, p.
175.


219
       Nancy Naumburg, We Make the Movies. New York: W.W. Norton 1937, p. 275   .

                                                                                                               78
in Numbers (1930), Monte Carlo (1930), Monkey Business (1931), One Hour
With You (1932), Duck Soap (1933), A Bed Time Story (1933), and Artists and
Models (1937). Dreier and his department significantly contributed to lending
Paramount its trademark label: the house of world comedy.

Although today’s film formalists along with Hollywood historians are praising
Josef Von Sternberg for his exceptional artistic visualization on the screen and
his best pictures at Paramount, they should also credit the forgotten men behind
Von Sternberg’s image and composition. Hans Dreier and his associates deserve
such recognition for their aesthetical participation in the Von Sternberg-M arlene
Dietrich cycle. These artists are the men who balanced the image of Hollywood’s
great director (Von Sternberg), and provided the latter’s image with an additional
accent of sensitive realism. Paramount’s scenographic department payed great
attention to period detail and texture, specifically in the major scenes and their
settings, so as to convey a sense of attention-arresting dramatic quality. This
realistic translation created a mood of urban outlook, diffused light and skillfully
scattered shadows, and may be seen in: Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931),
Shanghai Express (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil is a
Woman (1935). Dreier had around twenty-seven associate film Scenographers
working under his supervision. He credited his team for their hard work every
morning when he came in to his department and checked their sketches and
technical achievements every morning. Hans Dreier was a true art mentor and
teacher. He died in 1966, in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Like Van Nest Polglase, Cedric Gibbons (Illustration 34) was more of a job
administrator than an artist planning sets for 1930's film scenographical style. An
obvious unfairness exists that cannot be ignored in this paper, concerning ‘Cedric
Gibbons’ contract’ which ‘ensured that his name appeared on every film
produced by M GM between 1924 and 1956, and he received Academy Awards
for eleven of them.’ Not every film Scenographer worked on the one thousand
five-hundred pictures in this time frame at the studio, was covered together with
G ibbons’ name.220 An immediate focus on his career would reveal how far

220
         John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood: Fifty Years of Art Direction. London: Thames Television
1979, p. 5; one of this study’s objectives is to fairly give the right place to the right the men, who worked hard behind
t h e s c re e n, contributed to Hollywood’s Renaissance Age, and stayed in the darkness, while they could not prevent the
decision makers from abusing their talents, who took it for the sake of their own advantage. ‘Van Nest Polglase for
i n s t a n c e was very good as an executive and administrator’ as outlined in the words of Orson Welles, who worked with
RKO’s team closely, ‘but if he ever designed anything himself, I never saw it.’ See ibid., Foreword; Cedric Gibbons
a l w a y s h a d c re d i t on every picture produced at Metro; see Donald Deschner, Edward Carfagno MGM Art Director, in:
The Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 18 (Spring 1978), p. 30; still, film historians agree that the “Oscar” statuette is a product that


                                                                                                                         79
M et ro’s chief film Scenogarpher Cedric Gibbons contributed to M etro’s
scenographical style.

Cedric Austin Gibbons (born 1893 Brooklyn, died 1960 Los Angeles) did not
have an interest in taking over his father and grandfather’s architectural business
in New York City. After he graduated from the Art Students League, he started
assisting the respected painter and stage Scenographer Hugo Ballin, who taught
Gibbons the principles of simplicity and introduced him to the motion picture
scenography at Thomas Alva Edison’s studios in Bedford Park in 1914. With the
founding of Goldwyn Pictures Corporation in early 1916, Cedric Gibbons was
hired as the studios’ chief Scenogrpher. He moved with the studio to California,
and stayed there after the emergence of M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer, until he suffered
a crippling stroke in 1956.221 A retrospective view on Cedric Gibbons’ early
spatial concept would reveal his preference for modern and abbreviated spatial
organization. Gibbons’ film scenography featured bright tonal treatment, flat and
white surfaces, and stressed the essential of the simplistic conceptualization in
his sets. This spatial interpretation was clearly stated in one form or another in
Gibbons’ early pictures, some of which included: Thais (1917), Shadows (1919),
T he World and Its Woman (1919), Madam X (1920), The Man Who Had
Everything (1921), Doubling for Romeo (1921), Yolande (1922), or Little Old
New York (1922).

Cedric Gibbons was well convinced of his spatial concept, and to him nothing
else would be acceptable. He stretched this theory to such an extent that it may
have caused something of a anachronism in matters of period styles and
aut hent icity. Sometimes Gibbons even altered the period styles in order to
p res erve the image he had in mind. ‘There are grand ballrooms in May Time
(’37) and Conquest (’38) which should be, by rights, gilded, damasked and
cry s talled to the nines. But Gibbons had his own stylization and aesthetical
belief, therefore he ‘did them in glittering white. At one time white was
impractical on a set because of the halos and weird glowing fogs around



was originated by Cedric Gibbons himself.

221
       ‘Above all [Hugo Ballin] has kept his background subdued and his floors free of cluttering furniture. Consequently,
t h e a c t o rs c a n be easily detected on the screen, even by the most unpracticed eye.’ see Kenneth MacGowan, Enter-the
A rt i s t , in: Photoplay (January 1921), p. 74; Gibbons would carry that principle of film Scenographic simplification
n o t a b l y throughout his career; see George P. Erengis, Cedric Gibbons: Set a Standard for Art Direction that Raised the
Movies’ Cultural Level, in: Films in Review (April 1965), pp. 217-18&232.


                                                                                                                        80
highlights it produced on black-&-white film.’222 By his insistence on having his
own spatial form, M etro’s chief of the scenographical department imposed a
form of practical simplicity on the process, suiting the art of the film setting.
T echnically, after the improvements of faster films, Gibbons’ theory of
introducing overall white or lighter tones in the set was feasible. Cedric Gibbons’
scenographic concept matched well with M oderne and its practical simplicity on
the screen. It was no accidental occurrence that Gibbons’ department was the
leader in introducing the M oderne onto Hollywood’s screen. Gibbons had
surgical eyes for mise-en-scene material and spatial composition.

When t he scenographic translation preserves some level of simplicity and
s ubmit s t o the screen story, it means that the motion picture’s spatial
organization is tracking the correct path.223 Boris Leven, who worked with Cedric
Gibbons and then with Hans Dreier, stressed his appreciation of an impressive
accent of simplicity, because simplicity, for Boris Leven, was fundamental in his
scenographic interpretation.224 Further praise for a convincing simplification of
s cenographic organization was found in the M oderne. The New York Times
applauded Metro and Universal’s modern settings, with their angular and straight
lines.225 Art Deco induced functional simplicity and enabled the average beholder
to read the scene at ease.

M etro’s spatial concept of the M oderne introduced flat-wall surfaces, smooth
lines, modern chrome chairs, or glass table-furnishings and abbreviated forms.
This accent of simplicity reflected the highly narrative setting’s formula that was


2 22
        ‘In Marie Antoinette [1938] Gibbons’ stylizations were bolder. Much of the action took place in a building familiar
to fifty million Frenchmen and to millions of men and women of other nationalities, i.e., the Palace at Versailles. To
d u plicate so well known, and dramatically unsuitable, an edifice in Culver City would have been folly. The actual Palace
h a s no “main” entrance of any importance, the principal entry being at the far end, the wrong end, of a long wall. There
i s n o s t airway of any consequence inside the structure that would befit any of the Louis, let alone Norma Shearer. And
the 300-foot long Hall of Mirrors would photograph like a very glittery tunnel.’ See ibid., pp. 225&226; the same occurred
d u ring filming Paris in 1925, where Gibbons tried convincing Irving Tharlberg that a romantic scene can not be arranged
w i t h mo on light and ocean, while Paris was oceanless; see John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood:
F i f t y Y e a rs of Art Direction. London: Thames Television’s 1979, p. 54; Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction
in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and London: McFarland 1990, p. 66.

223
     Cedric Gibbons, The Art Director, in: Stephen Watts (Ed.), Behind the Screen: How Films are Made. London: Arthur
Barker 1938, p. 43.

224
     Mary Corliss and Carlos Clarens, Designed for Film: The Hollywood Art Director, in: Film Comment, Vol. 14 (May-
Jun 1978), p. 36.

225
       The New York Times (August 2, Saturday 1930); see also The New York Times (May 28, Tuesday 1929).


                                                                                                                       81
based on logic and reason. Gibbons and his associate Scenographers had a sharp
sense for contemporaneous spatial stylization. In the late 1920's and through
most of the Thirties they highlighted the screen with the most memorable spatial
forms of the M oderne. Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Our Modern Maidens
(1929), Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931), Possessed (1931), and
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) are a few highlights of the film setting’s
Golden Age exhibiting this functional simplicity.

M errill Pye introduced the M oderne into his early streamlined settings in
Dancing Lady (1933). Pye, M etro’s film Scenographer, offered the M oderne in
its true simplistic form: flat mise-en-scenes’ surfaces, horizontal accents, tonal
values distinction, and smooth and curved lines with glossy surfaces. It called for
opulence and practicality, but was imbued with narrative simplicity. Within only
a short period of time, Art M oderne revolutionized American life, including the
American home itself.226 As with the M oderne, Hollywood’s film scenographical
stylization influenced the period architecture in and around the Los Angeles area.
This influence was apparent in the half-acre lots in the form of Islamic minarets
or mission spires, British farm houses, Georgian plantations, or seventeenth and
eighteenth century French countrified architecture, not to mention M exican
Ranchos.227

In order to sustain a narrative action, traditional Hollywood film practice treated
the spatial as anthropomorphic, and regarded the character’s form in the space
as an anthropocentric scale for every spatial dimension.228 Hollywood’s filmic
s p ace is also filled with additional perceptive and psychological cues. They
maintained narrative quality in the classic Hollywood image on the screen, and
contributed to the success of the American film. When Elegance was combined
w it h s p lendor, vitality and romance, they formed the essentials of screen

226
             R o nald Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980, p. 141; Richard Neutra’s
‘F u n k t i o nalismus’ in his architectural style attracted the film moguls to have their own residences built in the functional
a e s t h e tic style; see Leonardo Benevolo, Storia dll’ Architettura Moderna. Bari: Editori Laterza 1960 (Ubers. Von
E l i sabeth Serelman, Geschichte der Architecture des 19. Und 20. Jahrhunderts. Munchen: George D. W. Callwey 1964),
p . 3 0 4 ; fu n ctionalism in the architectural world was the accepted slogan during the high Depression era in the modern
a rc h i t ecture; see Elizabeth Mock (Ed.), Built in USA 1932-1944. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, May 1944 (2 nd
Ed., October 1944) , pp. 5-25.

227
     See Richard J. Neutra, Homes and Housing, in: George w. Robbins and L. Deming Tilton (Ed.), Los Angeles: Preface
t o a M a ster Plan. Los Angeles: The Pacific Southwest Academy 1941, p. 196; see also Jan & Cora Gordon, Star-Dust
in Hollywood. London: George G. Harrap 1930, pp. 134&135; one acre = 4000 square meters = 43560 square feet.

228
      See David Bordwell, The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer. Berkeley: University of California Press 1981, p. 37.


                                                                                                                             82
narrative.229 Hollywood treated these spatial and perceptual signs with care. They
might feature or relate to the M oderne or other spatial levels, but all were
submissive to the narrative of the screen story.

M GM ’s scenographical department tried hard to formulate the studio’s own
aes t het ical style. Gibbons and his team seriously strived to create the most
American image on Hollywood’s screen. Admirably, M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer’s
artists were competent enough to deliver the most distinctive spatial exposition
t o hit the screen compared to the rest of Hollywood’s studios, which were
mostly being run by newcomers from Europe. Cedric Gibbons’ doctrines had to
be followed by his staff, regarding any adaptation to any style. M etro’s
s cenographical translation favored and achieved the Americana architectural
dream par excellence. This distinctive spatial form had remarkable parallels with
the master American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural conception.
Gibbon’s department used much of Wright’s architectural ideals as a source of
inspiration in the studio’s scenography. Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect
w ho eagerly distanced his architecture from any foreign influence,230 and
established the foundation of contemporary architecture. In his living space he
never ignored people and their needs.231 M oreover, ‘Wright placed his own
organic ideal with its emphasis on the inner vitality of expression, on the fusion
of structure, function, and idea, and on the inspiration of natural forms.’232

In M et ro’s scenographical stylization of the Art Deco period, Gibbons’
department adapted some ideas of Wright’s spatial concept. In Five and Ten and
A Free Soul (1931), M GM ’s Scenographers borrowed from Wright’s early


229
      Margaret Farrand Thorp, America At the Movies. London: Faber and Faber 1946, p. 49-70.

230
      Frank Lloyd Wright opposed any academic norm, commercial, or even borrowing from the past, or modern-claccism;
s e e Leonardo Benevolo, Storia dell’ Architettura Moderna. Bari: Editori Laterza 1960 (Ubers. Von Elisabeth Serelman,
Geschicte der Archictektur des 19. Und 20. Jahrhunderts. Munchen: George D. W. Callwey 1964), p. 293.

231
           F ra nk Lloyd Wright is one of the first architects in the architectural history who discontinued the conventional
a n g u l a r fo rm of the living room, and the first architect who reincorporated the patio as a center locality into the home;
s e e S i e g fri ed Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press 1941 (1949, 1954, 1962, and the 5 th Ed. 1967), p. 428.

232
            W i l l i a m J. R. Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall 1983, p. 200; for
i n s t a n c e , ‘Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1909 Robie House . . . in Chicago, which defines the style, departs from classical
architecture in favor of natural materials and horizontal volumes that echo the midwestern prairie. Wright (1867-1959),
who believed that “the reality of a building is not the container but the space within,” designed many of the interiors of
his houses, including the furnishings, stained-glass windows and carpets.’ See Architectural Digest (April 1999), p. 277.


                                                                                                                           83
p eriod: a horizontal accent, simplification of clean and smooth lines, flat
surfaces, and abbreviated forms, all of which were integrated within plenty of
s p ace. Yet Wright’s integration of the natural and architectural forms was
borrowed at Columbia by Cary Odell, Stephen Goosson, Lionel Banks and Paul
M urphy, through their spatial configuration of the picturesque lamasery setting
for the fantasy drama Lost Horizon (1937).233 M ore on Hollywood’s applications
of the M oderne will follow in the next chapter.

Cedric Gibbons and his staff were committed to a spatial concept that had to
s us t ain M GM ’s glamorous image on the screen, i.e., house style. Anything
appealingand up-to-date became an homage to M etro’s scenographic stylization.
Gibbons and his staff explored further with the M oderne of architectural form.
Scenographically speaking, M errill Pye and Gibbons found in the roof stairway
of t he Sw iss architect, Le Corbusier, a form of inspiration for Our Modern
Maidens (1929). The functional aesthetic produced by the stairway had a smooth
and t w is t ed artistic form, and climbed around the angular shaped Art Deco
fireplace chimney. Smooth, vertical and repeated angular forms behind the
portal counterbalanced the scenographic composition by matching the rhythm of
the zigzagged forms around the arched portal and the curved stairs (Illustration
35). The arch served as a frame to the action space and contained the narrative,
while the dynamical form and rhythm of the stairway toward the foreground are
persuasively centered within the portal. The curved form of the ascending stairs
w as emphasized by the iron bannisters’ cycloramic lines. Simplicity was
characterized in the abbreviation of the spatial objects, and the reduction went
down to one object (sofa), which was surrounded by the narrative action. In the
earlier work Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Gibbons used a similar spatial
composition of stairs and portals, but this time the stairway surrounded the
portals.

M etro offered another distinguishable trademark cycle of opulence and splendor
t hroughout the decade, in which it tried to take full advantage of sound. The
Merry Widow (1934), and San Francisco (1936), for instance, presented notable
p eriod settings combined with the dramatic sound of Jeanette M acDonald’s
songs. In The Merry widow, Frederic Hope and Cedric Gibbons portrayed the
realis tic interiors of late nineteenth century Paris; Harry M cAfee, Edwin B.
Willis, Arnold Gillespie and Gibbons recreated the magnificent American

233
         T h ese characteristics were introduced in Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern housing architecture of the 1930's, and in
his architectural concept of the Imperial Hotel building in Tokyo.


                                                                                                                      84
architecture of San Francisco. Tenements and houses featured the city in the
early years of this century, and enhanced the drama of the picture. These sets
were loaded with dramatic sound and songs. San Francisco was nominated for
an Academy Award for best picture, but lost it to The Great Ziegfeld (1936). The
same formula of narrative spatial organization balanced with sound is evident in
The Wizard of Oz (1939). But toward the end of the decade, M GM ’s musicals
started shifting toward less opulent and more urban styles. Backyard or teenage
musicals were low budget productions produced on the studios’ lots.
Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), and Babes in
Arms (1939) are typical productions of this period.

M ass unemployment during the Depression era stopped most of the building
activities in the United States, which left many architects with no work.
Cons equently, unemployed architects found a tailor-made job market in the
Hollywood scenographical departments.234 Yet not everyone could find a job in
Hollywood. The Depressions’ harsh impact on social life in America became a
beneficial advantage for Hollywood studios. M GM ’s chief Scenographer was in
the position to select and hire the most talented men of the field to join his staff.
Admirably Cedric Gibbons had a sharp sense for talent, and the market allowed
him t o be selective. Gibbons was a man who introduced his scenographical
thoughts in terms of architectural forms and conceptions. Unlike Anton Grot,
Charles D. Hall, or William Cameron M enzies’ artistic translation and form
manip ulation, Cedric Gibbons’ artistic vision and problem-solving approach
enabled him to deliver and sustain a high Scenographical level in one of
Hollywood’s leading studios for more than forty-one uninterrupted years. Cedric
Gibbons thus justly deserves a place in film scenographical history.235

Samuel Goldwyn and United Artists’ film Scenographer between 1930 and 1938,
Richard Day (Illustration 36), ‘soon began to feel that he was being held back


234
       Bill Ihnen, Robert Boyle, and Boris Leven were among those architects who were forced to continue their life as film
S c e n o g ra h ers; see Mary Corliss and Carlos Clarens, Designed for Film: The Hollywood Art Director, in: Film Comment,
V o l . 14 (May-Jun 1978), p. 56; other celebrities from the film Scenographic field followed the same path, they had their
p ro fe s s ional training and background in the architectural field: Metro’s (Preston Ames, William Horning, and Merrill
Pye), Salsznicks’s (Lyle Wheeler), only to name few.

235
       Metro’s highly skilled craftsmanship behind the screen lent the studio its nick name “The House of Glamour”; Frank
Miller, MGM Posters: The Golden Years. Atlanta: Turner Publishing 1994, p. 30; Cedric Gibbons realized: in satisfying
his employer (Louis B. Mayer) he could have a free hand in his department. His ego would not allow him to see or talk
t o t h e n e w a ssociates, after months or even after years from their beginning at MGM. His signature was a law, without
it, no set can be executed on the studio lot.


                                                                                                                       85
under the shadow of Cedric Gibbons.’ He refused to do the job and let Gibbons
take the credit. This situation led Day to abandon M GM after working there in
the 1920's. Richard Day was born in 1896 in Victoria, British Columbia/Canada.
Like Gibbons’, his father was an architect who sharpened his talent and educated
himself. Richard Day emigrated to the U. S. in 1918, and entered Hollywood
planning sets for Erich Von Stroheim in the 1920's at M GM , Paramount and
United Artists. He worked at Twentieth Century-Fox between 1939-43 and as a
freelance Scenographer for various studios from 1943-70.236 During his fifty
years of work in Hollywood, Day created spatial interpretations considered to be
ageless masterpieces. He was the Scenographer behind some of Hollywood’s
definitive Art Deco pictures, and pioneered the sketching of the style at M GM ,
even t hough Gibbons’ name labeled Our Dancing Daughters (1928). Day
belonged to those leading artists who delivered ultimate spatial realism to the
screen. His highly realistic setting was manifested in the partial musical comedy
Palmy Days (1931), and in the drama Dodsworth (1936), which affirmed Day’s
talent with an Academy Award. In his artistic technique, he sketched in pastels,
painted in oil and payed considerable attention to the period details in his sets.
Like that of a western film, Day’s set had the same dramatic significance in his
pictures, and was as persuasive a device as any another technician or artist on the
set including the director could muster.

Richard Day was a unique artist in his juxtaposing of artistic discrepancies in the
same picture, but he addressed these with a highly convincing and visual quality.
Richard Day delivered a very realistic view of less fortunate people, when
compared, with dramatic transition, to the life of the wealthy. Dead End (1937)
revealed this skillful stylization. Still Richard Day had an attention-capturing
ability to include equilibrium between antic and Functional aesthetics, achieving
organic unity in a unique way. In Roman Scandals (1933), he provided smooth
form, contrasted tonal values, and the clean lines of the M oderne (Illustrations
37-38). All these aesthetical vocabularies were blended with the period style of
ancient Rome. Day’s visualization reflected an effective artistic concept, and
well-balanced spatial composition. Day succeeded uniquely in applying the
contradiction principle between two extremes in his sets. He employed the spatial

236
       ‘At MGM, with Gibbons’ name always preceding (or replacing) his in the credits, Day designed at least 48 films in
seven years [the author’s italic].’ See John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood: Fifty Years of Art
D i r e c t i o n . London: Thames Television’ s 1979, pp. 67-69; Ann Lloyd and Graham Fuller (Ed.), The Illustrated Who’s
Who of the Cinema. New York: Portland House 1983 (2 nd Ed. 1987), p. 114; see also Grace Jeromski (Ed.) International
D i ctionary of Films and Filmmakers-4: Writers and Production Artists. 3 rd Ed., Detroit: ST. James Press 1997, pp. 183-
185.


                                                                                                                      86
t o impressively serve his artistic conception of realism. In this regard, his
teaming-up with the master realist Erich Von Stroheim during most of the 1920's
lent Day his experience and sense of spatial authenticity. Hollywood’s
extraordinary film Scenographer and the winner of seven Academy Awards for
his superior film scenography died in 1972 in Hollywood.

G ibbons’ relation with Day is comparable with Van Nest Polglase’s with
Carroll Clark (Illustration 39), except the latter stayed longer at RKO. Clark
was five years younger than Polglase. Both died in 1968. Clark started his
scenographic career at Pathe, and entered RKO in 1932 throughout 1938, and in
the last decade of his career he worked for Walt Disney’s productions.237 Clark
essentially contributed to the most glamourous musical scenography that reached
the screen during the Golden Age. Unfortunately, today we do not have much
record of these style-makers’ lives and work behind the screen. RKO’s
scenography was a combination of Paramount’s sumptuous style, M GM ’s
splendorous style, and the M oderne. The nine Astaire-Rogers musicals at RKO
carried true narrational aesthetic. The cycle’s spatial organization were the high
p oint s of Thirties’ scenography and its enchanting glamour. RKO’s visual
metaphor invoked balance between the spatial organization and the screen story.
During the 1930's, Art Deco, Streamlined Art M oderne and traditional or Early
American styles distinguished the studio’s image from the rest of Hollywood. A
high level of organic unity, vitality, spaciousness, and emphasis on the tonal
contrast of white and black mise-en-scene maintained RKO’s trademark on the
s creen. Carroll Clark and his team introduced an exorbitant scenographical
stylization to their musicals, and it challenged M etro and Paramount’s modern
spatial visualization. In adapting their own spatial concept in their productions,
RKO’s Scenographers attracted the slogan ‘BWS’ to their studio- ‘Big White
Sets’.238

Clark and Polglase introduced essential aesthetic and narrative signs into their
spatial organization. A multi-functional aim and organic unity enabled their sets
to be uniquely distinctive on the screen. When RKO’s scenographic department

237
           A l l a n Abbott and Maurice Zuberano equally contributed to the formation of RKO’s scenographical style; see L.
B a rs a c q , Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 202, 234&235; in addition to
Darrell Silvera for dressing the set.

238
         Astaire-Rogers’ nine screwball musicals started in: Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta
(1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), and The Story of Vernon and
Ir e n e C a s t l e (1 9 3 9 ). The duo made the tenth and their last musical together late in the next decade, The Barkleys of
Broadway (1949).


                                                                                                                           87
got hold of an idea, it was truthfully rendered down to the minutest of details, but
with an artistic exaggeration.239 In Top Hat (1935), the Venetian stylization of
Venice’s Lido and the boudoir set are typical highlights of this scenographic
interpretation. The Lido of Venice’s stylization in Top Hat had something of a
relationship with Robert Haas’ exterior setting of a canal in Venice, in A Society
Exile [19??]. Clark and Polglase borrowed the general lines of Haas’ composition
and altered the set to fit RKO’s exaggerated formula. In Top Hat the Lido set
took two sound stages joined together to accommodate enough space for the vast
set’s open spatial conception. RKO’s scenographical department went further in
adding details and stylizations of modern life to the Lido set: smooth clean
straight lines, and white walled architecture. The Scenographic Space projected
multi-social activities onto a two-storey setting. On the first floor, on which “The
Piccolino” dance took place, there is a canal on the left side of the set, which
could be crossed by two bridges of stylized Venetian architecture. Windows in
the background of the Lido were illuminated from within, which contributed to
the drama of the set, and defined the impressive depth of the spatial dimensions.
A gondola carried Astaire-Rogers, in water that was colored black. It enhanced
the contrast between the black and white colors of the set, but most importantly,
it stressed RKO’s aesthetical style and its trademark of BWS. The dining patio
is impressively vast, adequate to entertain the “Cheek to Cheek” dance. The
Lido’s dance floor is lower than that of the dining area, on which the entrance
and exit of the Lido are located. It takes about ten wide-stair steps to reach the
dance floor after entering the Lido. The dance floor is defined by abstract lines
t hat are separated by white colors from the Bakelite floor. Large Venetian
lant erns are another means of defining the spatial depth of the set, while
maint aining linear composition. In the background, an archaic sculpture
corresponds to the studios’ neoclassic stylization of the mid-Thirties. RKO’s
open spatial composition was typical of Hollywood’s adaptation and alteration
of foreign cultures, and its employment of them to match the studios’ own
concept and ideal. Top Hat’s Lido of Venice demonstrated a Venice made in
Hollywood (Illustration 40).

‘Astaire in the Thirties made do with formulas derived from nineteenth-century
French farce.’240 It happened for the first time that dance was presented as the



239
      See Arlene Croce, The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book. New York: E. P. Dutton 1972, pp. 75&76.

240
      Ibid., p. 7.


                                                                                                         88
main dramatic expression of the action, not the songs.241 ‘Astaire danced with his
entire body; the position of his hands was as important as that of his feet.’ For
this reason he ‘insist that his entire body be visible’ during the cinematographic
transformance.242 In their musical cycle, Astaire-Rogers’ dynamic dance was the
focus of attention during the narrative action. Their dance drew the beholder’s
attention to much of the spatial properties, since the camera had constantly to
keep following the dance.

Streamlined products, such as airplanes, ocean streamliners, or trains in Astaire-
Rogers’ pictures, signified the realistic possibility of overcoming any physical
or emotional distance between the two. Their musicals invited that questions
concerning the individual and society were not incomprehensible, and could be
s olved. Solutions might be found for our motivation for having interpersonal
harmony, that could provide us with better vision regarding the world in which
we are living.243 The Astaire-Rogers musical cycle balanced between the general
forms of reality, therefore between those demonstrative and realistic cues. It was
t heir method of expression to the beholder of the Depression times.
Correspondingly ‘Astaire-Rogers films could never be adequately described as
escapist.’244

Van N es t Polglase’s contribution to Thirties film scenography is very
controversial today. ‘Polglase read scripts, estimated budgets and handed out
assignments.’ Today he is surrounded by a great deal of speculation regarding
his talent to have formed or contributed to any form of RKO’s scenographical
s t y le, in particular to Astaire-Rogers musicals.245 Yet Polglase assisted Hans
Dreier in The Magnificent Flirt (1928), which belongs to those highly acclaimed
pictures of the early Art Deco period on the screen. After a year at Paramount,

241
      Daniel Cohen, Musicals. New York: Bison Books 1984, p. 22.

242
      Phillip J. Kaplan, The Best, Worst & Most Unusual: Hollywood Musicals. New York: Beekman House 1983, p. 11.

243
        J. P. Telotte, Dancing the Depression: Narrative Strategy in the Astaire-Rogers Films, in: Journal of Popular Film
and Television, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall 1980), pp. 21, 23&24.

244
      See ibid., p. 18.


245
        Van Nest Polglase: born in 1898 in Brooklyn, studied architecture and interior scenography, entered Hollywood in
1 9 19 by Famous Players-Lasky, which emerged later as Paramount. Polglase went to Columbia Pictures after he left RKO;
see Arlene Croce, The Astaire & Rogers Book. New York: E. P. Dutton 1972, p. 77; Polglase had to leave RKO in 1942,
a ft er his economical mismanagement of Citizen Kane (1941), but most importantly because he was an alcoholic, he drank
to the degree that prevented him from doing his job.


                                                                                                                      89
Polglase moved to M GM and stayed there for two years during the studio’s most
formative period of scenography. At M etro, Polglase joined Richard Day on
Untamed (1929), where he was trained and sensed the elegance and glamour of
the scenography when combined with the M oderne. It was a short experience,
but would inspire Van Nest Polglase for the rest of his career. David O. Selznick
hired him at RKO in 1932. M ore than Cedric Gibbons, Polglase abused his
t eam’s talent and applied his own name to their work. His subordinates’
positions did not allow them to express their dissatisfaction. Otherwise, they
would have had to leave during the critical times that followed the Depression.
Despite all this, Polglase had the proficiency to lead one of Hollywood’s most
talented film Scenographic teams of the Thirties. In fairness, he possessed the
s cenographic talent, but did not use it directly. Obviously, he realized after
handingassignments to his department that he could do what he liked. Yet when
the job was done, Polglase would be the first to talk and criticize. Still, under his
s upervision, RKO produced memorable masterpieces of classic filmmaking,
s t art ing with King Kong (1933), the Astaire-Rogers musicals, The Informer
(1935), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), to Citizen Kane (1941). It is
evident t hat Polglase, like Gibbons, had a sense for talent, but also for top
s cenographic quality. He surrounded himself by highly qualified artists, who
planned the sets while Polglase was elsewhere relying on their hard work and
effort. Yet at the end his name would label their talent as his own.

After the introduction of sound into filmmaking, another film genre started
riding high in Hollywood. It was the western film. Its outdoor beauty, effective
narrative attributes, and simplicity drew audiences to the screen. Yet the wide
acceptance of the western, attributes William K. Everson, is due to the genre’s
realistic representation, since it ‘represents a way of life that has become a legend
and perhaps a dream for some.’246 Western film oscillated among the American
studios. No one particular studio may claim its distinguished production of the
western film over another.247

Emergence of the western film has been dated to the time of one-and two-reelers,
and attained high fame in the early nineteen-twenties. By converting to sound,


246
      See William K. Everson, A Pictorial History of the Western Film. 1969 (2 nd Ed., The Hollywood Western. New York:
A Citadel Press 1992), p. 21.

247
    Ehtan Mordden, The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
1988, p. 77.


                                                                                                                   90
western film obtained new narrative qualities. Its synchronized sound matched
well its juxtaposition with the outdoor image. Sounded westerns belonged to the
best of Hollywood’s cycles. The genre inspired the outdoors’ realistic conditions
-birds, winds, guns, dust mountains, desert and horses- to enhance its realistic
quality. ‘It was something the Americans understood.’ Hollywood knew how to
int roduce the cycle to the screen and it was a narrative form that caught the
hearts of Americans.248 The arrival of sound affected the western film more
s everely than any other genre. Western film’s narrative relies mainly on the
visual, and during the transitional period moviegoers wanted to hear sound. This
created a painstaking experience for Hollywood film-makers, since the
microphone imposed great limitations to the camera, as we have seen earlier.
During the first two years that followed sound motion pictures, no significant
pictures were produced in Hollywood.249 Paramount’s The Virginian (1929) used
sound track for enhancing the picture’s dramatic quality, which was carried out
through locomotive noises, saloon’s and cattle noise. Fox’s In Old Arizona
(1929) claimed some artistic qualities, in being the first talking western drama
shot on location. Raoul Walsh took his sound equipment on location so that he
could record realistic sound with a juxtaposition of outdoor beauty. It was
something unheard of, but Walsh succeeded in capturing the landscape’s beauty
with the dramatic sound effects of the outdoors. After American studios started
feeling more comfortable in dealing with sound, Hollywood began producing
larger scale westerns. Fox’s The Big Trail (1930), M etro’s Billy the Kid (1930),
and RKO’s Cimarron (1931) are typical productions of the early 1930's, with
enhanced juxtapositions of image and sound.

Both western film, like the gangster film could be called Americana. They had
the most in common. Their themes could be labeled as American tradition, and
contained images of social circumstances that related both to the times of the
1870's and 1880's and to the era of the 1920's and 1930's, where “hardship and
individualism” were the predominant American ideals. Whether gangster or
cowboy, both heros are gunmen and share a history of violence, but each of them
deals with a certain type of action that attracted and still holds attraction to the



248
     Paul Rotha, The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema. London: Jonathan Cape 1930 ( Vision Press 1949, 1960,
and 4 th Ed., Spring Books 1967), pp. 201&202.

249
      See Thomas W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 220.


                                                                                                               91
s creen.250 Furthermore, obvious narrative forms like that of the western or
mystery pictures were preferred by rural and small-town audiences. They would
like to see the simple and conspicuous action present in these two genres, which
kept them chatting for days.251 Pure Americana or western film not only relates
to small-town people, but to most Americans’ surroundings, since they had had
that relationship to desert, horses, guns, or ranches in one form or another in their
everyday lives.

An elaborate degree of period-style precision was illustrated in Hollywood’s
western settings. They maintained a high level of realism in the western image.
Yet Hollywood’s Scenographers took every opportunity shortcut to save money
on furniture. ‘This furniture came from the studio store rooms and could be used
over and over again suitably re-covered in different materials to avoid being
recognized -though there were a number of decorative pieces which inevitably
became familiar to ardent filmgoers.’252 Hollywood did not place the western on
t he same level of the M oderne or classic and treated it accordingly. Every
western picture in Hollywood was “another western,” and pseudo-style was
somethingthey got away with, since there is no big-hit production of the western
cycle that reached the screen until late in 1930's. Use and reuse of the fashion of
the Scenographic Space’s mise-en-scene was mostly present in the quickie “B”
western pictures of Columbia.

From an artistic and a narrative point-of-view, spatial organization in the western
film had the same dramatic significance as the cowboy does. It would be very
hard to fit a cowboy into any other surrounding than that of nature and its beauty.
Based on this, the western genre relied profoundly on outdoor locations, and their
beauty. This saved Hollywood studios from costly interior scenography, and
allow ed them to produce further low budget quickie westerns. Additionally,
western film employed the same narrative formula on the silver screen during the
1930's and 1940's. Its themes were almost the same, dealing with the wild west.
Here the white man’s dominion and capability could overcome any difficulty in
the desert, and bring life to it, which was the motto of almost every production
during the times of white and black segregated America.

250
         C f. Stephen Louis Karpf, The Gangster Film: Emergence, Variation and a Decay of a Genre 1930-1940. Ph. D.
Diss., Northwestern University 1970 (Rep. New York: Arno Press 1973), pp. 201&202.

251
      See Margaret Farrand Thorp, America at the Movies. London: Faber and Faber 1946, p. 21.

252
      Martin Battersby, The Decorative Thirtieth. New York: Walker 1971, p. 199.


                                                                                                               92
With the exception of Cimarron (1931) and The Plainsman (1936), no
exceptional and large-scale Westerns were produced in the decade until late in
the Thirties. Then several emerged at once: Paramount’s Union Pacific (1939),
Warner Brothers’ Dodge City (1939), Twentieth Century-Fox’s Jesse James
(1939), MGM’s Stand Up and Fight (1939), and John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939)
at United Artists. The latter’s narrative structure and visualization came to be
different from all the previous productions combined, and surpassed its
contemporaries. Stagecoach contained fundamental artistic vocabularies that
w ould be recycled in the next decade. Starting with its camera work, it
manifested the simplicity and beauty of the landscape of M onument Valley. It
was captured persuasively in Bert Glennon and Ray Binger’s cinematography,
with space extended to the horizon in the flat land of the desert and mountains
around the Utah-Arizona borders. The picture’s contrasted white and black tones
relate to the conditions of hardship and individualism. It carried John Ford’s
early dramatic formula of tonal separations of The Iron Horse (1924). It was a
concept that celebrated the hard life, win or lose, of the nineteenth-century’s wild
w es t . Stagecoach’s characters represented the diversity of 1855 society:
G at ew ood, the town’s sanctimonious banker who pays lip-service to
respectability while clutching a carpet bag filled with stolen money; Hatfield, a
gambler; pregnant officer’s wife Lucy M allory, who is taking the stage to meet
her husband; a cavalry officer; Josiah Boone, the town’s alcoholic doctor and
D allas , a woman of ill repute, who have both been banished from town and
P eacock, a timed whiskey drummer. In the front of the stage sits Buck, the
driver, with M arshal Curley Wilcox, who is riding shotgun to protect the coach
from hostile Indians and from the Plummer brothers, a vicious band of outlaws.
Stagecoach’s rhythm was original, and was balanced between the Indian’s attack
and the cavalry rescue. For economic reasons and a tight time schedule, most of
the picture’s footage was produced at M GM ’s lot using a rear projection process.
But t he picture’s most memorable exterior scenes were shot on location in
M onument Valley, for the first time in western history. The ‘crossing the river’
scene was shot at Kern River near Kernville, while the Indian attack scene was
shot at M uroc Dry Lake near Victorville. John Ford made use of other locations
such as Fremont Pass at Newhall, Chatsworth, and Calabasas in California. Other
locations were used such as Kayenta and M esa in Arizona. Alexander Toluboff
and Wiard B. Ihnen were pioneers in their introduction of a low country
ceilinged set in the western’s interior. This gained additional narrative quality
through contrasted lighting effect, underlining the simple western country life
persuasively. Stagecoach elevated the western genre from its low-budget quickie
status of “B” to “A,” and received an Academy Award Nomination in the Best

                                                                                 93
Picture category. Stagecoach was looked upon as a pictorial measure for future
pictures of the genre, and lent the western genre a respectful reputation in the
1940's. Later productions of the western could not escape the influence of
Stagecoach, and the use of M onument Valley came to be a ritual American
M yth. It obtained its narrative place as did any other stereotype character in the
genre, and lent to the western a highly regarded scenographical stylization.

Within a limited time frame, the talking western formula was worn out. It had
employed the same aesthetic signs, repeatedly, in the manner of an assembly line
method.253 Hollywood was obsessed in using and reusing the same formula of the
w estern genre. These westerns were committed to dealing with subjects of
conquering the wild west, bringing life and order to the desert and dealing with
American history. All these formulas propounded the idea that the white man
was in command. After the world war II, the western cycle shifted to an assembly
line manner. Hollywood produced sweeping numbers of pictures about the
cowboy’s venture and success, always shuffling the same aesthetic signs around
within the frame of the wild west. Despite this factory-like film production, some
film-makers like John Ford excelled in making other versions of Stagecoach in
this period. Ford’s classic My Darling Clementine (1946) preserved a level of
equilibrium between the visual stylization of the picture and the nostalgia of the
past. It was followed by Ford’s Fort Apache (1948), and Wagon Master (1950).
T he lat t er employed Ford’s typical formula, in that it dealt with the late
nineteenth-century historical adventure of a M ormon Wagon train traveling to
the west, to Utah in 1879. Rio Grande (1951) introduced Ford’s formula with
more sets, songs, an 1880's M exican border and plundering Indians. Other film-
makers could not escape Ford’s formula, but they borrowed the same dramatic
and historical frame. Raoul Walsh’s Technicolor and standard western
Saskatchewan (1954), included an Indian attack sustained through a M ountie’s
act ion to rescue a woman. Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1958) relied on
confrontations, where a drunken sheriff and cowboy hold a little town against
outlaws. It was this redundancy that marked the decline of the western film in
Hollywood.




253
      Kalton C. Lahue, Riders of the Range: The Sagebrush Heroes of the Sound Screen. South Brunswick and New York:
A. S. Barnes 1973, (Preface).


                                                                                                               94
2 The Kiss (1929). Scenography: Richard Day, Cedric Gibbons.
Cinematography: William Daniels.




                                                               3 Wilfred Buckland




                                                                  4 Joseph Urban
         5 The “Dining Room” in Enchantment (1921). Scenography: Josephy Urban. Cinematography:
         Ira H. Morgan.




6 Anton Grot                                             7 Warner Brothers-First National Studio’s sceno-
                                                         graphical department c. 1933 in Hollywood.
                       8 One of Anton
                       Grot’s sketches for
                       The Private Lives of
                       Elizabeth and Essex
                       ( 1 9 3 9 ) .
                       Scenography: Anton
                       G    r    o    t   .
                       Cinematography:
                       Sol Polito and W.
                       Howard Greene.




9 The same scene of
The Private Lives of
Elizabeth and Essex
shows how its visu-
alization was based
on Grot’s sketching
and angle.
10 Another example of Anton Grot’s pre-editing principle in   11 How the same scene was realized by Michael Curtiz and
Mildred Pierce (1945). Scenography: Anton Grot.               his cameran.
Cinematography: Ernest Haller.




12 Anton Grot’s illustrative backdground is clearly visible   13 The copying of the previous frame by Michael Curtize in
in these frames of Mildred Pierce. His detailed sketches      Mildred Pierce.
added high levels of dramtic values to the pictures he was
working on.
                          14 William Cameron Menzies (left) with Lyle
                          Wheeler surrounded by some sketches for Gone
                          With the Wind (1939).




15 through 20 are filmic pre-layouts by William Cameron Menzies for Gone
With the Wind. Scnenography: William Cameron Menzies, Lyle Wheeler (in
supervisory position), Edward G. Boyle, Joseph B. Platt, Howard B. Bristol and
Henry J. Stahl. Cinematography: Ernest Haller, Lee Garmes (supervisors),
Arthur Arling, Vincent Farrar, Jack Cosgrove, Lee Zavitz, Ray Rennahan,
Wilfred M. Cline and Karl Struss.




21 Actual frame composition shot after Menzies’ pre-viualizing concept in Gone
With the Wind.
22 through 26 are Menzies’ sketches for Gone With the Wind.
27 through 30 are also Menzies’ sketches for Gone With the Wind.
31 Atlanta in Flames was shot after Menzies’ visual concept. Gone With the Wind (1939).
32 Charles D. Hall




                     33 Hans Dreier with
                     a set model of Angel
                     (1937). Scenography:
                     Hans Dreier and
                     Robert        Usher.
                     Cinematography:
                     Charles Lang Jr.,
                     Farciot      Edouart,
                     Lloyd Knechtel and
                     Harry Perry.
34 Cedric Gibbons; and 35 is on the fol-
lowing page.




                         36 Richard Day
35 Our Modern Maidens (1929). Scenography: Cedric Gibbons and Merrill Pye.
Cinematography: Oliver Marsh.
37-38 Roman Scandals (1933), sketch and scene. Scenography: Richard Day. Cinematography: Gregg Toland, Ray June, assisted by
John W. Boyle, Malcolm MacPherson, William Thompson and Ralph Colgrove.
40 Lido of Venice in Top Hat (1935). Scenography Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase, Thomas
Little. Cinematography: David Abel and Vernon Walker.
39 Carroll Clark (front) on the stairs with Van Nest Polglase (rear) on one set from Flying
Down to Rio (1933). Scenography: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase. Cinematography: J. Roy
Hunt and Al Wetzel assisted by Charles Stiner, Vern Walker, Lucien Andriot and Dick Devall.
3 Status of the Scenographic Space in Classical Photoplay

       When the aesthetic signs of an artistic product which is mostly of the plastic
       form (form, composition, lines, perspective, color, et al.) suggest a convincing
       degree of naturalism, it is because the artist inspires them from real life. This
       particular form of art provides great nobility. For M aya Deren ‘the distinction of
       art is that it is neither simply an expression, of pain, for example, nor an
       impression of pain but is itself a form which creates pain (or whatever its
       emotional intent)-might seem to point to a classicism.’1 The Great Depression’s
       grief was manifested in various film genres of the Thirties. In Dead End (1937),
       the claim for realism reached its apogee in Richard Day’s manifestation of the
       discrepancy between two extremes on the screen - poor and rich. The picture’s
       scenographic stylization highlighted the nobility of the filmic art form and its
       mission. Day recreated a New York street on Goldwyn’s lot in Hollywood. Dead
       End’s sets recreated the real life conditions of New York to a captivating degree
       . Samuel Goldwyn complained to the director William Wyler regarding the
       excessive degree of reality being projected in the settings by Richard Day. For
       the perfectionist Goldwyn they were too poor and dirty an outlook (Illustration
       96). The picture’s spatial forms, composition, lines, tonal values, and perspective
       underlined the huge gap between the rich and the poor. The result suggested that
       t he East Side tenements of New York gradually gave way to the exclusive
       dwellings of the rich, and highlighted the poor living next to opulent apartments
       they could never afford. The picture was nominated for four Academy Awards,
       one of them for Richard Day’s scenography and another for Best Picture.

       Hans Ernst Gombrich observed a certain similarity comparable to a scientist’s
       discovery in the artist’s work. Artists, like scientists, not only produce self-
       satisfaction for themselves, but their outputs offer clarification when answering
       s ome questions.2 John Arnold, the president of the American Society of
       Cinematographers (ASC), seemed to agree with Gombrich’s thesis. Arnold sees
       the nature of the motion picture cinematographers’ trade as a unique one. For
       Arnold, the cinematographic job requires commanding skills of both the artist



       1
           M a y a D e re n , A n Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, in: George Amberg (Ed.), The Art of Cinema: Selected
       Essays. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972, pp. 17&26.

       2
            Ernst Hans Gombrich, Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance. London and New York: Phaidon 1966
       (2 nd Ed. 1971), p. 7.
and the scientist.3 To put the artist’s mission into the film Scenographer’s own
words: ‘I [Edward Carrick] believe that the film in the hands of the artist could
be the greatest medium of expression of all time.’4 Based on the conventional
artistic and scientific formula, this confirmation is persuasively truthful, since the
film Scenographer and cinematographer are the artists who translate words into
expressive images, according to the beholder’s feelings and interests.

Popularity of the motion pictures and its spatial organization during the 1930's
reached everyone’s life. The M odern M ovement of film scenography rose to a
captivating level in influencing people’s choice of household furnishings.5 Not
only in the formation the M oderne, but in the classical arena, Hollywood’s image
achieved the same perceptual efficiency to its beholder. Hollywood employed the
spatial to serve among the prime narrative catalysts, and it was persuasively
effective, as the spatial and compositional image were an homage to
conventional art. The Post-Renaissance and Impressionist periods were taken by
some film-makers as a source of inspiration to enhance their filmic image on the
s creen. Directors like Cecil B. DeM ille inspired part of his image’s aesthetic
from Reubens, Dore, Van Dyck, or Corot. Cinematographers such as Robert
Surt ees chose the Impressionist look; whereas Leon Shamroy preferred Van
Gogh and some others paralleled Rembrandt in their compositions.6

Some artists, like Joseph Urban, admitted sharing some stage spatial codes with
the screen. Despite this affinity, screen art preserved its own independent form
and attributes.7 When defining the motion picture medium, Irving Thalberg
described this art form as ‘the art of arts.’ It exceeded all other forms of art in
terms of fascinating the masses. Any film story, for Thalberg, could attain some
degree of narrative efficiency, provided that the story was sustained by promising

3
    John Arnold, Art, in: A. C., Vol. 12, No. 2 (April 1932), p. 25.

4
    Edward Carrick, Art and Design in the British Film. London: Dobson 1948, p. 48.



5
   D avid Joel, The Adventure of British Furniture. 1953 (2 nd Ed., Furniture Design Set Free: The British Furniture
Revolution from 1851 to the Present Day. London: J. M. Dent 1969), p. 30.

6
   D . B ordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, p. 50.

7
   See Joseph Urban, Real Screen Drama Greatest Need, Declares Joseph Urban [undated paper from Columbia
University: Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection.]


                                                                                                                96
pictorial beauty and surroundings.8 If a true form of aesthetic visualization can
enhance the pictorial communication, then a realistic representation of the visible
world depends on the cinematographic transformance; and the latter’s efficiency
hangs es sentially in the balance of its pictorial arrangement. Because in this
correlation, the pictorial synthesization defines the analytical magnitude of the
filmic images.9

Any artistic innovation’s measure of quality, including that of the motion picture,
is based on to which extent the artistic product could impress itself upon the
psychological state of its beholder. The method employed in sending the message
to the beholder merely consists of the artist’s own technique in achieving that
aim. In the motion picture’s artistic output, certain aesthetic signs are united
together, and subsequently can sustain the narrative efficiency of this medium.
These signs consist of the story, its dramatic action and stylization, the setting,
composition and lighting quality of every single scene.10 These aesthetic signs
integrate smoothly with one another in practically any highly-praised picture.
Each one corresponds to its neighbor, and none of these aesthetic signs can be
effective without counting on the other. The organic unity of these aesthetic signs
and t heir data maintains the competency of their narrative. This unification
should be represented within a frame of reality. The beholder should share the
feeling and experience of the screen story with the characters on the screen.11

Closely focusing on conventional film practice reveals that ‘the system for
constructing space (the ‘continuity style’) has as its aim the subordination of
spatial (and temporal) structures to the logic of the narrative, especially to the
cause/effect chain.’ So, negatively, the spatial was subordinate to the action for
sustainingthe story, reflected Thompson and Bordwell. But positively, the space
was treated as narrative cause for its scenographic stylization, while it provided


8
   Irving Thalberg, The Modern Photoplay. Lecture[d] at the University of Southern California (March 20, 1929), in: John
C . T i b betts (Ed.), Introduction to the Photoplay. Shawnee Mission, Kansas, National Film Society 1977, pp. 116&121.

9
   See Stephen Heath, Narrative Space, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn 1976), pp. 73&74; during his analysis on the
‘N a rrative Space,’ Heath did not pay any considerable attention to the film scenographical contribution to film style. This
is another neglected area in film criticism of film scenographic stylization.

10
      Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillian 1953, p.
47.

11
      Ibid., p. 48.


                                                                                                                        97
narrative quality.12 Hollywood treated the space with respect to the scene’s focus
of attention, but also in relation to the 180- and 30-degree rules of spatial
representation. The spatial attributes manifested the external cause of the
dramatic action, and finally Hollywood persuasively preserved a general degree
of consistency in the spatial organization.13 With these spatial canons emerged
a clos ed space, which was always subordinate to the narrative action.
‘Hollywood’s creation of an imaginary axis of action in each scene places the
camera within a semi-circular area; often the camera never does move to the
other semi-circle.’ This reduced the vantage point of the beholder to seeing as
much as the camera allows to be seen of the filmic space. It made for leaving
some portions of the setting out of the beholder’s field of vision.14

Hollywood film scenographic stylization in its Golden Age deserved to be treated
as a true art form, as by then sets contributed to the film’s popularity just as much
as it s co-stars. High attendance of the neighborhood movie houses included
architects as well as every class of the American society. They went to see the
latest spatial dreams of the Hollywood scenographic departments. Hollywood’s
Scenographer of the 1920's and 1930's elevated film scenography to a level of
being synonymous with the M oderne. Some cycles of the decade are hard to
imagine without their modern scenographic stylization (Astaire-Rogers
musicals). This spatial balance, in terms of Art Deco, Streamlined Art M oderne,
with some attributes of the International style and the Bauhaus, was evident on
the classic screen.15

‘A setting is not just a beautiful thing, a collection of beautiful things,’ as the set
w as envisioned by America’s celebrated stage and film Scenographer Robert
Edmond Jones. ‘It echoes, it enhances, it animates. It is an expectancy, a
foreboding, a tension. It says nothing, but it gives everything.’16 Still, a spatial

12
    C f. K ri s t i n Thompson and David Bordwell, Space and Narrative in the Films of Ozu, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 2
(Summer 1976), pp. 42.

13
     Ibid., pp. 42&43.

14
     Ibid., pp. 43&55.

15
     Jane Holtzkay, When Hollywood Was Golden, the Movie Sets were, Too, in: The New York Times (January 11, 1990).

16
       S e e Robert Edmond Jones, Drawings for the Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts 1925 (2 nd Ed. Theatre Books 1970),
p p . 1 3 &14; Jones was the Scenographer who pioneered sketching the spatial concept for the first color film Becky Sharp
(1935).


                                                                                                                      98
settingcontains further artistic and technical means. ‘The set of today [April 10,
1929]’ stated William Cameron M enzies, ‘is neither a purely architectural nor a
p urely artistic product. It is an ingenious combination of art, architecture,
dramatic knowledge, engineering, and craftsmanship.’17 Out of this film
scenographic externalization emerges the picture’s visual metaphor. It provides
the spatial and temporal frame to the character’s surroundings. Vincente M innelli
defined the scene’s visualization as being profoundly significant.18

Balancing between the film scenographic organization and the characters’
dramatic mood within is among the Scenographer’s most complicated challenges.
A setting is the conclusion of an exhaustive process of planning and research.19
This means that the film Scenographer is required to have the ability to foresee
the picture as a whole before it is exhibited on the screen. To do so meant ‘first
of all, to draw a vital, mental picture of the entire complex imagery of the future
film on the screen, of the future work of synthetic film art.’20 An early 1930's
film critic suggested: the film Scenographer is an artist who translates the script
into three-dimensional and visual experience.21 The pre-envisioning conception
of pictorial discourse in the motion picture was notably present in the work of
William Cameron M enzies, Charles D. Hall, and Anton Grot’s scenographic
conceptualization. Grot’s pre-layouted studies, for instance, revealed a
descriptive and meaningful scenographic balance between the character’s spirit
of t he crime world, and depression America. He truthfully rendered a three-
dimensional pictorial representation of his pictures’ drama. Grot studied every
as p ect of lighting effects in his settings, and blended this with a painstaking

17
     William Cameron Menzies, Pictorial Beauty in the Photoplay, in: Richard Koszarski (Ed.), Hollywood Directors 1914-
1 9 4 0 . N e w Y o rk: Oxford University Press 1976, pp. 242&243; the subject was originally lectured by Menzies, at the
U n i v e rsity of Southern California, at April 10, 1929; it began in the silent film period, where William Cameron Menzies
w a s regarded by notable film artists, such as Natacha Rambova, as being among Hollywood’s ‘cleverest dramatic architect
i n t h e b u s i n e s s.’ see Michael Morris, Madam Valentino: The Many Lives of Natacha Rambova. New York: Abbeville
Press 1991, p. 159.

18
       ‘The visual,’ expressed Alfred Hitchcock ‘is a vital element in this work. I [Hitchcock] don’t think it is studied
e n o u gh.’ Quoted in: Eric Sherman, Directing the Film: Film Directors on their Art. Boston: Little, Brown 1976, p. 202.

19
    Jerome Lachenbruch, The Photoplay Architect, in: The American Architect, Vol. 120, No. 2377 (September 28, 1921),
p. 219.

20
      G e nnady Myasnikov, Director’s View of the Film, in: Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (Ed.), Drawings. Moskva:
Iskusstvo 1961, p. 164.


21
     Jan & Cora Gordon, Star-Dust in Hollywood. London: George G. Harrap 1930, p. 179.


                                                                                                                       99
attention to the period’s details. Like M enzies, Grot had a remarkable ability to
conquer the spatial in order to serve his Scenographic Space’s composition. Both
artists possessed attention-capturing skills in their perspectival technique (as we
w ill s ee later). This talent contributed to the formation of the most striking
compositional images on the American screen.

With the opening of the dialogue period, some film Scenographers’ techniques
had to undergo some changes. Settings’ dimensions of the silent era were larger
and they were produced in greater numbers compared with those of the talking
pictures. Settings for the talkies required certain specifications that demanded an
increase in cost, and this in turn caused a notable reduction in the numbers of sets
constructed for the talkies. ‘There are about one/third of the number of sets used
in s ound pictures as were used in silent pictures, reducing the number of
carpenters, painters and laborers employed in their construction.’ The M aterial
utilized in building the set had to be changed from resemblance, to more realistic.
M aterial reverberation had to be unfeigned when it was used by the characters
(e.g., authentic glass, metal, or wood).22 By the early 1920's, film producers
started recognizing the dramatic value of film scenography. They realized that
introducing well-arranged sets might enhance their picture’s artistic quality and
its revenue at the box-office.23 William Randolph Hearst was one of these movie
producers, who called on Joseph Urban to lead his scenographic department at
Cosmopolitan Productions Studios’ in New York. Hearst produced among others
Enchantment (1921), The Young Diana (1922), and Snowblind (1924), which
obtained considerable attention by the critics for their modern and well planned
spatial organization.

Another dramatic level of film scenography is creating a model to provide further
t echnical details that will enhance the dramatic quality of the scene. Film
Scenographers used set models as an aid for pre-establishing balance between the


22
        Mary Eunice McCarthy, Hands of Hollywood. Hollywood: Photoplay Research Bureau 1929, p. 96; after the end of
t h e s t u d i o system era, and by the late 1940's, job insecurity had been a critical threat to most Hollywood’s employees,
b e c a u s e o f the studios’ short term employment policy (one week, or even one day jobs). Consequently some film
S c e n o g ra p h e rs together with some cinematographers and their staff, among others, found themselves with no future job
s e c u ri t y ; see Anthony A. P. Dawson, Hollywood’s Labor Troubles, in: Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 1,
No.4 (July 1948), pp. 638-647; at the same time as a carpenter and a painter were making $ 2.25 per hour in Hollywood,
t h e s a me job was performed for $ 1.65 per hour somewhere else; More Trouble in Paradise, in: Fortune, Vol. 34, No. 5
(November 1946), p. 154.

 23
      M otion Picture Producers Recognize Efforts of Architects in the Productions, in: The American Architect, Vol. 117,
No. 2302 (February 4, 1920), p. 157.


                                                                                                                       100
       mood of the setting’s aesthetic vocabulary and the dramatic action. Prior to the
       act ual s et construction, set models represented the core of the pictorial and
       dramatic significance. It was another means of saving time and money,
       specifically when dealing with vast settings. A set model is an aid to eliminate
       unnecessary parts of the set, even if the script calls for them, as they will not be
       visible in a shot composition. A set model is a great aid to the cinematographer,
       director and producer, helping them to determine their needs in advance.24
       A rt is t ic, economic, and technical predeterminations of the film scenographic
       requirements are arranged when the producer, director, Scenographer,
       cinematographer, electrician (gaffer), and those in charge of the film
       s cenographic visualization confer together, while they try to feature smooth
       int egration between the set and its action. After both director and
       cinematographer conclude their artistic and economic estimates and finally see
       the completed model of the set, they plan their action and camera angles, while
       the gaffer suggests answers for certain lighting questions. The same is true for
       the set dresser and costume maker. All these artists collaborate together to
       preserve balance between the setting’s visualization and the story that unfolds
       within.25

3.1 Canvas Art and Film Scenography’s Pictorial Application

       In its textural treatment, film scenographic composition relies primarily on the
       effect of shade. ‘Shadows’ seemed to Leonardo Da Vinci as having ‘supreme
       importance in perspective,’ while their effect separates various planes from each
       other, in accordance with their spatial relationship. In the absence of shadow, the
       distinction between the objects’ various characteristics ‘will be ill defined;’
       except when placing the object in the front of a different color background than
       that of the object. Shade has a more effective dramatic effect than light, because




       24
            S ee Herman Blumenthal, Cardboard Counterpart of the Motion Picture Setting, in: Production Design, Vol. 2, No. 1
       (January 1952), pp. 16-21.


       25
              John Harkrider, Set Design from Script to Stage, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 29, No. 4 (October 1937), p. 359; see also Leo
       K . K u t e r, A rt Direction, in: Films in Review (June-July 1957), pp. 248-258; to have a comparative vision between the
       mo v i n g p i c t u re rs’ and the stage’s spatial organization in its practical execution, the reader is invited to see the stage’s
       s e t t i n g processes in its basic steps in; Andre Smith, The Scenewright: The Making of Stage Models and Settings. New
       York: The MacMillan 1926.


                                                                                                                                     101
it is always present somewhere around the object, lending the object its form.26
Neither light nor shadow alone can reveal the contoural outline or form of an
object, ‘but in the portions between the light and shadows they are highly
cons picuous.’27 Solid form with its shade serves as one solid body, and this
involves the canons of the spatial organization. Shade has the ability to establish
definite space, and this arises as the shadow demarcates the dissimilarity between
the vertical and horizontal properties of the subject. Additionally, shade creates
space in ‘contributing to the size gradients of the convergent perspective.’28

At least one color contributes to the tone of a shadow, because shade is not only
made up of shadow. Darkness is the conclusion of a certain color’s tone. For
some artists, such as Joseph Urban, tonal treatment of a scene coincides with a
colored surface and its illumination. By blending color with shade, and the shape
and dynamic of the scene, the latter will come vividly to life. A solid body’s
shape in a scene has to be arranged in a way that will reveal its characteristics
and gradations properly, so that when it is exposed to light, it will obtain its
three-dimensionality and will be visually effective in the scene. This happens
w hen color and light are blended, creating sufficient dramatic effect in those
objects’ attributes, for the beholder’s attention to be drawn to them.29 The Film
Scenographic Cryptogram and its stylization in Frankenstein (1931) matched the
p ict ure’s rhythm of dread and horror. Arthur Edeson’s cinematography was
complimented convincingly with Charles D. Hall and Herman Rosse’s spatial
arrangement (Illustrations 41-42). According to the canons of illumination, the
picture’s shade was present in the absence of the light. This in turn invoked a
mood of gloominess, which commanded a ghoulish image throughout the picture.
Hall-Rosse’s externalization of the walls of the mad scientist’s laboratory -where
the monster (Boris Karloff) is expected to be brought to life- were constructed
us ing a large-stone texture. Under the harsh lighting effect, the rough stones’
vertical and horizontal lines confidently suggested the coming of the unknown.

26
      C f. J e a n Paul Richter (Ed.), The Literary Works of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol. 1, London: Sampson Low, Marston,
Searle & Rivington 1883 (2 nd Ed., The Notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci. New York: Dover Publications 1970), pp. 69&73.

27
     Ibid., p. 89   .
28
     See Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974), p. 318.

29
     C f. Joseph Urban, Real Screen Drama Greatest Need, Declares Joseph Urban [undated papers from Columbia
University: Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection.]


                                                                                                               102
Beams of shadows were asserting their additional space on every surface of the
Scenographic Space. Like the walls’ textural treatment, the organic unity
continued evocatively to extend onto the laboratory’s floor to match that same
large stone’s touch. Every form and shade in the laboratory matched the
monster’s handicapped movement, and invoked the mysterious spirit of the new
creature that was compiled from corpses by Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive),
and had the desire to kill. Every external and internal aesthetic sign in the picture
had a strong resonance with the Germanic Expressionist school.

Defeating the filmic image’s two-dimensionality motivated film-makers to strive
always for implementing variable aesthetic measures and techniques in order to
maintain a three-dimensional image on the screen. Techniques such as moving
camera, lighting effects, lenses and camera angles were employed to maintain a
three-dimensional image and serve a high narrative quality on the screen.30 By
giving the screen image a form of roundness, it achieved a high artistic and
narrative level. Correspondingly, all of the aesthetic signs being treated in this
investigation are fundamental constituents of the motion picture image’s
narrative causality. But most of these are attributes contributing to the image’s
three-dimensional visualization.

F ilm s cenography is able to imbue the narrative action with more than just
colors. It enables the film-maker to establish a dramatic relationship between the
colors and drama of the scene. M ichelangelo Antonioni, in this regard, treated
his screen image as a painter treats a canvas, and he would not limit his image to
the realistic colors available in nature. This in turn afforded the film scenography
a vital dramatic importance, maintained Antonioni, while it permitted exceptional
artistic control over the color’s composition in the scene. As film scenography
is consequential in an interior scene, so it has the same dramatic value in an
outdoor one, since the latter needs some transformation to match the dramatic
mood of the action.31 Earlier in the silent film period, artists appreciated the
p arallelism between the canvas art and the motion picture’s image. Oscar
Fishinger and Hans Richter were among those artists who were attracted to the
new filmic art, and put their talents into the film to originate so-called “animated
paintings.” It came in the form of ‘time dimension-rhythm, spatial depth created

30
     Ranald MacDougall, Sound - and Fury, in: The Screen Writer, Vol. 1 (September 1945), p. 1.

31
   See Michelangelo Antonioni, Two Statements, in: Harry M. Geduld (Ed.), Film Makers on Film Making. Bloomington
& London: Indiana University Press 1967, pp. 221&222.


                                                                                                           103
by a diminishing square, the three-dimensional illusion created by the revolutions
of a s piral figure, etc.’ Silent film’s first attraction to talented artists is
comparable to the coming of sound film, when it mobilized new artists, standards
and technologies to explore the new medium. Talking film went through some
commercial interruption however, while “animated painting” was granted some
degree of success. This was due to its inspiration from the classic art and
technique repertoire. It was limited in circulations of 16mm film shorts, and was
attended by certain societies and groups of intellectuals.32

Some conditions pertained to the differentiation between the canvas’ and the
motion picture’s art. The film medium is constituted objectively, whilst canvas
art is created subjectively. It is not like the conventional art form that is the result
of an individual artist’s immediate and autonomous way of thinking. Film art is
t he result of collaborative aesthetic signs combined from various stages of
production. This includes significantly the moving picture’s dependence on the
mechanical and scientific attributes, which contributes to the constituting of the
s creen’s image. Filmic art is an analysis, while canvas painting is synthesis.
Pictorial art is combined in the artist’s mind from separate components, that have
an immediate relationship with the artist’s own experience. Even if film-makers
undertake using some of their own experience, they still have to attain the
analytical formula to produce a scene.33 A painter has the ability to reproduce the
reality of the visible world by utilizing the perspectival technique of pictorial art
in the canvas image. A closer look at such an image will show that the depth cue
of the pictorial art is composed by the artist’s spatial manipulation of positioning
and counter- positioning of the picture’s attributes, in their various plans, to
create the impression of depth.34 Lending the illusion of depth to the screen is an
impressive and complicated matter that relates closely to the artistic level and
manipulation of the spatial properties so as to secure such cues of depth, e.g.,

32
     It took the pioneer Hans Richter a short period of time to discontinue animated painting. ‘All his later films, along with
t h e fi l ms of Leger, Man Ray, Dali, and the painters who participated in Richter’s later films (Ernst, Duchamp, etc.)
indicate a profound appreciation of the distinction between the plastic and the photographic image, and make enthusiastic
a n d creative use of photographic reality.’ See Maya Deren, Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality, in: George
A mb e rg (E d.), The Art of Cinema: Selected Essays. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972, pp. 155, fn*
&156.

33
     Cf. Herbert Read, Toward a Film Aesthetic, in: George Amberg (Ed.), The Art of Cinema: Selected Essays. New York:
A rn o Press & The New York Times 1972, p. 200; see also William Cameron Menzies, Pictorial Beauty in the Photoplay,
in: Richard Koszarski (Ed.), Hollywood Directors 1914-1940. New York: Oxford University Press 1976, p. 239.

34
     S e e J ulian Hochberg, Art and Perception, in: Edward c. Caterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of
perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 230.


                                                                                                                        104
forced, painted perspective, or linear composition, or by using various lighting
techniques. This would rely on what the technological improvements have to
offer in terms of advanced cameras, lenses and other cinematographic strategies
that would deliver a narrative image to the screen. Still, the motion pictures’ art
form elaborately excelled where conventional art failed, as the moving picture
liberat ed the art from the aristocratic and bourgeois saloons where it was
presented to serve a limited class of society prior to this century. This new art
form of the twentieth-century is accessible to any individual, so as to provide
what might be considered appropriate for the advance of every one’s way of life.

A motion picture’s ‘shot is only an element, a single unit of an artistic
production.’ When various shots are combined they will form the body of the
film, and in this respect a solitary shot is not qualified to provide the beholder
w it h a comp rehensive idea about the entire body of the picture, ‘it only
reproduces various of its phenomena in isolation.’ Pictorial art signifies a self-
containment and has all its necessary artistic components, which translate how
it was perceived by its producer. By contrast to the motion picture’s dynamism,
a painting ‘remains a spatial art, void of all temporal qualities. ...[and] cannot
directly convey movement, nor, consequently, action.’ If it does, it illustrates,
only, a connotation of mobility. Canvas’ representational techniques (e.g., light,
s hade, perspective, form and composition, et al.) can only point toward the
means of dynamic but cannot produce the dynamic itself.35 Both motion pictures
and canvas art still have a close relationship to one another, in which the
p rinciples of the painter must be regarded as obligatory knowledge by the
cinematographer while forming a qualitative screen image. An unplanned image
or one imitating canvas art cannot have any exceptional artistic quality.
Artistically it is not efficient in reproducing someone else’s achievement. Such
a process will convert the film into a “substitute for representational arts.” This
means that critical handling combined with skillful pictorial experience rests in
the heart of forming respective screen art.36

When artists translate the material world onto their pristine canvas in successive
brush-strokes, they accumulate this from various forms of visual data about the


35
       Cf. Vladimir Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art. Tr. by Stephen Garry, New York: Hill and Wang 1959, p. 167;
N o t a b l y , Vladimir Nilsen’s analyzes were considerably informative on the aesthetical treatment of the camera and the
pictorial composition on the screen.


36
     See ibid., p. 173.


                                                                                                                     105
object’s perspectival outlook. This occurs when painters evaluate the
visualization of these bodies from numerous positions. These are captured at
some exceedingly shallow angles. A canvas image is presented to the beholder
to perceive it from the exact same angle at which it was captured by the painter’s
eye.37 Correspondingly, film-makers define their framed spatial as being a ready
image. It is presented on the screen without any effort from the beholder to
search for it. Pictorial representation exercises techniques which overcome ‘what
it has suppressed. The picture or the image on the screen is completely stable, so
the cortical adjustment typical of vision in reality is rendered unnecessary-
representation is superimposed over presentation.’ By suggesting a vanishing
point with retrogressive linear composition, both pictorial and screen art mask
their possession of two-dimensionality, and obtain depth cue and reassurance.
Yet at certain points the two art forms differ, because the canvas artist has the
choice of placing the vanishing point in, or off-center, or out of the image. Filmic
image preserves its objectivity only in pointing the lens in the center of the
image.38

O ver an extended course of time conventional art (writing and painting) was
developed under other organizational traditions, which were different, from those
under which the film was refined. Traditional art’s entity did not need much
technological accommodation in order to proceed. Art historians observe that the
technical impact on classical art was restricted entirely by the product of the
artist. The motion picture’s refinement, and sometimes decline, was continuously
dependent on alternated and multifarious constitutional patterns, i.e., the ability
of the film medium to create meaningful art had a far-reaching relationship with
t echnological breakthroughs. The latter’s impact upon pictorial art was by
comparison stable, but it was not as great as that on film.39 The artistic scope of
the motion picture’s production involves artists at many levels, and whether
painter or Scenographer, both artists have an immense margin of feasibility at
their disposal when they answer in the terms of the film medium, because the


37
      See Claude Bailble, Programing the Look: A New Approach to Teaching film Technique, in: Screen Education, Vol.
3 2 , N o . 3 3 (A utumn/Winter 1979/80), p.108; Bailble’s account reflected exhaustive examination on ‘science of optics
and Lacanian psychoanalysis.’

38
     Ibid., p. 109

39
      C a lvin Pryluck, The Aesthetic Relevance of the Organization of Film Production, in: Cinema Journal, Vol. 15, No.
2 (Spring 1976), p. 3.


                                                                                                                   106
new art form of photoplay may be the finest art of our times.40

After the arrival of the talkies in late 1920's, film relied profoundly on the new
medium (s ound)in order to advance. It in turn, this caused Hollywood film
p ractice to shift toward a new narrative accommodation in the sound film.
Paradoxically, the early talkies of the post-synchronization era, as we have seen
in t he previous Chapter, were developed in a cacophonous, if not narrative,
vis ual manner, such as film musical, voiced comedy, and the western genre.
M eanwhile Hollywood maintained the old scenographic tradition of the “canned
set,” under the restrictions of the new technology during this transition period.
Like in sound, the introduction of the wide-screen into the moving picture
presented further limitations to film scenographic composition. This demanded
bot h the Scenographer and cinematographer to re-evaluate their conventional
approach to serve a new composition of the screen’s image.41

Color film did not obtain its convincing realism until the late years of the
Twentieth century, but it still has room for improvement. Early color pictures
were short in having this privilege of imaging that is close to the real; color film
captures its pigments pre-mixed from nature, and at their best the resulting colors
on the screen are naturalistic. Pre-blended color’s lack of naturalness would not
permit film-makers to produce highly promising color images on the film matrix.
O n gray s cale film the natural world is abbreviated to shades of gray. This
abbreviation dramatically represents the natural world, through the medium of
an indep endent art, i.e., in tones of gray, light, and shadow. Grisaille
representation by the camera is merely according to the light and shade values
of the virtual, and this tonal recording has reached the level of being respected
as a true art form. Canvas art’s colors are prepared by the painter’s own choice,
and pictorial art’s technical vocabularies are distributed on the pristine canvas by
the same order of preference. From there emerges an elaborate painting style,
which differs from the screen’s monochrome or colored image.42 The class of the
color’s bounce-off in a given scene is progressively limited, when it is measured
by the light’s luminance being portrayed in the same scene. This may, relatively,


40
     Joseph Urban, quoted in: Julian Johnson, Marietta Serves Coffee, in: Photoplay (October 1920), p. 33.


41
     The adaption of both technologies into the film will be treated in further details, later in this study (Chapter 4).


42
     Cf. Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1957, pp. 66&155.


                                                                                                                            107
cause a contrasted effect in a scene. Correspondingly, a color’s differentiation in
a scene is not a result of automatic imitation of these colors on the canvas. ‘The
principles of simultaneous contrast’ related Julian Hochberg, ‘may be used to
remedy this limitation,’ yet this matter was convincingly accomplished in the
chiaroscuro -Rambrandtesque paintings, in which the dramatic value of light was
strikingly heightened by its juxtaposition with shade. The same canon of
contrasted technique applies to the color image, and was a continued tradition by
Corot, and the Impressionist school, who elevated it to being pictorially
dramatic.43

M any means contributed to the motion picture’s expressiveness, its dramatic
interpretation of a scene, and its competence in presenting an object in its
spatiotemporal association . Technical efficiency available to the film is qualified
to alter the spatial relationships of the object and lend new visualization to the
real surrounding, but it modifies the original dynamic discourse at which that
action may proceed. Despite the filmic image’s conditioned realism, it conveys
to the beholder a sum of identification of data from the object in focus. Pictorial
t reat ment ‘is not necessarily a flat and impotent copying of nature, but’,
according to the cinematographer Vladimir Nilsen, ‘an art-interpretation of it
s uch as will enriches us with a new perception of the genuine meaning,
as s ociations and essence of that nature.’44 Ever since the motion picture’s
youthful days, pictorial art was taken as a consequential source of inspiration in
forming the film’s composition or lighting art. Italians, Germans, and Americans
borrowed a great deal from classical painting. This cinematographic borrowing
w as des cribed by Vladimir Nilsen as a “pictorial imitation.” It caused
disharmony in the assembling between long- and mid-shot compositions on one
hand, and close-ups on the another.45

David Wark Griffith pioneered the imitation of the old masters’ pictorial art in
The Birth of a Nation (1915). Griffith obtained some action motives from the
engraving Battles and Leaders of the American Civil War for action scenes in his
p ict ure. Cecil B. DeM ille was another of Hollywood’s film-makers who


43
     S ee Julian Hochberg, Art and Perception, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of
Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 231.

44
     V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 16&17.

45
     See ibid., pp. 153&166.


                                                                                                           108
       borrowed eagerly from classic pictorial art. DeM ille’s, The King of Kings (1927),
       marked a high point in Hollywood film-making’s wholesale buy from canvas art.
       DeM ille not only imitated, but copied Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper
       composition and lighting technique in his picture. The compositional outcome
       was notably artificial and frozen in time. In Hollywood’s 1930's realism period,
       we may find, occasionally, some mechanical imitation of pictorial art. DeM ille
       w as one of those film-makers who was always in favor of pictorial art’s
       reproduction in his pictures. The dynamic lines of the Indian battle-scene in his
       w es t ern, The Texas Rangers (1936), marked an immediate relationship with
       G iovanni Battista Piranesi’s Assassination scene. Henry King, together with
       Leon Shamroy, repeated this compositional and lighting inspiration from the
       canvas classics in The Black Swan (1942). Oddly enough, this pictorial imitation
       s ecured for Shamroy an Academy Award in the category of Best
       Cinematography. Again, the tradition of this pictorial parallelism was stretched
       by King Vidor in the battle scenes of War and Peace (1952), in which Vidor
       inspired his fighting scenes from many paintings of Napoleonic times.

3.1.1 The Scenographic Space’s Narrational Composition
       A setting’s spatial configuration would not be carried out only for the sake of its
       aesthetical locality. The narrative action is the only reference that defines the
       form and visualization of the scenographic arrangement. Any distance between
       two points of the set is calculated exactly in order to serve the action in the scene.
       These dimensions should enhance the dramatic quality of the scene. A visually
       impressive set must utilize the same aesthetical means cinematographically;
       whether in a close-up or long shot it must reflect visual efficiency. Every portion
       of the set should contribute to the whole.46 A composition in the motion picture
       is composed when the mise-en-scenes are arranged in their spatiotemporal
       relationship in the shot, and looked at from the very possible narrative angle. A
       compositional image can be captured in one camera set-up. This is enough to
       provide the beholder with an instructive disclosure of the scene. But it does not
       permit an idea about the whole body of the picture. Thus it is clear that filmic
       comp osition must obey a general principle and method that define the
       structurization of a screen’s composition, but cannot construct a single scene in




       46
            John Koenig, Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art 1942; [Koenig’s record is unnumbered].


                                                                                                                         109
isolation.47

One of the cinematographer’s primary aspirations is composing the screen image.
‘The art of composing motion pictures is the keystone of successfully
photographed productions. This is true because good or bad composition dictates
the success or failure of the story.’ A properly planned scene’s composition
directs the beholder’s attention to any point chosen as the center of interest in the
image, even if the action is proceeding elsewhere on the set. When treating the
s cenographic and character’s composition, it is up to the cinematographer
whether he constructs either a complicated or simple image composition of this
pictorial representation.48 Simplicity in this compositional treatment can be
reached within an indoor or outdoor scene: in the interior, beside the setting, it
is possible to compose the mise-en-scenes and characters to stress high dramatic
efficiency. This will occur when distinctive objects are positioned in the most
dramat ic angles -on the walls, floors, or even hanging from above. M ingling
these spatial vocabularies together can be enhanced by evocative illumination
and the character’s mobility. The same practice is applicable in exterior scenes,
while arranging natural or artificial objects to occupy the scene (trees, electric
p osts, clouds, fire, smoke, et al.), added to lenses, filters, light reflectors and
gauzes. All these will be dramatized by some artificial touches, to lead the
beholder’s eye to the scene’s focus of interest.49

A s et t ing’s floor-plan has tremendous impact upon the set’s aesthetical
visualization. It will contain every aesthetic sign of the scene within the spatial.
The set’s floor-plan commands the visual level of the scene, because no matter
what the aesthetical quality of the space might be, it is defined by the floor-plan.
Integrating entrances and exits into the spatial organization is another vital means
in scenographic efficiency. Objects, color composition, dynamic perspective, and
assigning the scene’s center’s of attention, could all be employed to match the
spirit of the story. A large piece of furniture (sofa) reflects the center of interest
in the spatial, and placing it somewhere off-center is acceptable, according the

47
     See V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 21&115.

48
        D a niel Bryan Clark, Composition in the Motion Pictures, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual, Vol. 1,
H o l l y w ood: The American Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times
1972), pp. 81&82; Clark’s treatise on the pictorial composition in the photoplay belongs to the most dependable analyzes
available on this subject.

49
     See ibid., p. 82.


                                                                                                                  110
stage and film Scenographer Oliver Smith, while the rest of the objects are
placed in accordance and with regard to the character’s handling.50 Anton Grot
mas t ered these scenographic techniques in his spatial arrangement at Warner
Brothers. With it, he was able to present the Gangster Age on the screen. Despite
the shabby and Teutonic outlooking sets, they contained warmth in them. Grot’s
s et t ings were familiar to any average American of the Depression time. The
average looking spaghetti restaurant in Little Caesar (1931), for instance, marked
a canned set’s conception in its floor plan. Lines of its convergent perspective
were enhanced through the windows’ framings, the bar, stools, seats, and the
light bulbs in the ceiling, all heading toward the center which pointed toward the
exit of the restaurant. The scene’s unbalanced lighting effect reflected the
instability in the life of Rico (Edward G. Robinson) and his buddy Joe M assara
(Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), after they robbed a gas station that night.

While the beholder’s eye is pursuing a dynamic composition’s center of interest
wherever it is moving in the scene, a contradiction or even confusion may arise
in the beholder’s mind, if the mobile composition’s center of interest did not
mat ch to some degree with the stationary’s focus of attention in the spatial
organization.51 M any canons of compositional organization, however, govern this
highly sensitive field of vision on the screen. Composing the set’s entrance and
exit in the proper location saves the action from wasting film footage, and would
allow the characters just to get onto the set, act their part and move out.52

Splendor of the form, together with the textural contrast and tonal composition
were envisioned, by the Scenographer R. M yerscough-Walker, as an exaggerated
means of displaying the real world’s attributes on the screen. Yet these are what




50
     Tom Mikotowicz, Oliver Smith: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1993, pp. 14&94; Paul
T. Frankl, Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors. New York: Harper & Brothers 1930, pp.
75&79.

51
     C arlyle Ellis, Art and the Motion Picture, in: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol.
128, No. 217 (November 1926), p. 54.

52
      S e e A rt h u r Edwin Krows, The Talkies. New York: Henry Holt 1930, pp. 146&147; “stage crossing.” It is another
me a n s, of ‘awkward masking’ on the stage: ‘when one character unavoidably walks in front of another and so hides him
from the audience, the second takes a single step in the opposite direction at the moment of crossing so as very materially
to reduce the time of eclipse.’ Ibid., p. 168, fn. 1.


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invoke the spirit of the scene and make it attractive to the beholder.53 Again,
Leonardo Da Vinci confirmed the vitality of the form, since words are not as
universal as the form is, since it indicates the representation of any effect in
nat ure.54 Film scenography deals with forms in the space; in fact the film
Scenographer is the only artist among the film’s production team who creates
three-dimensional forms in the scene, and translates the spoken word into a three-
dimensional space. Hence the art of form and forming in the space has exceeded
the limitation of words- anyone may read a form wherever it might be, but not
a word, unless it undergoes translation.

To project a distinctive screen composition, far from being theatrical, Griffith
gradually disregarded convention (of the inherited rules of the stage composition)
in his pictures, as they were not as effective on the screen as they were on the
stage. He constructed his characters’ composition to and from the camera, and
the method proved its efficiency on the screen and not on the stage. Griffith
required his characters to abandon the theatrical and exaggerated form of facial
exp ression, and instead he insisted on more intimate performing. To capture
these gestures, he moved the camera closer to the action.55 Classical pictorial
composition is unquestionably narrative, but when we try to clarify the why and
how in relation to such composition and its structure, we will require a higher
sense of order to explain the matter. ‘The ‘complexity’ of paintings is usually so
considerable that they are analogous to ornamental patterns whose constituent
ornaments must be appreciated one by one.’ That analogous level of reading will
assure an easy grasp of such complex compositions. Sixteenth-century Venetian
painters mastered this compositional technique. A close reading of such pictorial
technique reveals that the construction was based in the order of light, shade,
form and color.56 Like canvas art, many artistic levels and norms constitute the
aesthetic vocabularies of the screen image. Critical approach to this significant
body of aesthetic signs and data on the screen can only be appreciated one by


53
      D u e to the camera objective’s distortion, the phenomenon of the real world acquires some degree of distortion upon
the screen; see R. Myerscough-Walker, Stage and Film Decor. London: Pitman 1939, p. 22.

54
     Quoted in: Jean Paul Richter (Ed.), The Literary works of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol. 1, London: Sampson Low Marston,
S e arle & Rivingston 1883 (2 nd Ed., The Notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol., New York: Dover Publications 1970), p.
328.


55
     A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, p. 21.


56
     George D. Birkhoff, Aesthetic Measure. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1933, pp. 212-214.


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one. No study related to the motion pictures could assert its completeness when
attempting the analysis of the entire set of filmic signs on the screen.

Rembrandt fully realized the dramatic efficiency of the juxtaposition of light and
shade in his pictorial composition. The master subtly manipulated this technique
to the degree to which he imposed a social categorization on his characters.57
Hollywood’s film-makers realized the dramatic value in the manipulation of light
and shadow in their screen composition. By adapting some of the conventional
t echnique in their images, they were able to deliver exceptionally narrative
screen compositions. Josef Von Sternberg painted his pictures with light and
shade. Darknesses of his composition were spread in a painstaking attitude to
stress the dramatic effect of the rays of light in the scene. In Morocco (1930),
Von St ernberg and Lee Garmes provided this visual technique in quite an
extraordinary stylization. Every bit of light, shade, or form was calculated in
details on the screen. The picture revealed its own visual interpretation. Morocco
achieved highly narrative aesthetical stylization throughout the picture. This
ensured both artists an Academy Award Nomination.

In the scenographic arrangement, it is profoundly significant as well as dramatic
to define how the light source would arrive to the set. Without the source of light
the spatial organization is unseen. Lighting effects include many types that will
define the spirit of the scene.58 Experimenting with unique sources of lighting
effects reached a highly narrative quality in the hands of Gregg Toland. In
Wuther ing Heights (1939), he attempted to find new lighting methods for
enhancing the dramatic mood of the picture. Toland’s dramatic light reached the
settings from unusual directions. Lighting the set with an existing ceiling was
another challenge in Toland’s cinematography. In Wuthering Heights, he let the
light, indirectly, arrive to the scene from an exterior source through the set’s
windows, because headlights from above could not be used while the set was
roofed over. Additionally, Toland devised his lighting source to emerge from
within the set, and placed it in the fireplace to create the effect of natural and
dramatic illumination. By placing a little lit candle on the table he enabled further
dramatic efficiency and gloomy mood. This realistic lighting secured a high level
of narrative quality in the picture. After Gregg Toland’s careful study of classical

57
     R e mb randt’s categorization to his characters was notably revealed in the Nightwatch 1642; Gary Schwartz,
Rembrandt: His Life, His Paintings. New York: Penguin Books 1985, p. 364.

58
     E d w ard Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio Publications 1941 (2 nd Ed.,
Designing for Films, 1949), p. 25.


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p ictorial art, he settled upon his lighting patterns, and was able to balance
between the melodrama of tragic love and revenge.

G ray s cale filmic image can be grasped, as the composition’s series of gray
provides the imposing of dark on light, or light on a dark tone that would produce
the visual information.59 With the shifting of different tone values, of black and
w hit e on the screen, the cue of depth emerges in the Scenographic Space.
Consequently the means of juxtaposing and counterposing between the mise-en-
scenes in their various planes are easily comprehensible by the average beholder.

Dan Sayre Groesbeck was one important artist of Cecil B. DeM ille’s team. His
as s ignment was to pre-visualize the filmic scenes in DeM ille’s productions.
Groesbeck provided DeM ille with sketches that recommended single and groups
of characters’ compositions, and how the scene’s background was supposed to
be arranged. Groesbeck advised on the lighting effect for the cinematographer
and gaffer as well. His sketches were taken as a source of inspiration by DeM ille
to start his action with.60 DeM ille was not different from his contemporaries-
M ichael Curtiz at Warners who copied Anton Grot (e.g., Illustrations 8- 13), or
Josef Von Sternberg who echoed Hans Dreier’s sketches at Paramount, step by
step. DeM ille’s borrowing from classic art (Ruebens, Dore, Van Dyck, Corot or
Piranesi) was not a pure invention of his own. All three film directors stamped
their own signature on someone else’s talent. It would not have removed much
from their directorial status to acknowledge the effort of their colleagues from
t he scenographic departments. They took it for granted as their own pure
invention. But it was not. Today we must give credit where credit is due.

John Ford pre-envisioned on the set what he wanted as a picture in advance. This
skillful technique meant that Ford rarely had to make a second take in a scene.
Surprisingly, he never viewed any of his daily rushes. Ford saw the result of his
effort only when the picture was completed. In addition, he would not let any of
his characters view the daily rushes until the picture was finished, as this may


59
     Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1957, p. 68.

60
       Margaret Farrand Thorp, America At the Movies. London: Faber and Faber 1946, pp. 150&151; a photographer, and
a continuity girl were in charge of the set’s aesthetic continuity during the production throughout the filming. The former
took pictures from the set’s latest take, and made sure that every thing was in its place the next morning ready for action,
whereas the latter watched out for the continuity of following the script step-by-step; a relative comparison was made
b e t w e e n Hollywood and the English continuity crew on the set in: Martha Robinson, Continuity Girl. London: Robert
Hale 1937.


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cause some shifting in their characterization, while they tried to improve their
act ing. John Ford never considered one day’s rushes as separated work. He
believed in the importance of the picture’s organic unity as a whole.61 Regardless
what film genre it might be, Ford’s visualization of his scenes induced artistically
effective work. His compositional image was simple and highly narrative on the
screen.

A cinematographer, along with architects or painters, all share the principle of
‘Dynamic Symmetry’ in their work. In Daniel Bryan Clark’s definition, this ‘is
simply a system of charting composition within a given field by dynamic lines,
and symmetrically placing the subjects accordingly.’ When composing a pictorial
composition, the cinematographer traces the bold and distinctive lines suggested
by t he s ubject. This would apply to the composition of a group, or even a
portraiture.62 Some film-makers opposed ‘formal balance and regularity’ in both:
t he s et t ing and the composition. Anything monotonous in the scenographic
stylization can limit the narrative efficiency of the pictorial composition. By
contrast, a too-complicated spatial arrangement can easily lead to various
framingpossibilities in the representational treatment, and can consequently take
away from the essential facts of the story. Such pictorial representation caused
s ome just criticisms of Hollywood.63 Hollywood’s cinematographic
interpretation, during its Golden Age, maintained a balanced and central
composition on the screen overall. Sometimes, this screen image exceeded the
canons of composition, which came despite a balanced spatial configuration of
the mise-en-scenes and the setting’s composition. In calling for the “house style,”
M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer ventured to include as much opulence in the set as they
could fit in (four to five hundred characters at one time). This bric-a-brac of
human elements in the scene induced confusion to its beholder. In Rosalie (1937)
an overwhelmingly large group of symmetrical compositions throughout the
picture could be viewed as a whole, but an immediate glance at any detail of the
spatial composition would inescapably reveal great complexity when perceiving


61
       F o o t a g e t aken the previous day on the set and viewed the next morning were termed by film-makers as ‘the daily
ru s h e s ’; see Fred J. Balshofer and Arthur C. Miller, One Reel a Week. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California
Press 1967, pp. 195&196.

62
        S ee Daniel Bryan Clark, Composition in Motion Pictures, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual, Vol. 1,
H o l l y w ood: The American Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times
1972), pp. 87&89.


63
     Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillian 1953, p. 131.


                                                                                                                      115
the composition. The beholder is continually wondering where and at what to
start looking first.

T he M is-en-scene’s symmetrical nature in the scenographic Space does not
always spell equal mass, dimension, or rhythm of objects being assigned on each
side of the scene. Well-balanced symmetrical composition calls for comfort and
enjoyment by its beholder. Customary composition symmetry in the set ‘is
entirely too pat for the eye to accept. It is static in quality and so tends to retard
the flow of pictorial movement. Balance, too, should furnish movement to the
over-all flow of continuity.’64 If we graphically imagine that the screen is divided
equally by two lines horizontally and by the same vertically, the resulting grid
w ould create nine imaginary rectangles within the screen frame. This is what
film-makers call The Rule of Thirds, which is applicable as a pictorial measure
for the equilibrium of compositional masses and tonal treatment. It does not call
for s y mmetrical balance. ‘The dominant lines of any picture should run
ap p roximately along some of these lines, and the lines should be near the
dividing margin between masses of dark and light areas.’ The rule applies for the
t onal balance- when two-thirds of the space is exposed to high-key, and the
remaining third is lit with low-key, the scene is marked as high-key scene. If
two-thirds of the set is illuminated with low-key, and the other third is kept in
bright light, it is characterized as a low-key scene. When light and shade have a
one to one ratio, the scene will be out of balance.65

By continuation of the canonical models of composition: in much the same way
as the camera angle and placement of the characters’ eyes in the frame are
arresting means, positioning the lower limit of the frame in relation to the
character’s body is equally dramatic in the shot.66 It is quite easy to locate the
line of attention between two characters having a conversation. This is simply
around t heir imaginary line of vision, since the head is the human center of
communication (seeing, talking, hearing, and smelling). No matter what the
position of the body is, it is subordinate to the head, i.e., the line of interest must


64
     Lewis Herman, A Practical Manual of Screen Playwriting for Theater and Television Films. New York and
Scarborough: New American Library 1952, p. 255.

65
     Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillian 1953, p. 66.

66
    Len Barish, But Some Things Stay the Same, in: ITVA News/A publication of the International Television Association
(May-June 1995), p. 6.


                                                                                                                116
be centered around the character’s head.67 This principle of attention sometimes
caused Hollywood to be criticized with validity, because some film-makers -from
the transition era- exhausted this formula, as the composition of a group was
noticeably squeezed together to face the camera at all times, without forming a
triangle.68 Such portrait composition is certainly not applicable to genres like
pantomime comedy (Chaplin), or dance musical (Astaire-Rogers), in which the
position of the hand, or the body’s impression is as vital as the facial expression,
if not more so.

When watching a compositional image, we are selective in our perception of the
subject. We are not analyzing the entire constituents of the image. Instead, we
attempt to select the most informative data, and try to cope with the basic lines
of t he composition.69 This is applicable when the compositional image is
structured according to the canons of composition. Capturing that simplicity in
a s creen’s composition is not quite as simple a task as it might seem. In
landscape (exterior) cinematography, the cinematographer is offered unlimited
p os s ibilities for framing a composition. The success or failure of this
vis ualization depends on the cinematographer’s knowledge and skills to
introduce the laws of composition when selecting the image.70 Landscape
iconography reached a paradigmatic beauty in The Good Earth (1937). Florence
Yoch, the landscape engineer, supervised the terracing of the rice fields on the
foothills of the San Fernando Valley. Yoch planted authentic Chinese crops to
rep roduce the Chinese farm land on M GM ’s lot. It was a highly realistic
landscaping reproduction of the Chinese land (Illustration 43). Evidently Karl
F reund w as familiar with the classical laws of the landscape composition
(Illustrations 44-48). His cinematography in The Good Earth attained its own
visual style. Karl Freund captured the foothills to serve his framing of the
composition remarkably. His horizon line was running somewhat diagonally in
relat ion to the frame, to signify the dynamic of the Chinese farmer while

67
   Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hasting House 1976, pp. 30&32; a far-reaching study was
conducted by Arijon concerning the pictorial and compositional language upon the screen.

68
     W e l fo rd Beaton, Grouping Characters to Make Them Face Camera, in: The Film Spectator, Vol. 5, No. 7 (May 26,
1928), pp. 6&7.

69
     C f. Julian Hochberg, Art and Perception, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of
Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 239.

70
     S e e Lewis W. Physioc, Pictorial Composition, in: A. C., Vol. 9, No. 2 (May 1928), p. 21; a fair account about the
fundamental laws of composition was introduced by Physioc in his analysis.


                                                                                                                  117
landscaping his field. Karl Freund avoided any monotony in his composition.
Noticing a balance in the compositional image is easy, and there is no dominance
of horizontalness or verticality of lines. Karl Freund selected only the basic and
expressive forms- tones, lines, and means with which to take us to the Chinese
countryside. Karl Freund’s work won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. M ost
of the film footage was shot on location in the Chatsworth section of Los
Angeles, while other scenes were shot in Cedar City, Utah, and China. Harry
Oliver, Arnold Gillespie, Edwin B. Willis, Gabriel A. Scognamillo, Frank Tong,
and Cedric Gibbons contributed to the picture’s scenographic stylization. The
main set was tremendously large- hundreds of buildings were constructed to
create the “Wang’s Village”described in the story, where most of the action took
place. Years later the location became a housing development.

A composition of a shot is usually driven by the subject’s mobility, camera angle
or movement concerning the focus of attention, and by the mood of lighting
around the subject.71 To suggest a noticeable depth cue and balance in the screen
composition, film-makers compose their image, chiefly, in layers of background,
middle ground, and foreground. An object placed in the foreground will reflect
s ome clarifications on the subject matter behind it. ‘A great deal, for space’
observed Louis Giannetti, ‘is one of the principal mediums of communication in
film, and the way that people are arranged in space can tell us a lot about their
social and psychological relationships.’72 Some cinematographers of the Golden
Age commanded a remarkable layering technique in their compositions. In his
works with William Wyler and other film-makers, Gregg Toland achieved a high
realism in his representational treatment, by keeping his scene’s foreground and
background in a sharp focus. This visual clarity allowed William Wyler to
arrange his compositions in depth. With Toland’s realistic focus, Wyler could
place more than one character simultaneously on the screen without relying on
cutting from one character to the next. This compositional technique is
deliberat ely persuasive, since it keeps the narrational stream active with no
interruption.73


71
     Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, p. 117.

72
     C f. L o u i s Giannetti, Understanding Movies. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall 1972 (1976, and 3 rd Ed.
1982), pp. 61, 63&66; Giannetti introduced a comprehensive and valuable account on film-making and its analysis.


73
      A Letter from William Wyler, in: Sequence, No. 8 (Summer 1949), p. 68; Gregg Toland’s early death in 1948, at the
a g e o f forty-four, shocked Hollywood and was considered a great loss to the film industry; Ace Cinematographer Gregg
Toland Passes, in: Los Angeles Times (September 29, 1948).


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Apart from the scene’s masses, every shot must have its focal point of attention,
t o guide the beholder’s eye to it. This focal point could be one subject, or a
gat hering of subjects. Whether virtual or illusory, dynamic lines of pictorial
comp osition signpost the beholder’s eye to the focal point of attention. If a
charact er in the front is gazing at something in the back, the relationship of
foreground-background is underlined. This communication between the two
points (front-back) is stressed by the “lines of force,” which are present in every
well-planned composition: ‘if the lines are straight, they travel diagonally across
the frame, or if curved, they follow a graceful S across the frame from foreground
to background.’74 Choreographing for a musical means dealing with the spatial
assigned by the camera’s field of vision. This makes the narrative and dynamic
patterns of a musical move to and from the camera, but not from one side to
another. The characters’ movement is usually proceeding in respect to the space
or to their surroundings, and not in regard to the camera. The latter is subordinate
to the action and not the other way around. In Astaire’s musicals the guiding
principle was the dynamic of the dance as narrative interest, while framing the
composition served the aesthetic of the action.75

In an interview with the Ladies’ Home Journal, Cedric Gibbons outlined the
canonical forms of the spatial arrangement to the American woman. He advised
t hem t o apply these scenographic canons in their home. Gibbons called for
preserving the simplicity of a space, and in doing so, the space would add charm
to its inhabitant. If an object contends with its background ‘they destroy each
other.’An overcrowded living space with too many objects will belittle the
occupants’ grace. M GM ’s chief Scenographer Cedric Gibbons summed up the
spatial rules for the homemaker to comply with in her living space: ‘go in for
design in only one place in a room.’ This means, be in favor of unified
composition in the place. ‘Avoid cluttered carpets or walls. They lack repose. Be
certain that the pieces of furniture you buy are in scale with the rest of the room.
... If you possibly can avoid it, do not buy furniture in suites.’ Gibbons
maintained, ‘Do not place too many pieces of furniture obliquely in a room. They
p roject a certain series of lines. ... [and] overcrowds the place. (This and the




74
    D o n L i v i n g ston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillan 1953, pp.
66&68.


75
     John Mueller, Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1985, pp. 29&30.


                                                                                                             119
following are the author’s italic).76 Gibbons went farther with his
recommendations for treating the spatial composition. ‘If you are buying a
com for table arm chair, be careful of the color and texture of the upholstery
material. ... In the matter of accessories, be extremely careful about lamp shades,
while the shade should screen your eye from the direct light. Distribute your
light. Do not concentrate too much of it. Have a general glow with few points of
concentration for reading. ...Throw out anything with a naturalistic design. ...
don’t give it away, destroy it!’ Gibbons repeatedly emphasized his confidence
in the simplicity of the spatial organization. ‘Never hang framed photographs.
They should be placed on tables and chests. Try hanging only few nice images
on the walls. Avoid fads in doing your house over -such as the all-white or mid-
Victorian- unless you are able to refurnish as soon as you tire of them- which you
w ill do, sooner or later.’77 These canons of screening the architectural
deficiencies, and compositioning objects within the space summed up Cedric
Gibbons’ vision of the scenographic stylization at M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer. He
adapted this same spatial philosophy in his own home on Kingman Avenue, in
Santa M onica, California.

By t he late 1920's, American and European film practice fulfilled a qualified
level of pictorial aesthetic. It allowed the disregard, mostly if not completely, of
the film’s disruptive caption, as the screen image alone was polished enough to
narrate the plot. In the early years of the 1930's, Hollywood film-makers felt
uncomfortable when dealing with the canned theater. This suspicion induced a
notable tendency toward “the picture should still tell the story,” and should count
as little as possible on the dialogue and caption in the production. Introducing
sound served as a counterpoint in the production. This metaphorical presentation,
in its transitional era, delivered evocative images to the American screen.78 The


76
     C e d ri c Gibbons quoted in: Mayme Ober Peak, Every Home’s a Stage, in: Ladies’s Home Journal (July 1933), pp.
2 5 &7 7 ; t h i s i nterview with Metro’s chief Scenographer Cedric Gibbons belongs to the most significant interviews
Gibbons has given throughout the 1930's, it is clear perception of his film scenographic philosophy.

77
        S e e ibid., p. 77; by the mid 1930's, the tendency in the interior living space was emerging in the United States for
s o l v i n g problems of the modern house’s confined space. The “Model Rooms”exhibition in the Pedac Galleries,
R o c k e fe l l er Center, revealed this trend of interior organization . Various inspirations were depicted by Paul R.
M a cAllister, James W. Folger and R. Bushnell Hyman, who attempted creating a spacious effect in the small living space,
w h i c h c a me in form of: furniture componation, sliced doors and object’s simplification; see The Decorator ‘Enlarges’ the
Room, in: The New York Times Magazine (June 28, 1936).

78
     C f. Noel Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press 1979, p. 79.


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       M icrophone’s immobility, and over sensitivity to any noise in the Scenographic
       Space, forced Hollywood film-makers to define new methods of storytelling and
       work around this technical frustration. Ernst Lubitsch’s romantic comedy, One
       Hour With You (1932), contained metered dialogue and numerous songs. But the
       picture was a conglomeration of various camera techniques stressing more on
       images and spatial properties than on spoken lines. Obviously this came to serve
       narratively in illustrating the modern setting’s attributes of the picture. Lubitsch’s
       lengthy tracking and panning of the camera persuasively underlined the
       comp osition of Hans Dreier and A. E. Freudeman’s landmark Art Deco and
       scenographic stylization.

       A s in other film genres, Hollywood employed the mise-en-scenes in the
       melodrama as a narrative vehicle. Spatial realism in the melodrama intensifies
       t he dramatic discourse between the characters and their surroundings. This
       realistic treatment of the spatial composition reveals the characters’ ideo-
       s ociological positions, and manifests, elaborately, their struggle in life.
       Dissimilar to the musical or fantasy films, the melodrama depends profoundly on
       a realistic narrative space.79 The beholder’s interactive association with the
       p ict ure’s data upon the screen depends upon the efficiency of its spatial
       organization.80 The psychologist Robert S. Woodworth confirmed this perceptual
       efficiency of spatial relations, in which the subjects’ forms, sizes, their distance,
       and order from the beholder’s eye are especially qualified to be perceived at
       eas e.81 Out of these treatises, we may suggest that the motion picture’s
       comp os itional image contains more aesthetic signs and data than these
       constituents of the pictorial composition.

3.1.2 Quattrocento Pictorial Art and the Film Scenography
       In photoplay’s infantile days, its compositional treatment was based upon a
       theatrical form of representation. Theatricalization of the set, imposed by the

       79
             Mary Beth Haralovich, All that Heaven Allows: Color, Narrative Space, and Melodrama, in: Peter Lehman (Ed.), Close
       Viewings: An Anthology of New Film Criticism. Tallahassee: The Florida State University Press 1990, pp. 60-61&70.

       80
              Alfred Guzzetti, Narrative and the Film Image, in: New Literary History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter 1975), p. 384; Andre
       B a z i n was obviously reserved to confer further details, when defining the filmic image. Rather, he limited his discussion
       t o t h e a c h i e v ing of that image, which emerges from various aesthetic levels, as it is concluded by the cinematographic
       t ransformance; see Andre Bazin, Qu-est-ce que Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 2 (Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What
       is Cinema? Vol. 2, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1971), p. 175.

       81
            Robert S. Woodworth, Experimental Psychology. New York: Henry Holt 1938, p. 651.


                                                                                                                               121
Scenographer, limited the cinematographic composition to accommodate the
“scenic box” dimensions, and not to exceed its limits. Out of this representational
treatment emerged a centric composition as the only narrative form possible,
which related in its symmetrical nature to the scene’s frontal arrangement. This
compositional approach bore a direct resemblance to Renaissance pictorial art.
In this imitation of Renaissance art, the compositional construction maintained
a kind of pictorial artiness.82 This imitative approach to classical art lent to the
cinematography a somewhat static pictorial quality when taking the symmetrical
comp os it ion in middle and long shots. It delivered a kind of conventional
splendor ‘transferred to the perfection of the frame locked-in-itself.’ These
images were a bold imitation. Their artistic value was justified by how closely
they were reproduced in comparison to the original. Yet when it came to close-up
shots and a grouping of characters, this duplication of the Renaissance became
hop eless because of the dynamic quality of the center of interest. Close-ups
harmed the “artiness” of the picture, as they profoundly contradicted with the
long shots’ approximate originality. By bridging to the dynamic groupings and
close-up shots, the cinematographer had to call for a self-governing handle to the
subject, which in turn provoked the lack of organic unity between the shots.83

Ernst Hans Gombrich affirmed that our spatial activity in our surrounding is what
separates the real world we are living in from that of a picture. Yet while we are
active in the real space, we are led by the modification of appearances arising in
our spatial field, i.e., when we move to and from an object, we see some kind of
deformation in those objects’ sizes in our surroundings while their forms stay the
same.84 Our perception of the dynamic space is higher in quality compared with
our p ercep t ion of a static one, because the former space is closer to our
experience and use of space in our everyday life, whereas in the latter we are
merely exercising a passive observation of a lifeless and still place. Our sense of
space, according to the anthropologist Edward T. Hall, is essentially in favor of
watching activity. It has less to do with the static pictorial representation of the
Renaissance’s vanishing point of the linear perspective and its aid for perceiving


82
    As it is known, in the these days the Scenographer’s professional training started on the stage; V. Nilsen, The Cinema
as a Graphic Art, p. 155.

83
     See ibid., p. 153.

84
   Ernst Hans Gombrich, The “What” and the “How”: Perspective Representation and the Phenomenal World, in: Richard
Rudner and Israel Scheffler (Ed.), Logic & Art. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill 1972, p. 138.


                                                                                                                    122
the spatial, as it was still asserted in most art and architectural academies.85 Hall
elaborated in the narrowing-down of the perceptual theory of the spatial, which
is related, more, to the kinetic depth cue. This emphasizes a valid advantage to
the perception of dynamic depth upon the screen. As the camera passes by in the
Scenographic Space, the beholder witnesses a degree of alteration in the mise-en-
s cenes’ masses, tonal values, and perspective. This, in turn, has a close
relationship with the beholder’s surroundings, but the general shape of the
subject would remain the same. Nonetheless, the vanishing point preserves its
validity in the territory of the static space in Renaissance pictorial art.

Some of the Quattrocento pictorial art invites us to join and share the momentous
nature of the pictorial scene. This communication between the pictorial event and
its beholder was termed by Gombrich, ‘the eye-witness principle.’ Its conception
relates to the canon of perspective. During this pictorial communication,“the
rat ionalization of space” permits every aesthetic sign in the image to be
perceived as if from the same point.86 On the other hand, the conceptualization
of Baroque artists of the space was infinite and unified. Whether seventeenth-
century pictorial art’s totality of space was limited or limitless may be questioned
by art historians. Nontheless everyone agrees that the Baroque’s pictorial space
is ‘continuous and indescribably vast.’ Some artists utilised this boundlessness
of space in letting their composition dive retrogressively into the darkness of
shade and mystery (Rembrandt), others arranged clarity in the foreground and
background (Bellotto)- but both artists shared the concept of unified space.
‘Baroque space, with perfect logic, encompasses the world of the beholder.’
Spatial illusionism technique emerged from Renaissance art and was
methodically taken advantage of by the Baroque artist. After stage Scenographers
realized the artistic value of the illusion of extended space, they borrowed the
concept and replicated it in their stage scenography.87

Late in the nineteenth-century’s stage realism period, the box set started gaining
specific dramatic value in the realistic dramas of Anton Chekhov, Bernard Shaw,


85
     See Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension. Garden City, New York: Doubleday 1966, Chap. VII.

86
     E rnst Hans Gombrich, Standards of the Truth: The Arrested Image and the Moving Eye, in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 7,
No. 2 (Winter 1980), p. 248.

87
    Julius S. Held and Donald Posner, 17th and 18th Century Art: Baroque Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Englewood
Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall 1979, pp. 14-16.


                                                                                                                 123
Jones Pinero and Ibsen.88 That matched well with the emergence of the motion
picture and its borrowing from the stage’s scenography. Hollywood borrowed
this scenographic concept in the “canned and office set” in the transitional period
, during the nineteen-thirties and beyond. A box-like shaped set consisted of a
back wall beside two side-walls (sometimes with a ceiling). The eye-witnessing
principle in this set placed the beholder on the side of the non-existent fourth
wall of the set. This spatial concept can be seen frequently in the scenographic
realis m on the screen during the 1930's. Almost the same spatial plan of
Leonardo Da Vinci, or Andrea Castagno’s Last Supper was reproduced, with
some stylization, in shyster films, newspaper men and business offices in the
tower building. This spatial plan included some of the M oderne, such as Hans
Dreiers’ dining room composition in One Hour with You (1932), or borrowing
from the classic grouping composition as in Citizen Kane (1941). M uch of the
spatial technique of contemporary film scenography is based on the conventional
scenographic conception of the stage. Today’s Scenographer approaches this
s ame p rinciple with an interpretation that is aided by new material and the
technological products available.89

The illusion of extended space was evocatively projected in the Quattrocento
painting. Sometimes this illusion of space was effected by the artist’s use of
longit udinal barrel, or vaulted ceiling. In the silent film period, some of
Hollywood’s Scenographers introduced this same principle of extending space
in their sets. Robert Haas was among those Scenographers who pioneered in the
introduction of a roofed set in the film scenography. Robert Haas realized the
narrative quality of an extended set with a ceiling when he introduced a vaulted
setting in On With the Dance [1920?].90 Fortune’s editor praised the exceptional
spatial treatment with Anton Grot’s introduction of a ceiling and a French
‘estaminet’ in Body and Soul (1930).91 Hollywood’s Scenographers fully sensed
the dramatic effect of the ceiling in reflecting a continuity of space. But they also


88
     R. Myerscough-Walker, Stage and Film Decor. London: Pitman 1939, p. 60.

89
     R o b ert Olson, Art Direction for Film and Video. Boston: Focal Press 1993, pp. 4&23; my spatial configuration for
Oregon Public Broadcasting’s (OPB) weekly program “Seven Days”in 1995, was based on the same “boxed set”
principle, but this time without ceiling.

90
     James Hood MacFarland, Architectural Problems in Motion Picture Production, in: The American Architect, Vol. 118,
No. 2326 (July 21, 1920), p. 66.


91
     Body and Soul Is (Here) Put Together, in: Fortune, Vol. 4 (August 1931), p. 30.


                                                                                                                  124
       understood that this might work in confining the space to reflect the characters’
       psychological state and entrapment, as Anton Grot and John Hughes did in Little
       Caesar (1930), and The Petrified Forest (1936). Hans Dreier together with
       Roland Anderson introduced another form of extending space in the war-drama
       A Farewell to Arms (1932). They introduced foreground and background arches
       in the street scene, which induced magnificent forced perspective, and lent more
       depth cue novelty to the scene. The picture’s scenographic approach reached an
       arresting stylization. It granted Dreier and Anderson an Academy Award
       Nomination.

       M any contemporary film Scenographers, such as Robert Boyle, Ted Haworth,
       Ken Adam, Ferdinando Scarfiotti, among others, regard a Scenographic Space
       with a constructed ceiling as being considerably dramatic. Buonarroti
       M ichelangelo realized the importance of ceilinged space (when he painted the
       ceiling of the Sistine Chapel 1508-1512). In reality there is no living space
       without a ceiling. Its presence is a great challenge to the cinematographer, as the
       ceiling prevents lighting the set from above. In their early days, Hollywood sets
       w ere mostly constructed without a ceiling. Sets were illuminated by lighting
       beams from the top and gantries from around the space. In doing so, beam
       light ing induced a flat outlook of the set and character’s composition. When
       lighting a set with an existing ceiling, the effect called for would be naturalism.92
       This occurs by letting the light source emerge into the set through a window,
       lamp, or fireplace, as we have seen earlier in Wuthering Heights (1939). The film
       s cenographic tradition of constructing a ceilinged set was the admired spatial
       stylization throughout Hollywood’s Renaissance Age. It enhanced the dramatic
       means of spatial organization during the period of realism.

3.1.3 Impressionism and Film Scenography
       Borrowing from the Impressionist’s coloring technique in scenography was
       pioneered by Joseph Urban at Ziegfeld Follies. Urban applied the Impressionistic
       ‘pointillage’ technique while coloring his sets. His avoidance of the application




       92
            S e e Vincent LoBrutto, By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger 1992,
       pp. 14&15ff.


                                                                                                                        125
of s olid color was something new in the scenographic interpretation.93 By
avoiding solid color application on the settings’ walls, Urban secured an
attention- capturing mood of scenographic visualization, and his settings attained
depth cue originality and warmth. In cinematographic practice, capturing a three-
dimensionality of the object always challenged film-makers. Securing the cue of
roundness separated one artist’s technique from another. David W. Griffith was
the first in cinematographic history to introduce the soft-focus lens at Triangle-
Fine Arts Studio. Technically, the soft lens multiplied the image, as it split the
light’s rays hitting the object’s surface. The developed image was a blurring of
clear outlines, and without delicate details, ‘a simplification that has its
equivalent in the canvasses of the impressionist painters. This lens thus gives
added emphasis to mass and added roundness to figures.’94

In one form or another, Impressionism was associated with almost every
scenographic and directorial school in the first half of the twentieth-century. The
concept of laconism in the composition, that we are familiar with, represents the
techniques of the Impressionists.95 It is the concept of simplicity that is at the
heart of this pictorial representation, as it concentrates on abbreviation and
information in handling the subject matter. Impressionists are the originators of
such compositional economy. At this point, Impressionism separates from the
documentary approach of conventional realism.96

Sketching the motion pictures’ laconic compositions’ technicalities may allow
us a closer comparison with Hollywood’s Impressionistic approach in the
s cenographic stylization during the course of 1930's. Linear economy in film


93
         R a n d o l f C arter, The World of Flo Ziegfeld. New York: Praeger Publishers 1974, pp. 44&45; Pointillism
(P o i n t i l lismus): a post-Impressionist school of painting exemplified by George Seurat and his followers in the late 19th-
c e n t u ry F rance, characterized by the application of paint in small dots and brush strokes (ungemischte Farben
punktfoermig nebeneinandergesetzt wurden.)




94
     C arlyle Ellis, Art and the Motion Picture, in: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol.
128, No. 217 (November 1926), pp. 55&56.

95
    S e e L e e Simonson, The Art of Scenic Design: A Pictorial Analysis of Stage Setting and its Relation to Theatrical
Production. New York: Harper & Brothers 1950, p. 38.

96
    Ernst Hans Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York: Bollingen
Foundation 1960 (2 nd Ed., New York: Kingsport Press 1961), pp. 216&217.


                                                                                                                         126
scenography means a reduction in the architectural details, whereas the dramatic
balance, t o this abbreviation in the set, is achieved by the concentration on
reaching accuracy in other mise-en-scenes, and the costumes of the characters.
‘Impressionism in a film setting is generally avoided’ reflected the film
Scenographer John Koenig, ‘because where the long shot of it is successful, the
closeup provides nothing but a blank background.’97 Cinematographically,
employing softening lenses and utilizing a certain mood of lighting, were two
s cant y means of projecting Impressionism in the moving picture,‘but in a
finis hed form Impressionism’ stated Vladimir Nilsen ‘has never existed as a
creative tendency’ on the screen.98 Impressionistic style was rarely done, or
reached the screen during the Golden Age. In this rare incarnation, Anton Grot
subtly matched the linear economy in his spatial configuration of the courtroom,
in Captain Blood (1935) (see Illustration 49). He successfully abbreviated the
scenographic detail to the most expressive and simple elements. Yet the spatial
composition provided sufficient information regarding the narrative action.
Anton Grot relied primarily on period detail accuracy, which was manifested in
the mise-en-scenes through the lectern, portcullis and the judges’ benches. Anton
Grot reduced the Scenographic Space’s walls to some flat surfaces void of any
period details. This scenographic economy was balanced with the spirit of the
age through the character’s costumes and also accessories .

The Impressionist scenographic school shared the same concept of abbreviation
with the German Expressionist approach of spatial economy. But we must be
very careful here in defining the limit that differentiates both scenographies
profoundly from each other: distinctive form, lines, composition, perspective,
lightingeffects, and tonal treatment, all form the identity that separates one style
from another. The Penthouse nightclub in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), slightly
revealed Anton Grot’s Expressionistic accentuation of the set. His setting for the
mus ical revealed a very careful combination of the Impressionist and
Expressionist compositional abbreviation, which was introduced in the linear
economy and angularity of the modern architectural form. A reduction orthodoxy
is noticeable in the Scenographic Space’s walls, floors, and mise-en-scenes. Grot
reduced the set’s spatial vocabulary to one single table, and the remaining space
deals with the character’s choreographic composition. The set’s lighting
treatment was Expressionistic. It revealed deliberate shades deformation- some

97
     John Koenig, Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore Museum of Art 1942.


98
     V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 158.


                                                                               127
        w ere unusually magnified while others crossed one another reflecting the
        dynamic of the dance.99

3.2 Stereoscopic Perspective in the Spatial Configuration
        Datingback to the early years of the fifteenth-century, a new conception of space
        started emerging from Florence, Italy. Translating the new concept of space into
        a new aesthetic means was achieved by the discovery of perspective. This law
        was emerged as an unquestioned reference in any artistic representation during
        the last five centuries. ‘With the invention of perspective the modern notion of
        individualism found its artistic counterpart. Every element in a perspective
        rep resentation is related to the unique point of view of the individual
        s p ect ator.’100 Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect and sculptor, fathered the
        mathematically based perspective formula, with its consistent retrogression of
        painted subjects. Brunelleschi’s revolutionary representation, in his two pictures,
        projected balanced shortening toward a central point (vanishing point). ‘This
        directly controlled the onlooker’s position in relation to the pictured scene, both
        in distance and direction.’ The central projection system attempted to link the
        realistic pictorial space to its beholder’s everyday life. That made the new system
        a revolutionary concept in art. On the other hand, Leon Battista Alberti was the
        artist who reduced the mathematical formula of the new pictorial system to the
        s imp lest form, and made the new spatial discovery available for the average
        artist.101

        It w as in the seventeenth-century, in which the concept of space became an




        99
            Certainly Warner Brothers’ executives highly welcomed this extremely cost effective spatial economy, since it well
        matched their spending policy.

        100
               S e e S i g fried Giedion, Space Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
        Harvard University Press 1941 (1949, 1954, 1962, and 5 th Ed. 1967), pp. 30&31.

        101
               A mo n g t h e most constructive treatises on the subject was written by John White, The Birth and Rebirth of the
                                                                   rd
        Pictorial Space. Faber and Faber 1957 (1967, and 3 Ed., Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard
        U n i v ersity Press 1987), pp. 113, 120&125; ‘Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) “gave considerable attention to the study
        o f p e rs p e c t i v e , t h e rules of which are often falsely interpreted; and in this he expended much time until at length he
        d i s c overed a perfectly correct method, that of taking the ground plan and sections by means of intersecting lines, a truly
        i n g e n i o u s t h i n g, and of great utility to the arts of [spatial organization].” Lee Simonson, The Art of Scenic Design: A
        P i c t o r i a l Analysis of Stage Setting and its Relation to the Theatrical Production. New York: Harper & Brothers 1950,
        p. 1.


                                                                                                                                    128
aesthetic model.102 In contrast to the Renaissance perspective’s confined range
of dis t ance and need to have a calculated point of optical arrest, Baroque
perspective is based on an infinite field of vision.103 We have seen this pictorial
t echnique earlier in Baroque art. Perspective is a qualified system for
representing images that creates illusion for the beholder. Renaissance artists,
like those of the Baroque, produced depth cue in their pictorial art through the
introduction of painted ceilings, tiled floors or through architectural forms. But
s t ill, reflected Gombrich, the effect of the cue of depth in the image rests
profoundly on the beholder’s share and hypothesis.104

Baroque Scenographers realized that the projection of a symmetrical plan could
provide a visually interesting image.105 The same spatial formula was inherited
by Hollywood’s Scenographer and cinematographer. Symmetrical composition
not only proved its narrative success in this spatial organization, but in the
cinemat ography, opposing the rules that call for avoiding such monotonous
interpretation. Frederic Hope, Edwin B. Willis and Cedric Gibbons based their
s p atial arrangement of the house’s entrance in Anna Karenina (1935) on a
definite Baroque symmetrical conception. It provided an arresting image on the
s creen. William Daniels truthfully preserved this visually interesting mirror
image as he framed it from a frontal and eye-level angle. When the camera
moved to the side, the image obtained an additional aesthetic quality through the
formation of an asymmetrical view of the space.

Up to now, we have examined the formula and background of the static
perspective (prospettiva, or perspectiva) of the pictorial image. When we deal
with the dynamic perspective of moving pictures, the rules must be adjusted to
fit ‘the kinetic of perspective construction.’ M otion pictures perspective could
be introduced to scenographic arrangement in the form of lines, forms diminution
and ot her aesthetic means, which would be integrated with the dynamic

102
      Ibid., p. 11.

103
     Sigfried Giedion, Space Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press 1941 (1949, 1954, 1962, and 5 th Ed. 1967), p. 54; pictorial space of the Renaissance resembled the space
o f E u c l idean geometry, while the absolute, and static entity of the Baroque space relates to Newton; see ibid., pp.
435&436.


104
      Ernst Hans Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York: Bollingen
Foundation 1960 (2 nd Ed. New York: Kingsport Press 1961), pp. 250&261.

105
      John Koenig, Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art 1942.


                                                                                                                    129
movement of the characters within the scene. Composing a dynamic perspective
on the screen might be achieved by a character’s movement into the depth of the
scene along the main line of vision, or diagonally following a certain line on the
frame and toward the main line of vision.106 All forms of perspectives, including
t he kinetic, relate to the realistic canons commanding the construction and
p erception of the space. ‘The essence of realistic organization of space in
representational technique consists in the last resort in transmitting, on the two-
dimensional plan of the image, the optical impression of objects distributed at
varying distances from the eyes.’107

O bjects gain their three-dimensionality in the spatial configuration by
retrogression toward the back of the space, and by gaining some degree of
roundness. Deforming the object’s shape is another qualified effect of
representing a depth cue in the pictorial image. There are virtually no deformed
objects, because this deformation is intended to create an impression of space.
Additionally, introducing the effect of steep gradients would give the impression
of extended space by allowing unequal objects to look equal in the space.108 Cecil
B. D eM ille recognized the dramatic efficiency of the canonical forms in
constructing and perceiving a scene. In his dynamic composition, with the aide
of his associate artists, he applied these rules in nearly every picture he made,
beginning with Manslaughter (1922), The Road to Yesterday (1925), and The
King of Kings (1927). In This Day and Age (1933), he constructed highly
narrative gradient composition as a display effect. In the scene in which Charles
Bickford lays prone as a victim of Richard Cromwell and Eddie Nugent, DeM ille
cons t ructed his characters’ composition with highly artistic calculation. The
grouping in the front on the right side (Richard Cromwell and Eddie Nugent)
w ere s tanding. The next rows behind them were standing also, but one step
higher and so on, until we see the last characters sitting on top of the semi-
staircase. DeM ille’s composition followed the steep gradient form. On the left
s ide our reading of the scene started by first scanning a large wagon wheel,
followed by the principal character (Charles Bickford) and a few others sitting
next to him, while the last three rows of the composition are standing on a steep

106
      V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 53.

107
       Ibid., p. 48; for more about the cine-perspective’s basic thirteen theorems, with their mathematical fundaments by A.
N. Rinin, see ibid., pp. 53&54.

108
     Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974), pp. 258, 263&278.


                                                                                                                      130
gradient. This form of steep gradient composition permitted each character in the
comp os it ion to be equally visible to the camera and share the dramatic
moment um of the scene. The composition acquired a definite roundness by
manip ulating the contrast and direction of the scene’s illumination. DeM ille
repeated this same Baroque steep gradient formula, with some alteration, in The
Crusades (1935), and in Union Pacific (1939) among others.

When transforming the spatial organization from its three-dimensional form into
a t wo-dimensional image on the screen, the screen image should match the
Scenographer’s original sketch. This will happen by selecting the proper lens and
p lacing t he camera at a certain angle. At the end, the resulting image on the
screen will coincide with the Scenographer’s sketch. Correspondingly, the set
should be truthfully reproduced with all details of the original, i.e., it must be
constructed to match the exact original sketch of the Scenographer and preserve
the dramatic quality of the scene.109

Calling for spatial unity can be maintained with a deep-focus shot (wide-angle
s hot ), w hich is understood as a process useful in capturing objects at long,
medium, and close distances simultaneously. It sustains the arrangement of the
mise-en-scenes retrogressively in their spatial relationship. The deep-focus shot’s
layering technique signposts the beholder’s attention to read the scene from the
front, to the middle, and to the back.110 This shot allows the beholder to have the
option of selecting the relevant aesthetic signs and data desired for some
identification. Bold tonal values or vivid lighting treatments, are both valid
aesthetic implications for stressing depth cue and roundness in the space. By
these artistic means, a high contrasted lighting effect differentiates the image’s
‘various planes and their spatial relationships even more clearly than the linear
pattern with its insistence on sharp angles.’111

In Leonardo Da Vinci’s treatises on the central projection of perspective we read:
‘A ll objects transmit their image to the eye in pyramids,’ and the perceived


1 09                                                                                                           nd
      Edward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio Publications 1941 (2             Ed.,
Designing for Films, 1949), p. 114.

110
       See Louis Giannetti, Understanding Movies, p. 11.

111
      J o h n White, The Birth and Rebirth of the Pictorial Space. Faber and Faber 1957 (1967, and 3 rd Ed. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 1987), p. 190.


                                                                                                                131
image in this transmission varies in size according to the eye’s distance from the
subject- the nearer the eye is to the subject , the smaller the image (Illustration
50). ‘Perspective,’ remarked Leonardo ‘in dealing with distances, makes use of
two opposite pyramids, one of which has its apex in the eye and the base as
distant as the horizon. The other has the base toward the eye and the apex on the
horizon.’ In other words, the former pyramid signifies the image of the real world
(e.g., landscape, buildings, et al.), whereas the latter is caused by the former.112
Both the relations together with orientation of lines have distinctive meaning in
the system of representation (perspectival projection). In this relationship, the
image’s converging lines ‘towards the vanishing point of the picture are
understood to be at a right angle to the picture plane, and the orientation of other
foreshortened objects of known shape is seen in relation to this system.’113 In the
Paradise Night Club of Broadway (1929), Charles D. Hall introduced a central
projection system in his spatial organization (Illustration 51). Hall introduced
both convergent and vertical perspective. The two main towers on both sides of
the set, and the sides’ various planes are at right angles to the floor’s convergent
plan, and are pointing toward the center of the composition. When we look at the
vertical perspective’s composition -of the Art Deco skyscrapers from a low
angle- we are captivated by the foreshortening of the skyscrapers’ forms and
tonal values. The tall buildings rise up to converge at the vanishing point (Punto
di fuga, point of flight, or Fluchtpunkt) in the sky. Our reading of the set’s
vocabularies is aided essentially by the contrasted tones of the various planes of
the set. We are guided by the tonal treatment of the mise-en-scene’s gray series
in their various planes, and that lends to the Scenographic Space an additional
novelty of depth cue. The perspectival and tonal retrogression are determinants
in capturing our attention way up in the composition, in the place that is only
suitable for dreams.

Technically speaking, there are impracticalities in carrying out a life size three-
dimensional set directly from the film Scenographer’s two-dimensional sketch.


112
       J ean Paul Richter (Ed.), The Literary Works of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol. I, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle
                           nd
& R i v i n g t o n 1 8 83 (2 Ed., The Notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol. 1, New York: Dover Publications 1970), pp.
3 4 &5 6 ; t h e novelty of spatial realism in the central projection of Quattrocento art matched the age’s common belief that
re a l i s m e q u als natural and metaphysical canons. The vanishing point reflected the commanding force in God’s
g e ometrically based cosmos and man’s ethical obligation in this world. Furthermore, it accommodates physical law as
a n o t h e r me a n s of realism; see Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr., The Renaissance Rediscovery of Linear Perspective. New York:
Basic Books 1975, p. 56.

113
       E rnst Hans Gombrich, The “What” and the “How”: Perspective Representation and the Phenomenal World, in:
Richard Rudner and Israel Scheffler (Ed.), Logic & Art. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill 1972, p. 144.


                                                                                                                       132
Rep roducing any three-dimensional object is practical on paper, in a term of
plane and elevation related to a certain scale. The set’s dimensions are
proportionally constructed in accordance with the scale of the Scenographer’s
draw ing, while the latter is proportionally originated. In other words, the
t echnical drawing is based on the Scenographer’s sketch from which the set
originates.114

In the movie auditorium, when the picture is projected on the screen, the least
level of perspective distortion in the image will be perceived from only one seat
(around the center), which is located on the axis of projection. In viewing a film,
the beholder tries unintentionally to have the proper point-of-view with regard
to the spatial composition. Suppose the beholder is seated in the central seat with
the correct perspective, he will be viewing the image from the same angle from
which the camera recorded the image. Watching the scene from any other point
in the auditorium alters the perspective and causes the beholder to perceive an
‘erroneous estimate of his apparent distance from the objects in the picture
area.’115 Beside the distortion of the mechanical representation which could
sometimes be out of the artistic control, there is another form of distortion that
might be intended in the artistic product. In the artistic representation, obeying
the rules is not always the best method for capturing the beholder’s attention or
attaining the faculty of high aesthetical order. Sometimes breaking the laws of
linear perspective in a given form of art is a matter of choice for the artist. In this
regard, violating the canons of the system of representation by the artist is not to
be unders t ood as a shortcoming in the artist’s ability. It is rather a studied
selection of another system of representation.116 In the early talkie drama Alibi
(1929), William Cameron M enzies did not disregard the law of the system of
representation (Illustration 52). Rather, he exaggerated the formation of his linear
p ers p ect ive to a degree that exceeded realism. M enzies’ composition of the
“police station switch board” called for an impressive exaggeration, to the point

1 14
         Edward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio Publications 1941 (2 nd Ed.,
D e s i g n i n g for Films, 1949), p. 116; on the perspectival application in the spatial arrangement, see Harry Morgan,
Perspective Drawing for the Theatre. New York: Drama Book Specialists 1979.


115
      From the central seat in the movie house, the beholder is privileged with a vivion of grandeur, i.e., ‘the screen might
b e l i k e n e d t o a plate-glass window through which the observer looks with one eye at the actual scene.’ see Arthur C.
H a rd y and R. W. Conant, Perspective Considerations in Taking and Projecting Motion Pictures, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol.
12, No. 33 (1928), p. 117; the discussion here is related to the screen properties of the late 1920's.

116
       Marx W. Wartofsky, Pictures, Representation, and the Understanding, in: Richard Rudner and Israel Scheffler (Ed.),
Logic & Art. Indianapolis and New York: The bobbs-Merrill 1972, p.158, fn. 7.


                                                                                                                       133
of having an Expressionistic touch. He structured a linear and overcrowded
composition of the characters in the police station switchboard, and sustained this
feeling by shooting at a low angle, from which the scene should be recorded.
M enzies’ envisioning of the scene from a low angle captured the dominance of
the law enforcement, whose reach was limitless through an impressive system
of communication. Like William Cameron M enzies, Anton Grot was in favor of
the Germanic Expressionist school, which is the scenographic school most-
known in breaking the rules of realism in spatial representation. Anton Grot
violated the canons of representation in Svengali (1931). He caricatured the space
with forced and cycloramic perspectives, which lent to his setting a great deal of
depth, and reflected the grotesque spirit of the Victorian fantasy melodrama.

In addition, Hollywood film-makers staged realistic perspective in their dramatic
treatments. Cecil B. DeM ille, like M ervyn Le Roy and John Ford, all complied
realistically while dealing with the system of representation. In the prison drama
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Le Roy’s association with the
Scenographer Jack Okey delivered a highly perceptual linear perspective
composition to the screen (Illustration 53). A replica of the prison camp was built
on Warner Brothers’ Ranch. The prison’s interior composition was organized in
depth, revealing all the attributes of the linear perspective composition.
Sy stematic consistency of the mise-en-scenes was evident in the space, thus
emphasizingthe brutal life in the prison: the beds and the prisoners’ clothes were
uniform, men were seated in the same position, they hung their shirts in same
manner on the wall, lights were placed in the ceiling one after the other to the
end of the prison, and their hands and legs were chained to each other. Every
piece of artistic vocabulary in the scene is converging toward a central point at
t he end of the hall, where the prison authority is standing by the door and
watching every move in the space with command. This was used to resemble a
vanishing point, or a central projection of the spatial realism. Busby Berkeley
notably formed linear perspective compositions in his pictures, in his musicals
G old Diggers of 1935 (1935), and Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). About a
hundred girls playing pianos, or marching with drums and flags, marked another
dynamic and linear perspective in the filmic space.

John Ford was another film-maker who persuasively formed a linear perspective
on the screen. In Stagecoach (1939), he preserved a classical beauty in the frame
at all t imes. Ford’s visualization of M onument Valley was a well-studied
comp os it ion in terms of depth. Bert Glennon and Ray Binger’s artistic
cinematography kept the coach and horses in the foreground to permit the

                                                                              134
beholder’s eye to scan the scene’s artistic vocabulary from the front to the back.
A ccording to the law of the screen’s perspective, the wagon was rolling
relatively diagonally into the depth of the frame and was guiding our eye to the
vastness of scene’s space, which extended to the horizon. John Ford won critical
praise for his composition involving endless depth extended into the desert and
mountains, rather than being dependent on the spoken lines.117

During the transitional period, due to the camera’s confinement in its placing, it
t ransmitted single-perspective filming. To form multi-perspective scenes,
Hollywood employed multiple camera shooting. One camera was used for close-
ups, another for medium shots, and one for long shots. This continuity-bridging
t echnique saved Hollywood from a monotonous representational treatment
during the emergence of sound.118 Still, perspective has many vital tools for
sustaining the narrative action on the screen. Based on aesthetical visualization
and its significance in film practice, Fox’s film Scenographer Gordon Wiles
suggested renaming the scenographic and cinematographic departments at the
studio. These departments’ names should, according to him, ask the question:
“How will it show up on the screen?,” because a setting must fill the screen with
a high dramatic efficiency in order to be devotedly viewed by its beholder.
Accomplishing this aesthetic paradigm can be approached by utilizing the canons
of spatial organization, including perspectival and cinematographic technique.
In doing this, noted Gordon Wiles, the set would appear greater in value than it
actually is, and its expenditure would be definitely lower at the same time.119 In
summary, perspective in film scenography is a system of representation. A well-


117
       T he house of realism, MGM, occasionally used painted perspective. In the silent drama The Crowd (1928), Arnold
Gillespie and Cedric Gibbons introduced painted perspective, with a ceiling to give the impression of a deep and modern
c o rri d or. The spatial discourse provided the story with a level of vitality (Illustration 54). Its formula was borrowed from
Q u attrocento pictorial art, and was repeatedly stylized in Hollywood’s spatial composition; in Dodsworth (1936), Richard
Day introduced a build perspective in his setting for the Union Motor Company. The modern building’s facade was well-
v i s i b l e from the office of Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston), the owner of the automobile factory. Richard Day succeeded
re ma rk a b l y i n reflecting the capitalist idol mingled with the modern Bauhaus style. By introducing this form of forced
p e rs p e ctive, Day’s set created the impression of an empire of fortune, i.e., in showing the building’s mass far larger than
it actually was (Illustration 55).

118
       D u ri n g this period, the editing technique was handled as practical rather than aesthetical process; see Thomas W.
B o h n a n d Richard L. Srtromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of the Motion Pictures. Port
Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 217.




119
      See Gordon Wiles, Small Sets: Maximum Production Value with Minimum Cost, in: A. C., Vol. 13, No. 5 (September
1932), p. 11; James Wong Howe, Visual Suggestion Can Enhance “Rationed” Sets, in: A. C., Vol. 23, No. 6 (June 1942),
pp. 246&247.


                                                                                                                         135
       arranged perspectival composition creates a convincing illusion of extended
       s p ace, and lures the beholder into the screen story. By introducing central
       projection into the spatial structurization, the artistic setting of the motion picture
       became a form of expressive realism. By applying the canonical forms of
       perspective to the Scenographic Space, film-makers attained an unquestionable
       aesthetical stylization of spatial realism during the course of the 1930's. This in
       turn was, and is, a qualified technique in creating a highly perceptual narrative
       stream between the scene and its beholder.

3.3 Mobile Compositional Image Framing
       During the primitive-period of film-making, framing the scene was conducted
       from a distance similar to that between the stage and the beholder’s seat in the
       theater. The scenic box, in which the action proceeded, rarely connoted a space
       behind or to the sides of the set. During the transition period (1909-1916), this
       distance was adjusted, shifting the beholder’s seat closer to the action. Some
       technical and artistic factors contributed to this process, including: ‘the staging
       of the action in depth, changes in [scenographic organization], considerable
       depth of field, and directional lighting.’120 M ostly the technological
       improvements (such as improved lenses, and new lighting units) governed the
       way of framing a motion picture composition. Artistic modulations only came
       after the camera allowed film-makers to stage their composition either in depth
       or, in later stages, on both sides of the screen. How to place a scene and its
       dynamic action within the frame was a question continually challenging film-
       makers from the early days of film, because the way of placing a filmic image in
       t he frame would dictate the action’s dramatic means and quality, and would
       distinguish one model of filming from another.

       A motion picture’s composition means capturing a certain image inside a
       rectangle frame similar to that of pictorial art. Yet the dynamic properties of a
       motion composition separate it from the static momentous expressed by the
       painter. The dynamic quality of film composition causes the content of the filmic
       frame t o change from one moment to the next, which forms the base for
       constructing a filmic composition. Its boundaries are defined by the frame. This
       requires film-makers to arrange the screen composition in a concept based on a


       120
             D . B o rdwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Film
       Production to 1960, p. 214.


                                                                                                              136
realistic form of movement.121 Frame and the physical dimensions of the film are
related closely to the aesthetical outlook and projection of the image onto the
screen, and these proportions were established in the early days of the movies.
Workingseparately, and not having knowledge of each other’s work, Edison and
Lumiere adapted almost the same frame and film dimensions in their pictures.
Their defined frame proportion -35 millimeter film- became a worldwide norm
in the production of motion pictures. Thanks to this standardization, a picture
p roduced in any country can be projected anywhere in the world without
technical limitations.122

Based on aesthetical necessities, clear back from the silent film era, there have
been attempts to alter the fixed dimensions of the screen’s frame , as horizontal
or vertical composition framing required such alteration. Griffith tried this by
covering the upper, lower or sides of the frame to stress a certain form of
comp os itional framing. Circular framing was carried out for focusing the
attention on the center of the action. In a conference held in Hollywood at the
A cademy of M otion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1930, Sergei M ikhailovich
Eisenstein suggested the use of ‘a circular frame into which rectangles of
different proportions could be introduced to meet the needs of different types of
composition.’ This suggestion did not receive enough popularity to survive. Yet
the accepted norm for framing did not change, continuing the proportion of four
to three.123

In an article in JSM PE published in M ay of 1938, it was stated that screen size
did not occupy the beholder’s field of vision. Black screen masking and the
light ing level of the walls and ceiling surfaces which surrounded the screen,
caused an unsuitable level of lighting with regard to the screen image’s
illumination, and distracted the beholder. To remedy this, B. Schlanger and J.
Gilston devised a screen synchrofield system. The new screen system proposed

121
      Edward Carrick, Art and Design in the British Film. London: Dobson 1948, p. 8.

122
      35mm = 1.378 inches wide; see John Arnold, Shooting the Movies, in: Nancy Naumburg, We Make the Movies. New
Y o rk : W . W . N o rton 1937, p. 147; ‘There are three smaller-sized standards for amateur and home-movie film: 16 mm.
w i de, 8 mm. and in Europe, 9.5 mm. wide.’Ibid., p. 148, fn*; Hollis Frampton stated: “There is, our 1.33 to 1 rectangle,
i t w i l l t o l e ra t e precious little tampering with at all.” This was the ratio of the so- called “academy frame”; see Stephen
Heath, Narrative Space, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn 1976), p. 82.


123
        E rnst Lindgren, The Art of The Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, p. 116; to stress a horizontal accent in The
B i r t h o f a Nation (1915), Griffith masked the upper and the lower parts of the frame. In Intolerance (1916), he masked
both sides of the frame to highlight the height of the walls as a soldier falls down from the spire bulwark of Babylon.


                                                                                                                             137
lighting the marginal border of the screen in a way which harmonized with the
illumination of the screen’s image. Bridging smoothly between the screen’s
surrounding and its image sustained the narrative action on the screen and invited
the beholder to be involved in the space presented on the screen.124

M otion picture spatial organization is structured within the limits of the frame,
and the composition’s limits are defined according to the proportion of the frame.
If the canvas’ framing is variably produced, the photoplay’s is not- it is confined
by its standardized norm. Any alteration to the frame’s academic ratio (1.33 to
1) -such as masking any of its borders- violates the rule, and is usually
disapproved of. Preserving the frame ratio is highly recommended.125 After the
screen hosts the frame (image), it lends it its flatness and makes it ready for the
beholder to perceive. From a psychoanalytical point-of-view, this process ‘has
come to stress the dream as itself projected on a screen.’ In other words, the
screen forms the ground for the projected images to rest upon. This projection
provides the foundation ‘of the spatial articulations a film will make, the start of
its composition.’126

Framing canon emerged from Renaissance art, in which altarpieces were framed
by pilasters and lintels. The function of compositional framing, related Rudolf
Arnheim, is connected to the psychology of the composition. Pictorial space
separates itself from the wall and constitutes its own visual world, maintained
Arnheim, and a distinct visual differentiation became essential to separate the
image’s composition from its outside surroundings. Framing the image means
definingthe composition’s limits, but not the end of the pictorial space.127 Andre
Bazin perceived the frame from a paralleled point-of-view. For Bazin, the screen
edges are not the framers of the screen image. They are a form of masking that
allows only some of the reality to be visible on the screen. If a pictorial frame
polarizes the space to the inner of the image, the screen extends it. ‘A frame is


1 24
     Cf. B. Schlanger, A Method of Enlarging the Visual Field of the Motion Picture, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 30, No. 5
(May 1938), pp. 503-508.

125
       See Stephen Heath, Narrative Space, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn 1976), p. 82.

126
       See ibid., pp. 84&85.

127
     Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974), p. 239.


                                                                                                                 138
centripetal, the screen centrifugal.’128

Havingconverted to sound, Hollywood used a reframing technique to substitute
quick cutting. It preserved the centralization of a moving figure in the frame.129
In the scenographic arena, we may witness, from the late Twenties throughout
the Thirties, that Hollywood Scenographers borrowed pilasters surrounding
altarpieces from the Renaissance framing system, and placed them visibly in the
back of the Scenographic Space. Additionally, Hollywood film-makers took full
advantage of pilasters and lintels as a static frame for a dynamic composition.
This classic system of framing was borrowed for the bath of The Magnificent
Flirt (1928). The same framing technique applies to the characters’ composition
of “Singing in the Bathtub” in The Show of Shows (1929). Characters are singing,
while they are framed within altarpieces and the lintel at the end of the bath. The
Scenographic Spaces’ lintel was raised from the floor to be reached by staircases
from the right and left. Unavoidably, this framing technique guides the attention
to the composition’s center of interest. Hollywood Scenographic stylization went
further in the inspiration of the Renaissance framing system to the extent of
copying, with some additional accentuation of the M oderne. This was evident in
Show People (1928), Interference (1929), and most notably in “The Piccolino”
night club in Top Hat (1935). Hollywood realized the narrative quality of the
scenographic framing system when applied to moving or stationary subjects.
F raming within portals, arches, and doorways reveal another secret of
H olly wood’s conventional narrative of spatial stylization. It was a tradition
continued from the silent film era. This visually effective framing formula was
manifested in William Cameron M enzies’ The Thief of Bagdad (1924). M enzies’
planning of arches, portals, and doorways induced a remarkably narrative
framing, as it suggested a frame within the frame. Anton Grot used the framing
system in his sets by introducing doors and hallways into Mystery of the Wax
Museum (1933), and Captain Blood (1935).

Screen images are separated from their surrounding of the movie theater by the


128
      C f. A n dre Bazin, Qu-est-ce que le Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 1 ( Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What is
Cinema? Vol. 1, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967), p. 166.



129
         S e e D . B o rdwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Film
P r o d u c t i o n t o 1960, p. 304; reframing means slight panning or tilting the camera to center a moving character in the
fra me . . E v e ry picture produced in Hollywood attained some form of this practice. After 1929, one in six shots utilized
reframing technique at least once. Ibid., p. 51.


                                                                                                                       139
frame of the screen. One framed composition cannot be regarded as independent
work from the whole body of the film. ‘A single-frame image from a movie is
necessarily an artificially frozen moment’ and it is one comprising the whole that
assembles the body of the film. Therefore, it cannot be separated from its context
of the spatial and temporal continuos. ‘For critical purposes, it’s sometimes
necessary to analyze a still frame in isolation, but the viewer ought to make due
allowances for the dramatic and temporal contexts of the image.’130 The frame’s
horizontal and vertical ratio acts as consistent guide to the beholder. This carries
decisive meaning for the dynamic composition, as the composition is structured
to fit within the frame, and not the frame to match the composition. The frame
defines the composition limits and disregards non-related cues; it contains only
the relevant aesthetic signs of the composition, whose organization is governed
by its idealistic order. Film-makers take advantage of the frame’s technical
aspect particularly in close-ups, recovering what they may not have captured in
long or medium shots. Louis Giannetti observed: ‘the frame is likened a
window’- the beholder is seated in front of and curiously trying to intervene ‘into
the intimate details of the character’s lives.’131 What lays within the film frame
limits is visible, and what lays without is not. This challenged film authors to
arres t only one image from a series of unlimited images of real life. As a
formative and perspectival tool, the image’s selection should provide specific
dramatic assurance. Arnheim sees, also, in the screen frame’s horizontal-vertical
ratios, a reference to the shot’s same accentuated lines. A diagonal move, or line
w it hin the frame, would obviously sit in contrast to the frame’s rectangular
features.132

John D. Elms, an American, introduced a two-lens camera that operated with two
35 millimeter films. In 1922, Elms projected two frames side by side, yet he
could not join the two frames smoothly together. In 1937 a far advanced process
was devised by Henri Chretien, and the twin projector system was operated with
Chretien’s CinemaScope lenses. It took Hollywood a decade and a half to adapt
Chretien’s lenses but not so his twin projectors, which created the largest and
w ides t screen dimensions since the Cineorama- the double screen and two
projectors system were initially proposed for the exhibition of Gone With the


130
      L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 42&44.


131
      See ibid., pp. 44&47.


132
      Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1957, pp. 73&74.


                                                                                                               140
Wind (1939). The burning Atlanta scenes were shot with the two cameras system,
but last minutes changes by the picture’s financiers kept the process from coming
to life, who assumed that the picture would succeed without such projection.133
In the early 1950's, the emergence of the wide-screen system required new
definition and technique in the representational treatment.“The Todd-Ao” ultra-
w ide screen format created immense problems to the cinematography. Wide-
screen format offered too much to look at in the frame. In this, preserving the
focus of interest in the scene became the chief concern. Focusing the attention
on a particular subject in the scene was sometimes achieved by lighting it
distinctively compared with the rest of the scene, or by placing a large object on
one side of the frame occupying good portion of the front. Robert Surtees used
this in Oklahoma (1955). In addition, Surtees avoided centering a figure in the
middle of the frame, as he paid attention to the general balance of the
comp os it ion. Reframing was replaced by letting characters move within the
frame instead of following them.134 Todd-Ao lenses magnified the image and
made them sharper, but this in turn created problems in painting the set, and
make-up. Painting the set required exhaustive care in preserving an authentic
outlook-if such preparations were overlooked, the effect would be visible to the
camera.135

When cinematographing a composition dominated by horizontal lines with an
ext reme w ide angle lens, the resulting image on the screen would show
distortions in the lines around the center of the frame. These lines would bind
toward the center as they arrived at the edges of the screen. The only line that
would not undergo any distortion was that of the center. Reducing the horizontal
distortion in the wide screen system may be achieved by shooting the image from
three quarters of an angle; when arranging the set in depth, wide screen distortion
can be overcome by bending the setting’s lines toward the camera.136 The wide-
s creen system imposed demanding restrictions on Hollywood’s spatial code.

133
     Kenneth MacGowan, The Wide Screen of Yesterday and Tomorrow, in: The Quarterly of Film, Radio and Television,
Vol. 11, No. 3 (Spring 1957), pp. 226&227.

134
      Herb A. Lightman, Shooting “Oklahoma!” in Todd-Ao, in: A. C., Vol. 36, No. 4 (April 1955), p. 210; Todd-Ao: the
t e rm i s a b b reviated from the process originator’s name Michael Todd, and the American Optical Company, who worked
o n developing the wide-screen system; see Arthur Rowan, Todd-Ao--Newest Wide-Screen System, in: A. C., Vol. 35,
No. 10 (October 1954), p. 494.

135
      Herb A. Lightman, Shooting “Oklahoma!” in Todd-Ao, in: A. C., Vol. 36, No. 4 (April 1955), p. 243.

136
      Gayne Rescher, Wide Angle Problems in Wide Screen Photography, in: A. C., Vol. 37, No. 5 (May 1956), p. 301.


                                                                                                                     141
Film Scenographers had to shift in their spatial configuration toward an accent
of horizontality, in order to match balance in the ultra-wide frame format. Fitting
t he composition into the frame was a challenge between placing much of the
large mise-en-scenes in the front, and keeping persuasive narrative quality in the
image. This led to some divergence of attention from the dramatic action
presented on the large screen format.

A s res ult of the projection process, each frame recorded on the film matrix
occupies the screen for one twenty-fourth of a second. Correspondingly twenty-
four images per second are projected on the screen, forming the essential
components of a film. Every single frame of the entire film is separated from its
neighbor by black strip; each frame does not bear a resemblance to its adjacent’s
specification. Thus, their sequential flux invokes the illusion of moving pictures.
Due to the human eye’s shortcomings in recording similar and separated images
in sequence, the mechanical projection found a free path to the naked eye for the
motion picture’s existence.137 This mechanism of the projection process ensures
that the screen is constantly filled with frames or images. With their presence, the
narrational stream is active, and in their absence the screen is “empty.”138

Some film Scenographers pre-staged their scenographic compositions in their
own unique way. William Cameron M enzies was one of them. He integrated the
image frame as a part of the composition. In this framing technique, M enzies did
not center the composition within the frame. Alternatively, his composition
exceeded the limits of the frame. The fact that the master did not consider
following the rules only to create a well-composed image, is something
exceptional. For M enzies the dramatic reason governs the shot. Every camera
setup must provide in one way or another some dramatic quality to the picture
as a whole.139 In his sketches for Bulldog Drummond (1929), and The Greatest
G ift [1945?], M enzies broke the conventional rules of framing a mobile
comp osition. He introduced a dramatic framing technique in the close-ups,
preserving the scene’s simplicity. Sometimes M enzies placed two thirds of a

137
     Andrew Sarris (Ed.), Interview with Film Directors. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill 1967, pp. 14&15; it is
noteworthy to remember that an average picture constituents vary between 120,000 to 150,000 frames.

1 38
       Cf. Stephen Heath, Narrative Space, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn 1976), p. 85; ‘In the late 1930's and early
1 9 40's, the average shot length of a full-length Hollywood film has been estimated at about 9-10 seconds, but that
fragmentation is the condition of a fundamental continuity.’ Ibid., pp. 86&87.


139
       Ezra Goodman, Production Designing, in: A. C., Vol. 26, No. 3 (March 1945), p. 83.


                                                                                                                   142
       p ort rait ure, or head, or even a portion of a body in the frame and the rest
       remained off-frame. In the late nineteen-nineties, modern film-makers adapted
       this off-framing technique as a new aesthetical means on the television screen for
       the commercial world (U. S. West Communications, American Express Financial
       Advisor among others).

       Comp os it ion limits are the cinematographer’s chief concern while framing a
       character’s composition. Reserving space is required to keep the subject well
       framed when the subject moves or stands within the frame.140 Additionally, a
       space must be reserved for off-frame characters to occupy their designated place,
       when the character enters the set.

3.3.1 The Screen’s Surface Data
       A motion picture’s composition is structured according to certain formulae
       followed by film-makers. Correspondingly, the screen surface is divided into
       territories varying in their importance according to their location on the screen.
       Overall, the focus of attention is needed for the central portion of the upper half
       of t he s creen. From this portion of the screen emerges dominant visual
       information, which elevates this center to the level of being a dramatic norm.
       This is so, because the beholder is expecting significant visual information to
       emerge from there. Realist film-makers use this portion of the screen for central
       dominance, as it does not itself call for attention or distract from the action.141
       Other film theories suggest that a balance in the compositional structure on the
       screen could be served by placing the subject of interest a little off-center, more
       to the right and above the center of the screen, and afterwards, ‘weighting the
       s maller segment with more content than the larger segment.’ A close-up of a
       figure should be framed slightly next to the upper portion and to the right of the
       screen’s center. Furthermore, cinematographers prefer the diagonal axis on the
       screen for its narrative quality. It begins at the lower left corner and goes up to



       140
              Arthur Edwin Krows, The Talkies. New York: Henry Holt 1930, p. 161; Nathan Juaran’s sketches for Harvey (1950),
       re v e a l e d compositional balance with only one visible character (Jimmy Stewart), and reserved place for the invisible
       ra b b i t (H a rvey). William H. Daniels preserved this framing balance, when Daniels treated Harvey as if he was visible in
       the scene; see Unique Photographic Assignment, in: I. P., Vol. 22, No. 7 (July 1950), pp. 5&6.

       141
                S ee David Bordwell, Impolded Space: Film Style in the Passion of Jeanne d’Arc, in: Ben Lawton and Janet Staiger
       (E d . ), Film Studies Annual. West Lafayette: Purdue University 1976, pp. 99&100; L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies,
       p. 48.


                                                                                                                              143
the right corner of the screen.142

The upper part of the frame invokes dominance and suggests strength. A figure
occup y ing this section of the screen would have dominance over the visual
vocabularies beneath, which would look subordinate to that position (such as in
p ict ures of authorities). The lower part of the frame calls for a sense of
subordination and risk. It automatically reflects the character’s dramatic status
in the picture. If a subject is placed in the lower part of the screen, it will be
dominated by another of the upper parts or the middle, even if these parts of the
screen are empty, since we are waiting for them to be filled. The right, like the
left side of the frame, suggest unimportance, as they lay away from the focus of
interest.143 Distribution of the aesthetic vocabularies on the screen, such as those
mentioned, is one of the artistic tools employed by film-makers to make their
products attractive to the average perceiver. In this relation, artists believe in
their ability and tools to direct the gaze of the beholder to any portion of their
image. A chieving this might be served by the introduction of a linear
comp os ition and other aesthetic means in the artistic product. ‘Intuitive
prescriptions’ substantiated, however, a general validation of the fact that most
people were aware of that artistic concept, which commands their attention to a
certain point of interest on the image.144

Cinematographic representation can only read the surface data of the
Scenographic Space. This is rated as a primary concern in film production, for
one by the Scenographer and for another by the cinematographer. In this, we are
not addressing the psychological means and content symbolism of the mise-en-
scenes’ dramatic significance in the set. This will be addressed later (Chapter 5).
We are meeting here, only, with the textural treatment and form’s
representation, which contributes to the core of the motion picture visualization.
In Broadway (1929), for instance, in the set’s surface data we read intuitively the
lines pointing toward a convergent point of interest. The composition’s lines and
t onal values of contrasted lights, shades and gray tones are commanding our

142
       L e w i s H erman, A Practical Manual of Screen Playwriting for Theater and Television Films. New York and
Scarborough: New American Library 1952, p. 256.

1 43
      It is logical that a medium shot projects a person’s head almost around the top of the screen-in this case the shot is
not based on the symbolic structurization of the frame; L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 49&50.

144
       C f. Julian Hochberg, The Psychophysics of Pictorial Perception, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 10 (1962),
p p . 4 9 &50; earlier we have already seen how a well organized image’s composition can guide the beholder’s eye to the
focus of concern on the screen.


                                                                                                                      144
       attention to the point which Charles D. Hall want us to look at, as did M enzies
       and Grot in their pictures. This surface data combined with the form are what
       lends to scenographic stylization the term we classify M oderne, or period
       scenographic stylization.

3.3.2 Horizon Eye-Line
       A compositional arrangement of the shot can be significantly affected by the
       level of the horizon line and the viewing angle of the image. Whether a real or
       illusory horizon line, it has dramatic significance in relation to the angle of
       viewing the image, and to introducing the cue of depth to the image. In addition
       to its relationship with the horizon line, the viewing angle with regard to the
       image relates immediately to the degree of distortion that will affect the image’s
       p rop ert ies. Yet the height of the horizon line will decide whether the image
       details are to be illustrated below or above it.145 In a long-shot, the camera angle
       determines the height of the horizon line. A ground-level camera angle does not
       have a horizon line as it is established below the lower edge of the frame. A high
       angle calls for the horizon line to be placed in the image, and extreme high angle
       (bird’s-eye view) will cause the disappearance of the line outside the top limit of
       the frame. This reflects the dependence of the horizon line on the viewing angle,
       and consequently on the organization of the screen composition.146

       No matter what the principal character’s position might be, sitting, standing, or
       layingdown, the level of the camera lens should be pointed at the eye-level of that
       character to secure effective pictorial communication between the scene and its
       beholder (eye-to-eye contact). During the youthful days of American film, the
       camera lens was positioned at a height assumed to be the beholder’s eye-level,
       while sitting on the orchestra floor in the auditorium. This suggested eye-level did
       not create for the beholder a proper illusion since the beholder was not looking
       into the characters’ eye, and their attention was instead focused ‘from the third
       button of [the character’s] vest.’147 During the early days of sound, the camera

       145
             V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 50.

       146
             See ibid., pp. 44&45.

       147
            In these early days of film-making, placing the camera at a height compared to that of the beholder’s eye-level seated
       on the orchestra floor in the playhouse is more akin to the stage-beholder relationship. ‘This was a good deal as they used
       to guage painted scenery from the king’s box in European playhouses of the eighteenth century.’ See Arthur Edwin
       Krows, The Talkies. New York: Henry Holt 1930, p. 158.


                                                                                                                             145
recorded a scene from a fixed position in the soundproof shed, at a height of a
seated person . Progressively, two cameras were employed, one for a high and
anot her for a low angle recording the scene at the same time.148 Still, it took
H olly w ood the first two decades of its history to formulate the “rules”of
cont inuity cutting, and to overcome the distracting effect produced by the
juxtaposing of diverse consecutive “prosceniums.” Bridging smoothly between
two dissimilar scenes was achieved by the introduction of ‘exits and entrances
with matching directions from shot to shot.’ After cultivating this technique ‘it
was ultimately established that two opposite segments of pro-filmic space could
be presented successively in the same screen rectangle (reverse-field cut).’
Corres p ondingly, in the silent film, through eye-line matching technique, the
beholder worked as a bridge for communicating the character’s line of vision as
they interacted. Eye-line matching technique was regarded by Noel Burch as, ‘the
veritable keystone of the “Hollywood system,’ and by the end of the First World
War, it was Hollywood’s final technique to be developed into artistic
convention.149

By standing at a correct distance from the image and matching the beholder’s eye-
line w it h the vanishing point on the horizon line, the image will be correctly
perceived, while the distortion of objects is minimized and the depth cue
rep roduction is at its best.150 Eye-line matching in representational treatment
p rovides the beholder with sufficient information regarding the spatial
organization. It convincingly induces a scenographic realism, and this viewing
angle of the narrative action is used by film-makers as a narrative vehicle
sustaining their dramatization. Howard Hawk realized the narrative quality of
placing the camera at eye-level. Hawk’s violent action in and brutal accentuation
of his s cenes were distinctively captured by placing the camera at eye-level.
Generally, Hawk took his composition from mid-range shot, to preserve a correct


148
      Ibid., pp. 158&159.



149
         ‘T h e g eneral adoption of the reverse field and of the ‘correct’ eyeline match were part of the last, most crucial and
mo st difficult stage in the process of breaking down the barrier of ‘alienation’ which, . . . informed the relationship
b e t w e e n t h e p rimitive film and its essentially working-class audience.’ Cf. Noel Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form
and Meaning of the Japanese Cinema. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1979, pp. 65&66.

150
      Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles 1954 (2 nd
E d . 1 9 7 4 ), p . 287; the central projection’s realism in Renaissance pictorial art revealed this eye-line match technique at
its best. The vanishing point is situated in the center of the horizon line, and the image composition is usually taken from
a mid- distance in relation to the beholder’s eye.


                                                                                                                            146
eye-line match with the scene’s center of interest, which allowed the director to
keep the beholder involved within the action. Hawk’s Scarface (1932)
demonstrates this representational technique at its best.

When arriving at the vanishing point at the horizon line, every line and form of
t he s cene would undergo a certain diminution. Supposing the perspective’s
vanishing point matched the center of the horizon line, the composition would
effect a symmetrical and central projection.151 It is the same when shooting a
filmic scene from a central axis point coinciding with the point of convergence on
the horizon line- the screen composition is symmetrical. In the opening scene of
T he Wiz ard of Oz (1939), Harold Rosson was fully aware of this viewing
technique. Rosson’s composition paralleled Hobbema’s compositional treatment,
“Avenue at M iddleharnis.” By Rosson’s selection of a low horizon line and by
keeping his vanishing point matching the center of the illusory horizon line, the
image details were situated within the upper part of the screen’s image, as Rosson
wished to prepare us for the anticipation of the cloudy sky and the impending
tornados from it. The convergent projection of the screen image was symmetrical,
and it s road was extending to the center point of the horizon. The road was
defined by irregular wood poles demarcating its right side, and by fence-like
palisades on the left. All the spatial vocabularies pointed retrogressively toward
the vanishing point on the horizon. The Wizard of Oz preserved aesthetical
consistency in its representational treatment, which enabled the picture to receive
an Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture.

Supposing the vanishing point is situated more to the left or right of the center of
the horizon line, we can then discern an asymmetrical view of the object in its
spatial organization. By placing the vanishing point to match the eye-level, the
perspective will have a realistic outcome. Assuming the horizon line is lowered
and thus the vanishing point, then the image details in the lower portion of the
image are intensively foreshortened. When the vanishing point and the horizon
line are both elevated, the image’s upper portion obtains perspectival reduction.
Finally, taking the central point of convergence to a higher level will provide the
beholder with a bird’s-eye perspective.152 Highlighting these rules of placing the
vanishing point and the horizon line in the image will equip the reader with new


151
      V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 48&49.

1 52
      Ibid., pp. 49&50; the same aspect was viewed from a technical point-of-view by Louise Bowen Ballinger,
Perspective/Space and Design. New York: Reinhold Book Corporation 1969, p. 56.


                                                                                                        147
tools for reading the scene’s aesthetic vocabularies more effectively.

When treating variable aspects of horizontality in the artistic interpretation and
marking its visual effects, it is necessary to pay closer attention to the actual
horizontal effect when it is introduced in a spatial form. It is interesting to see how
this might have affected the Hollywood spatial code during the sound decade. In
the 1930, Paul T. Frankl observed that the horizontal accent attended every aspect
of American life. ‘The horizontal line is expressive of the style of today’, Frankl
explained. ‘Our civilization’, he maintained, ‘is attuned to the horizontal line. ...
Our apartments are horizontal projections of the brownstone-front dwelling of
other years.’ By then horizontalism manifested itself in various aspects of life in
the U. S. It accompanied nearly every modern technological and artistic ideal.153
It started in the world of architecture where architects accentuated their buildings
w it h a form of horizontality. In America, Joseph Urban called for this very
obviously in his architecture (M ax Reinhardt Theater, and the New School for
Social Research in New York), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s horizontal architecture
accentuations from his early architectural period (Illustration 56)were apparent.
Ludwig M ies van der Rohe from the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier in Paris tailored
t heir own styles, and introduced an accent of horizontality into their works.
Seemingly Hollywood was more than eager to adapt horizontalism into the spatial
organization. Horizontality in the three-dimensional art form on the screen was
probably of most interest to Cedric Gibbons at M etro. Gibbons inspired landmark
horizontal accentuation in John Rarick’s (Richard Bennett) New Yorker office in
Five and Ten (1931). The vast window of the office was a direct inspiration from
t he Int ernational Style (Illustration 57). Horizontal and vertical lines (grid)
marked t he window’s enormous size and extended the vision to the illusory
s ky line behind the New Yorker skyscrapers. Its bottom stressed the boldest
horizontal accent of the set and granted a look of grandeur to the outside world.
G ibbons stressed John Rarick’s social position and wealth by the panoramic
vision possible through the commanding beauty of the window, and by
underlining the American ideal of skyscrapers that reached the horizon. Gibbons
determined that every object in the set should stay low, keeping the extended
vision unblocked and open. The large window with its horizontal accentuations
w as an essential narrative means contributing to the success of the story. In
Female (1933), Jack Okey utilised the same concept of industrialism, wealth, and
opulence in his set, and also a similar look at the horizon line. All was visible


153
       See Paul T. Frankl, Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors. New York: Harper & Brothers
1930, p. 51.


                                                                                                              148
       from the office of Alison Drake (Ruth Chatterton), the president of the automobile
       company. A horizontal accent starts by the office desk, the window frames it and
       ext ends it to the horizon. Jack Okey balanced the set’s horizontal lines with
       vertical elements, such as the factory chimneys and zigzag ironwork of the pylon
       in t he background. The scenes of the heroine’s house were shot at the Ennis
       House in Hollywood Hills, which was planned by Frank Lloyd Wright himself.

       The architectural unity of the building extended into the interior organization. Yet
       in this organic unity, the interior interpretation is appreciated as a flexible spatial
       composition. By the mid 1930's, horizontalism in architectural convention was
       respected as an international affaire, and this made interior composition an artistic
       deliberation in horizontalism.154 In the industrial world, however, streamlined
       products carried distinctive horizontal accents, where the products of the M oderne
       were featured with bands that were wrapped around them.155 In short, a horizontal
       accent has its dramatic significance in lending to the screen image its aesthetic
       quality. Only the screen story and its narrative action regulate the positioning of
       the horizon line and its location on the screen; introducing a high or low camera
       angle orthodoxy in the screen image will lead to a confusion in the perceptual
       process, because the image will not suggest an illusory or true horizon line. A
       s creen image lacking its horizon line would look empty, hanging in the air. It
       would be elusive, and would not provide sufficient data related to the setting’s
       composition. Hollywood of the 1930's employed the horizon concept as another
       narrative vehicle for serving realistic spatial narrative, and most importantly, as
       a safe port for orienting the beholder to the set and its action.

3.4 Interior Scenographic Arrangement
       Since the early decades of the twentieth-century in America, stylization in the
       interior space was in search of its own identity, in order to escape the European
       influence. Paul T. Frankl and Joseph Urban were among the pioneers who strived
       for the independent and modern American movement in the living space.156


       154
             Sheldon Cheney and Martha Candler Cheney, Art and the Machine: An Account of Industrial Design in the 20th-
       Century America. New York: Whittlesey House 1936, p. 190.

       155
              In t he Streamlined Art Moderne circular tubes of Pyrex soft light fixtures softened the interior, as the curved walls
       softened the exterior; see Donald J. Bush, The Streamlined Decade. New York: George Braziller 1975, p. 138.


       156
             See Martin Battersby, The Decorative Twenties. New York: Walker 1969, Part 2.


                                                                                                                               149
Formingits own American style in spatial organization was not only limited to the
field of interior scenography, but also merged further to meet with Hollywood’s
s cenographic style, and its self-governing form was far from any
contemporaneous control.

After the introduction of dialogue into the moving picture, film production on
location faced new challenges. New complications were looming: time delays and
great expenses were among the noticed symptoms. To overcome these hindrances,
many exterior productions were taking place under controlled conditions, i.e., on
t he sound stage. In the new production system every artistic possibility was
exercised to improve the set’s visualization. Under such an artificial approach in
the interior, the film Scenographer ‘is allowed a wide range in designing many
art istic effects of lighting, composition and atmospheric character not always
found, in nature, to fit the story.’157 Constructing the set indoors on the sound
s t age permits maximum artistic control, because the yellowish outdoor light
cannot always provide the Scenographer with the desired artistic effect. “Nature
can’t take care of the camera, but I [Joseph Urban] can.”158

F ox’s Scenographer, Gordon Wiles, could not have reached that same
scenographic quality in The First Year (1932), had he staged his sets outdoors.
Wiles’ intention was to arrange an idealistic middle-western village rather than
a realistic one. Under these conditions, he had great artistic freedom to achieve his
idealistic vision of a small western town on the sound stage. Like Gordon Wiles,
the cinematographer Hal M ohr appreciated this artistic autonomy on the sound
stage. It projected an artistic mood onto the image that matched M ohr’s preference
for ans w ering the what, the how, and when. Directed by this conditioned
artificiality, the production team was able to work without the interruptions of
ext raneous noises or adverse weather delays.159 In other words, the newly-
cont rived scenographic ability to work under controlled conditions indoors,
allowed further dramatic possibilities in the art of the setting, which was difficult
to execute on a real exterior location. This matched well with the Golden Age’s

157
       Lewis W. Physioc, The Scenic Artist: The Cameraman’s New Ally, in: I. P., Vol. 8, No. 2 (March 1936), p. 3.

1 58
       Joseph Urban, Real Screen Drama Greatest Need, Declares Joseph Urban [undated papers from Columbia
University: Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Joseph Urban’s Collection.]


159
       Gordon Wiles, Imagination in Set Design, in: A. C., Vol. 13, No. 3 (July 1932), pp. 8&9; in this early stage after the
a d v e n t o f talkies Gordon Wiles’ scenographic effort took about six months to be completed. The setting space covered
two sound stages on Fox’s lot forming an idealistic western town; see The New York Times (May 22, 1932).


                                                                                                                        150
modern scenographic stylization, specifically after the advent of talking pictures.

Technological advancement equips the society that develops it with a kind of
nobility, that will influence various aspects of the society’s way of life160 Inspired
by up-to-date technological solutions devised by American society, Hollywood
creat ed new and distinctive forms of the M oderne on the screen. Films were
calling for leading modernization and culture in their scenographic stylizations.
This novelty of modernism manifested itself from the late 1920's throughout the
1930's on the American screen.

Prior to the emergence of television, Hollywood moguls regarded the use of water
in their pictures as something glamorous, and they believed that it would create
great box-office revenues.161 Using the human element surrounded by a glamorous
background, acting in a senseless but always delighted manner, was the life-blood
of Cecil Blount DeM ille’s films. This ageless daydream formula of combining
w ealth and having fun was well recognized, and was introduced in DeM ille’s
work. The director regarded the mise-en-scene and scenographic value as equally
dramatic as the characterization. He was the film-maker who pioneered the
introduction of bath sets into the photoplay. Baths or bathing was always used
when heros were going to have pleasure. Toward the end of 1920's, DeM ille’s
bath scenes led to a commercial boom in the American plumbing industry; he
treated his bath ritualistically rather than simply for sanitary purposes.162
Artistically, combining between the human element and water existed way before
DeM ille. Bathing in water is an old formula that had its origins back in classical
pictorial art. In this regard, Rembrandt’s The goddess Diana bathing 1634, or
H endrickje bathing 1655, are landmark treatments of Baroque art, in which
Rembrandt used water and the human element to stress the beauty rather than the
bathing itself.

H ollywood moguls well recognized the captivating effect of this narrative
formula, while coupling water with the human element. As a result, they
introduced it into their productions. As early as in Don’t Change Your Husband

160
      C f. Ernst Hans Gombrich, ‘Style’, in: David L. Sills (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Social Science, Vol. 15,
New York: The Macmillan 1972, p. 355.


161
      See Oliver Smith, Musical Comedy Design for Stage and Screen, in: Orville K. Larson (Ed.), Scene Design for Stage
and Screen. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press 1961, p. 193.

162
      Gabe Essoe and Raymond Lee, DeMille: The Man and his Pictures. New York: A. B. Barnes 1970, pp. 58ff.


                                                                                                                    151
(1919), and Saturday Night (1922), DeM ille started introducing water as the
narrative constituent in his pictures. In the former he used an outdoor swimming
pool and in the latter an indoor one. In both pictures his pools were surrounded
by t he heros. Busby Berkeley took this impressive formula for composing a
different form of choreography. “By a Waterfall” in Footlight Parade (1933),
included a mathematical deliberation in its compositional structurization. The
setting was arranged to fit Berkeley’s composition. Anton Grot and Jack Okey’s
s et t ing of the pool was a costume tailored for this particular kaleidoscopic
composition. Additional use of water in the set, this time in another narrative
form, was that of the water channel resembling Venice in Astaire-Rogers musical,
Top Hat (1935).

Far from being constructed for its real function as a bathtub, it emerged to become
an artistic study in scenographic composition. Bath sets overshadowed every line
or word spoken by their characters, and gained their narrative quality through a
visual aesthetic rather than by serving the script. Whether in Male and Female
(1919), Dynamite (1929), or Madam Satan (1930), DeM ille applied the same
narrative formula to his pictures. Up-to-date technological modernity in terms of
industrial products: faucets, marble, towels, light fixture, rugs, beauty products,
glance and style, were all combined with wealth and splendors. In Dynamite,
M it chell Leisen, Eddie Imazu, and Cedric Gibbons introduced open spatial
structure. This allowed the beholder to look at the characters’ most intimate living
space, seeing the bedroom from the bath and vice versa. In the historico- religious
melodrama Sign of the Cross (1933), DeM ille exposed the Roman Emperor’s
lavish spending and decadence through his bath setting. They bathed in milk, and
DeM ille recreated this in his picture. To demonstrate its authenticity, DeM ille
showed two kittens drinking from the bath. At Paramount, the bath set with its Art
Deco form in The Magnificent Flirt (1928) carried Van Nest Polglase’s signature
(Illustration 58). In his early work, Polglase marked his talent for integrating the
modernistic touch with exquisite scenographic stylization smoothly. This spatial
conceptualization became a convention in Hollywood’s scenographic practice. In
his bath set, Polglase introduced a lowered marble bathtub below its surrounding,
w hich was suited more for a dream than for bathing in. Polglase stylized the
faucet in the form of modern relief portraiture. It was blended with a classical
form of inverted scallop-shell niches. Spaciousness of the set was achieved by
associating the marble bath with a vanity section, which was raised a step higher
to separate it from the bath’s floor. Dividing the two sections from each other was
achieved through a small structure reminiscent of the ziggurat semi-pyramid form
(as a component of Art Deco). In addition, by the seat, the large circular mirror

                                                                                152
placed within the niche lent the setting an accent of grace. This part of the bath
strongly reflects exaggerated opulence and well being. Throughout the decade, the
continuation of Hollywood’s tradition of combining the human element and water,
in one form or another, continued to be regarded as a box-office hit. Close to the
end of the decade, The Women (1939) dealt again with the bath setting. Wade B.
Rubottom and Cedric Gibbons’ bath set marked an affinity between French
Rococo and the modern technological advancement produced in America.

A ft er they were gracefully, cleanly and meritoriously developed, baths like
kitchens started capturing the interest of architects and industrial artists. These
two parts of the house were no longer observed as ordinary, utilitarian
supplements, but came to occupy their space as essential architectural components
of the people’s life.163 In an essay on Thanksgiving of 1929, the author of The
American Home appreciated the machine-age and its reflection on the way of life
of Americans. The essay described the bath with plenty of water and electrical
conveniences in the American home, as a kind of comfort and sign of healthy
living.164

By the mid-to late 1930's, Hollywood started treating the kitchen as the center
space of the family’s social gatherings. Around the kitchen table, heros sat for
dinner, and discussed their everyday affairs. The kitchen’s function as a
ceremonial meeting place kept the family ideally together, but at the same time
the kitchen was a showplace for the latest industrial innovations of streamlined
products: modern electrical devices for food preparation, blenders and ovens all
reflected the age of speed and aerodynamics. Kitchen sets clearly manifested the
machine-age and the society’s progress. This formula of the latest technological
achievements and their services in family life was projected in Perry Ferguson and
Van N es t Polglase’s kitchen set for the screwball comedy Bringing up Baby
(1938), which was equipped with modern streamlined technology for cooking and
preparing the food. The same tradition of a streamlined kitchen setting was
delivered by Hans Dreier for a mobile home’s kitchen in the tragicomedy
Sullivan’s Travels (1941). It presented the other side of technological progress.
The slapstick satire revealed the human’s sorrow and misfortune this time; instead
of relying on the technological breakthrough for making life convenient, it turned


163
      Sheldon Cheney and Martha Candler Cheney, Art and the Machine: An Account of Industrial Design in the 20th-
Century America. New York: Whittlesey House 1936, p. 209.


164
      Thanksgiving 1929, in: The American Home, Vol. 3, No. 2 (November 1929), p. 129.


                                                                                                             153
out to be a mechanical misadventure.

Like in bath sets, Hollywood offered boudoirs that were based on a
scenographically exaggerated concept. Boudoirs signified the great moments of
life: prestige, vitality and progress. This permitted these sets to achieve a highly
effective narrative quality corresponding to a daydream, in that every beholder in
the auditorium has the desire to have such glamorous place to sleep in. Hollywood
boudoirs were furnished with satin pillows, on beds suited, again, for dreams
rather than for sleeping. Hollywood introduced bedroom settings in its traditional
and modern style. It varied from the ordinary setting, such as in Transatlantic
(1931), and the dapple bed boudoir form in Perfect Understanding (1933), to the
most opulent and strikingly modern, as in Dinner at Eight (1934), or Top Hat
(1935). Hobe Erwin, Fred Hope and Cedric Gibbon’s boudoir setting in Dinner
at Eight, reflected opulence balanced with overall white: satin draperies, Jean
Harlow’s gown, the bed with its stuffed satin pillows, and the boudoir’s walls
were all in white enriched by diffused incandescent light. The picture was one of
M GM ’s most elegant productions of the period.

At RKO, inspired by French Rococo, Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase created
a spatial dream for Astaire-Rogers’ Top Hat. The boudoir’s spatial forms marked
a notable simplicity, based on abbreviation and concentration on the essential: few
p ieces of furniture were placed wisely around the set (Illustration 59-60). A
stuffed chaise (chaiere) was situated slightly off-center in the set and every other
object accordingly took its place around it. A dressing table was on the right,
while the set entrance was on the left. M ost of the narrative action took place
between the chaise and the steps to the alcove, and not around the bed. The reason
behind this was to avoid any possible criticism coming from the Production Code
-after it was established as an obligatory regulation in 1934. This shifted the bed’s
p os it ion in most cases to an alcove, far away from being the focus of the
character’s activities. Compositional abbreviation in the set and its mise-en-scene
allowed the impression of plenty of space and well-being. Organic unity of the set
was achieved by a circular type of rug in the front under the bed, and the bed itself
and the steps were semi-circular, as was the plan of the alcove in which the bed
was located. Composition of the set was arranged semi-symmetrically, and nearly
every object on one side of the set had its complementary on the other: translucent
drap eries on the entrance to the alcove, chairs, flowers vases and the musical
motives on the wall were all separating the alcove from the front space. Every
mise-en-scene on the set was white in contrast to the boudoir’s dark toned walls
and floors, and that was RKO’s landmark signature of BWS.

                                                                                 154
Shall We Dance (1937) is another Astaire-Rogers vehicle, set in the hero’s
boudoir -a cabin in the steam liner- where this time Clark and Polglase introduced
a neoclassical stylization into their setting (Illustration 61). The set preserved a
notable horizontality in its accentuation of the beds, and this was enhanced by
s t uffed and angular pillows. Additionally, a long and angular niche above the
p illows emphasized the horizontal and smooth accent of the Streamlined Art
Moderne. Clark-Polglase applied the same principle of simplicity here -reduction
to the necessary. Only three chairs and one small table are placed on the set. The
linear economy of the figure on the back wall stressed the neoclassic stylization
mingled with form of the M oderne. In this confined space, an alcove achieves an
additional depth cue novelty in the Scenographic Space. Lighting manipulation
added depth cue to the set: light foreground and darker background. Here also the
s et ’s attributes are in white contrasting with the darker tone of the walls and
epitomizing RKO’s hallmarked spatial organization.

The original office building (Tabularium or Public Record Office) was used in the
first century B. C. by ancient Rome for keeping their communal documentary.
From the twelfth to the sixteenth-century, in Europe, it was a place for housing
city offices, administrative needs, and public conventions. Office buildings came
as an answer to constantly growing occupational needs. Its typical formula
emerges from the nineteenth-century ‘if not specifically a New York creation.’
With the invention of the phone in 1876, followed by the advancement of railroad
transportation and trades and industry services, demands continuously increased
for more space (offices) to handle their operations and records.165 Additionally,
with the waves of immigrants coming to the U. S. in the late-nineteenth and first
t w o decades of the twentieth century, new opportunities were created and
subsequently new jobs. Some became bosses surrounded by the latest incarnation
of w hat technology had to offer. Others became workers in their factories or
businesses. Solving these masses’ legal questions, and dealing with their social
life was another great opportunity for lawyers, newspapermen, insurance
companies and politicians. This increase in commerce required new places to hold
the ever-growing business world in the large cities. Some executives conducted
their corrupt activities from sumptuous offices, and profited from the Depression
victims. These social discrepancies in the land of opportunity interested
Hollywood greatly after the emergence of talking pictures.



165
      Sarah Bradford Landau & Carl W. Condit, Rise of the New York Skyscraper 1865-1913. New Haven: Yale University
Press 1996, p. 5.


                                                                                                               155
Hollywood films turned the luxurious office with its ‘shysters’, ‘news paper men’,
and ‘bosses’ into an arena reflecting the social conflicts between the men who
have power and decide the ordinary peoples’ life. Arnold Gillespie together with
Cedric Gibbons arranged the large office in The Crowed (1928), in which King
Vidor presented the life of city Clark dramatically, who is undermined by the
power of forces he cannot confront. Warner’s Lawyer Man (1932) carried the
typical shyster formula of the Depression era. The picture revealed the social and
political corruption in city life: lawyers, fraud, class distinction, political bosses
and corruption in New York’s Lower East Side. Universal’s Counsellor-at-Law
(1933), is another drama dealing with a successful Jewish lawyer George Simon
(John Barrymore) who had his busy law office in M anhattan. The picture’s story
contained the typical ingredients of Hollywood’s shyster films: secretaries, love,
class distinction, the Depression, and life in New York City. Charles D. Hall’s
sumptuous office setting revealed modern Art Deco stylization at its best. The
lawyer’s desk carried smooth and clean lines framing the chevron motives of the
des k as constituents of the style. The same motives are on the office’s door.
Except for the lawyer’s desk and a couple chairs, the office did not include many
objects. With this economical spatial composition, Charles D. Hall kept the
attention concentrated on the story lines and let his setting sustain that in the
background. The large window in the background is covered by translucent
drapery, yielding the beholder a glance over M anhattan’s skyline, and the modern
world of skyscraper architecture.

Gentlemen of the Press (1929) is a newspaper-man picture (Illustration 62). Its
office set was arranged by William Saulter, portraying the typical late 1920's
scenographic formula of Art Deco: a high ceiling, modern light fixtures hanging
from it in the form of an inverted ziggurat pyramid, and visible chevrons on the
w alls. The desk, as the center of the spatial composition, is resting on zigzag
motives that were continued on the curtains. The set’s modern rug was angularly
patterned, and the few book cases in the set reflect the journalistic intellect of the
occupant, while the window in the background extends our view into the outside
w orld. O n the other hand, pictures like The Easiest Way (1931), Dodsworth
(1936), Wife Vs. Secretary (1936), dealt with the business bosses’ world and its
s ocial conflicts. The Easiest Way portrayed a world of millionaires, poverty,
department stores, reporters, sales women, mistresses, and employer-employee
relations. In this early 1930's “office setting” stylization, Cedric Gibbons inspired
his architectural forms from Frank Lloyd Wright’s early architectural period
(P rairie style). Willard Brockton’s (Adolphe M enjou) office, the head of the
Advertising Agency, featured horizontal forms and lines balanced with an accent

                                                                                 156
of verticality in the form of wing walls surrounding the fire place, the windows,
and the door. Wright’s influence upon Gibbon’s spatial stylization reached its
climax in the setting’s corner and strip windows. The desk itself carried an equal
accent of horizontality. Furthermore, William A. Horning, Edwin B. Willis and
Cedric Gibbons used a streamlined office set for Van (Clark Gable) in Wife Vs.
Secretary. Simplicity marked that scenographic approach. The office entrance
included smooth forms of metal and glass doors, the front desk was wrapped with
smooth lines and had a curved corner, while its horizontality matched with the
lines on the office’s hallway which created the cue of depth in the spatial.

During the course of the 1930's “shyster films” and “rise and fall pictures” in
addition to the “confession movies of the fallen women” were all more suited to
the “office set” than any other films. Whether they were lawyers, newspaper
reporters or businessmen, all exercised their power, and rose and fell within the
Scenographic Space of office set. The latter was presented in the form of Art
Deco heyday style in the first half of the decade, and in Streamlined Art M oderne
in t he next. Yet office set preserved almost the same formal characteristic
throughout the Golden Age for serving the narrative causality. Like the boudoir
s et , t he sumptuous office set suggested an exaggerated artistic concept in its
spatial organization. Office settings kept the beholder informed on how characters
w ent in and out of the set by showing its exit and entrance. In this set, the
executive’s desk was always the center of the dramatic action, and therefore it
required an exhaustive scenographic study for preserving its visual style. The
office window was a must, because the window’s panoramic view, usually of the
Manhattan skyline, evoked the impression of power, progress, and technological
advancement. The panoramic view through the vast window created spatial
cont inuity extending from the confined interior to the exterior world of the
M anhattan skyline. This spatial extension through the International stylized
window made the skyline’s view an inseparable part of the Scenographic Space’s
mis e-en-s cene and narrative. Finally, office sets rested on a three walls plan
relating to the Quattrocento’s scenic box: one wall in the back adjoined by two
walls, and one on each side of the set. Correspondingly, office sets relied on the
eye-witness principle in the essence of their narrative action.

MGM, or rather Cedric Gibbons, was behind the studio’s glamorous image on the
screen during its Golden Decade, and he was obsessed with this formula. Cedric
G ibbons elevated this scenographic philosophy to the level of being spatial
constitution, which was obeyed by any one of his staff who went to arrange an
office set and adapt the M oderne for the screen. Furthermore, in Hollywood’s

                                                                              157
living space or interior setting we see, most of the time, a fireplace and accent of
horizontalism. The set is usually adjoined by an alcove or another addition, or
both, which lend the Scenographic Space a supplementary and distinct cue of
depth. Hollywood Scenographers raised this extension of space by one or two
steps to separate it from the foreground setting. This was, and still is an elaborate
scenographic formula for adding depth cue novelty to the spatial arrangement, and
for separating the two spaces’ functions from each other. Clark-Polglase adapted
this scenographic conception of open space in their scenographic configuration
of the boudoir in Top Hat (1935); Stephen Gosson in Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
at Columbia; with some stylization by Hans Dreier and Robert Usher in Artists
and Models (1937); and by Anton Grot in Hard to Get (1938).166

T he executives occupying the sumptuous offices were always out at night
spending their evenings in splendorous night clubs and places suiting their wealth
and arrogance. Such places were filled with smoke and everybody seemed to have
fun (sometimes not); the loud sound of the music was obviously marking the end
of the silent film era. Blond haired young ladies crowded the nightclubs seeking
to climb up the ladder to a good way of life, hunting for love affairs with the
wealthy bosses of the clubs they frequented. Usually the painted background, with
panoramic views the M anhattan skyline, was shimmering with the light of the
visible skyscraper buildings. Contrasted tonal values, glass, and metal in addition
to the expressive lighting of the nightclub setting, were all essential aesthetic signs
effective in revealing the glamor of the night life. Still the smooth lines and forms
of the M oderne, such as balconies or other raised levels from the dance floor,
separated the guests’ sitting space from the dance level. The nightclub setting of
the decade was based on this scenographic formula.

Cedric Gibbons preserved this formula in his scenographic conception for
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935). Again, it was repeated in the Silver Sandal and
Club Raymond nightclubs in Swing Time (1936), (Illustrations 63-64). High
contrasts of black and white colors dominated both clubs. In the Silver Sandal, the
smooth lined and curved staircases, on both sides of the set, led to the dance level.
The scenographic arrangement achieved symmetrical composition and contributed


166
      By the early Thirties, the architectural trend of the interior and exterior in the American home was driven by exposing
t h e l i v i n g s p a c e to the maximum amount of light possible; the same practice was introduced for using the space, and
keeping the cost down. The staircase went up from the hallway and not from the living room, and the latter was adjoined
b y an alcove that performed the functions of library and dining space. Where the kitchen was attached to the alcove; see
A Century of Progress Exposition . . . Chicago, 1933, in: Architectural Record (July 1933), p. 72.




                                                                                                                         158
great balance to the spatial composition of the club. Every surface of the set was
shimmering (back drops, tables, doors, chairs, and more than anything the shiny
dance floor of the Silver Sandal), and all these spatial vocabularies were
celebrating the great moments in life. In Club Raymond, a neoclassically designed
figure was situated in the background. This was another highlighting of RKO’s
identity in the next half of the decade, besides the studio’s typical BWS. The
Silver Sandal and Club Raymond sets were the artistic product of Clark-Polglase
and John Harkrider, the man who worked together with Joseph Urban on Ziegfeld
Follies during the 1920's. By then Harkrider was in charge of the Follies’ gowns,
and there he got his training for capturing spatial spectacles. Harkrider came to
U niversal Studios from Broadway with expertise in the scenographic
ext ravaganza. He created some of the most extraordinary Scenographic
stylizations to reach the screen during the Golden Age, some of which include:
Roman Scandals (1933), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), and Mary-Go-Round of 1938
(1937). The illustrated nightclub’s scenographic formula was revealed -with
adequate alterations- in some of the most lavish penthouse nightclubs produced
during the 1930's. This was essential in establishing the spatial concept of any
marvel of staging to come.

Close to the end of 1928, Hollywood studios realized that there was no turning
back to silent pictures. In the first half of 1929, Hollywood spent around $50
million on investing in new sound technology. Universal invested two million
dollars on three sound stages. One was specifically built to host the backstage
musical Broadway (1929). By then, this sound stage was regarded as the largest
in t he world.167 Universals’ Broadway or ‘the first million-dollar talkie’, was
planned to be a distinctive production of its time. A special camera crane was
constructed at the studio to film the musical: the crane had a fifty-foot long arm,
which was fully mechanically operated. The noiseless crane maneuvered in almost
every possible angle, and cost about fifty thousand dollars. Charles D. Hall’s set
dimensions of the Paradise Night Club were enormous (see Illustration 51). The
crane’s boom conformed in height with the set’s walls that reached sixty feet in
height, and its balconies were at a level of fifty feet from the ground. With the
crane’s mobility, a unique cinematographic assignment was permitted, the first of




167
      A fire ruined Paramount’s new sound establishment in the first half of 1929, after the studio spent about $ 400, 000
on the sound technology. Metro started over in constructing the new sound technology; see Ann Lloyd and David
Robinson, The Illustrated History of the Cinema. New York: Macmillan 1986, p. 95.


                                                                                                                     159
its kind to date.168 Hall’s setting certainly attained a respected place in Art Deco
history, and the scenography of its Paradise Night Club kept the picture alive. Top
of the Town (1937) was produced at Universal, but this time its Scenographers
were John Harkrider and Jack M artin Smith, after Danny Hall left the studio in the
same year (Illustrations 65-66). Harkrider- Smith’s M oonbeam Room was typical
streamlined stylization. Circular balconies, rounded staircases and smooth curves
characterized the set. Harkrider contrasted between the white light beams and the
dark gray tones in the club to add elegance to the space. He exposed the set to
indirect back lighting, from behind glass brick walls on the balconies and in the
foreground. The M oonbeam Room’s set featured asymmetrical spatial
composition that was highly praised by critics.

Today’s understanding of the hotel and its complete service emerged from the
European spa tradition: the grand hotel at Baden-Baden. The hotel was a public
shelter that had been used as the center for the medieval pilgrimages, in the mid-
fifteenth and sixteenth-century in Rome. The Hotel’s conception and historical
development had the same flourishing patterns of the tall office building. New
York’s first skyscrapers were used as hotels.169 Business practices required people
to travel, and consequently this was accompanied by using the hotel as a boarding
place. Hotels came increasingly to people’s attention when they were discovered
to be a lucrative business. Hollywood took this aspect of real life and introduced
it in a way fitting the motion picture’s art form during the 1930's.

Unlike night clubs, Hollywood Hotels were stages for the society’s various
classes; in the hotel love-stories started and others ended, people came and people
went. They shared their experience in life with one another and then left. This
interrelation between the different classes of the society was manifested in the
lives of the hotel’s guests in Grand Hotel (1932). The picture -as in other hotel
films- is not limited in its treatment on the life and behavior of the upper class, in
t he hot el we see: a dancer, Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo); a Stenographer,
F laemmchen (Joan Crawford); a doctor, Otternschlag (Lewis Stone);a porter,
Senf (Jean Hersholt); a housekeeper (Greta M eyer);a man in bar (Rolfe Sedan);
and a honeymooner, M rs. Hoffman (M ary Carlisle), to name but a few. Up to the
early nineteen-thirties it is controversial to determine who did what in M GM ’s


168
      Richard Koszarski, Moving Pictures: Hall Mohr’s Cinematography, in: Film Comment (September 1974), pp. 50-53.

169
     Sarah Bradford Landau & Carl W. Condit, Rise of the New York Skyscraper 1865-1913. New Haven: Yale University
Press 1996, pp. 15&16.


                                                                                                               160
scenographic stylization, since Gibbons received credit for the scenography of all
the studio’s productions. But still, Grand Hotel’s setting (Illustrations 67-68) was
created in association with Edwin B. Willis, Alexander Toluboff and Cedric
Gibbons. Yet it is unclear, however, whether Edgar G. Ulmer contributed to the
picture’s scenography or not, because Ulmer’s name is documented in the library
of the Academy of M otion Picture Arts and Sciences (AM PAS) under Ulmer’s
filmography; in this early talky, sound recording was not yet a well-established
technique. Metro’s publicity material advertised that preventing the noise from the
characters’ shoes on the black-white tiled floor of the hotel lobby, required that
they had to wear wool socks over their shoes to prevent the noise from being
recorded. The production team wore about two hundred pairs of woolen socks per
day.170

Hotel films called for the most dynamic space used in the setting. The hotel lobby
is the arena for the characters’ restless activities around the clock. The front desk
is always processing something, while telephone operators are busy connecting
cus t omers to the inside or outside world. Guests are arriving, others leaving.
Grand Hotel demonstrated a supreme landmark Art Deco setting that established
M GM ’s scenographic identity, and qualified the studio to lead in forming the
Moderne on the American screen. Specifically, it validated the mastery of Cedric
Gibbons as an artist, who had a sense for adapting the M oderne to the screen. Film
crit ics regarded this portmanteau picture as being profoundly narrative and
seemingly unequaled in its glamour during the Thirties. Grand Hotel constituted
t he essential aesthetic signs of Art Deco in its scenographic composition.
Gibbons, Edwin B. Willis and Alexander Toluboff centered their artistic attention
on the luxurious lobby of the Berliner hotel, in which most of the narrative action
is taking place. Linear and geometrical motives of the highly contrasted floor were
formed by white and black tiles and took the shape of a spiral, i.e., a dynamic
form. This points to the lobby’s circular front desk as the center of action in the
hotel. The lobby is a display space for up-to-date modernity, starting at the hotel’s
rounded entrance with a revolving door. This was the introduction to the lobby’s
circular shape. Almost every shape is formed in a circle or a half circle in the
lobby: starting by the staircase going up to the hotel’s rooms, the handrails around
it , light fixtures and columns- even the building’s plan was constructed in the
same shape. Art Deco components continued in the hotels’ interior. The elegance


170
        Ulmer’s name is registered as the director of the German and French versions of the picture; as there is no evidence
that such foreign versions exist, it might be that these are dubbed versions of the picture.




                                                                                                                       161
of the spatial composition lent the picture its narrative essence, and kept it alive.
H ot el pictures did not receive the same flourish period as other forms of the
Moderne had on the screen during the Thirties, except at RKO in Astaire-Rogers
musicals. Whether Bella Vista Hotel in The Gay Divorcee (1934), or the hotel on
Venice’s Lido in Top Hat (1935), both hotel sets carried the exaggerated
extravaganza formula of the M oderne. They were monumental in their stylization.
It was Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase’s trademark setting throughout the
Thirties.

The settings of Hotels, nightclubs, sumptuous offices, kitchens, boudoirs, and
steamliners , were all narrative constituents of Astaire -Rogers’ cycle at RKO.
They were repeatedly introduced in one or another of their pictures throughout the
decade. These forms of the M odrne (BWS) were hallmarked by their clean,
smooth lines and contrasted tonal treatment.

In a move by the French government to keep French artists employed, they
commissioned them to work on such prestigious projects as the Normandie, in
1932. The ship project was supposed to exceed its predecessor, the French linear
Ile-de-France of 1927. Normandie contained a seventy-five foot long swimming
pool which was twenty-five feet high, and forty-six wide. The ship’s main dining
room was three hundred and five feet long, and Normandie’s hosting capacity
served seven hundred passengers. It was put to service in 1935, but seven years
after its production, Normandie was destroyed. It caught on fire in 1942 in New
York Harbor.171 Ships such as the Normandie attracted the attention of Hollywood
film-makers during the Thirties. Ocean liners were the place where the rich had
adventures and cruised the world. Hollywood introduced this form of the
t echnological progress in the form of a floating dream. Ocean liners came
revealing the most up-to-date inventions. Hollywood did not use real ships. The
latter were reproduced by artists on the studio’s lots. Ocean liners were stages for
various stories and activities: from hunting for love and wealth, to cultural
educat ion, to crime. It was the place in which every imaginable surprise was
possible.

During the flourishing period of Streamlined Art M oderne in the second half of
the Thirties, the trend toward introducing streamliners in Hollywood productions
was on the rise. Streamlined Art was at its best in the ocean liner movies, yet a


171
      Martin Battersby, The Decorative Thirties. New York: Walker 1971, pp. 24-30.


                                                                                     162
studio such as RKO continued insisting on imposing the studio’s trademark even
on their ship sets. In Shall We Dance (1937, Illustrations 69-70), the liner floors
were painted in black, and the rest of the ship’s machinery was left in white. Fred
Astaire danced “Slap that Bass” with white shoes on a glossy black floor, his shirt
was white and the tie was black. The ship’s scenographic composition combined
all the typical characteristics of the Streamlined Art M oderne.

Fox’s seabound crime-drama Transatlantic (1931), was an early example of the
ocean liner series during the 1930's. Transatlantic’s setting won an Academy
A w ard for its Scenographer Gordon Wiles. The picture’s scenographic
interpretation marked a notable page in spatial realism. Simplicity, straight lines,
contrasted chiaroscuro tones, combined with Howe’s low-key cinematography
lent to the luxury liner S. S. Transatlantic its visual quality. Art Deco beautified
t he liner’s interior. Wiles borrowed somewhat sinuous lines and the organic
foliate forms from Art Nouveau. RKO’s crime and sea-drama The Sin Ship (1931)
is another early-Thirties picture dealing with adventure on the sea. Some of its
scenes were shot in Santa Catalina Island harbor. During this transitional period
to sound, RKO had to rent six high-speed boats at the cost of $ 500 per hour, to
patrol the harbor and distract disturbing noise during the production.172 Parts of
Paramount’s Anything Goes (1936), were shot on location in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The picture is a stage for gangsters, romance, singers, detectives, imprisonment
and stockbrokers. Hans Dreier with Ernst Fegte reproduced the S. S. Americana
in the studio. The action took place in various spaces of the liner allowing both
Scenographers to plan their sets in separation from each other and not have to
cons t ruct the whole ship. They balanced the streamlined spirit with circular
w indows and a bold horizontal accent in the interior of the ship. Goldwyn’s
Dodsworth (1936), as we have seen in the previous Chapter, revealed Richard
Day’s streamlined style of a floating dream, which was built in Hollywood
(Illustration 71).

Dreier-Fegte met again in the final of Paramount’s Big Broadcast series; The Big
Broadcast of 1938 (1937), directed by M itchell Leisen. The musical comedy is
dealing with the race between the S. S. Gigantic and the S. S. Colossal to cross
from New York to Cherbourg (a city of northwest France on the English Channel)
in two and a half days. Dreier and Fegte inspired their steam liner model from the
original, created by -ex-stage Scenographer and later industrial artist- Norman Bel


172
      See Film Daily (2 October, 1930).


                                                                                163
Geddes in 1932. The liner manifested an ultimate streamlined form product, with
its smooth and rounded shape signifying the “teardrop” and reflecting the age of
speed. The Big Broadcast of 1938 was typical in its theme, and it included musical
revues, boat races, broadcasting, explosions, golf, opera, reunions, rescues and ex-
spouses’ plots. RKO’s Love Affairs (1939) belongs to Hollywood’s most
remembered films of the Thirties. It granted Al Herman and Polglase an Academy
Award nomination (in the Best Interior Decoration category). The picture
portrayed romance on board a transatlantic crossing from Naples to America.

Late into the decade, Hollywood produced not only modern ocean liners, but sea
films dealing with history, sea, and drama. At Paramount, Hans Dreier and John
G oodman sketched the setting for Rulers of the Sea (1939). The storylines
concerned the nineteenth-century Scotland sea Captain Oliver’s (George
Bancroft) brutal treatment of seamen. This same rhythm of the sea pictures was
repeated in M GM ’s wartime sea-drama Thunder Float (1939). Gibbons and Urie
M cCleary’s scenography illustrated the spirit of World War I off the New
England coast, where German U-Boats attack American shipping vessels. The
story’s dimensions unfold between the themes of war and romance.

‘T he M oderne is a variant of the International Style with much of that
movement’s starkness, severity and commitment to the process and aesthetics of
the machine age.’ On the other side, Bauhaus, and Stijl artists were unyielding in
their dedication to a principle of geometric functionalism. Though, Streamlined
M oderne obtained forms that featured organic lines. The style was labeled ‘by a
combination of flat and curved walls,’ which were usually ‘light in tone and often
topped with silvery handrails of tubular metal that enclosed terraces. Extensive
use was made of glass blocks especially in the curved walls and around entrance
ways. Occasionally circular windows balanced rectangular elements.’173
Fabricating the material that formed Streamlined Art M oderne during the second
half of the 1930's, came in the form of modern products that were used in
constructing Hollywood’s sets. Astaire-Rogers’ cycle probably made the best use
out of the modern alchemical products. Their sets’ floors on the charming settings
had a wooden finish with Bakelite. The latter was very delicate, and it needed
special care. Therefore, the Bakelite floor was only danced on during the actual




173
      Donald J. Bush, The Streamlined Decade. New York: George Braziller 1975, p. 133.


                                                                                         164
shooting, while during the filming preparations it was covered with cardboard.174

Beverly H eisner drew an analogy between the modern stylization of Carroll
Clark-Van Nest Polglase’s sets and the monumental projects in America -the
Work Project Administration’s (WPA) activities and the skyscraper architecture.
Heisner meant that Clark and Polglase’s settings ‘are wittier and lighter in concept
t han t he new architecture most people saw around in the thirties,’ and paid
at t ention to. Heisner observed the monumentality of WPA’s projects ‘as
rep resentative of modern tendencies in architecture and design.’175 M oreover,
some companies such as Coca-Cola, the Greyhound Bus Company, and numerous
ot her companies and shopping houses adapted Streamlined M oderne as an
exp ression of the spirit of the age, i.e., to project themselves as modern
businesses. For Beverly Heisner, the 1930's Paramount, Goldwyn, M etro and
RKO’s scenographic departments were responsible for revolutionizing American
taste and perception to favor the M oderne, leaving classicism behind.176

T he WPA’s launched larger-scale projects (such as founding The M useum of
M odern Art, or constructing the Hoover Dam) under the Federal Government’s
program to find jobs for the mass-unemployed following the Great Depression.
These projects were an appropriate answer to the difficult questions posed by the
D ep res sion, whereas the Skyscraper’s architecture was constructed for
commercialism and business purposes, in which some individual architects left
their mark. Beverly Heisner is convincing in her assertion that both forms were
a monumental expression of the age spirit, and captured the masses’ attention.
But, Hollywood’s scenography of the 1930's was the vehicle to shift the American
taste for favoring the streamlined aesthetic, and had the capacity to do so. This
meant that Hollywood’s spatial code constituted some artistic qualifications that


1 74
       After dancing on Bakelite floors, long breaks had to be taken during the production, ‘while the scars were removed
with Energine. Oil would have been quicker, but an oiled surface would have been impossible to dance on.’ Arlene Croce,
T h e F red Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book. New York: E. P. Dutton 1972, p. 126; “Bakelite”: ‘is composed of paper and
ro sin under high pressure and is fire-, water-, and liquor-proof. It is now [early Thirties] being successfully cast and
mo l d e d a n d also used in sheets applied like veneer to wood (The Telephone mouthpiece and receiver are made of it.).’
S e e Paul T. Frankle, Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern interiors. New York: Harper 1930, pp.
165&167.

175
       C f. Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and London:
McFarland 1990, p. 238.

176
       If H o llywood Golden Age’s scenographic stylization affected Morris Lapidus’ architectural taste in Miami Beach in
the Fifties; see ibid., pp. 238&239; the 1930's Hollywood spatial organization inspired the great modern architect Richard
Neutra in Los Angeles during the decade.


                                                                                                                     165
merited the public’s attention. Today, almost seventy years after these two art
forms -of Hollywood’s settings and the monumental projects- emerged, both are
well known and well remembered. Yet Hollywood film scenographic style of its
Renaissance Decade is not wittier and lighter in concept as advocated by Beverly
H eis ner. This spatial concept was an art form that suited the moving picture
medium. Its value is a cinematographic and instructive one, but not monumental,
as t hat of concrete art. The Thirties film, with its spatial organization, was a
fundamental vehicle in educating and narrating the public during one of the
darkest periods in American history (the Depression). The scenographic style of
this period is, today, a part of American culture, and has an equal value to those
monumental projects. If these were a momentum solution, the scenographic
outputs from Dreier, Gibbons, Day, Clark-Polglase and their associates in the
1930's are not. These artists’ products may outlast those buildings (in some cases
it happened). Hollywood’s scenographic translation of the Golden Age came to
stay as a source of inspiration for generations to come.

With the Second World War breaking out in Europe, Hollywood started losing
ground overseas. Boycotts of the American film industry forced Hollywood
executives to find a solution to their economical dilemma. M GM shifted its focus
t o t he domestic market, and altered the studio’s style to pro-Americana.
Moviegoers responded to the new domesticated photoplay as a safe harbor away
from the war’s danger, or for watching the its action.177 European censorship of
Hollywood’s products, and the American public desire for seeing realism related
to their everyday life, suggests M argaret Farrand Thorp, were two chief reasons
for shifting toward national consciousness in U. S. film-making. Despite being a
record year for the movies, 1938-9 was the most American year of photoplay.
‘Out of some 574 feature pictures 481 were tales of American life.’ Hollywood’s
filming began concerning itself with real life -far from lavish settings and up-to-
date modernity. Stories started unfolding within maidless kitchens, and featured
average homes with stuffed and shabby furniture. ‘This domestic trend appears
t o be related to the great wave of regional art and literature, the discovery of
America by Americans, which [was] so important a cultural phenomenon of the
nineteen-thirties.’178

Following the renovation of Williamsburg, Virginia in 1937, a boom for “Early

177
      Frank Miller, MGM Posters: The Golden Years. Atlanta: Turner Publishing 1994, pp. 30&90 .


178
      See Margaret Farrand Thorp, America at the Movies. London: Faber and Faber 1946, pp. 114&115.


                                                                                                      166
American” was getting closer to the public heart than ever. Anything traditional
was attractive; the M oderne started leaving Hollywood’s Scenographic Space.
Gradually, a scenographic trend was starting toward no longer utilizing sliding
glass doors, glamor, or open spatial conception in the setting.179 Finally, after
emerging from the nineteen-twenties and reaching a commanding place in
H ollywood’s spatial organization by the mid-Thirties, the M oderne started
progressively retiring from the American screen.180

Late in the decade, Hollywood Scenographers did not entirely eliminate the
introduction of modern accent in their Scenographic Spaces. By the late 1930's,
H ollywood’s Scenographers started mingling Ultra-M odern, or Functional
arrangements with traditional styles in their spatial organization. Evidently this
produced a high narrative image upon Hollywood’s screen.181 Agreeably a torrent
of period styles blended with Modern stylization took over Hollywood studios .
Every studio welcomed the new scenographic trend in their spatial treatment. In
Selznick International Pictures’ show business drama A Star is Born (1937), Lyle
Wheeler and his associate Edward G. Boyle manifested the new scenographic
t rend of Hollywood in the late 1930's throughout the picture. The spatial
organization of the Blodgett family farmhouse in North Dakota evoked warmth
and peace: stuffed and traditional furniture, the floor covered with a hand-woven
rug, the window dressed with long draperies, and the lighting treatment oscillating
bet ween soft and low-key, concentrated only on the narrative composition.
Blodgett’s setting was far from smooth and modern in its forms, and concentrated
on the Traditional American. In the M alibu beach house, the residency of Esther


179
           Cf. Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood. New
Y o rk : S T . Martin’s Press 1989 (Introduction); “Williamsburg”: A city of southeast Virginia northwest of Newport News.
S e t t l e d c. 1632, it was the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1779. It declined after the capital was moved to Richmond.
In 1 9 2 6 a l a rge-scale restoration project, financed mainly by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was begun, in which some 700
mo d e rn buildings were removed, eighty-three colonial buildings were renovated, and more than 400 buildings were
re c o n s t ructed on their original sites. The city is the seat of William and Mary College (established 1693). Population is
9, 870.

180
       C f. Donald Albrecht, Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies. New York: Harper & Row 1986 (Aus
d . E g l . Ubers. u. hrsg. von Ralph Eue, Architektur im Film: die Moderne als Grosse Illusion. Basel: Birkhauser 1989),
p. 119.

181
        See Anson Bailey Cutts, Homes of Tomorrow in the Movies of Today, in: California Arts & Architecture, Vol. 54
(N o vember 1938), pp. 16-18; see also Three Sets From the Picture “Shall We Dance,” in: California Arts & Architecture,
Vol. 52 (October 1937), p. 30; by mid-decade, stylization harking back to the “Colonial Farmhouse type” was noticeable
i n t h e S o u t h e rn California’s architectural works of Gerald R. Colcord, H. Roy Kelley, John Byers and Edla Muir; see
David Gebhard and Harriette Von Breton, Los Angeles in the Thirties 1931 - 1941. 1975 (2 nd Ed., Los Angeles: Hennessey
& Ingalls 1989), p. 97.


                                                                                                                          167
Victoria Blodgett, later known as Vicki Lester (Janet Gaynor) and Norman M ain
(Frederic M arch), we continue to see Traditional American style manifested in
s lat t ed doors, composite furniture, wildlife images hung on the brick walls,
traditional fire places, wood furniture (cupboards, table, chairs and even the clock
on the wall), which all lent warmth to the M alibu set after they were combined
with circular and angular rugs carrying the lines of the M oderne. Frederic M arch’s
bedroom included a blend of Functional aesthetic and Traditional American
styles: stuffed furniture, a circular mirror, smooth walls with light tonal treatment,
a modern light fixture, a smooth surfaced tea table, and semi-rounded plan of the
living space. This fine balance between traditional and Ultra-M odern continued
in Casey Burke’s (Owen M oore) recreation room, in which a blending of modern
glas s brick mounted as a wall behind a stuffed couch was accentuated by
horizontal and vertical streamlined lines. A stylized tea table recalled neoclassical
art, while the table lamp took the streamlined circular form, and was wrapped by
horizontality and placed on an angular table. All these scenographic attributes
achieved a successful blend of Early American with accents of the M oderne. Yet
the studio commissary setting contained more vocabularies of Ultra-M odern than
all the other sets combined (bold horizontalism on the walls, circular windows,
t ables and columns, Bauhaus chrome chairs, glass and metal doors as well as
windows).

Late in the Thirties, RKO marked a distinctive stage in Hollywood’s scenographic
stylization. Composite and stuffed furniture were in vogue, floors were covered
with hand-woven rugs, and linear figures relating to the neoclassical trend were
crafted. All were balanced with a modern circular tea table, sometimes covered
with glass, modern light fixtures and glass brick walls. These new constituents of
the late 1930's scenography were manifested in Clark-Polglase’s compositional
economy in Shall We Dance (1937), see (Illustration 61). In the realistic
domesticity of Clark-Polglase’s Carefree (1938), and Perry Ferguson-Polglase’s
Br inging Up Baby (1938), a clear inspiration of the Traditional American
stonework of early Pennsylvanian and New England farm houses was delivered
(Illustration 72). Still, RKO’s scenographic department took the newly renovated
“Williamsburg” architectural form as a source of inspiration in the studio’s sets
of this period.

In one form or another, Hollywood’s spatial organization in the late Thirties
featured Ultra-M odern or functional arrangements mingled with traditional styles,
and was repeated in almost every film Scenographer’s product of this period. In
this, Gibbons and his associates (Illustration 73), and Clark-Polglase were the

                                                                                 168
trailblazers. And this time Columbia (Lionel Banks) and Warner’s scenographic
dep art ments joined the new setting trend. Anton Grot’s Hard to Get (1938)
p rovided a landmark sophistication in its use of this spatial arrangement
(Illustration 74): traditional and stuffed furniture, a circular tea table on a circular
furry rug highlighting the oval room, smooth and light-colored walls, the latter
marked by square frames balanced with a circular mirror. Still forms of
N eoclassicism highlighted the entrance to the alcove and surrounded its
fireplace.182

Late in the decade, Hollywood’s scenography revealed its third and last period
aft er those of Art Deco and Streamlined Art M oderne. Again Hollywood’s
scenographic departments shared a similar spatial formula, akin to the previous
one, that allowed balance between the M oderne and period stylizations. In this
spatial organization, the Scenographic Space of the late Thirties was marked by:
a room in the background (usually an alcove), which was raised from the
foreground by a step or so, and contained overstuffed furniture marking a
traditional or Early American style. Hollywood’s scenography of this period used
wood furniture that started replacing the silvery and glossy surfaces and forms in
the set including chrome chairs. Textural treatment of traditional stone work from
the early Pennsylvanian farm houses equilibrated this approach persuasively in the
space. Long draperies (usually hung from the ceiling to the floor or having the
s ame height as the door) with hand woven furry rugs and slatted doors all
cont inued the organic unity in the spatial, and lent it warmth. The spatial
composition was labeled by composite furniture. Traditional accentuation was
blended subtly with glass brick walls borrowed from the streamlined aesthetic.
Hollywood sets showed a preference for circular form, and a minimum use of
glass surfaces. This parallelism between period and Ultra-M odern stylization in
Hollywood scenographic stylization continued during the war era of the 1940's.
In Since You Went Away (1944), M ark-Lee Kirk and William Pereira
demonstrated the continuation of this spatial trend, but in this period the style
shifted toward an articulated traditional American setting that overshadowed the


182
      H o l l y w o od of the late 1930's utilized more period styles in Scenographic stylization than in any other period in
H o l l y w ood’s scenographic history. The modern scenographic treatment was balanced with period styles such as:
J a c o b ean, Victorian, Adam, Renaissance, Georgian, Elizabethan, Greek, Biedermeier, Viennese Rococo, Empire and
P e a s a n t Scandinavian; for a closer look at the mentioned period styles see; Barbara Taylor Bradford, The Complete
E n c y clopedia of Homemaking Ideas. New York: Meredith Press 1968; Hazel Kory Rockow and Julius Rockow, Creative
Home Decorating. New York: H. S. Stuttman 1946; Joseph Aronson, The Book of Furniture and Decoration: Period and
M o d e r n . N e w York: Crown Publishers 1936; and Eva Howarth, Architektur: Von der griechischen Antike bis zur
Postmoderne. Phoebe Philips Editions 1990 (Ubers. aus dem Engl. von Adelheid Zofel, Koln: DuMont Buchverlag 1992).




                                                                                                                        169
M oderne.

H olly wood’s Scenographers significantly relied on the screen story in their
handling of their spatial conception. From the script emerged the setting that
would work for the picture.183 American film Scenographers ‘want to adapt their
craft to the story and the way it is being told’ claimed Beverly Heisner, as, in part,
the American film preferred to be “realistic” in its narrative. This would allow the
beholder to grasp the set’s spatiotemporal relation, which reflects the screen story,
at ease. Heisner maintains that this preference for realistic approach is ‘perhaps
an indication of the pragmatic and reality driven American psyche.’ Whether
Scenographer or director, both truthfully translate the script lines, ‘rather than
imposinga style upon it.’ From its origin, this studio’s version of reality took the
nineteenth-century stage realism as source of inspiration, more than the European
film has.184 Generally, during its Golden Age, Hollywood film practice has
adapted realistic scenographic stylization, and most times it was presented in an
exagger ated form, which corresponds to the fundament of a true artistic
interpretation and to the preservation of it from becoming blind emulation. It is
true that script lines were guiding not only Hollywood Scenographer, but every
other member of the production team. This was the law of the studio system. It
could not be violated. But Hollywood’s history is closely linked with the
Expressionism of the Germanic school. In the juxtaposing of horror and realism,
H ollywood refined the style with its own formula of Expressionism, made in
Hollywood.185 In his inspiration of the German scenographic style in Bulldog
D r um m ond (1929), William Cameron M enzies’ added his own artistic
vocabularies to his sets that gave new dramatic means to the picture.186 It began
in t he 1920's, when M enzies started inspiring some of his work from the
Germanic scenographic school. In M enzies’ borrowing from that spatial style, he
created a new era in Hollywood’s scenography and character composition: sloped
walls, eccentric angles, perspective distortion, and exaggerated and deformed
shadows; all these were evident in The Beloved Rogue (1927), The Iron Mask
(1929), and Alibi (1929). William Cameron M enzies’ stylized spatial treatment

183
      Donald Deschner, Edward Carfagno MGM Art Director, in: The Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 18 (Spring 1978), pp. 30-34.

184
       S e e Beverly Heisner, Production Design in the Contemporary American Film: A Critical Study of 23 Movies and
Their Designers. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland 1997, pp. 6-7&39.


185
      Ted Sennett, Great Hollywood Movies. New York: Harry N. Abrams 1983 (2 nd Ed. 1986), pp. 145&146.


186
      The Lay - Out for “Bulldog Drummond”, in: Creative Art, Vol. 5, No. 4 (October 1929), pp. 729-734.


                                                                                                                 170
marked a high point in Hollywood scenographic stylization.

At Paramount Hans Dreier balanced between the Expressionistic setting and the
dramatic mood of the story lines. Dreier, in association with Richard Kollorsz,
originated a gratifying and sophisticated scenographic stylization in The Scarlet
Empress (1934). Kollorsz and Dreier secured an enchanting visual effect
economically by painting the set walls and giving them the impression of three-
dimensionality that played a key roll in assigning to the set its narrative quality
(Illus t ration 75). Peter Ballbusch, the Swiss sculptor, formed the picture’s
caricatured figures and gargoyles, which were displayed throughout the
Muscovian court. The setting was steeped in shadowy atmosphere, its illumination
concentrated only on the narrative action. The Scarlet Empress reached
memorable visualization efficiency, which Josef Von Sternberg took the credit for
and imposed his name on. At Universal Pictures, Charles D. Hall called for typical
German Expressionism in his spatial configuration for Frankenstein (1931), (see
Illustrations 41-42), and The Black Cat (1934), (see Illustrations 76-77). In
Fr ank ens tein, a distortion in the setting’s convergent lines was notable. Hall
called for exaggerated textural treatment in his settings’ walls. He emphasized this
by exposing the set to a hard lighting effect. Sloping walls and skewed angles
marked the sets. All these aesthetic signs evoked horror. At Warner, Anton Grot
left a memorable stylization behind him. He inspired his concept from the
Expressionist spatial school in Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum
(1933), and Captain Blood (1935) among others (Illustrations 78-79). Grot’s
spatial stylization belongs to some of the most conceptual interpretations of the
Germanic style that reached Hollywood’s screen. He projected eccentric angles,
perspective distortion with wrong vanishing points, sloping walls, windows and
floors creating a depth cue, which were magically narrative.

G rant ed, we observe something of a shortcoming in conventional Hollywood
spatial stylization compared with the film scenography of German Expressionism.
We should not overlook the fact, however, that the American film Scenographer
from the Pre-Code Thirties has achieved the realistic term “house style.” In this,
we ought be familiar with the studio system and its doctrines: not allowing any of
the Golden Age Scenographers (whom the studio employed) to impose their own
s cenographic style on the studio’s image. Hollywood’s executives were never
risk-takers when allowing experimentation with Expressionism or anything
beyond realism. Conversely, they were conservative box-office oriented men. Yet,
t he 1930's offered exceptions to this rule. Like Art Deco, the Germanic
Expressionist spatial concept was borrowed from European modern art movement.

                                                                               171
        It was refined to appeal to Americans, as it often the case when adapting other
        styles from life, reforming them, and making them conform to American taste.

3.5 Exterior Spatial Organization
        Constructing a setting on the sound stage in the studio is not always possible.
        Sometimes the script calls for a set on location, but anachronism and other
        technical difficulties can be among the main obstacles preventing the film crew
        from using a given location. Consequently, constructing an exterior set will be the
        fittingsolution. Unlike interior sets, exterior settings have to stand up to statistical
        aspects of outdoor conditions and preserve their aesthetical values.187 When
        s electing an outdoor composition, the film Scenographer does not impose
        profound alteration, or falsify the natural setting. The film Scenographer should
        allow nature to preserve its own artistic impact on the scene.188 In this, a balance
        between the natural outlook and artistic touch on the natural setting is highly
        recommended. This same concept of balance pertains to an exterior set built in the
        studio.189

        ‘A fundamental equation of the cinema’s’, stated Raymond Durgnat, ‘is:
        landscape=state of soul. Architecture may constitute an X-ray photograph of the
        heroes’ minds.’ Film-makers select their architectural forms loaded with dramatic
        means.190 Dramatically, an architectural form is a reliable aide for translating the
        mood of the narrative action. ‘A building’ indicated Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘should
        alw ays be detached on all sides so that its form may be seen.’191
        Cinematographically speaking, the camera is a form reader. A solid and original
        object’s form situated in the Scenographic Space has decisive visual meaning for

        187
              L. Barsacq, Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design, pp. 178&179.

        188
             Morton Eustis, Designing for the Movies: Gibbons of MGM, in: Theater Arts, Vol. 21, No. 10 (October 21, 1937),
        pp. 793&794.

        189
              Lazare Meerson, in: Sight and Sound, Vol. 7, No. 26 (Summer 1938), pp. 68&69.

        190
                  ‘In many ways, the cinema deprives architecture of its autonomy, makes of it a symbol whose meaning alters with
        c o n t e n t . ’ C f. Raymond Durgnat, Films and Feelings. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
        1967, p. 102.


        191
                L e onardo quoted in Jean Paul Richter (Ed.), The Literary Works of Leonardo Da Vinci. Vol. II, London: Sampson
        L o w , M a rs t o n, Searle & Rivington 1883 (2 nd Ed., The Notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci. New York: Dover Publication
        1970), p. 36.


                                                                                                                              172
t he camera eye, because a distinctive form can dominate every other mise-en-
scene in the spatial composition.

In an article written by M elvin M . Riddle in the Photodramatist in 1922, Riddle
explained that the majority of the larger American studios assigned a “location
director”, whose assignment it was to keep a record of any exterior locations or
settings that were available within the district of the studio.192 Prior to World War
II, and during the war years, much of Hollywood’s outdoor sets were constructed
in the studio on the sound stage. When planning an exterior set, the questions
posed are, formally, different from those of the interior. But in the final analysis,
both setting forms share same formula in their arrangement of spatial objects, i.e.,
how t hese would work with the screen story is important.193 Paramount’s
Scenographers worked entirely in the studio under a ‘controlled environment.’
Paramount’s scenographic department, according to Robert Boyle, never went out
s earching for a location, and all sets were built in the studio. Boyle did not
manifest his confidence in the economical aspect, while shooting on the street,
since that is accompanied by many difficulties, and principally that of not having
control over lighting the set.194

In the two decades following the advent of dialogue, Hollywood Scenographers
were responsible for the picture’s whole visual stylization. By then, the spatial
organization equaled the directorial job in terms of importance, and exceeded the
cinematographer’s. Today this has changed because film production is taking
ever- more privileged footage from outdoor locations, and the cinematography
usually manages to capture the beauty of them.195 But this does not necessarily
mean that shooting on location does not require sets.

U nder t he supervision of the landscape architect Florence Yoch, Hollywood
produced the most memorable natural settings in the second half of the 1930's.


192
       Melvin M. Riddle, From Pen to Silversheet, in: The Photodramatist, Vol. 4, No. 3 (August 1922), pp. 9&10.

193
     George P. Erengis, Cedric Gibbons: Set a Standard for Art Direction that Raised the Movies’ Cultural Level, in: Films
in Review (April 1965), pp. 229&230.


194
         V incent LoBrutto, By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger 1992, p.
5.

1 95
      Art for Film’s Sake: The Production Designer and the Art Director, in: John Shand & Tony Wellington (Ed.), Don’t
Shoot the Best Boy! The Film Crew at Work. Sydney: Currency Press 1988, pp. 63&64.


                                                                                                                     173
Simp licity and consistency marked these exteriors’ realistic and colorful
s t y lization. Florence Yoch’s settings contributed significantly to the general
atmosphere of these pictures, since much of the story’s dramatic content relied on
these showy natural sets. These sets contributed dramatically to the narrative
efficiency of their pictures.196 M etro’s research department spent two years
collecting material for the studio’s historical romance Romeo and Juliet (1937).
It included sending a team to photograph typical characterizations of Verona,
Italy. Gibbons and his department (Edwin B. Willis, Fredric Hope and the English
artistic consultant Oliver M essel) conducted exhaustive research, to capture the
spirit of the picture’s fifty-four sets including Verona, Capulet House and the
architectural forms of its garden.197 Florence Yoch arranged the exterior settings
of t he Cemetery in Verona, the M eadow scene and the Capulet Garden
(Illustrations 80-85). Yoch’s realistic arrangement for these landscape settings
suggested a paradigmatic visual metaphor. Yoch integrated her landscaping of the
Cap ulet garden (built on the sound stage) smoothly with the surrounding
architectural fragments. In that, the garden’s elaborate arrangement reveals
mathematical forethought concerning where every plant was to be placed, so that
the camera could operate freely when filming the set. Fruit trees, various plants,
and t he w ater canal of the Capulet Garden, did not distract from the action.
Conversely, this persuasive background maintained the shaky characterization of
Romeo (Leslie Howard) and Juliet (Norma Shearer), who did not suit their roles.
But institutional constraints (Shearer was Thalberg’s wife) dictated that
assignment. The studio constructed landscape settings of the Capulet Garden, the
Meadow and Cemetery in Verona which framed the narrative action; but it is safe
to say that they saved the action if not surpassed it.

Admirably, the integration between landscape setting and architectural forms is
a highly narrative formula- it calls for peace, and reflects the character’s state of
mind. The lamasery setting in Lost Horizon (1937), touched on this spatial
equat ion. Columbia’s Scenographers (Stephen Goosson, Lionel Banks, Paul
Murphy and Cary Odell) inspired this spatial formula from Frank Lloyd Wright’s
integration of nature and architecture -clean air and a peaceful life, surrounded


196
     See James J. Yoch, Landscaping the American Dream: The Gardens and Film Sets of Florence Yoch 1890-1972. New
York: Abrams/Sagapress 1989, pp. 93&94ff.

197
     A credit dispute was reported between Cedric Gibbons and Oliver Messel over who would and should take credit for
the picture’s scenography. The battle was settled by a compromise achieved by Irving Thalberg, where Messel’s name
w o uld accompany Adrian’s name on the costumes, and the credit for the setting was the chief’s (Cedric Gibbons, and his
associates Willis and Hope).


                                                                                                                   174
by water, Himalayan mountains and nature.198 Something similar to this, but not
on the same scale, was introduced in Hollywood’s artificial integration of set and
nature (this time without water) in Tara and Twelve Oaks in Gone with the Wind
(1939); shrubs, animals, trees, and plants framed the sets. Again Florence Yoch’s
landscape setting in Gone with the Wind furnished the production with warmth,
and symbolized a typical image of rural life in the picture.

Because of their hard work and extensive research, M etro-Golwyn-M ayer’s artists
achieved an attention-capturing degree of realism in the studio’s scenography.
MGM sent the property man, John M iller, for almost a year to China to collect the
neces s ary farm props for The Good Earth (1937). M iller went to China’s
countryside and bought whatever he could. He collected items to ‘fill three
hundred cases with thousands of [used] objects.’199 On the screen, the picture was
an authentic resemblance of China’s country life, and a classical masterpiece. Rice
t erraces of the Chinese farm land, and the courtyard garden of the Big House
induced an intimacy and pure realistic accent. This realism of the Chinese country
life in the outdoor setting balanced with the interior sets of the picture.

Is it a question of exterior setting for the sake of its iconographic image, or a
matter of economical reasons that caused Hollywood to shift to the natural
metaphor, or both? Natural or exterior settings have always attracted beholders
to the screen: its highly narrative formula rests in its simplicity and permits the
beholder to take a peek on something familiar or new. This was a ritual rhythm


198
          It i s n o t e worthy to relate that this architectural concept was not Frank Lloyd Wright’s own invention. The Arab
a rc h i tects mastered this technique in their impressive architectural stylization in Granada and elsewhere in Al-Andalus
b e t w e e n t h e 8 th and the 16 th century; The Alhambra is a landmark architectural masterpiece in this regard . ‘Effective use
o f s p a c e , l ight, water and decoration made the Alhambra an image of paradise on earth, and reflected the cultural
brilliance of what was to be the last Muslim kingdom of Al-Andalus.’ See Tor Eigeland, Touring Al-Andalus, in: Aramco
World, Vol. 50, No. 2 (March/April 1999), pp. 22-33.

199
           ‘T h e se cases included complete hand-and oxen-driven waterwheels which, when installed in California, lifted water
three hundred feet up a terraced hillside, plows, grain grinders of stone, knives of various kinds, pots, dishes, condiment
j a rs , b e ds, mattresses, and other priceless authentic properties. These objects were not new but worn. Many had been in
a c t u a l s ervice for a century or more. They added great value to the picture [my italic].’ See Barrett C. Kiesling, Talking
P i c t ures: How they are Made, How to Appreciate them. Richmond, Virginia: Johnson 1937, p. 105; during my visit to
D e b b i e Reynolds Hollywood Movie Museum in Las Vegas in March of 1996, I was able to see the bed used by Wang
L u n g (P a u l Muni) and O-Lan (Luise Rainer), which was brought from China among these props; when it came to
re p ro d u c i n g realism, MGM never made short-cuts. For the historical biography Marie Antoinette (1938) the studio sent
p ro p men to spend another year in France collecting material for the picture. The crew assembled a large amount of props
i n c l u d i n g 1 2 , 000 photographs, to help in translating eighteenth-century French realism that was sketched by William
H o rn i n g a n d Cedric Gibbons with ninety-eight interior and exterior sets; see George P. Erengis, Cedric Gibbons: Set a
Standard for Art Direction that Raised the Movies’ Cultural Level, in: Films in Review (April 1965), p. 225.




                                                                                                                               175
of Hollywood’s western genre. The hero of the western was its setting as well. We
cannot imagine a western picture without the echo of the countryside: desert,
horses, sun, sky or mountains. As a part of the picture narrative formula, visual
aesthetic of the realistic exterior dominated the genre from the early years of the
Thirties and beyond. This narrative formula of filming on location was highly
welcomed by both the major and small American studios. But it was a question
of w ho could arrest the most narrative image from the limitless framing
possibilities available in nature. M uch, if not all of Hollywood’s 1930's westerns,
w ere filmed on location: the former gold rush settlement -the ghost town of
Hornitas, California- was used in RKO’s Ghost Valley (1932) as a location;
Universal Pictures’ distribution Smoking Guns (1934) was shot on location in
Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles; Republic Picture’s the Tumbling Tumbleweeds
(1935) made use of the Victorville location, California. But Walter Wagner
Productions’ and United Artist’s distribution Stagecoach (1939) succeeded in
usingthe exterior locations (M onument Valley and others) more paradigmatically
than any other western picture did throughout the genre’s history. Paramount’s
Union Pacific (1939), made use of Cache, Oklahoma, the M ojave Desert, Canoga
Park, Stockton, Sonora, California, and Cedar City and Iron Springs, Utah.

‘When expensive location jaunts aren’t needed or can’t be afforded, Hollywood
has its own West right in its backyard,’200 and most studios constructed their own
western streets on their lots. Universal, Warner Brothers, Fox, Columbia, and
RKO started producing their own “quickies” on their own western streets’ settings
repeatedly. If the interior setting is a reflection of its occupants’ social and cultural
background, then the exterior setting or outdoor iconography is the mirror of its
occupant’s way of life. If culture and nature can be integrated smoothly in the
interior and exterior setting, they will deliver a high level of narrative quality to
the screen. Alfred Krautz reminded us: as much as a landscape setting maintains
the dramatic mood of the picture, it can also distract from it. An unreasonable
emphasis on the landscape beauty may lead to aesthetical dominance over the
narrative action, instead of keeping the natural setting as a subordinate frame to
the action.201

In the second half of the 1920's, America witnessed a notable boom in skyscraper

2 00                                                                          nd
       William K. Everson, A Pictorial History of the Western Film. 1969 (2        Ed., The Hollywood Western. New York: A
Citadel Press 1992), p. 145.

201
       A l fre d Krautz, Film Szenographie und Kostumbild: komentierte Quellen, aus Theorie und Praxis des Films. Hsg:
Betriebsakademie des VEB/DEFA, Studio fur Spielfilme 2/1980.


                                                                                                                      176
architecture. It took the Stock M arket Crash of 1929 for most of the skyscraper
activities to be affected, and they had to pause for a while before these projects
res t art ed in the Thirties.202 M any factors combined in granting the rise of
skyscraper architecture and in making it the center of the business world: beside
the invention of the steel skeleton (Stahlkonstruktion), there was the elevator,
improvements in the hygienic factors (plumbing), and electrical lighting. There
were other means that sustained the tall tower architecture, such as telephone
communication, secure anchoring, fire protection, heating and cooling of the
building. All of which attracted the building’s occupants (businesses and their
offices) and kept them operating. The skyscraper’s existence depended upon these
businesses’ successes to keep the tall building alive. Skyscraper buildings were
identified with strength, fame and prestige. These same motives were behind the
erection of Egypt’s pyramids, the towers in the European towns, the churches’
towers and campaniles of medieval times.203

As in its adaptation of all other phenomenons of prestige and progress of life in
America, Hollywood was more than enthusiastic in welcoming the new symbol
of fame, and borrowing from the latest progress of what technology had to offer.
Skyscrapers’ settings were present in and common scenographic practice of
almost every American studio. Starting in the late nineteen-twenties, Charles D.
Hall’s setting for the Paradise Night Club in Broadway (1929) introduced the tall
building set (Illustration 51). Hall’s introduction to the tall building’s forms -
skyscrapers- in his Scenographic Space symbolized the successes and the latest
human achievement in life. Climbing high reflected enthusiasm and
determination. Edwin B. Willis, Alexander Toluboff and Cedric Gibbons’ setting
for G r and Hotel (1932), was another tower set in the movies. M usicals and
nightclubs celebrated a glamorous life, and they manifested this spirit in their
scenographic configuration. In his landmark scenography for 42nd Street (1933),


202
         In the late nineteen-twenties, skyscraper architecture reached its flourish times in America. To namea few of these
t a l l tower buildings: Ely Jacques Khan’s Film Center Building 1928-29; Joseph Urban’s International Magazine Building
1 9 2 7 -2 8 ; W i l liam Van Alen’s Chrysler Building 1928-30, (300 meter high); B. Joseph J. Furman’s Twentieth-Century
F o x Building 1930; and the vastest and most known skyscraper of all, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon’s Empire State Building
1930-31 (400 meter high).

2 03
        Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
1 9 69, p. 72; however ‘geographic, technological and economic factors made the development of the skyscraper inevitable
a ft e r 1 8 65.’ See Sarah Bradford Landau & Carl W. Condit, Rise of New York Skyscraper 1865-1913. New Haven: Yale
U n i v e rsity Press 1996, pp. 17-39; James S. Ackerman and Rhys Carpenter, Art and Archeology. Englewood Cliffs, New
J e rs e y : P rentice-Hall 1963, p. 169; Leonardo Benevolo, Storia dell’Architettura Moderna. Bari: Editori Laterza 1960
(U b e rs. von Elisabeth Serelman, Geschichte der Architektur des 19. und 20 Jahrhunderts. Erster Band, Munchen: Georg
D. W. Callwey 1964), p. 274; ibid., zweiter Band, pp. 300&338; see also Hugh Ferris, The metropolis of Tomorrow. New
York: Ives Washburn 1929, p. 16.


                                                                                                                       177
Jack Okey displayed a pool of skyscrapers in his spatial arrangement (Illustration
86). Okey’s tall buildings’ forms marked the climax of the musical, and his setting
included various architectural styles from the New Yorker skyline. All are
strikingly high, and lit evocatively to remind us of the continuation of life across
these buildings.

In the International Supper Club of Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), the New
Yorker skyline framed the action of Irene Foster (Eleanor Powell). M errill Pye,
Edwin B. Willis and Gibbons’ skyscrapers lining the background added grace to
the picture. The Chrysler Art Deco tower is distinctive in the background, which
was often introduced in the settings’ backgrounds marking progress and the New
York way of life. M GM produced another picture in the series of Broadway. It
w as Br oadway Melody of 1938 (1937). Joseph Wright, Edwin B. Willis and
Gibbons repeated the age’s common formula of scenographic stylization, this time
by composinga semi-abstract skyscraper composition surrounding the space. The
linear effect of white, and vertical lines of tiny lights, marked the dark tops of the
block buildings and highlighted their forms. When these lights were off, the form
of the building became shorter and different, while the horizontal illumination
separated these block buildings from each other. The bottom of these block
buildings was ornamented with a panoramic view of the metropolitan city and was
separated from the action floor by about ten steps. At the end of the steps the title
of the picture was placed with big letters standing in contrast to their background.

In the late 1930's, as Hollywood’s spatial organization started shifting toward a
bolder accentuation of realism, the highlight in the scenographic stylization
became less glamorous. This was notable in Warner Brothers’ On Your Toes
(1939). The skyscraper line in the background is no longer a resemblance of up-
t o-date architecture. Robert Haas arranged the background composition of a
skyline from the buildings of the late-nineteenth century. They are closer to the
average beholder’s everyday experience, and far from the world of the night life.

Hollywood took the skyscraper as a symbol of society’s advancement, but also
s how ed t he ugly side of that modern symbol. Tall tower buildings played a
frightening and destructive role in human experience. The failure of modern
civilization in the twentieth-century was arrestingly manifested in King Kong
(1933). It was made clear in the conflict between the modern society’s men, their
attacks on nature, and the latter’s retaliation to this bankrupt society. King Kong
revealed this message clearly after they brought Kong from his habitat from the
jungle, to be displayed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in New York City.


                                                                                 178
He became unleashed amid the world of skyscrapers. Kong grabbed Ann Darrow
(Fay Wray) from a tower building (a New York hotel) and climbed the Empire
State Building. Consequently, Kong was attacked by the authorities’ airplanes
armed with machine guns to stop him. Finally Kong was killed on top of the
world’s tallest skyscraper.

King Kong convinces us in our approval of Kong by highlighting the decadence
of modern urban society.204 The picture criticized the modern life of the
met ropolitan world and its complexity. It denounced the social and economic
chaos that followed the Depression, and praised the simple way of life.205 Andrew
Burov, the prominent Russian architect, criticized the modern tall building. Burov
‘subordinated the skyscraper and the car to man, as being ‘inhuman’ and ‘un-
s cheduled’ in the towns of the past.’206 Tall tower building was assumed to
represent the progress of the industrial, mechanical and commercial aspects in
America. But in general, it epitomized ‘industrial power plus artistic
impotence.’207

T oward the end of the decade, Hollywood’s scenographic trend was pointing
toward increasing realism in its Scenographic Space. Pictures like RKO’s Care
Free (1938) did not make use of the high office as a place for the action. Instead,
Astair-Rogers preferred playing on the ground surrounded by Early American
stylization, in the Country Club set, rather than going high in the elevator.

M usicals, nightclubs and office set’s backgrounds were always framed by the
s ky line of M anhattan and its skyscraper architecture. This spatial concept
continued to stay alive in motion picture spatial organization. In the 1940's, the
skyscraper format maintained its presence in the setting background on the screen.
Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940), Deception (1946), and The Fountainhead
(1949) revealed this architectural formula in their backgrounds. In the 1950's,
H ollywood’s scenography continued introducing this setting concept to the


204
       Ann Lloyd and David Robinson, The Illustrated History of the Cinema. New York: Macmillan 1986, p. 111.

205
      By the 1933, the year King Kong was released, twelve million unemployed were registered in America; see Andrew
Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: Harper & Row 1971, p. 71.

206
      V. Khazanova, Andre Burov 1900-1957, in: Architectural Design, Vol. 40 (February 1970), p. 104.

2 07
      Sheldon and Martha Candler Cheney, Art and the Machine: An Account of Industrial Design in 20th-Century
America. New York: Whittlesey House 1936, pp. 146&147.


                                                                                                                179
screen. M usicals like Lullaby of Broadway (1951), or The Band Wagon (1953)
cont inued this scenographic tradition in less opulent format. Today, major
American broadcasting companies use it as a background framing their programs,
both for the concept’s narrative efficiency and its association with prestige.

Duringthe 1920's, some new enterprises emerged to solve the increased problems
of the growing metropolitan area. This required a city planning session to deal
w it h s ections of the city, rather than with single buildings. In 1923, some
clarifications for the crowded city were submitted by a commission, chaired by
Harvey Wiley Corbett from the University of California, to the Regional Plan
A s sociation. The board suggested a multilevel city. ‘Pedestrians were to pass
through shopping arcades at the second-story level of the city’s building. These
arcades were to be connected by bridges crossing the roadways between.
Automobile traffic would be at the ground level;’ if needed, parking spaces would
be constructed under these buildings. The real road would be at underground level
and the underpasses would be proper, if located at the primary intersections.208
O t her p roposals to solve modern city traffic and population problems were
illustrated by innovative artists like Hugh Ferriss, who sketched out an idealistic
and imaginary city of the future rather than a realistic one.209 Le Corbusier
introduced his own layouts for a modern metropolitan city: an elevated airport
terminal at the center of the skyscraper city, in addition to a surface level and
subway level. Another proposal was suggested by Le Corbusier that included a
s cient ifically planned city with block buildings bordered by parks, while
businesses were situated in distinct tower buildings.

These visions for the idealistic metropolitan city of twentieth-century America,
and the world, were among principal sources of inspiration for a new motion
picture cycle. That is of the futuramic city in Hollywood pictures. Ever since the
early years of the Golden Age, film Scenographers were challenged by the future
city. At Fox, Stephen Goosson together with Ralph Hammeras arranged an ideal
s et model of the futuramic city. Their city model could be observed as being
among the most elaborate model sets of the 1930's. Their model for Just Imagine
(1930) was enormously large, and consumed a great deal of time and energy to
conclude (Illustration 87). It seems like Goosson and Hammeras had the Regional
Plan Association’s proposals as a script, and from there they started constructing

208
        S e e C ervin Robinson and Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Skyscraper Style: Art Deco New York. New York: Oxford
University Press 1975, p. 11.

209
      Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow. New York: Ives Washburn 1929.


                                                                                                            180
their imaginary setting. Just Imagine, a science-fiction musical about a man (El
Brendel), who dies in 1930 and was revived a half-century later. Yet when El
Brendel awoke, he could not cope with the modern advanced society, and the way
of life in the New York of 1980. Goosson-Hammeras’ futuristic model of
H ollywood’s first science-fiction musical revealed an elaborate scenographic
stylization. Its imaginary city of New York was multi-level- one for pedestrians
at the second story included bridges crossing the super highway. These allowed
pedestrians to enter the shopping plazas, since the businesses were connected by
such bridges. Its highway is on the ground level, and had tremendous capacity for
allowing endless traffic without delays, while underground level was assigned for
the real road. Just Imagine’s futuristic model set reveals astonishing details and
hard work, which rewarded both Scenographers with an Academy Award
N omination for their effort. King Kong (1933) offered parallel visions to this
futuramic city (New York). When Kong climbs the Empire State Building and
looks at the modern city, the view corresponds to Just Imagine’s setting, except
in King Kong, air traffic crowded the sky.

D uring the 1930's, Hollywood’s science fiction films offered another form of
futuramic city with uniquely narrative ingredients. Science fiction fantasy of the
nineteen-thirties, stated Kathleen Church Plummer, is what kept the image of the
futuramic city alive. In this regard ‘glass, curves and controlled environment free
from rain, cold, disease, chaos and squalor,’ formed the decade’s future city.210
Produced in London, and distributed by the United Artists Corporation, Things to
Come (1936) is a landmark science-fiction picture in the history of the genre.211
The picture’s scenographic stylization was praised by critics of The New York
Times for its narrative quality.212 William Cameron M enzies directed the social
science fiction drama. Vincent Korda and Frank Wells arranged its settings (see
Illustrations 88-90). Things to Come achieved an enchanting aesthetical
visualization. Its story was based on the English science fiction writer Herbert
George Wells’ book The Shape of Things to Come (London, 1933). Wells himself


210
       Kathleen Church Plummer, The Streamlined Moderne, in: Art in America (January-February 1974), p. 48.

2 11
          According to the Canadian and British Cinematograph Films Act of 1927, or “Quota Quickies,” all production and
d i s t ri b u tion companies were directed to provide a quota of 20% of domestically produced pictures for circulation in the
Commonwealth. The purpose behind this act was to promote the English film industry. Instead what resulted was an
i n c re a s e of domestically produced pictures by companies monopolized and possessed by Hollywood. Otherwise,
Hollywood studios would not be qualified to share the market in the English controlled territories.


212
       Rules of Thumb for Things to Come, in: The New York Times (12 April 1936).


                                                                                                                         181
worked on the script. It concerns a war breakout in 1940 across Everytown which
continues until 1966. Social breakdown and “wandering sickness” throughout the
world follows the war. As Dr. Harding (M aurice Braddell) is searching to find a
cure for this, a man who calls himself “the Boss” orders the sick who wander into
the street to be killed. By M ay Day of 1970, the Boss brings the people’s malady
under control, but only after he has brought Everytown to ruin. The Boss
continues his fight for “victorious Peace.” He dies after choking on “peace gas”
released from planes descending on Everytown. An orgy of technology continues
until 2036, and Everytown is transformed into a modern underworld city, healthy
and peaceful. Now the city’s inhabitants are slaves to scientific progress, and they
are about to send Catherine Cabal (Pearl Argyle) and Horrie Passworthy (Pickles
Livingstone) in a ‘space gun’ to the moon. A Theotocopulos expresses his wish
to end the scientific age by calling “progress is not living”, and the city people
move on to destroy the space gun; instead, Oswald Cabal (Raymond M assey) is
forced to launch the rocket and disappear alone into the atmosphere.

Certainly it is a thin story, but the artistic talent behind visualizing this story is of
our central consideration. The picture’s scenographic stylization has unarguably
contributed to keep the picture alive. Everytown, before and after its destruction
is well-arranged and persuasively organized. M enzies and his team lit the city to
ap p ear idealistic to the eye. High contrasted light and shade revealed the
distinction between every line and form in the setting, specifically by highlighting
the lines of Tudor’s architectural stylization. This lighting concept, which
corresponds to classical pictorial art, came from Korda’s background as a painter
of trade. Equally balanced was the visualization of the destruction of Everytown.
The city’s destruction was mostly visible at the top of the buildings. Distinctive
forms of the city structures such as pointed arches, exposed beams of the
Renaissance buildings, and some of the styles’ distinctive lines and forms were
kept intentionally standing. The intention behind this semi-form preservation was
to keep the beholder continually oriented. This was another M enziesian method
to bridge the gap between two dissimilar scenes of his pictures, as he achieved
here in his settings in bridging from peace to the ensuing war .

Las z lo M oholy-Nagy worked on the setting of the Utopian city. His spatial
configuration for the city of the future did not include solid walls, permitting the
eye and light to travel free from one space into another without obstacles in the
way. Steel skeletons, covered with glass and plastic sheets, substituted the walls.
This experimental scenography of the city of the future did not come to life. It was



                                                                                    182
left wasted on the cutting table.213

When the fantasy drama Lost Horizon (1937) was produced, Europe was
preparing for World War II. The danger of war and tension were hanging in the
air. Frank Capra went to show the world that simplicity of life still exists in places
where peace and love are considerably significant. The fantasy drama was based
on Lost Horizon by James Hilton (New York, 1933). After an airplane with five
p as s engers is highjacked and later crashes in the mountains of Tibet, the
passengers try to escape from the Chinese revolution. They are taken to Shangri-
La, an idyllic and mysterious paradise. Its mission is to save the world’s treasures
from destruction and to spread a brotherly love. This was suggestive enough for
the banning of the picture in Germany. Lost Horizon’s scenographic stylization
was impressive (Illustrations 91-92). According to the program for the picture’s
N ew York Premiere, Harrison Forman, the technical consultant on Tibet,
explained: on Columbia ranch in Burbank, California, the lamasery set measured
1,000 feet long and about 500 feet wide, and took 150 men about two months to
complete; the Valley of the Blue M oon was located in Sherwood Forest, forty
miles from Hollywood; the rioting scene at Baskul was taken at M unicipal
Airport, around Los Angeles; the refueling sequence at Lucerne Dry Lake. Cary
Odell inspired his sketches for the lamasery setting from Frank Lloyd Wright’s
architecture of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and his modern architecture from the
Thirties. Its setting revealed symmetrical plans and forms of the structure of the
building. The lamasery may be entered through straight and to-the-side ascending
wide stairs. In the front of Shangri-La, the pool serves the function of a mirror, as
on the water’s surface is another imaginative image of Shangri-La, with all its
forms and lines. It is a pure filmic image that had a tight relationship with the
dream. The set’s interior accumulated an amalgam of stylizations from various
periods (Renaissance, Rococo, late eighteenth-century French lighting sconces,
and oriental objects). In arranging their composition in an amalgam of stylization,
Goosson and his team wanted to reflect the lamasery’s mission and its belonging
to all cultures. The Lost Horizon setting involved painstaking work to achieve
such impressive scenographic stylization. It won an Academy Award (for Best Art
Direction).

The Emerald City and M unchkinland in the musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz
(1939) were other scenographic translations of Hollywood’s utopian cities during
t he 1930's. Around 116 midgets were introduced into the M unchkins’ scene-


213
      Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Experiment in Totality. New York: Harper&Brothers 1950, p. 129.


                                                                                           183
MGM needed more but they were not available.214 M etro planned a publicity tour
of eighty-eight M unchkins throughout Chicago, M iami and ending their trip at
New York’s World Fair, where the studio planned to stage a “M unchkin Village”
from the original M unchkinland setting.215 William A. Horning, Cedric Gibbons’
setting, Jack M artin Smith’s sketches, Ben Carre-Warren Newcombe’s mattes and
Edwin B. Willis who dressed the sets, introduced a memorable setting for the
classic fantasy. The M unchkinland spatial organization is a colorful and
imaginary world of a dream: a yellow brick road leading to the midgets’ huts,
their roofs covered with hay, and the huts’ forms semi-circular shape giving the
impression of a mushroom grown on terraces in nature. The huts’ dimensions are
diminished to accommodate the midgets’ bodies, while some huge flowers around
the pool, and in the middle of the set, are contrasting with M unchkins and
accentuate the world of illusion. Flowers can be seen everywhere, the scene is
glittering with cheer and sound, and the setting is balanced paradigmatically with
color.

Warren Newcombe painted the crystal-like Emerald City (see Illustrations 93-95).
N ew combe’s image has a unique outlook. I found in Newcombe’s illustration
some parallelism to Hugh Ferriss’ description of the buildings of the “Night in the
Science Zone.”
‘BUILDINGS like crystals.
Walls of translucent glass. ...
No Gothic branch: no Acanthus leaf: no recollection of the plant world.
A mineral Kingdom.
Gleaming stalagmites.
Forms as cold as ice.’216

Many more artists contributed to the conclusion of the classic fantasy The Wizard
of Oz and placed it among the ageless pictures of the Golden Age.217 From the
genre of the futuramic city in the 1930's we only remember its captivating
scenographic visualization. This is mainly what kept these pictures alive, and not

214
      Daily Variety (17 August 1938).

215
      Daily Variety (3 January 1939); whether this trip took place or not, there is no evidence.

216
       See Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow. New York: Ives Washburn 1929, p.124.


2 17
        For how some of the special effects were achieved in the witch’s castle and elsewhere in The wizard of Oz; see Tim
Onosko, Made in Hollywood, USA: A Conversation with A. Arnold Gillespie, in: The Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 18 (Spring
1978), pp. 46-50.


                                                                                                                     184
their thin scripts. The genre brought subjects to the beholder’s attention which
w ere uncalled for in the past, whether the new technological innovation was
serving the society or leading to its founder’s end.

Finally, throughout its history, Hollywood’s cycles mostly treated the city as ‘a
place of death’, or ‘nostalgia’ for the old great times.218 By the emergence of the
neo-realism of the Italian school, after World war II, exterior setting meant “On
location.” This started replacing the studio’s constructed settings ‘and fantasy
came to mean science-fiction or Steven Spielberg adventure rather than
[scenographic] inventions.’219




218
      Robert S. Sennett, Setting the Scene: The Great Hollywood Art Directors. New York: Harry N. Abrams 1994, p. 50.


219
      Jane Holtzkay, When Hollywood was Golden, the Movie Sets were, Too, in: The New York Times (January 11, 1990).


                                                                                                                 185
41 Sketch for the laboratory set of
Frankenstein (1931) by Herman Rosse.
Scenography: Charles D. Hall, Herman
Rosse. Cinematography: Arthur Edison.




42 The same laboratory set was reused by
Universal in Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Scenography: Charles D. Hall, Herman
Rosse. Cinematography: John J. Mescall
and Alan Jones assisted by William Dodds
and John P. Fulton.
43 through 48 are frames from The Good Earth (1937). Landscape Scenography: Florence
Yoch, settings by Harry Oliver, Arnold Gillespie, Edwin B. Willis, Gabriel A. Scognamillo,
Frank Tong and Cedric Gibbons. Cinematography: Karl Freund, assisted by Ray Ramsey, Ben
M. Cohen, Charles G. Clark, Russel Cully, H. C. Smith and the “Newsreel” from James Wong
Howe.
49 Captain Blood (1935). Scenography: Anton Grot. Cinematography: Hal Mohr,
Ernest Haller, Robert Surtees, assisted by Louis de Angelis, Bob Davis and Fred
Jackman.




                       50 Leonardo Da Vinci -perspective.
51 Paradise Night Club, in Broadway (1929).
Scenography: Charles         D.       Hall.
Cinematography: Hal Mohr.




52 William Cameron Menzies’ sketch for Alibi
(1929). Scenography: William Cameron
Menzies. Cinematography: Ray June.
53 I am a Fugitive from a Chain
Gang (1932). Scenography: Jack
Okey.     Cinematography: Sol
Polito.




54   The     Crowd    (1928).
Scenography: Arnold Gillespie
and      Cedric     Gibbons.
Cinematograhy: Henry Sharp.
55 Dodsworth (1936). Scenography: Richard Day. Cinematography: Rudolph Mate, Ray Binger.




                                                                                           56 Frank Lloyd Wright’s
                                                                                           Robie House 1909, from
                                                                                           the Prairie period.
57 Five and Ten (1931). Scenography: Cedric Gibbons. Cinematography: George Barnes.
58 The Magnificient Flirt (1928). Scenography: Van Nest Polglase, Hans Dreier. Cinematography: Henry Gerrard.
59-60 Sketch and its setting of the boudoir in Top Hat (1935). Scenography: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase, Thomas Little.
Cinematography: David Abel, Vernon Walker.
61 Shall We Dance (1937).
Scenography: Carroll Clark, Van
Nest Polglase, and Darrell Silvera.
Cinemagtography: David Abel, J.
Roy Hunt, Vernon Walker.




           62 Gentlemen of the
           Press          (1929).
           Scenography: William
           S a u l t e r .
           Cinematography:
           George Folsey.
                     63 Silver Sandal in
                     Swing Time (1936).
                     Scenography:
                     Carroll Clark, John
                     Harkrider and Van
                     Nest       Polglase.
                     Cinematography:
                     David Abel assissted
                     by Joe Biroc, Willard
                     Barth and Vernon
                     Walker.




64 Club Raymond in
Swing Time.
65 and 66 are a sketch and its setting from the
Moonbeam Room in Top of the Town (1937).
Scenography: John Harkrider, Jack Martin Smith.
Cinematography: Hal Mohr, Joseph Valentine,
Robert Surtees, assisted by Ross Hoffman, B. Weiler
and John P. Fulton.
67 Sketch by Edwin B. Willis for the hotel
lobby in Grand Hotel (1932).
Scenography: Alexader Toluboff, Edwin
B. Willis and Cedric Gibbons.
Cinematography: William Daniels, assist-
ed by A. L. Lanel, Charles W. Riley and
Albert Scheving.




                          68 Grand Hotel
69 Shall We Dance (1937).
Scenography: Carroll Clark, Van
Nest Polglase, and Darrell Silvera.
Cinemagtography: David Abel, J.
Roy Hunt, Vernon Walker.




70 Shall We Dance
71 Dodsworth (1936). Scenography: Richard Day. Cinematography: Rudolp Mate, Ray Binger.
72 Bringing Up Baby
(1938). Scenography:
Perry Ferguson, Van
Nest        Polglase.
Cinematography:
Russel Metty, Vernon
Walker.




                        73 Double Wedding
                        (1937). Scenography:
                        Joseph       Wright,
                        Edwin B. Willis,
                        Cedric      Gibbons.
                        Cinematography:
                        Joseph Ruttenberg
                        assisted by Herman
                        Fisher    and    Sig
                        Kaufman.
 74 Hard to Get (1938). Scenogarphy: Anton Grot. Cinematography: Charles Rosher.




75 The Scarlet Empress (1934).
Scenography: Hans       Dreier
Richard Kollorsz, and Peter
Ballbusch. Cinematography: Bert
Glennon.
76 The Black Cat
( 1 9 3 4 ) .
Scenography:
Charles D. Hall.
Cinematography:
John Mescall, King
Gray, John Martin
and John P. Fulton.




                      77 The Black Cat.
78-79 Sketcht and its setting from Captain Blood (1935). Scenography: Anton Grot.
Cinematography: Hal Mohr, Ernest Haller, Robert Surtees, assisted by Louis de Angelis, Bob Davis
and Fred Jackman.
80 Model for the Capulets’ garden in Romeo and Juliet (1937). This model was one of 54
models, which were constructed for the picture. Scenography: Edwin B. Willis, Fredric Hope,
Oliver Messel and Cedric Gibbons. Cinematography: William Daniels.




                                                                                   81 Left, Edwin B.
                                                                                   Willis,        Cedric
                                                                                   Gibbons      (center),
                                                                                   and Fred Hope
                                                                                   (right) are seen with
                                                                                   their blue prints
                                                                                   under the setting’s
                                                                                   arches of Verona in
                                                                                   Romeo and Juliet.
82-84     Sketch
with its model
and exterior set-
ting from Romeo
and Juliet.
85 Meadow scene in Romeo and Juliet.




                                       86 42nd Street
                                       ( 1 9 3 3 ) .
                                       Scenography:
                                       Jack         Okey.
                                       Cinematography:
                                       Sol Polito assisted
                                       by Michael Joyce.
87 Just Imagine (1930). Scenography: Stephen Goosson and Ralph Hammeras. Cinematography: Ernest
Palmer.
88-89 Things to Come (1936). Scenography: Vincent Korda and Frank Wells. Cinematogarphy:
Georges Perinal assisted by Robert Krasker, Harry Zech, Edward Cohen.
90 Things to Come (1936). Scenography: Vincent Korda and Frank Wells. Cinematogarphy: Georges Perinal assisted by
Robert Krasker, Harry Zech, Edward Cohen.
91-92 Lost Horizon (1937). Scenography:
Stephen Goosson, Lionel Banks, Paul Murphy
and Cary Odell. Cinematography: Joseph
Walker, Elmer Dyer, E. Roy Davidson and
Canahl Carson.
93 Emerald City sketched by Warren Newcombe in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Scenography: William A. Horning, Edwin B.
Willis, Warren Newcombe and Cedric Gibbons. Cinematography: Harold Rosson assisted by Allen Davey and Sammy
Cohen.
94 Emerald City’s sketch by Warren Newcombe in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Scenography: William A. Horning, Edwin B. Willis, Warren Newcombe and Cedric Gibbons.
Cinematography: Harold Rosson assisted by Allen Davey and Sammy Cohen.
95 Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Scenography: William A. Horning, Edwin B. Willis,
Warren Newcombe and Cedric Gibbons. Cinematography: Harold Rosson assisted by Allen Davey and
Sammy Cohen.




                                                                                96 Dead End
                                                                                ( 1 9 3 7 ) .
                                                                                Scenography
                                                                                : Richard
                                                                                D a y .
                                                                                Cinematogra
                                                                                phy: Gregg
                                                                                Toland and
                                                                                J a m e s
                                                                                Basevi.
97-101 ‘This diagram is to give an idea of what
happens to the perspective when the cameraman
changes from one lens to another. He can for
example jump from ‘2’ to ‘4’ without moving his
camera, while a set seen through a 75 mm lens
does not look so spacious as when viewed
through a 24 mm lens.’ Edward Carrick.
102-104 ‘This diagram is to help you to
understand the two most commont move-
ments of the camera-tracking and panning.
Above, you see what the camera sees with a
35 mm lens at six different moments during
the continuous movement. In the plan we see
how the camera follows the figure.’ Edward
Carrick.
4 Hollywood’s Cinematography: A Historiographic Background

      For a better appreciation of the true form of cinematographic art in its very
      youthful days, a retrospective view on the subject of photography is expedient.
      Ever since the principles of the latter art form rested in the foundation of the
      moving pictures’ representational treatment during its birth, high realism in the
      photographic documentary together with its artistic stylization granted the new
      medium, since its early stages, a worldwide recognition. The newly developed
      photography proved to be an effective vehicle of research in scientific matters,
      t hat qualified its new incarnation to invade almost every domain of life. Its
      realis t ic recording lent to the new art medium an ever-increasing popularity
      wherever it was introduced.1 Artistic visualization of the photography, during its
      innate days, was inspired from ‘the vestibules of art’, and its outcome transmitted
      a masked art, void of any internal realism. At that time photography signified an
      ordinary dull art lacking any stimulation. This form of ‘salon photography’ was
      exposed with its unsightliness in amateur photography and photo-reportage. With
      the anastigmatic lens and newly introduced technique, the photographic quality
      gained further realism and a broader artistic vision. At the same time, the misuse
      of the anastigmatic lens by untutored artistic photographers, only brought up a
      rep roduction of reality, lacking any artistic quality. Still, a handful of artists
      succeeded in preserving a true art form with the new born medium.2 Whether
      motion picture or photography, both processes are ruled by the one apparatus
      called the camera. Photography is a process of the realistic representation of
      reality in terms of static images, whereas the cinematographic transmission is the
      utilization of those images by means of a pictorial flux giving the impression of
      motion. This artistic output is known as a moving picture.3

      When artists or men of ideas produce new interpretations and means for society,
      they rule out the outdated productions. Governed by the laws of nature, these
      new renditions are subject to a ceaseless process of transition. And this covers
      all aspects of real life, including motion picture production, because the film
      medium is the art of realistic representation, and reality is ruled by a continuous
      constituency of modulation. This explains the reason behind the metamorphosis


      1
          V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 137.

      2
          Ibid., pp. 140&141.

      3
          Stephen Heath, Narrative Space, in: Screen, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn 1976), p. 75.
in Hollywood’s film language during 1910-1940, where the film stylization went
t hrough various stages, ever shifting from older and worn out rules to newer
means and measures. It was the factor that prompted the forming of the filmic
structure during this period.4

A great deal of the motion picture’s art pertains to the medium’s spatiotemporal
manipulation.5 Traditional film-making utilized the space as a narrative vehicle
that promoted the action and defended its unity. Whether establishing a shot or
screen scripts, their preservation of spatial continuity was vital and saved the
space from becoming elusive. ‘Space is continuous, even across shot changes,
through applications of the “axis of action” or 1800 rule, the shot/reverse-shot,
the eyeline match, and the match on action.’ Classic film depended profoundly
on the space in its narrative. ‘The serial, the slapstick comedy, the western, the
adventure film, the historical epic, even the comedy of manners,’ reflected
Bordwell, ‘all utilize narrative space as a site for moving humans, animals,
vehicles, or natural forces.’ Conventional film practice attained spatial balance
by a symmetrical configuration while dealing with a crowd, and by centering a
figure in the spatial composition.6 Creating an equilibrium in a given pictorial
space is instrumental for active pictorial communication. ‘Balance’ as spelled out
by Rudolf Arnheim, ‘remains the final goal of any wish to be fulfilled, any task
to be accomplished, any problem to be solved.’7

Hollywood had been accountable for boosting the inventory of aesthetic signs
that film-making had under its command. In its spatial organization,
Hollywood’s stylization had easy access to the material employed in plastic art,
and in the temporal sphere, Hollywood had open avenues to every age’s spirit
(style). This availability allowed Hollywood to form out of a two-dimensional




4
    Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hastings House 1976, p. 3.

5
    M a ya Deren, Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality, in: George Amberg (Edition), The Art of Cinema: Selected
Essays. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972, p. 164.

6
    David Bordwell, The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer. Berkeley: University of California Press 1981, p. 37.

7
    R udolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press 1954 (2 nd Ed. 1974), p. 37.


                                                                                                                 187
image a three-dimensional one.8 Conventional Hollywood film attitude in its Pre-
Code era established a high norm of narrative structure, that was settled as a
meas ure for any film genre or stylization to come. Noel Burch regarded
Hollywood’s narrative codes as elaborate and functional. For Burch, these codes
‘have been so intimately associated with a mode of representation dominated by
cer tain type of narrative attitude.’ The prime aim of these aesthetic signs is
des igned to provide narrative efficiency by putting the filmic spatial and its
comp osition under the beholder’s analytical control. Lending systematic and
narrative legitimacy to the assembly of these codes had its origin in the “Griffith
revolution.” Overall organic unity and unambiguous lines governed this pictorial
association (camera angles, shot sizes, fluid camera, and cutting), and elevated
it t o be highly narrative. There upon every image in this pictorial stream is
complimenting its neighbor and contributes to the filmic narrative as a whole.9

By s ynthesizing a picture, the author-editor of the film has the greatest
s uggestive and most complicated assignment in this regard, comments Dziga
Vertov. This calls for abbreviating the lengthy amount of film-making stages to
a persuasive form, and keeping the shots’ constituents as simplistic as possible
and s moothly connected to one another. Guarding this narrative equation of
s implicity permits to the beholder effective pictorial communication.10 But
carrying out this accent of simplicity on the screen demands, also, close
collaboration between the cinematographer and Scenographer to allow smooth
cinematographic transmission while telling the story. The level of the
Scenographer’s consideration of the cinematographer’s needs will pictorially
decide whether the camera work would animate or de-animate the set.11 The
cinematographer’s task, however, starts where the film Scenographer’s job ends.
By then it is up to the cinematographic transformance and skills to make the set


8
    S e e Maya Deren, An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, in: George Amberg (Ed.), The Art of Cinema: Selected
Essays. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972, pp. 38&39.

9
   ‘This narrative was consubstantial with literal sequence of images and titles. Its mode of apprehension was preordained.
T h e s p e c tator ‘went in’ at one end and ‘came out’ at the other, having followed a path determined with maximum
p re c i s i o n, as univocal as the procedures of editing, the organization of angles, shot sizes and camera movements, could
ma ke it.’ Noel Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press 1979, p. 97.


10
     Dziga Vertov, The Vertov Papers, tr. by Marco Carynnyk, in: Film Comment, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 49.


11
     Hal Herman, Motion picture Art Direction, in: A. C., Vol. 28, No. 11 (November 1947), p. 396.


                                                                                                                       188
       pictorially look aesthetical or not. Cinematographically, a permissive stylization
       of the story-telling and its spatial organization is up to the user of the camera
       apparatus to project. Any inappropriate lighting or camera angle can diminish the
       dramatic value of the most elaborate setting and make it ineffective. A skilled
       cinematographer will screen the deficiencies of the scenographic layout. The
       same is true of the character’s composition on behalf of the directorial work. The
       M otion pictures’ camera is the only possible means of removing still life from
       the virtual world (interior and exterior) and making it vividly come alive. At the
       same time, this cinematographic process will permit the beholder to perceive a
       grandeur vision of this physical reality.

       What the painter’s brush strokes and technique achieves while painting an image,
       is comparable to the tools and techniques used by the cinematographer in
       forming a screen image. Both artists similarly employ the effect of light to
       capture some dramatic value in their images. The effect of the painter’s brush
       strokes on the canvas is secured by the cinematographer’s use of various lenses.
       By combining the effects of light and lenses, the filmic image obtains distinct
       t ext ural treatment, and will be loaded with dramatic means. This makes the
       screen image comparable to those of classic art.12 To define their own method
       when makinga picture, Hollywood’s cinematographers went further than simply
       developing their own techniques. Nearly every cinematographer in Hollywood
       during the nineteen-thirties, devised their own gadgets and technical refinements
       to make the commercial equipment adaptable to each studio’s image. These new
       ideas of mechanical improvements to the camera apparatus were fostered by the
       s t udios. At Goldwyn, Gregg Toland came up with new accessories
       accommodating the studio’s needs: “filter” lights above and below the lens, a
       hy draulic-hoist tripod, an auxiliary step ladder, auxiliary “filter” lights, a
       Velocilator dolly with duralumin track, a remote control focusing system, and
       other novel mechanisms.13

4.1 Conventional Hollywood Cinematographic Stylization

       12
            Donald Chase, Filmmaking: The Collaborative Art. Boston: Little Brown 1975, pp. 114&115.

       13
             Gregg Toland, Practical Gadgets Expedite Camera Work, in: A. C., Vol. 20, No. 5 (May 1939), pp. 215-218; Metro’s
       h e a d o f the camera department, John Arnold, is credited as the originator of ‘the portable soundproof camera-housing or
       blimp, while camera-cranes and perambulators, automatic sound and picture synchronizing systems owe their origin in
       p a rt o r fu lly to him. Latest invention: a rotating windshield to protect camera lenses from spray in making rain scenes.’
       See Nancy Naumburg, We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton 1937, p. 273.


                                                                                                                                       189
Duringthe teen-years, sets were constructed with consideration for the fact that
the camera operation was stationary (long-shot). ‘White lines were painted on the
stage floor, to show the “camera angle,” and no actor moved outside those lines
unless specifically directed to do so.’ The narrative action had to proceed within
a limited space, and not exceed it. M ore than one of those relatively small size
sets were placed on a single stage. Producing The Squaw Man (1913) with this
method, proved a valid success of the movie set. With it, a new tendency for
introducingmore realism into film scenography was born.14 Until about 1915, the
rep resentational treatment was merely a mechanical recording of the action
takingplace in front of the camera. David Wark Griffith and his cinematographer
Billy Bitzer were the masters who pioneered dramatic cinematography, in which
they experimented with light and other camera devices. Progressively, filmers
noticed that the achievement of evocative cinematography and the translation of
the spirit of the story, would not only be a matter of artistic representation but a
means of securing better box-office revenues.15 Some studios invested in
researching the field of cinematography. Others, like Universal and Paramount,
did not go too far in elaborating the art of cinematographic representation.16

In t he decade prior to 1927, the average duration of a take in Hollywood
alternated between five to six seconds, and from 1928 to 1934 the shot length
recorded about eleven seconds. Starting in 1930, manufacturers started supplying
t he A merican film industry with techniques to keep the camera operating
s moot hly. Carriages such as Perambulators, rotambulators, small cranes and
dollies assisted film crews to proceed with smooth cinematography. ‘By 1933,
shootinga sound film came to mean shooting a silent film with sound. By the end
of 1931, the efforts of the technical agencies had succeeded, and the period of
multiple-camera filming ended.’17 During the course of the nineteen-twenties,
Hollywood’s cinematographic stylization featured not only a sharp focus, but a

14
     Leo K. Kuter, Art Direction, in: Films in Review (June - July 1957), p. 249.

15
     Joseph V. Mascelli, What’s Happened to Photographic Style? in: I. P., Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 1958), p. 5; by then
the camera apparatus was literally bound to a place without any adjustment.

16
    Charles Higham, Hollywood Cameramen: Sources of Light. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press 1970.
pp. 13&14.

17
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, PP. 304&306.


                                                                                                                 190
soft and diffused style. The latter visualization started becoming accepted during
the second half of the Twenties. M any factors contributed to the formulation of
t his diffused cinematography. During this period, Hollywood’s soft
cinematographic stylization was affected by still photography’s diffused style,
and by much of the technical improvements: incandescent tungsten lamps, softer
lenses, filters, and light diffusers.18 Upon the photoplay’s switch-over to speech,
film-making started witnessing a great setback. ‘Studios turned to stage plays for
their material,’ reflected Rouben M amoulian ‘and in the early years of the talkies
were quite satisfied to simply photograph those stage plays with three cameras,
int ercut t he shots in the most primitive manner, and call the result: motion
pictures.’19

Duringits transitional years, Hollywood’s camera philosophy conveyed restless
camera shots by tracking the action, starting from close-up detail and setting
back to a full shot, or by moving through hallways or aisles. Later in the Thirties
and Forties, Hollywood’s cinematographic stylization carried notable deep-focus
cinematography.20 In Lewis M ilestone’s All Quiet On the Western Front (1930),
t he camera acted as a character following the action on the battlefield while
tracking or panning. Busby Berkeley’s treatment, for instance, in 42nd Street
(1933) or Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), brought the characters from their
anonymity into a close-up shot (as recognition of their artistic contribution) and
endingin a total shot. Gold Digger of 1935 , Les Miserables (1935), These Three
(1936), Bullets or Ballots (1936), the Green Pastures (1936), Dead End (1937),
Jez ebel (1938), Gone With the Wind (1939), and the most captivating of all,
Citiz en Kane (1941) are a few typical examples of Hollywood’s deep-focus
cinematography of this period.

When compositioning in depth, the function of the composition can have various
dramatic means. It may reflect the ‘interpersonal and the intra-personal state of
characters’ in the scene, and this would be expressed through the relationship
bet w een characters, or between the latter and the mise-en-scenes. Often
compositingin depth is used by film-makers to reveal irony or realism within the


18
     Ibid., Chapter 21, pp. 341&342.

19
     Rouben Mamoulian, Colour and Light in Films, in: Film Culture, Vol. 21 (Summer 1960), pp. 69&70.

20
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, pp. 304-308&Chapter 19.


                                                                                                           191
spatial composition. Filmers organized their composition in depth while dealing
with limitless space such as in the western, and employed the same principle
while dealing with claustrophobic sets in the interior. Wide angle lenses had the
real means of stressing or exaggerating the lines of the composition in depth. The
combination of lenses and compositional arrangement are complimentary
aesthetic signs, guiding the beholder to read the spatial composition as a unity.
In guiding the beholder’s attention to the center of interest, the effect of the
s cenographic arrangement is sometimes equal to the characterization of the
characters.21 A long-shot, while revealing the depth of a scene, ‘establishes the
relationship between objects’, reflected Hochberg and Brooks. The shot is an
orientation vehicle that guides the beholder to spatiotemporal unity. Detailed
information related to the subject will usually follow in subsequent close-up
s hots.22 Hollywood’s narrative codes treated the space as a realistic location
reflecting the spirit of the story and its character. This realism was manifested,
for example, notably in Dead End (1937) or Stagecoach (1939). In Dead End
(Illustration 96), Richard Day’s setting in depth was persuasively captured by
Gregg Toland’s camera work. The picture’s depth compositioning represented
the hard realism of the real world, allowing the beholder a smooth understanding
of the characters’ psychological state and how their surroundings related to their
motives for the crime.

One of the fundamental assignments of the film production is telling the story via
the camera and its processes. This form of representation is an accumulation of
art and science. Thereupon, the cinematographer’s task oscillates between
commanding the art of arranging a narrative composition, and knowing the
technical aspects of this procedure.23 For artistic sake, a cinematographer must
command three qualifications, declared Hollywood’s highly recognized
cinematographer Gregg Toland: ‘(1) the mechanics of the Camera, (2) where to
place the camera and (3) how to light the scene to be photographed.’24 Toland’s


21
    Charles H. Harpole, Ideological and Technological Determinism in Deep-Space Cinema Images: Issues in Ideology,
Technological History, and Aesthetics, in: Film Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Spring 1980), p. 15.

22
     J u l i a n H o chberg and Virginia Brooks, The Perception of Motion Pictures, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P.
Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 281.


23
     Ray Hoadley, How They Make a Motion Picture. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell 1939, p. 52.


24
     Gregg Toland, The Motion Picture Cameraman, in: Theater Arts, Vol. 25, No. 9 (September 1941), p. 648.


                                                                                                                    192
statement defined the essential means of arresting persuasively a narrative screen
image. Any miscalculation or underestimation of any of these representational
canons would cause a definite artistic shortage in the cinematographic output.

Hollywood’s classic representational treatment is not American by origin. It is
a conquest of various styles from the past and the present. Hollywood studios
adapted the excellence of foreign cinematographic stylizations, built upon older
and newer rules, and formulated them in their own vocabulary. This artistic
eclecticism turned out to be paradigmatically narrative on the screen. Camera
masters from the film’s conventional period are the artists who carried the label
of t he studios onto the silver screen. Hollywood was a stage for many
cinematographers from around the world: ‘when the studios weren’t borrowing
s t y lis tic touches from overseas they were often borrowing the cameramen
t hemselves.’ -Karl Freund, Rudolph M ate, and Franz Planer to name only a
few.25 Many of those who contributed to the labeling of the decade’s visual style
were newcomers from Europe and elsewhere. Karl Freund came to Hollywood
with a background of Germanic moving camera work, and Expressionist spatial
treatment. He achieved a remarkable adaptation to Hollywood’s needs, and later
Karl Freund’s spatial representation in The Good Earth (1937) provided a classic
interpretation, which belongs to the 1930's masterpieces. Between the influence
of German Expressionism and their own domestic vision, John J. M escall, John
M artin, and King Gray came up with an unmistakable horror cinematography.
In The Black Cat (1934), their modified Expressionistic cinematography
accommodated Universal’s style in its own right. The manipulation of light and
s hadows and the moving camera underscored the picture’s eerie atmosphere.
Painted shades and fluid camera representation connected realism to the two-
dimensional surface, and enhanced the horrific spirit of the picture.

When telling a filmic story, the representational treatment is challenging and not
an easy process. Its mission is to translate the spirit of the story and permit the
beholder to analyze the space as scenographic. From the Scenographer and
cinematographer’s professional point-of-view, they are dealing with formulae,
principles and artistic equations in order to pave a smooth narrational stream
t ow ard t he average beholder. Their prime rule and objective is to provide
s imp licity and narrative efficiency to the scene without the beholder asking


25
     R i c hard Koszarski, 60 Filmographies: The Men with the Movie Cameras, in: Film Comment, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Summer
1972), pp. 28&29.


                                                                                                              193
       “why,” and “how.” John F. Seitz, Hollywood’s veteran cinematographer, sees the
       cinematographic representation as a medium that must tell the filmic narrative,
       ‘rather than to stand out as a separate artistic entity.’26

4.2 Camera-Angle
       Ever since the emergence of the motion picture, filmers have tried to distinguish
       their work from each other through the point-of-view of their camera set-ups. In
       doing so, they tried arresting their images from very narrative angles. Camera
       set-ups are determined by the script, but the formula used in introducing them is
       what discriminates one cinematographic style from another; Griffith is the film-
       maker who refined the principles of the camera angle beyond any other filmic
       grammar (cutting, close-up, and last-minute rescue). Griffith employed these
       aesthetic signs to serve his aim of telling the story, and opposed shooting a scene
       from a single camera setup. He moved his camera from one vantage point to
       another to keep the beholder continually informed about the essence of the scene.
       ‘H e discovered that by placing the camera at an angle to the action he could
       create a greater dynamism than was possible in the conventional head-on shot,’
       so moviegoers admired and replied accordingly.27 Progressively in film-making,
       camera angle stylization was affected dramatically by the impact of introducing
       sound to the screen image. Immediately following the introduction of dialogue
       int o t he film, the movie camera had to be locked in a soundproof shed. The
       resultingcinematography was poor in quality. Under this restricted transmission
       procedure, camera mobility had to be frozen, and, therefore, so was the camera
       angle. The cinematographic output featured a displeasing “mushy” image,
       because of the diffusion caused by the booth’s glass window between the camera
       and the set.. Shortly after this production of poor artistic quality, M etro, RKO,
       Goldwyn, Pathe, Paramount, Columbia and Fox studios started making various
       technical improvements to their booths to enlighten the cinematographic process.
       They notably improved the soundproof booth to favor the studios’ needs while
       filming in sound.28



       26
            Quoted in Herb Lightman, Old Master, New Tricks, in: A. C., Vol.31, No. 9 (September 1950), pp. 309, 318&320.


       27
            A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, p. 20.


       28
            William Stull, Solving the “Ice Box” Problem, in: A. C., Vol. 10, No. 6 (September 1929), pp. 7&36.


                                                                                                                            194
A scene taken correctly from a high or low camera angle, or placing the camera
against an object loaded with dramatic content next to the action in the forefront,
or pointing the camera to underline a perspectival means of the shot are all valid
filmingpossibilities, in that these give the beholder ‘abstract ideas for association
from elements within the shots or from elements from shot to shot.’ The
beholder’s association with a scene will be intensified, supposing the beholder
determines that the film-maker deliberately matched between those associated
components of the shots.29 In shifting between camera angles or from one set up
to the next (long, medium to close-up), the representation should occur smoothly,
preserving the continuity of the narrative stream. Any change in the camera angle
must have a valid motive, otherwise it would induce elusiveness in the beholder
( who would ask ‘why’ and ‘how’). The best form of bridging from one camera
angle to the next is performed during the progress of the action and not when it
is at a standstill.30

A medium-shot is a typical form of conventional Hollywood cinematographic
practice, since it has the function of a re-establishing shot while bridging from
a close-up or long shot. It is employed by film-makers for its narrative efficiency
in capturing the characters’ lines and movement. In witty-dialogue comedies, the
medium-shot was the favored recording form, since it keeps the beholder
constantly informed about the action. With its proper distance from the scene, a
medium-shot transmits the character’s facial and bodily expressions clearly.
Some of Hollywood’s film-makers introduce medium-shots into their work for
its simplistic transformance, and its simplicity rests in its recording at an eye-
level matching the virtual world of the beholder’s eye, yet not calling for self-
at tention.31 In the previous Chapter we have seen how Renaissance artists
imposed an eye-level point-of-view on their canvas for the angle’s high realism
and for the minimum degree of distortion of the compositions constituents.
Correspondingly, unlike John Ford, Frank Capra favored the medium-shot in his
pictures. Capra well understood the narrative quality of the medium-shot and its
high realistic mid-distance composition; he balanced notably between the eye-
level of the camera and the one level of illuminating his scenes that he


29
     See Peter Dart, Figurative Expression in the Film, in: Speech Monographs, Vol. 35 (1968), p. 173.


30
     Arthur Edwin Krows, The Talkies. New York: Henry Holt 1930, pp. 166-67&169.


31
     L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, p. 9.


                                                                                                         195
considered highly perceptual. This style was evident in It Happened one Night
(1934), or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). The same visual stylization applies
to Howard Hawks. Capra and Hawks did not rebel against the constitutional
constraints imposed on them by the studio system, and only did what they were
ins t ruct ed to do. Hawks’ gangster realism, Scarface (1932), and the typical
screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938), are typical examples of functional
cinematography translated in favor of the director’s style. Hawks allowed the
camera to tell the story and capture the spirit of his scenes, rather than imposing
a cinematographic stylization on his action and making it call for self-attention.

M uch of any narrative action’s rhythm is usually determined by its camera angle.
An image transmitted from a low angle is much different from that taken from
a high angle or at eye level. Unconventional camera angles have the tendency of
foreshortening or distorting the subject. By contrast to the low angle, a high
camera angle allows the beholder a grandeur look at the space. Such a point-of-
view diminishes the dynamism and the power of the subject while it is being
filmed from above. A subject taken from a high angle will induce the feeling of
entanglement and helplessness.32 Contrary to the high camera angle, a low angle
creates the effect of verticality, while it distorts the length of the object, making
it looks taller and lending the character a sense of power. Low camera angles use
the spatial economically, as only a small portion of the mise-en-scene can be in
focus -like a ceiling. This requires the lighting of a low-shot scene to be a
direction light (side, back or front). Psychologically, a low camera angle invokes
t he opposite feeling of the high angle.33 When interior settings are
cinematographed with a low camera angle, the set has to be roofed over. And this
will suggest a challenge in illuminating the set, since the lighting units will be
invisible to the camera.34 This equation of a low angle and a Scenographic Space
w it h a ceiling is highly narrative when it is called for. Hollywood filmers
recognized the narrative quality of this realistic formula and introduced it in their
p ict ures. Gordon Wiles’ setting and James Wong Howe’s camera work in
Transatlantic (1931), and Perry Ferguson sets filmed by Gregg Toland in Citizen

32
     Ibid., pp. 11&13; the impact of a low camera angle upon the beholder is evident in sports events, as the cameras usually
take the competition from a low angle. The action less affects most of those who attend the sporting events, because their
p o i n t - of- view is perceiving the event from a relatively high angle. This is based on the architectural arrangement of the
space holding the event.


33
     Ibid., pp. 14&15.


34
     Herb A. Lightman, Realism With a Master’s Touch, in: A. C., Vol. 31, No. 8 (August 1950), p. 287.


                                                                                                                         196
Kane (1941) are highlights of this realistic equation.

In his empirical study, Donald Howard Shoemaker proved that the dramatic
effect of a low camera angle had a far-reaching effect on its beholder compared
with other images taken from different angles. The study revealed that an image
of a character taken from a low point-of-view contains further efficiency and
dominance, and is detached from its surroundings. The same image will look
exp ressive when viewed at eye-level, and inactive when taken from a high
angle.35 Hollywood not only used conventional camera angles in its practice, but
unconventional angles as well. During the Thirties and Forties, Hollywood’s
ut ilization of steep angles was as common practice as use of conventional
angles.36 The utilization of steep angles was in practice only after the turbulent
period, following the introduction of sound, came to an end. The low camera
angle’s psychological effect is at its best in the horror or gangster films. It either
introduces the beholder to the state of the freakish, or produces the impact of the
crime world. Camera angle orthodoxy attained a persuasively narrative effect in
the horror genre. It empowered the monster to be horrifying, since its reduction
of the image’s spatial composition is abbreviated to its essence -the monster with
few indicative elements of his surroundings. In adapting these narrative codes,
Frankenstein (1931), The Black Cat (1934), and The Bride of Frankenstein
(1935), imposed their monstrous effect upon the beholder in exceptional fashion.
In Dead End (1937), Gregg Toland introduced high and low camera angles
reflecting the discrepancies and desperation of the crime world. The introduction
of an Expressionist cinematography in Dracula (1931) was borrowed from the
celebrated style of the Germanic Expressionist school. A shaded and foggy
at mosphere and chiaroscuro tonal treatment combined with skewed camera
angles reflected the vampire’s spirit and horror.37

A further reason that motivates film-makers to pre-determine their camera angles
is the economical and time-saving factor. Building the set according to pre-

35
   Cf. Donald Howard Shoemaker, An Analysis of the Effects of Three Vertical Camera Angles and Three Lighting Ratios
on the Connotative Judgments of Photographs of Three Human Models. Ph. D. Diss., Indiana University 1964, pp. 13,
55&60.

36
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, P. 7.

37
     B ro o k s Peters, Monster Madness, in: The Editors of the Variety (Ed.), The Variety History of Show Business. New
York: Harry N. Abrams 1993, p. 54.


                                                                                                                  197
planned camera angles and lenses will define the height and width of the set that
is int ended to be in the focus of the camera; any extension of the setting’s
dimensions will be a waste of material, as it would stay out of the focus of the
camera.38

Despite a tight time schedule, John Ford concluded Stagecoach (1939) almost on
s chedule. Ford made it ‘by cutting in the camera; that is, rather than shoot a
scene from many angles so that the editor could enjoy flexibility in choosing the
right frames, he shot and printed only what he knew in advance he wanted to
us e.’ T his economy in the use of the camera angles marked the master’s
unparalleled style.39 Ford studied his camera angles well in advance. He refused
the studio system’s cutting formula, and Ford’s way of filming established him
as a master film-maker in his own right. He was always asked to supervise the
cutting of his pictures. In saving in the camera angles, Ford sketched an
unequaled directorial style that sustained the accent of simplicity of his pictures.

What granted deep focus cinematography high narrative quality is its consistency
in communicating a wide range of data to the beholder, in addition to its placing
of the viewers at a vantage point allowing them to scan the scene, and select from
it s cues as desired without cutting. Deep focus was intended to represent a
definite imitation of theatrical interpretation, said Patrick L. Ogle, ‘both by the
elimination of certain film characteristics that pointed up the fact of there being
an intermediary between viewer and performance, and’ maintained Ogle, ‘by the
employment of other inherently filmic characteristics that enhanced the theatrical
s ense of presence while simultaneously preventing any occurrence of the
wretched ‘canned theatre’ effects of some early sound films.’40 Not needing to
give a close-up shot too much credit in the western genre, the western film
preferably followed the schema of the establishing the long-shot. This allowed
t he camera to reveal the pictorial beauty of the landscape iconography, and
translate the aesthetic ideal of the outdoor metaphor. Long-shot rests in the heart


38
   A. B. Laing, Designing Motion Picture Sets, in: The Architectural Record, Vol. 74 (July 1933), p. 63; John Koenig,
Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art 1942.

39
     T e d S e n nett, Hollywood’s Golden Year 1939: A Fiftieth-Anniversary Celebration of Great Hollywood Movies and
Hollywood Musicals. New York: ST. Martin’s Press 1989, p. 27.

40
      S e e Patrick L. Ogle, Technological and Aesthetic Influences Upon the Development of Deep Focus Cinematography
in the United States, in: Screen, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 46.


                                                                                                               198
of the western genre, not only because of its reflection of the spatial correlation
between the characters and their surrounding, but for being the establishing shot
orientingthe beholder so as to grasp the spatial unity, after bridging from a close-
up to a medium shot. As in the western, Astaire-Rogers musicals did not have
much use for close-ups, nor for the unconventional camera angles. The genre
satisfied its beholder mainly with medium and long-shots; some of Hollywood’s
executives instructed their directors to introduce long-shots in their productions.
They wanted to use the establishing shot’s revealing of the Scenographic Space’s
manifestation, to show the high expenditure on their sets.41 M GM ’s head, Louis
B. M ayer, was among those who instructed his cinematographers to flood their
s et s with light and use establishing shot, as we will see in the proceeding
Chapter.

D uring the infancy-days of film, elementary forms of the long-shot were the
generally accepted medium in cinematography, ‘the planning of the scene was
restricted to the general distribution of the objects in the frame limits, which were
regarded as a special form of the theater proscenium.’ Over time, the medium-
s hot was introduced to allow a new accent of transformance: underlining the
dramatic value of certain parts of the scene while detaching it from the long-
s h ot . 4 2 With the introduction of the close-up into the motion picture, the
conventionality of the representational treatment was emancipated from its
theatrical lines. The discovery of the unique filmic shot (close-up or facial shot)
shifted the beholder’s seat closer to the mise-en-scene and the narrative action,
while the selectivity of the close-up invited the beholder to be involved in the
scenic interaction. In highlighting the key moments in the picture, the beholder
is no longer an ‘outside observer.’ The close-up presents details of the scene and
links them to the whole, and this peculiarity separates a close-up focus from the
illustrative long-shot.43

Portraiture illustration became the popular pictorial art of the late Renaissance

41
     King Vidor, On Film Making. New York: McKay 1972, pp. 72& 73.

42
     V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 31&34.

43
       ‘The ‘discovery’ of the close-up’ asserted Vladimir Nilsen, ‘is usually attributed to D. W. Griffith. This, in fact, is not
q u i t e a c c u ra t e , for the close-up as a dynamic photo-portrait existed before him. Griffith was the first to realize its
i mp o rt a n c e in the film’s editing context, and so was able to work out pragmatically the elementary principles of editing
t h e o ry . ’ In Ibid., p. 34, fn. 1; Nilsen’s theory preserves its relevance, because the first signs of close-ups were used in
limited form in the primitive period of the film-making by Milies at “Star-Film” studio.


                                                                                                                           199
age, where a portrait painting reflected the personality of its character.44 Later in
Baroque painting, the art of facial portraiture presented further artistic quality
and characterization to the personality of an individual; still the espousing
between the form of portraiture shot and the motion picture has its own distinct
quality. Focusing the camera on the subject (face, hand, or any other object)
excludes the subject from its surrounding by the frame limits, while magnifying
it and s t ressing its dramatic means. A close-up in the motion picture has a
definite function in sustaining the narrative structure, and is qualified to stand as
an art form in its own right.45 Griffith well realized the narrative efficiency of a
close-up shot. He considered a shot taken in a close-up to have an incomparable
dramatic suggestion greater than the best character’s interpretation in a theatrical
spell.46

Cinematographers prefer to start their opening sequence with a long-shot. It
orients the beholder to the spatial characteristics. The following shots will be
focusing increasingly more closely on the narrative, therefore clarifying the
action, and this will advance to a close-up for the final shot. The Hollywood
cinemat ographer William Stull described close-up focus as ‘one of the most
powerful means of screen story-telling.’ Assuming that the shot is taken properly,
a close-up is qualified to command the beholder’s perception of any desired
aesthetic sign in the scene. On the other hand, employing a close-up where it
does not belong can harm the picture dramatically. Logic and reason govern the
use of the close-up, and the mood of the dramatic action generally determines the
feat ure of the shot.47 When telling a filmic story, a close-up is the
cinematographer’s and the character’s effective tool of dramatic expression. A
facial close-up is a resemblance of the portraiture of still photography, except it
is dynamic in the film, which will allow the facial image on the camera to be




44
     David Bordwell, The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer. Berkeley: University of California Press 1981, p. 51.

45
     J o h n Robert Gregory, Some Psychological Aspects of Motion Picture Montage. Ph. D. Diss., Urbana, Illinois:
University of Illinois 1961, pp. 90&91.

46
     A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, pp. 21&22.

47
     William Stull, Cinematography Simplified, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual, Vol. 1, Hollywood: The
A me ri c an Society of Cinematographer 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), pp. 487&488.


                                                                                                               200
recorded from various angles.48 This will occur either by moving the camera
around the character while the latter is stationary, or the other way around, or by
moving both the camera and the character simultaneously.

A n image or object’s size on the screen relates immediately to the camera
distance from the subject. ‘The smaller the section of real life to be brought into
the picture,’ related Arnheim, ‘the nearer the camera must be to the object, and
the larger the object in question comes out in the picture -and vice versa.’49 Lewis
Jacobs observed the feature of the shot from another analytical point-of-view:
‘The chief function of the close-up is to particularize; the chief function of the
long shot is to generalize.’ In looking closely at the characteristics of both
camera set-ups, Jacobs extrapolated: ‘The close-up, in excluding unwanted
portions of the subject, focuses attention only on what is important and makes
that clearer through magnification.’ On the other hand, he proceeded, ‘The long
shot, by including all of the subject, focuses attention upon its broader aspects
and makes that clearer through reduction.’50

When setting a close-up shot, its angle (frontal, profile or three-quarter), size,
s imp lification of the fore-background composition, and its message must be
t aken into close consideration.51 The portraiture shot on the classical screen
contributed significantly to the fame and prestige of the stars and their studios
during the era of the studio system. Hollywood cinematography recorded the
s t ars’ facial expressions from profile, frontal and three quarter angles, which
sustained the narrative and artistic quality of the screen story in the decade that
followed the emergence of talking motion pictures. While dealing with a spatial
composition, a close-up focus contains the Scenographic Space and excludes
every thing else, except the one or few objects in focus at the frame’s limits, and
fills the screen with that abbreviated composition of the spatial arrangement. This
makes the close-up shot an unreliable means for the beholder’s spatial
orientation unless it is followed up with a medium or long-shot.

48
     F re d J . B a l shofer and Arthur C. Miller, One Reel a Week. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press
1967, p. 193.

49
     Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1957, pp. 18&19.

50
     L e w i s Jacobs, Close-Ups and Long Shots, in: Willard D. Morgan (Ed.), The Complete Photographer, Vol. 2, New
York: National Educational Alliance 1942, p. 782.


51
     John Alton, Painting with Light. New York: The Macmillan 1949, pp. 80-85.


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A p oint-of-view is understood as a camera set-up predicted to resemble the
vant age s tandpoint of a character, and what the character is looking at.52 In
es t ablishing the camera’s point-of-view, the cinematographer defines the
perceptual level between the beholder and the subject. This interactive dramatic
accent (beholder-object) alternates according to the shift in the camera angle. A
camera angle has decisive meaning in structuring the spatial composition and its
p ers pectival value, since these are arranged in the space in various planes,
distances and positions from the camera. Determining the camera angle and
dis tance from the subject is ‘a primary form of organizing the shot space.’53
Furthermore, an unusual camera angle may orient the beholder to the characters’
comp osition and its organization in the scene. If an angle recording two
characters interacting in a scene did not match with anything we experience in
reality, that angle would still provide the beholder with sufficient information
related to characters’ placement in the scene, and this helps the beholder to grasp
how these characters’ viewpoints are arranged in the space.54 The camera angle
provides the beholder not only with unique data related to a group composition
in the Scenographic Space, but to the setting, and puts the spatial under the
beholder’s analytical control.

William Cameron M enzies demonstrated a unique scenographic technique in his
sketches. He provided, as he preferred to say, a “pre-staging” of the film story,
i.e., t ranslation of the script in terms of images. M enzies’ layout technique
underlined dramatically the visual aspect of any picture he dealt with, and this
granted M enzies to be a considerable reference for the cinematographer.55
M enz ies realized the narrative efficiency of his story-boarding in his
s cenographic stylization. As we saw earlier (Chapter 2), each frame of his
sketches was resembled on the film celluloid by the cinematographer, because
M enz ies predetermined the camera angle, composition, illumination and
perspective, and even specified to the cinematographer the feature of the lens
required for the scene. A master such as M enzies made everyone else’s job much

52
       See Edward Branigan, Formal Permutations of the Point-of-View Shot, in: Screen, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Autumn 1975), p.
55.

53
      V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 36&37.



54
      Alfred Guzzetti, Narrative and the Film Image, in: New Literary History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter 1975), p. 382.

55
      Ezra Goodman, Production Designing, in: A. C., Vol. 26, No. 3 (March 1945), p. 82.


                                                                                                                      202
eas ier during the production. These artistic analogies were manifested in The
Iron Mask (1929), Bulldog Drummond (1929), and most strikingly in Gone With
the Wind (1939).

Unlike a setting for the stage that is comparable, while viewed by the beholder,
to a pictorial artwork in a frame, the setting for the motion picture is and must be
arranged to be viewed from various angles. When starting, said Cedric Gibbons,
the film Scenographer should consider envisioning the set from various angles,
while the camera would transmit it from many points-of-view to the beholder.
This requires the set’s dramatic composition to be accurate from every angle for
t he camera take. For Gibbons, the set originator ‘must have the fundamental
approach of the architect-cameraman.’ Gibbons continued in stating that the film
Scenographer ‘must relate it [the set] not only to the drama which evoked it but
to the camera that will photograph it. For no set in pictures is any better than it
appears to be on the screen.’56 The film Scenographer is required to plan the
setting in terms of camera angles and architectural forms.57 Suppose the script is
calling for an eye-level camera take, then the film Scenographer is required to
arrange a normal setting with standard dimensions. Yet for a low or high camera
angle the set’s dimensions must undergo certain deformation. Shooting the set
from a considerably low angle dictates higher walls in order to underline the
drama of the shot, and building the set’s walls to their specified height will be
effective in the section where the shooting will take place, but not necessary
where it will not . This permits the cinematographer to illuminate the set more
properly to suit the action, and be economical. Shooting the set from a high angle
may necessitate the erection of lower walls than normal. That means a close
conferring between the Scenographer and cinematographer in order to bring this
high dramatic visualization into being.58 Finally, introducing false perspective in
t he s et restricts the point-of-view of the camera. False perspective is more
appropriate for reflecting the characters’ state of mind than normal perspective,
but it confines the camera set-ups to one or two angles, and this will impose a




56
   Eustis Morton, Designing for the Movies: Gibbons of MGM, in: Theatre Arts, Vol. 21, No. 10 (October 21, 1937), p.
786.


57
     Ibid., p. 791.


58
     James Wong Howe, Upsetting Traditions With “Viva Villa”, in: A. C., Vol. 15, No. 2 (June 1934), p. 64.


                                                                                                              203
       monotonous representation of the scene.59 This kind of cinematographic
       s t y liz ation is at its best in Expressionist visual stylization. In Hollywood’s
       realistic period of the Golden Age, this visual approach was not a common film-
       making tradition, and most of the spatial and cinematographic treatments were
       used to accommodate realistic cinematography that was based on shooting the
       pragmatic setting from various angles.

4.3 Fluid-Camera: Spatial Representation
       With the advent of sound, mobile camera representation had to be frozen -as
       s t at ed previously. Stationary and unselective microphones imposed drastic
       limitations on the dynamic composition, and the elementary form of cutting made
       the problem worse. Action had to proceed within confined space not exceeding
       the camera range (like a static stage). Out of this, films had to be produced ‘only
       indoors.’ The camera had to be locked in a booth keeping the noise of its motor
       out of reach of the microphone, and the latter was hidden between the mis-en-
       scenes to be as close to the sound source as possible. Actors had to talk directly
       int o the microphone.60 Cinematographers tried to overcome these technical
       arrests by employing multiple camera shots. Four cameras were employed to
       record one take. ‘At times this required ten or more changes on the close-up
       camera for one ten-minute scene.’61 By the early 1930's, when some laboratorial
       restrictions were settled, moving camera technique gradually started regaining
       its artistic quality.

       With the increasing popularity of western pictures, the action started getting ever
       more liberated from being locked within the limits of the static frame. Today’s
       moving camera cinematography borrowed its concept from the western’s chase
       recording, when the camera used to be carried on a truck driving through the
       des ert while filming. Smooth camera operation is essential in this
       representational technique, as the jerky patterns of the apparatus may harm the


       59
            James Mitchell Leisen, Some Problems of the Art Director, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 12, No. 33 (1928), p. 77.

       60
             S c ott Baldinger, Hollywood Talks!, in: The Editors of he Variety (Ed.), The Variety History of Show Business. New
       Y o rk: Harry N. Abrams 1993, pp. 46&47; Kenneth W. Leish, Cinema. New York: Newsweek Books 1974, p. 68; Lewis
       Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. New York: Teachers College Press 1939, p. 435.

       61
             T h o ma s W . B o hn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
       Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 214.


                                                                                                                           204
narrative stream more than helping it.62 Historically, from the early 1920's,
mobile camera cinematography started gaining an increased popularity in
Hollywood film practice. It continued until around the late 1940's, by which time
filmers had started working with less moving-camera; this particular camera
transformance kept film critics busy all of the time. Some criticism went as far
as to compare moving-camera technique with the human body: when dollying,
it resembles a person walking into or out of a space. When the camera apparatus
pans from one side of the screen to another, it is comparable to the head turning
from left to right or, conversely, it may tilt like the head looking up or down.63
A camera, like a head, may induce a combination of tracking while panning and
tilting to give a sudden pitch, move about in searching for something, swerve,
totter or wave. All these may occur because the camera is pursuing the center of
concern, without calling the beholder’s awareness to these techniques.
O ccas ionally a fluid camera still calls for self-attention. ‘If not following an
important subject, or if the back-and foreground to that subject is conspicuously
in movement, then the spectator becomes aware of movement in its own right.’64

M obility of the camera invokes the impression of a stereoscopic image to the
beholder that is unobtainable with a stationary shot.65 In the classic narrative
s t ylization, moving-camera representation had the paradigm of representing
intelligible three-dimensional space.66 In the early Thirties, after some technical
improvements started getting introduced into the American studios, Hollywood
started bridging its crisis by gaining more dynamic in the spatial representation
than ever before. Some film-makers went to a high degree of artificiality with
their fluid-camera, believing in its narrative qualification, while at the same time
complying with the rules of the story-telling. Today film critics speak of the
Lubitschian traveling camera. This is true when observing Lubitsch’s pictures

62
     See Herb A. Lightman, The Fluid Camera, in: A. C., Vol. 27, No. 3 (March 1946), pp. 82&102.

63
     Raymond Durgnat, The Restless Camera, in: Films and Filming, Vol. 15, No. 3 (December 1968), pp. 14&17.

64
       S e e ibid., p. 14; when it came to the use of a hand-held camera, Hollywood regarded this cinematographic tradition
b e n e a t h t h e s t u dios’ opulent stylization, therefore it is rare to experience hand-held camera shots made in Hollywood;
ibid., p. 17.

65
     Cedric Gibbons, Motion Picture Sets, in: The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14 th Ed., 1929-1939, p. 859.

66
     David Bordwell, Classical Hollywood Cinema: Narrational Principles and Procedures, in: Phillip Rosen (Ed.),
Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader. New York: Columbia University Press 1986, pp. 26&27.


                                                                                                                          205
from the transitional period and early Thirties. In his One Hour With You (1932),
he went to the extreme of dollying and panning the camera while framing the
action. Unlike John Ford or Howard Hawk’s pragmatic narrative, Ernst Lubitsch
imposed a cinematographic stylization on his scenes, and let the camera circle
the scenic narrative rather than allowing his characters to command the action,
or keep the mobility subordinate to the characters’ movements. Busby Berkeley
did the same in his kaleidoscopic choreography in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933),
and Dames (1934), to name only a few. To cover his abstract pattern made of a
human element, Berkeley adapted impressive moving-camera technique, and his
camera searched and waved over his dancers using extreme angles (bird’s-eye
view angles) to reveal the abstracted compositions of the choreographers. This
spatial representation revolutionized the beholder-proscenium relationship: the
beholder was cruising with the camera’s point-of-view anywhere it was traveling.
Berkeley kept the beholder well-informed and oriented in regard to the narrative
action, and his camera movement yielded simplicity by invoking unambiguous
and united space.

Berkeley recognized that what the beholder saw on the screen is what the camera
eye had recorded, and accordingly he excelled in utilizing the camera in his
s t ory t elling and taking of his choreographic patterns. Berkeley opposed the
influence of film-cutters to instruct his filming technique- he only did what he
cons idered to be narrative.67 Richard Day was the film Scenographer who
advised Berkeley to compose his dynamic composition according to the camera
eye, which is unlike the human’s, in being solitary. This was suggestive enough
for Berkeley to compose his composition appropriately, and concentrate on the
camera while shooting his composition.68 Berkeley adeptly understood the
narrative efficiency of a dynamic composition, and its exceeding narrative
quality compared with the static one. He realized how instrumental a moving-
camera representation could be in transmitting his dynamic composition, and
correspondingly he kept his composition in a continuous flux, recorded with a
restless camera from various angles.69 That kept Berkeley’s crowded composition
grouped together and not scattered all over the space, keeping it within range of


67
     Daniel Cohen, Musicals. New York: Bison Books 1984, p. 19.


68
     Tony Thomas, That’s Dancing! New York: Harry N. Abrams 1984, p. 110.


69
      Phillip J. Kaplan, The Best, Worst & Most Unusual: Hollywood Musicals. New York: Beekman House 1983, p. 10.


                                                                                                           206
the camera focus.

A lt hough mobile camera cinematography equips the filmic art with further
narrative quality, it can be elusive and it might challenge the communicational
stream or the message of the screen story. ‘Successful screen movement lies in
knowingnot only how to create it but when and why [my italic].’ M oving-camera
rep res entation has its vitality, pace, timing, length, and direction. If the
movement of the camera is dominant in the filming, the action may reflect
exhilaration or violence. On the contrary, a scene loaded with emotional lines
needs the suspension of all the movements of the camera. In short, the narrative
act ion dictates the mobility rhythm of the camera.70 A balance between the
camera mobility and the focus of attention is highly recommended. Camera
movement can dramatically either sustain the narrative or torture the viewers by
making them feel dizzy. In film production, introducing fluid-camera is fairly
uncommon while filming a static subject; if the camera waves in searching for
something over standstill mise-en-scenes in well arranged Scenographic Space,
the shot would create the impression of a mystery. This unique cinematography
will call for the beholder’s curiosity to search with the camera for that which is
missing. One form of camera mobility may well sustain the one picture, but lend
the other a different dramatic interpretation, i.e., every picture needs its own
t ailored cinematographic pace.71 When the camera was searching Charles D.
Hall’s setting at the beginning of The Black Cat (1934), the impression of the
mysterious was manifest. John J. M escall and King Gray’s camera was merging
from the living space through the hallway to the house door, which outlined the
open spatial conception and the coming of the unknown. The moving camera
illustrated, in the beholder’s mind, the attributes of the set as it was searching its
way to the entrance, suggesting the mood of impending horror.

J us t as an unnecessary movement of the camera can harm the scene, a
combination of moving shots may create a higher probability of mistakes and
eventually of retaking the scene, because the concentration of the film-maker has
to be distributed on the many functions of the camera simultaneously.72 Spatial

70
     See Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hastings House 1976, pp. 380&424.

71
    D o n L i v i n g ston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillan 1953, pp.
50&51.


72
     Ibid., pp. 74&75.


                                                                                                             207
representation lies at the core of moving-camera transformance. Fluid-camera
process is an association of both aesthetical and technical languages. ‘The very
notion “camera” already situates us not before the cinema screen, but in a film
studio, in production surroundings which include a mechanism called a camera.’
When t he camera takes a pro-filmic scene, it follows a course of movement
which might be panning, tilting or dollying. Correspondingly the mobility of the
camera together with the cinematographed subject ‘are recorded by the camera
itself, to be re-presented on the screen.’73 As much as moving-camera treatment
is a valid technique in representing an absent space, while revealing the
correlationship between the spatial attributes in the scene, it can frequently have
a subjective impression. ‘The movement of the camera draws attention to the
imaginary observer whose movement it reproduces. The content of the shot is
seen, not directly, but through the eyes, as it were, of someone who is reacting
to that content in a certain way.’ By not relating the spatial properties to each
other, it will make its definite quality difficult to appraise.74

M oving-camera representation demands its own concept of scenographic
translation, different from that used on the stage, and one which is viewed from
t he beholder’s stationary seat, angle and fixed distance. And nothing will be
viewed in detail. When filming, the camera highlights certain portions of the set,
and these should be reproduced with extra care to convey a dramatic close-up
shot. In this regard, the details’ composition in the setting is dramatically equal
to that of the long-shot.75 Occasionally fluid-camera representation is more of an
agonizingapparatus rather than a narrative vehicle to the beholder, unless camera
mobility is sustaining the spatial unity and therefore the spirit of the film story.
Travelingcamera representation is meaningless if not distracting. The symbolism
of acrobatic rotation or subjective movement of the camera is a geometric maze
and more of a poor art, making the beholder feel ill-at-ease or confused. A
balanced combination of stationary and mobile camera cinematography can
heighten the communicational stream. This cinematographic technique serves the
beholder with the most sensitive information about the Scenographic Space,


73
       C f. David Bordwell, Camera Movement and Cinematic Space, in: Cine Tracts, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1977), p. 20.

74
     Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, pp. 121&122.

75
     E d ward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio Publications 1941 (2 nd Ed.,
Designing for Films, 1949), p. 24.




                                                                                                               208
       becaus e of the technique’s craft to wrest the spatial attributes from their
       anonymity and re-announce the spatial unity as an unambiguous narrative place.
       This is among the decisive aesthetic signs that has helped the motion pictures’
       scenographic art succeeding where theatrical staging did not.

4.3.1 Reframing: Panning Shot
       Cinematographing with a traveling camera is nearly as old as film itself. David
       W. Griffith well understood the dramatic means of panning the camera, when
       used in forming a picture. The shot’s narrative quality lies not only in panning
       the camera from the left to the right of the screen, or conversely in keeping a
       dynamic composition framed and reframed all times, but additionally, in panning
       the camera to deliver a narrative feeling of motion to the beholder. ‘The eye is
       sensitive to such shifts in the field of vision and it telegraphs this sensitivity to
       the brain, which translates it into a physical sensation.’76 By definition, panning
       the camera is a cinematographic mechanism achieved by swiveling the camera
       on the “Tripod Head”, to frame a moving subject while the apparatus remains
       fixed on its tripod. A part of the composition occluded in the one shot would still
       be covered in the next framing. The camera pace is relative -it does not have a
       certain formula- when it turns from one side to another on the screen.77 The pan
       shot operates smoothly. The security and practicality of the shot secured its
       common use among film-makers. Framing an action with a pan shot (panoramic
       view) can sustain the narrative ideally for the beholder to perceive.

       A pan shot is only worthy if there is an assured motive for using it. The shot is
       well-suited in chasing scenes across the landscapes of western pictures. Unlike
       the panning process of the camera, the human eye cannot scan the space with all
       its attributes smoothly , is selective in its operation and jumps from one point of
       interest to the next. Through this visual selectivity, many of the view’s details
       escape the eye’s attention.78 As much as it is narrative in the establishing long-


       76
            Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies. Indianapolis: Pegasus 1971, p. 67   .
       77
               J u l i a n H o chberg and Virginia Brooks, The Perception of Motion Pictures, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P.
       F ri e d ma n (E d . ), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 274;
       Laurence Goldstein and Jay Kaufman, Into Film. New York: E. P. Dutton 1976, P. 175.

       78
            Lewis Herman, A Practical Manual of Screen Playwriting for Theater and Television Films. New York and
       Scarborough: New American Library 1952, pp. 106&110.


                                                                                                                              209
shot, panning the camera has equal narrative efficiency in the close-up and
medium-shots. In these, it reveals smoothly the cause-effect relationship: if two
characters are having a conversation, the camera uses reaction pan by pulling
back from figure “A” to capture the reaction of figure “B.”79 In Stagecoach
(1939), panning the camera lent additional credit to the chasing scene’s narrative
because it permits the beholder a panoramic view of a dynamic composition
backed up with the iconography of M onument Valley and its beauty.

During its horizontal panning, the camera frames various static subjects. The
camera may achieve a swivel-turn of up to 180 degrees, which can increase to a
s w ish-pan of 360 degrees, but that would seem to be too artificial a shot.
Sup p os ing the course of panning the camera is too slow, then the shot will
become boring and cause the beholder to lose interest in the image. If the shot is
too fast, it will not allow the beholder to draw some analysis related to the scene
and its attributes.80 ‘At the highest speeds, or with abrupt and unpredictable
s t op ping and starting, acceleration and declaration, a pan shot can make it
difficult to read a space as scenographic.’ Yet when reading the screen image, an
exaggerated character swivel or flux of abstract patterns speeding rapidly from
one side to another on the screen, can cause mental stress for the beholder. A
puzzled representational treatment of camera mobility would not permit to the
beholder sufficient data about the unity of the Scenographic Space nor the
image.81 On a large screen process, where the spatial attributes are assigned with
great er dimensions, a pan take will induce the feeling of an exaggerated
movement. This effect creates the illusion of three-dimensionality in the space,
and invites the beholder definitely to be involved in the movement related to the
s cenic action. ‘An excessive use of these shots’ correlated the American
Scenographer Oliver Smith, ‘produces dizziness or a kind of sea-sickness on the
part of the audience which is not at all helpful in viewing a [Scenographer’s]
w ork.’ M oving the camera should be adapted to the beholder’s perceptual
capacity. It should not convey a pure mechanical proceeding of unrelated and
artificial angles, which can easily call the beholder’s attention to the “cleverness”



79
     L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 103&104.


80
     Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hastings House 1976, p. 385.


81
      S ee David Bordwell, Camera Movement and Cinematic Space, in: Cine Tracts, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1977), p. 25.


                                                                                                              210
       of the cinematographic apparatus.82 In panning the camera, film-makers usually
       save themselves from interruptive cutting between shots. They yield a continuity
       of act ion and an unambiguous space. During the 1930's, the pan shot was a
       commonly used practice in Hollywood film-making. Panning the camera served
       as essential narrative vehicle in the telling of the film story on the classic screen.

4.3.2 Tracking-Dollying: Perambulator Camera Shot
       Griffith realized the narrative quality that could be produced by the traveling
       camera (or tracking shot). Griffith introduced this shot sparingly only to stress
       cert ain highlights in his narrative actions. The shot is qualified to transmit a
       highly narrative efficiency of physical movement to the screen. The tracking shot
       is understood as ‘the perfect tool for communicating the internal excitement of
       people riding rushing trains and galloping horses and racing wagons.’83 Dolly or
       tracking shot is the term applied today to any shot using a carriage vehicle while
       recording a pro-filmic scene. It is effective in the resemblance of a ‘time-
       cons uming point-of-view’: suppose a character is looking for something; the
       dolly stretches the scene, but accentuates the mood of the action. The technique
       of an unanticipated pull-back dolly is constructive in surprising the beholder or
       t he character because of its sudden exposition of an unexpected event.84 The
       dolly is a narrative vehicle in inducing an ironic discrepancy between the spoken
       words and mise-en-scenes in the scene, i.e., it may provide the beholder with
       counter- evidence of what the character is asserting in the scene. In addition, a
       dolly provides the beholder with information which the character does not have.
       P s y chologically it permits film-makers to serve the audience with something
       highly dramatic, and prepare their awareness that it is about to happen.85 Ernst
       Lubitsch well understood the narrative quality of dollying the camera. With this
       technique he was able to stretch his scenes into being more pictorial, and to avoid
       the trouble of the dialogue recording in his early sound pictures. In his comedy
       One Hour with You (1932), slowly dollying the camera enhanced the narrative

       82
            Oliver Smith, Musical Comedy Design for Stage and Screen, in: Oliver K. Larson (Ed.), Scene Design for Stage and
       Screen. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press 1961, pp. 194&195.


       83
            Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies. Indianapolis: Pegasus 1971, pp. 67&68.


       84
            L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 105&106.


       85
            Ibid., p. 106.


                                                                                                                      211
quality of the picture by permitting the beholder to be close to the most intimate
information related to the characters. The dolly followed the characters into their
chamber and in doing so, the camera provided the beholder with unambiguous
information related to the spatial unity and its characteristics. Gordon Avil and
K ing Vidor introduced persuasive tracking shots in the early all-black sound
melodrama Hallelujah (1929), revealing the character’s state of mind while
es cap ing through the swamp. The dolly shot was among the most narrative
vehicles in the story-telling of Astaire-Rogers musicals during the course of the
ninet een-thirties. Dollying the camera permitted the beholder to study the
scenographic attributes of Art Deco and the Streamlined Art M oderne in the
surroundings of the musicals and their characters.

With a dolly carriage, the camera records the action smoothly by traveling on
tracks inward, outward, or within the set. In dollying the camera, bridging the
p ace from one composition to the next is relative in the shot.86 Sending the
beholder a true narrative effect of a dolly shot, requires that the camera must
travel passing a subject; otherwise dollying the camera is ineffective. Passing by
an object when dollying the camera, is what invokes the feeling of the object’s
roundness. ‘We’d take certain buildings -buildings with pillars- and get a
wonderful effect going past those pillars if we dollied’ stated Allan Dwan. ‘The
pillars seemed to revolve but they got solid because as you went around them
you had the feeling that they were of substance and not just flat.’87 A tracking
s hot reserves its narrative quality by enhancing the depth cue of the spatial.
When dollying the camera, objects in their various planes will appear to be
moving at various speeds, i.e., closer objects to the camera lens seem to have
greater velocity than those in the background. Like in other forms of the fluid
camera (tilting or panning), dollying may remedy the limitations dictated by the
fixed limits of the frame, by framing and reframing the composition.88

In telling a filmic story, the dolly shot provides smooth and uninterrupted
narrative action, which meant the displacement of the complicated floor-lighting


86
     Ibid., p. 105; Julian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks, The Perception of Motion Pictures, in: Edward C. Carterette and
M o rt o n P . F riedman (Ed.), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p.
274; Laurence Goldstein and Jay Kaufman, Into Film. New York: E. P. Dutton 1976, p. 274.


87
     Eric Sherman (Ed.), Directing the Film: Film Directors on their Art. Boston: Little, Brown 1976, p. 108.


88
     Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, p. 123.


                                                                                                                  212
equipment with one mounted ‘upon the lamp-rails above the set.’89 Carrying out
the process of a smooth dolly or tracking shot needs flat space. In operating in,
out or within the Scenographic Space with a dolly, the camera may combine the
s hot w ith another moving technique, or retain the same set-up of the
composition. Its pace of motion depends on the rhythm of the dramatic action.
A chase scene needs a speedy vehicle like those of the western, where both the
s ubject and the camera are in motion. Some of Hollywood cinematographers
w ere know n for their skillful handling of the mobile camera: Sol Polito, for
instance, landmarked his filming stylization with mobile camera cinematography.
Polito’s 42nd Street (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), are highlights of
fluid camera representation. Sidney Franklin first introduced the semi-dolly shot
while roller-skating with a hand-held camera for filming M arion Davis in Quality
Street (1927), and James Wong Howe reused the same semi-dollying technique
of a hand-held camera and roller-skating in order to smoothly circle the fighter’s
scene in Body and Soul (1931).

A tracking shot feeds the beholder with sufficient data about the setting’s depth
cue and arrangement of its mise-en-scenes. But it does not grant the beholder
w it h ‘vestibular and other proprioceptive information.’ This perceptual
reservation would invite the beholder ‘to traverse the course followed by the
camera.’90 Perceiving an optokinetic stimulus from a close distance on a wide
s creen would lead the beholder to the assumption of undergoing a pure self-
referred motion. Under these conditions the beholder may undergo dizziness and
slight nausea. In this, the beholder’s peripheral perception -in relation to the wide
field of vision or screen- has an immediate relationship with the beholder’s sense
of vestibular velocity.91 Still, when a stationary beholder views a vast stimulus
stream progressing with an unvarying tendency, e. g., wide screen or
circumambient film production, he will experience a sense of ‘moving in an
opposite direction while the scene itself may appear to stop moving. Paradoxes,
in the sense that the physical description appears to disagree with the perceptual
report,’


89
     Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 30, No. 3 (March 1938), p. 294.

90
     J u l i a n H o chberg and Virginia Brooks, The Perception of Motion Pictures, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P.
Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p. 276.

91
    Cf. Eugene R. Wist, H. C. Diener, J. Dichgans, and Th. Brandt, Perceived Distance and the Perceived Speed of Self-
Motion: Linear vs. Angular Velocity? in: Perception & Psychophysics, Vol. 17, No. 6 (1975), pp. 549-554.


                                                                                                                    213
       mean that the beholder will experience a sense of self-motion and slight tilting
       into the other side of the motion trend.92

4.3.3 Zoom Shot
       Every filmic event can be carried out on the screen in one form of
       cinematographic stylization or another. Zooming the camera is a unique
       technique for arousing the effect of tracking or craning with a stationary camera.
       It is a process of the unification of various lenses, with a single set-up. Zooming
       the camera assigns a range of focuses from a close-up to telephoto. The zooming
       shot’s narrative quality rests in the shot’s sudden inclusion or expulsion of the
       beholder in or from the scene, and is economical and a time saver compared to
       crane and dolly shots.93 While crane and dolly shots call up the feeling of moving
       into or out of the three-dimensional Scenographic Space and allowing the spatial
       at t ribut es to flood around the edges of the screen, zooming the camera will
       flatten the image’s perspective, foreshorten the characters and cause the edges
       of the image to vanish. By not permitting the impression of entering the space,
       zoomingin allows the effect of throwing some of the spatial attributes toward the
       beholder, which will be obvious in lengthier shots.94 Introducing the zoom shot
       in a telling filmic story has various forms in film-making: ‘Zoom can be used for
       tracking. ... to emphasize distance. ... search out figures in a broad space. ... for
       sudden dramatic emphasis. ... to express psychological reaction through the eyes
       of a character. ... moving into freeze frames. ... for special effects.’ Such as these,
       it can reflect a state of mind, and ‘ can be used to replace other lenses.’95

       By pulling back from a setting’s details, zooming the camera isolates a portion
       of the set to underline a point in context, not to separate it from the rest to create
       a new whole. The prime application of a zoom is its motion into or out of space
       t o bring a scene from a distance and take it close to the beholder. It cannot

       92
            Cf. Richard Held, Johannes Dichgans and Joseph Bauer, Characteristics of Moving Visual Scenes Influencing Spatial
       Orientation, in: Vision Research, Vol. 15 (1975), pp. 357-365.

       93
         Laurence Goldenstein and Jay Kaufman, Into Film. New York: E. P. Dutton 1976, p. 190; L. Giannetti, Understanding
       Movies, p. 112.

       94
            Ibid., p. 113.

        95
              S t u a rt M . Kaminsky, The Use and Abuse of the Zoom Lens, in: Filmmakers Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 12 (October
       1972), pp. 22&23.


                                                                                                                       214
survive as an independent filmic form. ‘It is a function, not a form.’ By contrast
to all other forms of the fluid camera, zooming is internal to the camera and not
external. When zooming, the camera wraps the space inward to the camera or
out w ard from the apparatus, instead of penetrating through. It can easily be
differentiated from tracking even if the shot is brief. Unlike any other moving
camera technique, the zooming shot does not pay any respect to the canons of
perspective in recording a space.96 In the 1930's and 1940's, Hollywood rarely
used zooming in film production, but there are nontheless some quite narrative
examples. Leon Shamroy admitted introducing a zoom shot in La Cava’s Private
Wor lds (1935). It was not until the 1960's that zoom and telephoto started
emerging as a new visual translation in telling a moving picture story.97 As early
as in Love Me Tonight (1932), Victor M ilner and Rouben M amoulian introduced
two zoom shots in the opening scene of a ‘Paris Waking,’ in which the camera
resembled the point-of-view of M aurice Chevalier looking up to the landmarks
of the city: one to a chimney and the other at a character in the window. During
t he 1930's, when American film-makers used a zooming shot, they skillfully
incorp orated it with the narrative of telling the story and made it a smooth
representation.

How much of a subject should be placed in the frame is the common question
when planning a shot. Yet a shot is not always planned according to the range
bet w een the camera and the object, as some lenses have a notable degree of
distance distortion. In this regard, a telephoto lens has the capacity of producing
a close-up focus while still being far away from the object.98 Zoom and telephoto
lenses share a limitless series of gradations in their set-ups. The zoom shot’s keen
application is to record the dynamic of a composition, whereas a telephoto shot
is more proper for framing a static composition. Sometimes a telephoto shot can
be the only dramatic means available in capturing a close-up. The telephoto, like
t he z oom shot, it is not qualified to survive on its own as a filming form.99
T elephoto has its dramatic meaning ‘when drama is dependent on space;’ in
anot her respect it is employed for the panoramic aesthetic that the lens can

96
     Paul Joannides, The Aesthetic of the Zoom Lens, in: Sight and Sound, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Winter 1970/71), pp. 40&41.


97
     Ibid., p. 40   .
98
     L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, p. 7.


99
     Paul Joannides, The Aesthetic of the Zoom Lens, in: Sight and Sound, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Winter 1970/71), pp. 40&41.


                                                                                                               215
provide. It disrespects the spatial depth cue in front of and behind the point of
interest, which would be blurred. The shot reduces the natural world to forms
‘instead of being made up of objects,’ in that the subjects’ contoural outlines are
transformed into a mass of tones. The telephoto would agglomerate the details
into a form of unity, not allowing them to have their equal artistic quality as in
an environment of deep focus.100

In shooting the same set with a zoom and tracking shot, the main dissimilarity
bet ween both is manifested in the image’s output. A zoom lens deforms the
proportions of the spatial qualities equally, because the tracking shot aggrandizes
the scenographic dimensions mainly in the foreground more than it does in the
background.101 A slowly taken zoom has a unique narrative quality; approaching
the subject in this manner will invite the beholder to be involved in the narrative
action. Speedy zooms create a surprising effect and pronounce exact punctuation
on the subject in focus by isolating it from its surroundings. A combination of
s low -fas t-slow zooms is highly narrative when shifting the lens from one
dramatic extreme to the next, within the range of the focus. Finally, the zoom
shot will be at it best if it operates in short sections rather than in long ones. It
will not call for self-attention when the zoom is balancing between its rhythm
and the framing of the dynamic composition.102

If mounting the camera on a dolly operates from and toward the beholder, or
conveys a consistency between the moving subject and the space, then the zoom
shot may supplant the in and out movement of the tracking shot, but it cannot
resemble the same dramatic effect of giving the beholder the impression of
approaching or distancing from the subject in the space. ‘This feeling of being
“ ins ide,” pronounced the English film author Arthur Graham, ‘is due to the
changing perspective, which resembles that which would be experienced in
normal life as one moved in a similar manner.’ By contrast to tracking, the zoom
shot keeps the beholder outside the space. Here, the beholder is a mere observer
and not deeply involved in the scene.103 Frequently exchanging a dolly shot with

100
      Ibid., pp. 41&42.


101
      Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hastings House 1976, p. 475.


102
      Ibid., p. 476   .
103
      See Arthur Graham, Zoom Lens Technique, in: A. C., Vol. 44, No. 1 (January 1963), pp. 28-30.


                                                                                                     216
        a zoom is a common convention in the filmic practice that has received clear
        objections from a broad base of film investigators. The above-stated is inclined
        to be appraised both critically and as being a valid sight simultaneously if we
        approve that the dolly operation from and toward the beholder, by maintaining
        t he s ame set-up of the camera, is unchallengeable. The question of zooming
        should be focused on ‘when’ and not on ‘whether’ to employ it in telling a film
        story. But the zoom should not be applied simply because it is handy to use.104
        F inally, zooming the camera can have an elaborate introduction in placing an
        establishing shot while recording a documentary, or in a dangerous scene that
        otherwise would not have been possible to record with a conventional close-up
        or medium shot. The same is true for recording a scene across a river bed or
        uneven locations, where other techniques would not have the same flexibility as
        zoom does. The question of whether zooming the camera is doable in feature
        pictures or not, is a matter of drama, artistic vision and skills.

4.3.4 Tilting Shot
        Keeping the subject within the frame limits sometimes calls for vertical rotation
        or tilting motion of the camera. This cinematographic mechanism defines a
        stationary camera with vertical rotation on a horizontal axis that introduces the
        sensation of scanning the image from the top to the bottom or conversely.
        Bes ides the shot’s underlining of the ‘spatial and psychological
        interrelationships,’ it is used ‘to suggest simultaneity, and to emphasize cause-
        effect relationships.’ Tilting, like the panning shot, is evocative in offering the
        subjective effect of the point-of-view of the character while looking up or down.
        T hat interchangeable angle (low-high) may create the psychological effect of
        either helplessness or well-being.105 The tilting effect is intensely narrative for
        the shot’s capturing of a dramatic moment such as an ascending or descending
        movement. By placing the camera close to the subject and tilting it slowly from
        the base of that subject, the shot would stress the effect of exaggerated height in




        104
               S t u a rt M. Kaminsky, The Use and Abuse of the Zoom Lens, in: Filmmakers Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 12 (October
        1972), pp. 20&21.

        105
            L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, p. 105; David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading,
        Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 1979, p. 122.


                                                                                                                       217
       focus.106 A moving cinematographic technique like tilting, for instance, was hard
       to resist for Hollywood’s filmers from the 1930's. Busby Berkeley was a film-
       maker who was in love with fluid-camera cinematography, and his dance
       numbers were best viewed with a mobile camera but not with stationary one.
       Busby Berkeley broke with the conventions of the camera when he visualized his
       flowery and unconventional scenes. He would shoot his dancing characters from
       an absolute perpendicular angle, and tilt the camera down to the other extreme
       end of the setting’s floor, scanning every possible aesthetic sign in the scene. He
       performed this landmark shot in “The Shadow Waltz” in Gold Diggers of 1933
       (1933). Tilting, like panning or the dolly shot, has relative pace from one framing
       t o the next, and a part of what is framed in one shot will be occluded in the
       following framing. It sustains the narrative action and its continuity without
       rely ing on the cutting. All these qualified the shot to be a reliable narrative
       vehicle in conventional Hollywood’s film practice.

4.3.5 Crane Shot
       When the camera undertakes the course of a crane shot, it is independent from
       t he ground, swimming freely in the air in any desired position and direction.
       Today there are other versions of crane shots such as those of the airplane and
       helicop t er, permitting the camera to fly in the air like a bird.107 With its
       mechanical arm, a camera crane is eligible to create a combination of movements
       (out, in, up, down, or diagonal), or any of these movements in isolation. These
       mechanical possibilities allowed film-makers to utilize the camera crane as a
       form of metaphor of penetration in the spatial representation.108 Craning the
       camera differs from all other moving-camera operations, but it is uniquely
       narrative. With the help of a crane, the camera accesses places or angles that
       otherwise would not be reachable with pan, dolly, zoom or tilting mechanisms.
       A crane shot is more likely to be used in transmitting captivating stylization such
       as in mob scenes or musical spectacles. Film-makers preferred shooting their
       musical numbers with a crane to capture the ultimate novelty of the dynamic


       106
              L e w i s H erman, A Practical Manual of Screen Playwriting for Theater and Television Films. New York and
       Scarborough: New American Library 1952, pp. 112&113.

       107
            David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 1979, pp.
       122&123.

       108
             L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, p. 110.


                                                                                                                   218
choreography and aesthetic of the large scale settings. That form of
representation was manifested in David Abel’s filming “The Continental” in The
G ay D iv or cee (1934), in which the camera captured the space with its
constituents of the Functional aesthetic as a scenographic detail in its own right.
“The Continental’s” spatial representation obeyed the beholder as the master of
t he s p ace by allowing access to unique vantage points on the set and its
composition, which would not have been possible with other forms of moving-
camera representation. The same narrative equilibrium between the spatial and
the characters within, was projected in a crane shot by Karl Freund in Conquest
(1937).

In the early sound pictures, film-makers used the crane shot to provide a fluid-
camera cinematography and therefore, they liberated the action from its canned
set, when the camera used to be caged in a soundproof booth. Filming the scene
of the New Yorker Penn Station with its mob composition was persuasively
demonstrated in George Folsey’s representation in Applause (1929). Employing
the same measure of balance between fluid-camera, the crowd’s composition and
its surrounding, was narratively visualized in a crane shot of a jammed street by
George Barnes, Stuart Thompson and George Nogle in the early sound picture
Street Scene (1931). No other moving-camera technique can give the same image
outcome of balancing between the dynamic composition and its surrounding as
a crane shot does. A crane shot may however foreshorten a subject, or relatively
diminish the mobility of a crowd’s dynamism in its static surroundings, as the
camera is taking the course of steep angles when recording the composition.

T aking a scene with a crane is far more functional than using the traditional
camera tripod to hold the apparatus. In the cinematographic field, a crane is
recommended for its advantages over the delays of tripod’s set-ups, because with
a tripod, altering the camera position between shots, to the right, left, up or down
is a time-consuming process. A crane can be moved to any desired angle in the
set with more accuracy and smoothness.109 As stated earlier (Chapter 3), a special
crane for the “Paradise Night Club” in Broadway (1929) was constructed to
accommodate the vast dimensions of the Club’s setting. With a fifty foot long
arm, t he crane was able read all the Art Deco constituents of the set, while
rot at ing from one angle to the next at ease. The vertiginous crane mobility,


1 09
       John Arnold, Cinematography-Professional, in: Willard D. Morgan (Ed.), The Complete Photographer. Vol. 2, New

York: National Educational Alliance 1942, p. 766   .

                                                                                                              219
       commented Broadway’s cinematographer Hal M ohr, is well qualified to guide
       our attention to the narrative action.110

       The crane shot is not usually employed to introduce fluid-camera, but to concur
       stationary shots with unyielding or unfeasible and time-consuming angles,
       assuming that these shots had been taken with other camera techniques. Crane
       shots have the ability to frame a dynamic composition moving up or down from
       one level to the next. When the crane penetrates a setting, it pinpoints the center
       of interest, traveling from one focus of attention to the next, or interprets the
       mood of the action by traveling slowly while assuming a vertical motion. When
       the crane lifts up in the air while recording an object in the front, it stresses the
       height of that object, and the same effect will be produced if the camera takes the
       ot her w ay around.111 The crane shot is a commonly useful cinematographic
       technique because of the device’s ability to illustrate ‘visually complicated sets,’
       and this is followed from the air by taking the course either from close-up to an
       establishing shot or conversely. Introducing a crane shot into the representational
       treatment must be a highly justified technique, i.e., using it only when called for
       by the action . By not following this formula, abuse of the crane shot is easy and
       may harm the picture.112

4.4 Camera Lens: Focus and Exposure
       An image assigned in the focal distance of a long lens generally would appear
       crisp and clear, and any plane in the front or behind this focal range would be out
       of focus. Some film-makers use this frosty effect (in front or behind the focal
       range or both) to illustrate a distinctive cinematographic effect. Long distance
       lenses vary in their sensitivity to distances according to the lenses’ range. These
       lens es distort distances, and do not have any respect for the novelty of the
       image’s perspective or composition quality. Extreme long lenses reduce the
       dynamic of the composition extemely.113 On the contrary, short lenses (wide-


       110
            Hal Mohr quoted in Richard Koszarski, Moving Pictures: Hal Mohr’s Cinematography, in: Film Comment (September
       1974), p. 50.

       111
             Daniel Arijon, Grammar of the Film Language. New York: Hastings House 1976, p. 469.


       112
             Ibid., pp. 470&471.


       113
             L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 30&31.


                                                                                                                   220
angle) transmit a clear image in all its retrogressive planes, and this qualitative
reason allows them to deliver deep-focus takes appropriately. Their focal length
is short and they have a wider angular coverage. As these lenses acquire a wider
angle, their lines and forms’ distortion became more clear on the edges of the
image, as they are aiming to bend. They exaggerate distances between the mise-
en-scenes in the space. In a close-up shot, the wide-angle lens aims to deform the
portraiture properties, such as large noses, ears and slanting slits of the eyes,
w hereas t he back of the head declines dramatically. The same is true for
caricaturing the characters’ activity from and toward the lens- it may lend to the
characters the illusion of brutality or power. All these seem to be more magnified
in a shot taken with a fish-eye lens.114

Shooting with a wide-angle lens would pronounce the perspectival values in the
s p at ial organization. Objects situated in the foreground would undergo some
augmentation in their size and those in the background would look accordingly
smaller. The lense lends roundness to the spatial constituents. By taking a set
with a normal lens, its outlook may resemble a confined setting, but shooting the
s ame s et with a wide-angle lens would give the impression of spaciousness.
Walls of the set will appear uncontained, and figures of the characters’
composition will look separate from one another.115 Focal length magnifies or
reduces the image’s attributes on the screen. By manipulating the focal length,
the distance between the camera and the subject can be altered without moving
the camera closer or farther away from the subject in focus.116 Whether the focal-
length of the lens is short or long, it rules the perspective of the composition and
alters the actual spatial dimensions (objects appear apart when taken with a short
focal-length lens, and closer to each other when filmed with a long focal-length
lens).117 Paramount’s chief Scenographer, Hans Dreier, confirmed this point that




114
       Ibid., pp. 31&32; Choosing and Using Lenses, in: A. C., Vol. 40, No. 5 (May 1959), pp. 296-7&316; “focal length”
i s t h e term that ‘refers to the distance from the surface of the film to the optical center of the lens.’ See Don Livingston,
Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillan 1953, p. 60; V. Nilsen, The Cinema
as a Graphic Art, p. 55.

115
       Charles L. Anderson, Filming with Perspective Control, in: A. C., Vol. 31, No. 10 (September 1950), pp. 331&324.


116
       V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 55.


1 17
       Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillan 1953, p. 60.


                                                                                                                         221
the camera lens defines the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the setting.118
A wide-angle lens is the only method authorizing the beholder to participate in
the scenic action so as to be “surrounded” by the setting and the action within.
A wide-angle lens is a well-designated cinematographic means for capturing an
exaggerated and forceful perspective. Under a poor illumination level in the
interior or exterior setting, the wide-angle lens will be of definite
cinematographic value, ‘when a large aperture is necessary and maximum depth
of field desirable.’119

If t he script defines the camera set-ups (close-up, medium or long-shot and
angles) in telling the film story, rarely does it specify the camera lens which will
be employed in these set-ups. It is well advisable that the film Scenographer
understands which lens will do what ‘to the figures in relation to the set and to
the perspective of the set’, in order that when planning the main scenes, the film
Scenographer will be aware of what that particular lens will do to the set (see
Illustrations 97-101).120 Lenses such as 25mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, and 75mm
are the most commonly used in motion picture production. The 50mm lens is the
clos es t in terms of vision to the human eye, with less “angle of visual
perception.” Any lens below that size is considered a wide-angle lens. How much
light a lens will transmit is a measure of lens categorization, and this in turn, is
bas ed ‘upon the diameter of the lens in relation to its focal length.’ The iris
diaphragm, in the lens barrel regulates -when it opens and closes- the amount of
light reaching the film. Technically the iris diaphragm’s aperture and shutting
mechanism are graduated in f or T numbers, i.e., stops. This means that ‘the
lower the f number, the greater the lens opening, the more light it will transmit,
and the less light will be needed on the subject for a proper exposure.’ Based on
the lenses’ classification by their focal length and lowest f number, a complete
designation of a lense then will be as: 35mm f:2.3 lens or 40mm f:2.5 lens and



118
      Hans Dreier, Motion picture Sets, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 17, No. 5 (November 1931), p. 790.

119
      Choosing and Using Lenses, in: A. C., Vol. 40, No. 5 (May 1959), pp. 314&315.

120
       The following lenses are generally accepted to conclude these focuses: 1-inch lens can be used in static long shots
only; the 24mm or 1 ½- inch lens is usually used for long shots; the 35mm or 2 inch lens is appropriate for medium-shot;
a n d the 75mm or 3 inch lens for a close-ups; see Edward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York:
The Studio Publications 1941 (2 nd Ed., Designing for Films, 1949), pp. 37, 39&57; 18mm, 25mm, 28mm, 30mm, 35mm,
a n d 4 0 mm l e n ses are used in 35mm cameras, while lenses of 9.5mm, 10mm, 12.5mm, 13mm, 15mm, 17mm and 20mm
lenses are assigned for 16mm cameras; Choosing and Using Lenses, in: A. C., Vol. 40, No. 5 (May 1959), p. 296.


                                                                                                                    222
so on.121

Obtaining a wire-sharp deep focus and highly realistic cinematography is eligible
with 30 millimeter lens. The level of realism provided by the lens’ output is close
to the visual perception of the naked eye.122 A one-inch lens is used in the 16
millimeter camera and the two-inch lens in the 35-millimeter camera. Both are
regarded as two standard lenses in cinematographic production.123 Supposing the
24mm, 28mm and the 35mm wide-angle lenses be stopped down to either f:11
or f:16, then they can be used as ‘universal-focus lenses’ in almost every
cinematographic event. Every lens’ depth of field ‘falls off more sharply in front
of the point of attention than behind it,’ said Gregg Toland, adding that ‘this
effect varies not only according to the focal length of the lens used, but according
to the degree to which it is stopped down and the point upon which it is
focused.’124 James Wong Howe shot about eighty percent of Transatlantic
[1931], with a twenty-five-millimeter wide-angle lens, which preserved the
persuasive illusion of a depth cue in the space, ranging from five to thirty feet
away from the lens.125 In this, every plane of the set was receding retrogressively
in respect to the canons of perspective. Light, shadows, balconies and every form
and line stressed a high degree of spatial realism in the extent of the space. In
Stagecoach (1939), some degree of depth cue realism was sustained by the use
of a 25mm lens. This was enhanced by the introduction of ceilinged sets, whose
low walls necessitated them having to be roofed over - a breakthrough given
Hollywood’s common habit of using unroofed sets. But at the same time, since
t he back-lighting effect had to be eliminated (except in using it as a natural
lighting source), it created additional difficulties for securing the effect of




1 21
      Don Livingston, Film and the Director: A Handbook & Guide to Film Making. New York: Macmillan 1953, p. 62;
L e e Garmes, Photography, in: Stephen Watts (Ed.), Behind the Screen: How Films are Made. London: Arthur Baker
1938, p. 112.

122
       Jack Taylor, Dynamic Realism, in: I. P., Vol. 20, No. 9 (September 1948), p. 6.

123
       Choosing and Using Lenses, in: A. C., Vol. 40, No. 5 (May 1959), p. 296.

124
       Gregg Toland, Realism for “Citizen Kane”, in: A. C., Vol. 22, No. 2 (February 1941), p. 80.

125
     Charles Higham, Hollywood Cameramen: Sources of Light. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press 1970,
pp. 83&85.


                                                                                                            223
roundness of these sets.126

Large aperture objectives have a decisively qualitative means in cinematographic
out put. Shooting with a large aperture does not call for much of a current
consumption in illuminating interior scenes, and in the exterior, shooting on a
dus ky or cloudy day with a large aperture would allow a satisfactory
cinematographic quality. Large aperture permits the cinematographer to carry out
artistic effects: to command the mood of illumination in the scene and create the
option for more angles from which to shoot.127 In a survey related to the Report
of the Studio Lighting Committee released in the Spring of 1931 in Hollywood,
it concluded the utilization of some lens apertures ranging from f/2.3 to f/1.8 in
all actions.128 ‘After 1931, most cinematographers chose to keep the lens at a full
aperture, cut down the light levels, and save money on the set.’ In the 1940's and
1950's , w ide-angle lenses were commonly in use on location for their
cinematographic effect. 30mm and 35mm lenses became popular for their
realistic representation. The 35mm lens was considered the standard in
Hollywood practice by 1950. By 1959, the 50mm lens was entirely done away
with and became part of cinematographic history.129

By setting a wide-angle objective at a small aperture to shoot under high-key
lighting, the shot would produce a pan focus. This will clearly define two or
more objects situated in different planes, front-background, in one single shot.130
D uring the 1930's, the decade of deep-focus cinematography, Hollywood
cinematographers explored various strategies to record depth in space. Hal M ohr
devised an adjustable lens-mount allowing the recording of two figures, one
placed five feet away from the lens and the other at a distance of twenty-five feet,
in one clear focus. With this lens, Hal M ohr saved the narrative action from the


126
        B e rt Glennon’s method of using backlighting as natural source for illuminating the interiors in Stagecoach (1939)
w a s b o rro w ed from the Sargent paintings of the early west; see John Castle, Bert Glennon Introducing New Method of
Interior Photography, in: A. C., Vol. 20, No. 2 (February 1939), p. 83.

127
      Joseph A. Dubray, Large Aperture Lenses in Cinematography, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 12, No. 33 (1928), p. 205.

128
      Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 17, No. 4 (October 1931), p. 646.

129
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, pp. 343&350.


130
      John Koenig, Scenery for Cinema. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art 1942.


                                                                                                                       224
interruptive cutting of close shots, while jumping between the image’s plans back
and forth to serve the continuity of the action. Hal M ohr persuasively succeeded
in introducing this method of smooth narrative in Bullets or Ballots (1936) and
the Green Pastures (1936), mainly not depending on the routine of cutting.131
O t her cinematographers experimented with deep-focus and delivered notably
narrative depth of space throughout the 1930's. Morocco (1930), Transatlantic
(1931), Viva Villa ! (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Dead End (1937),
Kidnapped (1938), and Stagecoach (1939), belong to the decade’s most
celebrated deep-focus representations. In Dead End, Gregg Toland explored this
technique narratively and provided highly persuasive deep-focus cinematography
from Richard Day’s main setting. Later this same technique of narrative
continuity was developed and reached its heights through Gregg Toland, who
implemented the ultimate deep-focus technique in Citizen Kane (1941): keeping
t he foreground and background of the image’s planes in a single sharp focus
without relying on cutting to bridge from one shot to the next.

Shortly before his death in September of 1948, Gregg Toland was on the verge
of usinghis “ultimate focus” in Roseanna McCoy. Toland’s twenty-two years of
cinematographic experiments awarded him the confidence to introduce an
extemely small lens with an aperture of f:64 for the first time.132 This aperture
would have permitted Toland to cover a depth of field spanning a few inches in
the foreground to an infinite distance; later technical developments introduced
new cinematographic qualities. Still, recording close-ups with the 27½mm wide-
angle lenses of Cinerama and Cinemiracle processes invokes a noticeable and
strange facial distortion: long noses, small ears, foreheads and tilting-back chins.
It reduced the dramatic quality of the landscape perspective by flattening it. This
deformation imposed a limitation on the cinematographer and consequently it
distracted the beholder from the narrative action. This was a valid reason for
avoiding any close-ups with the three-camera process (Cinerama and
Cinemiracle). On the other side, Ultra-Panavision had realistic cinematographic
quality with no deformity, and this related to the technique’s utilization of lenses
with various focal lengths.133

131
       Hal Mohr, A Lens Mount for Universal Focus Effects, in: A. C., Vol. 17, No. 9 (September 1936), pp. 370&371.

1 32
      Gregg Toland, One of Top Lensers, Dies at 44, in: Daily Variety (Wednesday, September 29, 1948); upon Toland’s
death, Samuel Golwyn’s Roseanna McCoy (1949) was filmed by Lee Garmes.


133
       Darrin Scot, Panavision’s Progress, in: A. C., Vol. 41, No. 5 (May 1960), pp. 304&320.


                                                                                                                      225
Securing a proper focus is highly important for the filming of every filmic scene.
T his w ould require a precise measurement (with the tape measure) of the
distance between the subject and the camera, and then setting the latter’s ‘focus
according to the calibrations on the lens. If there is any disagreement between
visual focus as seen on the camera’s groundglass and the measured distance, the
tape measure is considered as correct.’ Suppose the camera or the subject or both
are mobile, then the alternation of the focus should be matching every significant
move of the action.134 During the youthful days of the motion picture, when films
w ere shot in sunlight and film emulsion used to be too slow, not every
cinematographer used an exposure meter. The common practice was their
familiarity and sensing of the proper exposure by the naked eye. ‘As a result, the
camera department of one major studio posted a sign saying, “when in doubt, use
f5.6.”’135

D uring the course of the 1920's, Hollywood cinematographers adapted a
dis t inctive cinematographic style with a maximum diffusion. When shooting
close-ups of the female stars, they employed gauzes, discs, and soft lenses at a
maximum aperture that resembled an obvious cosmetic visualization. This model
of representational treatment introduced a kind of “fuzzyography” onto the
screen. Yet Hollywood cinematographers well understood that a diffused image
was not pertinent for each film genre. Horror and gangster pictures, however,
tailored the harsher and sharper screen image. Other documentary-type pictures
maint ained a high realistic outlook in their screen image stylization,136 when
H ollywood predominantly favored “soft” and diffused cinematographic
stylization. This type of filming needed only sufficient illumination, and this in
t urn required shooting with a larger lens opening. Hollywood’s star-system
deliberately embraced this soft transformance stylization, because it kept the
characters as attractive as possible on the screen.137 Considering the importance
of the economical aspect in film production will focus Hollywood’s observer on
t he studios’ appreciation for shooting with large lens aperture, since it


1 34
      John Arnold, Cinematography-Professional, in: Willard D. Morgan (Ed.), The Complete Photographer. Vol. 2, New
York: National Educational Alliance 1942, p. 760.


135
       Laurence Goldenstein and Jay Kaufman, Into Film. New York: E. P. Dutton 1976, p. 288.


136
       Charles G. Clarke, How Desirable is Extreme Focal Depth? in: A. C., Vol. 23, No. 1 (January 1942), p. 14.


137
       A Letter from William Wyler, in: Sequence, No. 8 (Summer 1949), p. 68.


                                                                                                                   226
significantly reduced the consumption of current on the sound stage, as we will
see in the foregoing analysis. Hollywood film-makers attempted experimenting
with laboratory devices as much as possible to enhance their image’s qualitative
vis ualization upon the screen. Using gauzes, silk for screening the lens, soft
lenses and filters was a common practice during the next half of the 1920's and
early 1930's diffused period. In the first half of the Golden Age this artificial
cinematographic approach was visible on the screen to speak from a diffused
cinematographic period. Josef Von Sternberg used this technique with
compassion, by diffusing the image of his characters to make them look far more
adorable than they really were. In applying a diffused effect, Von Sternberg
imposed the effect of a dream on his pictures. This image filtration and method
of ironing out the facial wrinkles was applied in Von Sternberg’s Morocco
(1930), Shanghai Express (1932), and The Scarlet Empress (1934) among others.

By 1934, a “Diffusion Filter” (screen) was the most commonly-used filter in
motion picture production throughout the world. By then, whether in the interior
or exterior cinematography, shooting with some kind of diffusing filter was the
accepted norm in film-making. Image diffusion reached an artistic level which
was hard to discern with the average eye. Some film critics preferred perceiving
the effect of this diffused image because it invoked fascination, naturalness and
“quality.” Diffusion filters preserved all of the image’s essential attributes - facial
wrinkles were ironed out and the make-up flaws corrected. The diffusion degree
on Diffusion screens ranged from a slight up to a heavy level, depending on the
image or close-up’s specification.138 Soft focus became a highly celebrated mode
among Hollywood cinematographers. ‘Hardly a single scene is photographed
t oday (April 1939) -either in the studio or on location- without the use of a
DiffusingScreen.’ By then, most of the newly-developed lenses provided details
in the image more than the naked eye was able to perceive in nature. Often the
over-sensitivity of these lenses recorded the very details of the subject (skin and
make-up’s details) which turned out to be disturbing on the screen, instead of
being narrative. Diffusing Screens came to soften the image and refine the
t ext ure produced by the lens, without affecting the image’s overall aesthetic
quality.139 Among the first of his contemporaries, Gregg Toland experimented
with various camera lenses and lighting effects during the mid 1930's. Toland’s
approach intended to form a balance to the shortage of degree of response of the

138
      George H. Scheibe, Filter for Special Effects, in: A. C., Vol. 14, No. 12 (April 1934), pp. 486, 497&498.


139
      George H. Scheibe, Soft Focus, in: I. P., Vol. 11, No. 3 (April 1939), P. 6.


                                                                                                                  227
       s low film emulsion. His findings paved the way for a new form of
       cinematography during the 1940's.140 During the next half of the decade, Gregg
       T oland delivered classic masterpieces to the American screen. Despite the
       limit ations imposed by the slow film emulsion, Gregg Toland was able to
       introduce highly narrative deep-space and compositioning in depth, and his
       manifestation of this unique screen image was evidently illustrated in highly
       regarded works such as: Les Miserables (1935) The Wedding Night (1935), Dead
       End (1937), The Goldwyn Follies (1938) and Kidnapped (1938).

       Shootinga set showing the expenditure on it while preserving the dramatic mood
       of that set simultaneously is exemplary. Reaching this visual balance is feasible
       with the correct exposure of the film.141 Further dramatic treatment forming a
       p ersuasive cinematographic representation, includes a manifested equilibrium
       between the external visualization and the internal dramatic means of the screen
       story. In that, proper diffusion is a narrative asset, assuming that it is associated
       with a skilled compositional and proper lighting arrangement.142 Hollywood’s
       introduction to the diffused effect alternated from one genre to another, while the
       nat ure of the story commanded its visual stylization. Ultra-realistic and
       melodramatic pictures are narratively effective when they are exposed to a highly
       contrasted and hard lighting effect. Broad comedy also had less use for diffusion:
       it was more suitable for high-key lighting, the set having to be steeped in light
       so that no part of the action should escape the beholder’s attention. Dramatic
       comedy and comedy-drama are more narrative under a consistency of slight
       diffusion throughout, whereas overall dramas require an enhanced diffusion.
       Romantic genres or sentiments are at their best when visualized at the highest
       level of diffusion, compared with the rest.143

4.5 Orthochromatic-Panchromatic Emulsion
       A definite process in the laboratory governs the formation of the motion picture


       140
             John Baxter, Hollywood in the Thirties. New York: A. B. Barnes 1968, p. 133.


       141
             Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 33, No. 1 (July 1939), p. 98.


       142
             Charles B. Lang, Jr., The Purpose and Practice of Diffusion, in: A. C., Vol. 14, No. 5 (September 1933), p. 171.


       143
             Ibid., p. 193.


                                                                                                                                228
image before it reaches the screen. Relating this ‘lab’ process with our theme is
essential, because with it the filmic image came into being. Basically, silver
chloride and silver bromide are photographic substances with a sensitive property
to light. When these are reached by light, their cream color changes into a certain
degree of a dark toned metallic silver, and this new tone’s intensity is decided
according to the light level that reached their silver salt and changed it into a
darker tone of metallic silver. By exposing the silver salt surface (through the
lens) to an illuminated scene, the latter will be reproduced with its various
gradients in terms of silver tones according to the light and shade’s distribution
on the image’s constituents (less dark portions of the silver salt become less light
and vice-versa). In passing light through this negative, the new picture will be a
positive producing dark as dark and light as light.144 Improving this photographic
process had challenged some men since the beginning of the eighteenth-century.

As stated above, all film stocks share the principle of having certain compounds
with sensitive silver coatings, of which the emulsion darkens relative to the light
volume to which it is exposed. Yet finding a proper support for the light-sensitive
emulsion was a challenge. In 1802, Wedgewood applied white colored leather
t o s us t ain his emulsion, and in 1839, Fox-Talbot employed white paper as
support. In the same year, 1839, Daguerre tried the process on sliver plate, and
in 1848 Niepce de St.Victor used a glass plate. Finally Dr. M addox exercised his
process on a gelatin base in 1871. But what was most important came in 1888
w it h George Eastman’s introduction of celluloid as the film-base. It was the
discovery that led to the existence of the motion picture.145 Progressively, the
intention was to develop more sensitive film stock recording colors as the human
ey e does. Orthochromatic (True Color) emerged as a response, and its silver
coating was treated with different pigments to enhance its color reproduction.
But t he result did not reproduce a natural color pallet, and instead
Orthochromatic produced green, blue, red and yellow in contrast to one another.
In the meantime, an advanced film emulsion was introduced. Panchromatic (All
Colors) was handled by a coloring process identified as ‘Isocyanines.’ The new
process qualified the Panchromatic emulsion to respond to the entire color pallet.
It was over-sensitive to the strong blue and violet rays while green, yellow and


144
       J o h n Arnold, Shooting the Movies, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton
1937, pp. 145&146.

145
     William Stull, Cinematography Simplified, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood: The
A me rican Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), pp. 461&462.


                                                                                                           229
red were weaker. Nonetheless, the new stock became the adapted norm in the
film industry.146

Technically, 1928 was a revolutionary year in Hollywood’s history, the year
where the screen image contracted an even more impressive realism than ever
before. With the arrival of sound and the conversion from carbon arc lamps to
incandescent tungsten, the improvement of the Type 1 Panchromatic film
negative by Eastman Kodak Company, with softer-looking finer grain for
common application, highlighted a decisive occurrence in photoplay’s technical
history. The Panchromatic negative was effectively in circulation from 1913, but
before 1928 was used in a very limited way. The introduction of M azda lighting
units well-complemented Panchromatic, because of ‘the film being sensitive to
t he longer wavelengths of visible radiation in which M azda illumination was
particularly rich.’ In the same year the Panchromatic Type II version emerged,
w hich was faster, with relatively softer emulsion.147 On February 5, 1931,
Eas t man Kodak improved the Super-Sensitive Panchromatic M otion Picture
N egat ive, featuring a turning point in Panchromatic history. Soon after its
emergence, Hollywood welcomed the new negative into production. Compared
with previous pans, it was faster and finer-grained, which contributed to
enhanced cinematographic quality.148

By July 1933, the Kodak Company developed an enhanced emulsion quality
called the Eastman Background Negative. It had fine grain emulsion structure
and a speed of one-and-a-half times that of the Super-Sensitive Negative. Shortly
after its introduction, ‘this emulsion was generally adopted as the medium on
w hich projection background plates were photographed.’ In M arch of 1935,
Eastman Super X Panchromatic Negative emerged for the trade. Super X was


146
       Ibid., pp. 462&463.

1 47
         Emery Huse and Gordon A. Chambers, New Eastman Emulsions, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 11 (December 1938), p. 23;
P a t ri c k L . O g le, Technological and Aesthetic Influences Upon the Development of Deep Focus Cinematography in the
United States, in: Screen, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 51.

1 48
        Emery Huse and Gordon A. Chambers, New Eastman Emulsions, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 11 (December 1938), p. 23;
a n d i b i d . , E a s tman Super Sensitive Panchromatic Type Two Motion Picture Film, in: Hal Hall and William Stull (Ed.),
C i n e m a tographic Annual. Vol. 2, Hollywood: The American Society of Cinematographers 1931 (Rep., New York: Arno
P re s s & The New York Times 1972), pp. 103-108; for further data about Eastman Kodak’s Super Sensitive Panchromatic
T y p e Two and Du Pont’s Special Panchromatic; see Hal Hall, Improvements in Motion Picture Film, in: ibid., pp. 93-99;
and about the improved emulsions’ properties for 35mm films made by Agfa Ansco Corporation; see P. Arnold, A Motion
Picture Negative of Wider Usefulness, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 23, No. 3 (September 1934), pp. 160-166.


                                                                                                                       230
higher in speed, more sensitive, and was finer-grained with advanced
photographic output compared to its predecessor. It was not until three years
aft er it s introduction that it started being used in the film production.149 In
October of 1938, Eastman Plus X Panchromatic Negative came onto the market.
Again, it was twice as fast as Super X, and it had finer grain and advanced filmic
qualit y. In the following week, Background X and Eastman Super XX were
int roduced. Background X performed with about seventy-five percent more
s p eed compared to Super X’s, was twice as fast as the regular Background
Negative and had less contrast. These made Background X highly recommended
for exterior cinematography. Super XX had the grain similarity of Super X, yet
was four times faster, which made the new film negative a unique
cinematographic product.150

With the introduction of Super-Sensitive Panchromatic film, Hollywood’s
cinematographer was commissioned truthfully to translate the colors of the set
and gowns, as they were intended by the Scenographer and costumer to fit the
screen. Yet delivering this tonal rate and color differentiation involved their
presence on the set. Reaching this color-separation is a conditioned balance that
is based on a skillful illumination to heighten the tonal values of the set.151 Every
one of the production troupe profited in some way from the new improved Super-
Sensitive Films. Equipped with these films, M etro’s cinematographer Clyde de
Vinna expressed his artistic gratitude in regard to the new filmic material.
Artistically, the new emulsions offered new ways of dramatic expression and
made the job easier on the set. In the comedy-drama White Shadows of the South
Seas (1929), the new film emulsion allowed Clyde de Vinna to use dramatic
illumination and preserve the overall tone needed for the comedy at the same
t ime.152 The new film emulsions provided softer and clearer cinematographic
quality than ever before. Gaffers had to deal with less and smaller lighting units,
saving time and reducing the effort. Having this allowed the characters to work
in a cooler and less overheated space, a comfort that permitted smooth


149
      E me ry Huse and Gordon A. Chambers, New Eastman Emulsions, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 11 (December 1938), pp.
23&24.


150
      Ibid., pp. 24-27.


151
      Oliver Marsh, Super-Sensitive Film in Production, in: A. C., Vol. 12, No. 1 (May 1931), p. 11.


152
      Clyde De Vinna, New Angles on Fast Film, in: A. C., Vol. 12, No. 2 (June 1931), p. 19.


                                                                                                           231
production and enhanced concentration of the characters on their action.153 In
White Shadows of the South Seas, Clyde de Vinna captured a captivating
visualization in the paradise of Tahiti that sustained, but saved the picture’s thin
story and made it at least visually narrative. This exterior realism on the screen
was well-fostered with the newly developed Super-Sensitive Films and achieved
superb landscape cinematography which granted Clyde de Vinna an Academy
Award.

In a meeting conducted by the Technicians Branch of the Academy of M otion
Picture Arts and Sciences on M arch 31 of 1931, at RKO, Eastman and Du Pont
companies’ new film features were reviewed. Representatives of both companies
shared the same view regarding the Super-Sensitive emulsion being introduced
in the practice: the new film’s sensitivity improved more than 100 percent, with
softer grain, and greater response to the whole color pallet. Also, the new film
stock was noticeably cost-effective compared to the current consumption on the
set.154 M oreover, the American Society of Cinematographers and the Society’s
Research Committee praised the newly introduced films. Commercially the new
F ast-films were extremely encouraging. The use of smaller lighting units of
lower wattage for illuminating the set meant, for the major studios, an annual
savingof almost 40 percent, i.e., about 25,000 dollars. Smaller bulbs reduced the
set’s temperature by more than 20 percent permitting the characters to work
comfortably and with less fatigue. They did not have to worry about their make-
up melting under the heat any longer. Fast-Films permitted a smaller lens
openingwith advanced definition and artistic softness in the screen image. In the
laborat ory , the new Fast-Films were processed in regular time and with no
difficulties. Finally, their color rendition in both the interior and exterior
provided satisfactory cinematographic quality. These were the reasons that
motivated the ASC’s Board of Governors and its Research Committee to highly
recommend the new Fast-Films for use in Hollywood production.155

At the turn of the twentieth-century, make-up application solicited its technique
from that practiced by the stage. By then, the face’s tonal values were pink,

153
      Ibid., pp. 19&22.

154
      Fred Westerberg, New Negative to Improve Quality, in: I. P., Vol. 3, No. 4 (May 1931), p. 29.

155
        “ S u per Sensitive” and “Special” Panchromatic Negative Films were named “Fast Films;” A. S. C. Recommends Fast
Film, in: A. C., Vol. 12, No. 3 (July 1931), p. 19.


                                                                                                                  232
because the Orthochromatic emulsion was insensitive to the yellow-red colors.
This tonal asset of a pink face called for high artificiality in the portraiture on the
s creen; based on the irregular distribution of the tonal values on the human
portraiture, it would not have a good cinematographic effect without a make-up
application. It is applied, therefore, to maintain a naturalistic outlook when the
image reaches the screen. Sustaining this realistic appearance of the portraiture
needs some degree of blue tone to balance the red, and make the facial image
look natural. By so doing, this make-up composition will prevent the light from
being digested by the skin.156 By introducing the admirable use of color into the
picture, film-makers have the instrument of controlling the psychological state
and thoughts of the beholder. Color engenders simplicity in the pictorial
narration, communicates the mood of the narrative action and makes it easy for
the beholder to perceive.157 The film Scenographer’s assignation of the colors of
t he s et is a matter of close concern to the cinematographer as well. In a
monochrome picture, the color’s designation must institute elaborate harmony
in its shades of gray for the camera, and still preserve an aesthetical efficiency
on t he screen.158 The emergence of color films introduced ‘two schools of
t hought’ into film scenographic stylization. One discipline called for
overwhelming the Scenographic Space with colors wherever possible, while the
other stood for caution when suggesting color, in order that it would not distract
from the action or intrude into it. After a period of dispute over both axioms, the
school of simplicity emerged victorious, due to its proven narrative efficiency.159

‘The energy emission of the incandescent lamp increases in passing from the
blue to the red end of the visible spectrum.’ Therefore, using M azda lamps with
full capacity needed an increase in the sensitivity of Panchromatic emulsion to
red and yellow. Out of this came considerable savings in current, and characters


156
      M ax Factor, Standardization of Motion Picture Make-up, in: J. S. M. P. T. E., Vol. 28, No. 1 (January 1937), pp.
53&54.

157
         C o l o rs are usually classified in two categories: “warm” (advanced colors) such as red, orange, yellow, and “cool”
(retiring colors) such as green, blue, and violet; see Natalie M. Kalmus, Colour, in: Stephen Watts (Ed.), Behind the
Screen: How Films are Made. London: Arthur Barker 1938, p. 120.

158
     Hans Dreier, Designing the Set, in: in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton 1937,
p. 86.

159
      P re s ton Ames, Art Director, in: Mike Steen (Ed.), Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History. New York: G. P. Putnam’s
Sons 1974, p. 235.


                                                                                                                       233
started working in a rejuvenated fashion in the studio. Yet some criticism was
rais ed, at the time of writing this article, suggesting that the red sensitive
emulsions failed truthfully to record the color of the characters’ faces, lips and
skin. Some of the latest Pans overstated these tones and transmitted them as
darkened red.160 Hollywood’s well-established make-up departments overcame
the Pan’s high sensitivity to the red ‘by altering the make-up.’ To remedy the
same problem, the Du Pont Company developed a new Panchromatic emulsion
with a high sensitivity to green, which delivered an enhanced image quality in
the daylight. In the laboratory the new emulsion’s developing process was
similar to that of its predecessors, except that it had to be processed in total
darkness because of its sensitivity to the green safelights.161 Fast-Film had its
s hort comings when carrying out an extreme shimmering and a too-shadowy
effect. A luminous light source was losing its effect, and tended to be faded by
halation to the extent of misplacing its meaning. Pure white costumes turned to
glaring ones when blended with light. They had to be toned down, and the same
had t o be applied to the light sources, and reflective objects to avoid the
sparkling and attention-scattering effect. The problem was worse with Super-
Sens itive emulsion. Eastman and Du Pont came up with the Super-Sensitive
Anti-Halation Film (Greyback). This allowed cinematographers to remedy the
halation problem, and they no longer had a limitation in recording white
costumes, or filming a silhouette against the sun or even shooting toward a light
s ource. Capturing the reflected lighting beams from a water surface and
preserving a natural image was permissive. ‘Bright lustre paints of settings will
now be possible.’162

Paramount’s veteran Scenographer Robert Boyle considered dealing with a black
and white film as more challenging to the Scenographer and cinematographer
than working with color. In a monochrome picture, the Scenographer addresses
the planes’ separation in terms of tones of gray. The same effect is realized by

160
      V. B. Sease, Du Pont’s New Panchromatic Film, in: A. C., Vol. 13, No. 5 (September 1932), p. 17.

161
      Ibid., pp. 17&25.

162
           “Greyback” film: the film’s outlook gave it this name, ‘for the super-sensitive emulsion is coated upon a celluloid
base that contains a small amount of lavender-gray dye. This dye has the property of absorbing the light that has traversed
the emulsion at those portions where the image of an extremely bright object is focused upon it. The light would ordinarily
reflect from the surface of the celluloid support, back into the emulsion and further diffuse, causing a halo or flare of light
i n the area surrounding the bright spots.’ See Charles G. Clarke, Fast Improvements of Fast Film, in: A. C., Vol. 12, No.
3 (July 1931), p. 40; about the relationship between the facial make-up, setting tones and the response of the new Plus-X
e mu l s i o n i n t h i s equation see Joseph Valentine, Make-Up and Set Painting Aid New Film, in: A. C., Vol. 20, No. 2
(February 1939), pp. 54-56&85.


                                                                                                                        234
       the cinematographer in terms of illumination, while attaining a depth cue in the
       set. In a color picture, distinguishing between planes of a filmic scene is achieved
       by appointing recommended color values on different surfaces. This technique
       demands a previous determination of the color values, to define whether the
       juxtaposition rules of certain color tones are broken according to the foreground-
       background principle or not.163 Capturing the tonal values of gray scale in the
       Scenographic Space is not established, unless the cinematographer possesses the
       artistic sense to capture this very sensitive aesthetic sign on the screen. This
       concept of tonal values’ separation and of involving the beholder’s awareness of
       t he s pace’s depth cue novelty, challenged Hollywood artists throughout the
       Golden Age. After the year nineteen-twenty-eight, in which film manufacturers
       introduced their improved Panchromatic emulsions to the film industry,
       Hollywood studios continued, each working in its own terms, toward refining
       t heir screen outlook and establishing own cinematographic labels. Thereupon
       Hollywood’s representational style during the 1930's continued delivering an
       enhanced cryptogram in the representation of scenographic stylization.

4.6 Technicolor Process and Aesthetic Cinematography
       If the advent of the sound era in the motion picture shifted the film toward further
       believability, then the addition of color to the screen image authorized the film
       to move into its final stage in its progress toward realism. The adaption of the
       auditory and chromatic senses into this medium truthfully simulated the reality
       of the real world. Just as tonal treatment and compositional principles contributed
       t o the formulation of pictorial art and made it a true art form, so these same
       canons allowed the filmic image, through the use of color, to merit the title of
       admissible art. The juxtaposition of colors in the Scenographic Space and its
       mise-en-scenes should be concluded after a careful study before they reach the
       screen.164 With the introduction of color, the impression of a depth cue in the


       163
              ‘Josef Von Sternberg worked in black and white with a painter on the set all the time. If a very expensive piece of
       fu rn i t u re wasn’t dark enough, he sprayed it black.’ See Vincent LoBruttto, By Design: Interviews with Film Production
       Designers. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger 1992, p. 7.

       164
                N a t a l i e M . K a lmus, Color Consciousness, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 25, No. 2 (August 1935), p. 140; since the
       introduction of two-color process Natalie M. Kalmus (the wife of Dr. Herbert T. Kalmus) was in charge of overseeing
       which color should be used in the process; with the introduction of the three-color process she insisted on ‘muted pastels,
       a d i c t u m t h a t d rove’ Scenographers and costumers ‘to distraction.’ The name of Natalie M. Kalmus accompanied every
       T e c h n i c o l o r fi l m until the late 1940's, but what exactly her real assignment on the set was is today controversial; see
       Ronald Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980, p. 179.


                                                                                                                                   235
filmic spatial was enhanced, and objects gained a sense of roundness. ‘This is
due to the fact that a cool color can recede, whereas a warm brilliant color can
advance.’ Still, a spatial depth will be stressed by assigning a certain value of
color separation between objects, as these extend into the background of the
scene.165 Assuming that color is applied correctly to the scene, it will receive
notable dramatic and emotional narrative value. If not, it will make the scene
ineffective. Whether the beholder is attentive or inattentive to the color presence
in the scene, color has its assured psychological effect on its perceiver. If some
colors call for exhilaration, others stress comfort, while red is the most dramatic
of all, and must be reserved for the ultimate zenith of the narrative action.166
Furthermore, a black and white image entitles the beholder’s sense of illusion to
perceive the spatial with its lines and forms in terms of shades of gray, which do
not need to be typically realistic. Some critics have observed that the black and
w hit e image had further dramatic means for arresting the artistic values of a
scene than color does. This is based on the manipulation of the monochrome’s
tonal values symbolically, to bring the dramatic rhythm of the scene to the fore.
The same interpretational treatment of the gray tones is not applicable to color,
because color must be delivered as a realistic translation of the virtual to the
screen. Any diffusion of the color image is considered, by the beholder, to be a
distractive emission and poor technique.167

In spite of the two or three colors used in the photographic process, every system
of color is classified, meeting either additive or subtractive (or both) color
processes. In the additive process, the emulsion does not contain a real color- its
color tones are latent, and can only be projected in putting an advisable filter
between the film and the screen. Additive is simple to process in the lab, yet it
needs a special camera and projector. In the subtractive color process, the image
acquires all the colors it needs in itself, therefore it does not need a special filter
or projection. Nevertheless, it needs a certain camera and process in the lab, but
commercially, the subtractive process has no limitations concerning demanding


165
    Lansing C. Holden, Designing for Color, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton
1937, p. 244.

166
       ‘Not blue, not yellow, red. In order to lead to it,’ suggested Rouben Mamoulian , ‘start with black and white, go dark
b l ue, dark green, then yellow, then light green, then orange, then red.’ Quoted in Eric Sherman (Ed.), Directing the Film:
Film Directors on their Art. Boston: Little, Brown 1976, p. 131.


167
      See Joseph V. Mascelli, What Happened to Photographic Style? in: I. P., Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 1958), p. 18.


                                                                                                                      236
a special projector for viewing the film.168 In the Technicolor process, the film
Scenographer prepares an opaquely colored set to be translated to the beholder
‘by passing light on to a screen through colored gelatine, and all the colors that
you can imagine will eventually be reproduced by passing light through gelatine
s t ained with only three colors, yellow, magenta, and a blue-green (cyan).’ In
order to perceive a film print, however, in yellow, red, and blue-green, the
camera records the scene in blue-violet, green, and red.169

Comparable to sound, color is as old as film itself- C. Frances Jenkins exhibited
hand-tinted films with color in 1894. Twenty-five years after its commencement,
the method of tinting and toning the film was the norm in applying color to the
motion picture. Tinting the film was applied by hand directly to the film positive
or was mixed with the film emulsion.170 Kinemacolor was the first natural color
and additive process introduced to the film market, was developed in 1906 by the
British Georg Albert Smith and Edward R.Turner, and financed by the American
impresario Charles Urban. Open presentations were held in 1908. In the
follow ing year, Urban showed the process to the M otion Picture Patents
Company of America (M PPC), after which they chose to buy the American
rights. They reconsidered their judgment, since monochrome film was so
successful in the marketplace.171 Charles Urban started confronting ever more
difficult circumstances because the M otion Picture Patents Company was not
int erested in Kinemacolor, which prevented Urban from truly entering the
American M arket. In the spring of 1910, Kinemacolor of America bought the U.
S. rights to the color picture process from Urban, the man who had advertised
Kinemacolor to become known worldwide. One week after Kinemacolor started
promoting in 1912, the company received 416 requests to supply color service.
By November of the following year Kinemacolor of America Inc., started putting



1 68
        Hal Hall and William Stull, Motion Pictures in Natural Colors, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1,
H o l l ywood: The American Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times
1972), pp. 274&275.

1 69                                                                                                               nd
      Edward Carrick, Designing for Moving Pictures. London & New York: The Studio Publications 1941 (2                 Ed.,
Designing for Films, 1949), pp. 69&70.

170
       T h o ma s W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 229.


171
       Ibid., p. 230.


                                                                                                                    237
projectors on sale instead of renting them out.172 The company did not achieve
enough success to survive, however. Film historians agree that the real cause for
Kinemacolor’s downfall is unclear, but some scanty indications may suggest the
reasons: after 1912, Kinemacolor interior filming became difficult with Cooper-
Hewitt mercury vapor lighting, because the latter was highly intense in blue light.
Technical complexities in the color projection were obstructive, as well as the
exhibitors’ uncertainty as to whether there would be enough supply and demand
of color pictures to cover their high costs or not. Furthermore, in early 1914,
t here was a conflict of interest between the Natural Color Kinematograph
Company and Kinemacolor of America, that added to the obstacles in the path
of t he latter’s success. Finally, there is no evidence that Kinemacolor’s
productions, those distributed both in the U. S. and England, were commercially
or aesthetically successful.173 Despite Kinemacolor’s survival until 1924, the
company never recovered commercially from 1914 onwards. In 1918, William
Fox patented a new process of Kinemacolor, yet historically and critically, this
was of inconsiderable significance. From the mid- 1920's forward, the
Technicolor and Eastmancolor processes emerged succeeding Kinemacolor, and
both had learned from the mistakes that led to the company’s bankruptcy- they
op erated within a certain budget and did not compete with each other in the
marketplace. They only supplied those who could afford the color film. Late in
the 1930's, the Technicolor process came to achieve an artistic and economic
success in motion picture production.174

M eanwhile, in 1914, Dr. Herbert Thomas Kalmus, Dr. Daniel Frost Comstock,
and Mr. W. Burton Wescott invented the two-color additive Technicolor process.
The name of their system emerged from their Boston-based Engineering firm.
Shortly after, the two-color additive system was discontinued in order to start the
t w o-color subtractive process.175 Between 1920 and 1922, the two-color

172
        In 1913, the weekly service for a color film projector started at 20 dollars, and the device’s retail price ranged from
t w o to three hundred dollars installed. That same projector could be used for exhibiting black-white pictures; see Gorham
Kindem, The Demise of Kinemacolor: Technological, Legal, Economic, and Aesthetic Problems in the Early Color
Cinema History, in: Cinema Journal, Vol. 20, No.2 (Spring 1981), pp. 3, 9-11.

173
      Ibid., p. 11.

174
      Ibid., pp. 12&13.


175
        What? Color in the Movies Again? in: Fortune, Vol. 10, No. 4 (October 1934), pp. 92-97ff.; Lansing C. Holden,
D e s i g n i n g for Color, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies, New York: W. W. Norton 1937, p. 247;
“ M ulticolor” or the two-color subtractive process was commonly in use in the American film industry upon the emergence


                                                                                                                        238
s ubt ractive process “Prizma”was developed in America; some pictures were
produced in this new Prizmacolor system, like J. Stuart Blackton’s (costume
drama) British color production The Glorious Adventure (1922).176 By the mid-
1920's, some spectacular productions partially introduced the two-color
T echnicolor process, such as The Ten Commandments (1923) and Ben-Hur
(1926). Others took advantage of the process in full-scale like the two-strip
Technicolor The Black Pirate (1926), which was among the first feature-length
pictures to be filmed using the process.

During its early stages, color negative expanses reached nearly seven times the
cost of black and white. A release-print of one footage color film reached almost
twenty cents, and obtaining it was not easy. The color process necessitated a
great deal of lighting units, and this made color stock an unaffordable expense
that many producers in the industry could not withstand. Not until 1928 did color
film start becoming more accessible. Both technological advancement and small
business demand contributed to the affordability of color photography. Color’s
cos t came close to matching that of monochrome film. By then, Technicolor
introduced the imbibition process of printing, lessening the cost of color film at
the release-print to around ten cents-a-foot, making it easier to produce. Soon
followed the Depression, forcing many color contracts into being held back, and
the monopoly over the color industry by a centralized color-plant rendered even
the strongest Hollywood mogul powerless. For these reasons, Hollywood had to
step back from producing many color pictures.177 Still, with the advent of talkies,
T echnicolor became reputable in Hollywood. The same studio and man who
pioneered the introduction of sound to the screen, repeated the act with color.
Jack Warner was the first man in Hollywood who was contracted to produce a


o f s o u n d . In t hat ‘two dye images are produced in a single layer film by imbibition. ... Two negatives with emulsion
s u rfaces adjacent are run through a standard camera at one time, the front negative is orthochromatic with the surface layer
d y e d o ra n ge-red to act as a filter for the image recorded on the rear panchromatic emulsion. Double coated yellow dyed
film is used for printing the pair of images in register on opposite sides of the film. The images are colored by a combined
dye toning and chemical toning method, and are varnished before projection to protect them from scratching.’ see Progress
in the Motion Picture Industry, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 14, No. 2 (February 1930), pp. 222&246.

1 76
     Howard C. Brown, Will Color Revolutionize Photography? in: A. C., Vol. 17, No. 7 (July 1936), p. 284; Thomas
W . B o h n a n d Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion Pictures. Port
Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 230.

177
       Howard C. Brown, Will Color Revolutionize Photography? in: A. C., Vol. 17, No. 7 (July 1936), p. 284; the last two-
c o l o r T e c h n i color process Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) needed so much lighting effect for illuminating the sets
t h a t i t g enerated enough heat to melt the wax figures. Therefore, in most of the scenes figures had to be played by the
characters..


                                                                                                                       239
s eries of color feature films.178 Alongside the sound boom, color began to
enhance the narrative quality of the film in the two years after the emergence of
sound. Yet Technicolor was not prepared to handle the contracts it obtained, and
under this time pressure its quality started suffering with the delivery of ‘a series
of garis hly tinted pictures’ that harmed its status . By 1931, following the
Depression, color production came almost to a standstill. To overcome this crisis
t he t hird strip was added to the previous two (red and green) to record the
component of blue.179 Joseph A. Ball, a member of the Academy, the SM PE, and
one of Daniel Frost Comstock’s students, together with Comstock and Leonard
Troland, were the brains behind the invention of the three-strip process in 1932.
Dr. Herbert Kalmus fostered the project, and Ball was in charge of improving
Technicolor throughout the nineteen-thirties.180 In the three-color Technicolor
process, three negatives were driven through the camera. After these negatives
w ere developed, each was dyed in yellow, magenta and cyan, and the three-
colors were transferred onto one strip of film that recorded their images on one
another ‘and contains a faint key image in gray silver to aid in registration and
definition.’ This was called imbibition (or dye transfer process of printing).181

Hollywood’s metamorphosis from carbon arc lamps and Cooper-Hewitt mercury-
vapor tubes to incandescent tungsten in 1928, did not happen as a result of the
emergence of sound. The main reason was to be found in the popularization of
P anchromatic emulsion. But the arrival of the talkies contributed only to the
acceleration of this process, and was not the real cause in this transformation.182


178
      What? Color in the Movies Again? in: Fortune, Vol. 10, No. 4 (October 1934), pp. 92&95.

179
      Ronald Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1980, p. 178.

180
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, pp. 353&354.

181
           J o h n B axter, Hollywood in the Thirties. New York: A. B. Barnes 1968, p. 48; TheTechnicolor camera is a three-
n e g a t i v e process: in that ‘three negatives are exposed simultaneously through a single lense. This is accomplished by a
b e a m s p l i t t e r made of two prisms of optical glass with silver-sputtered faces which produce a partially reflecting mirror.
... part of the light reflects through an aperture at the left of the lens, and the remainder passes through the normal aperture.
A s i n g l e S u p e r X panchromatic film is exposed through this aperture behind a green filter, transmitting a green light.
T h ro u g h t h e l eft aperture is passed a standard bipack (two films with their emulsion surfaces in contact), the front film
b e i n g sensitive to blue, and carrying a red-orange dye which absorbs the blue rays so that only the red rays are affected
b y t h e re ar emulsion.’ Lansing C. Holden, Designing for Color, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New
York: W. W. Norton 1937, p. 248.

182
      Pan and Sound Put Inkies on Top, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 3 (April 1938), p. 43.


                                                                                                                             240
Soon after introducing sound into the photoplay, film-makers started questioning
the endurance of the sounded screen image on its own. This skeptical approach
motivated some of the Hollywood studios, primarily Warner Brothers in 1929-
1930, to produce color pictures, assuming they would balance out the
s hort comings of sound. Color film was not cheap to produce, but luring the
p ublic to a colored and talking image was worth a try. Technicolor was
contracted to produce seventeen films in 1929, and in the following year the
company was commissioned to produce thirty-six. Technicolor worked around
t he clock to meet Hollywood’s demand. Shortly after sound film proved its
success, the color- rush cooled down, and by 1932 color was no longer of great
interest in production.183

D uring the early period of the switchover to dialogue, Hollywood started
int roducing the Technicolor system onto the screen in its extravaganzas and
musicals. Warners’ On With the Show (1929) and Gold Diggers of Broadway
(1929) w ere produced in the two-color system, which resulted in the early
contracts with Technicolor. These pictures brought a too-artificial and blurry
color image to the screen. Today they are only of historical interest in the
progress of Technicolor. By the mid 1930's, color production was delivered by
the three-color strip. Walt Disney tried out the newly-emerged Technicolor in his
cartoons, and the result was encouraging to Hollywood. La Cucaracha (1934)
was the pioneer picture of the process, followed by Becky Sharp (1935). Selznick
International was in love with the Technicolor system. Selznick produced The
Garden of Allah (1936), Nothing Sacred (1937) and Gone With the Wind (1939)
among others, using the Technicolor process. Whether they were a historical
occurrence picture, comedy, or musical, all movies used color to elevate their
narrative, and this consequently stimulated box-office receipts and a ravening
public. Balancing the prestige of color was addressed with astonishingly splendid
sets, e.g., Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone With the Wind, or The Wizard
of Oz (1939). The centralization of Technicolor manipulated the color production
of the American motion picture industry for more than three decades. When
Eas tmancolor emerged in the early 1950's, Technicolor had to gradually step
down from governing the color market, and started sharing it with others.

When three-strip Technicolor came onto the market, the process needed special


183
       T h o ma s W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, p. 231.


                                                                                                           241
light ing units in order to secure qualitative color cinematography. But to be
commercially encouraging, this had to be recorded with the same camera without
adjustment, i.e., when filming under artificial light in the interior and in daylight
in the exterior, the artificial lighting level had to match the “white light” of the
outdoors. In this regard, a direct use of incandescent tungsten was not promising.
It needed a corrective filter to absorb much of the light’s intensity, because
M az da lamps were rich in yellow, red and infrared radiation. Therefore the
Technicolor process required a considerable amount of light, more ‘than could
be s up plied by the incandescent units available.’ This necessitated the
standardization of arc lighting for filming with Technicolor.184 In color filming,
brightening a black object with arc light and making it look lighter is impossible.
To remedy this, Hollywood cinematographer Robert Surtees suggested the use
of an “amber 56 filter” on arc light, or the utilization of ‘a raw unfiltered
incandescent lamp on’ dark objects, which would convert a dark tone into a
lighter one.185

When applying color to the set, the film Scenographer should take some of the
cinematographic concerns into close consideration. This includes enabling the
camera to secure the desired dramatic mood, with the use of the minimum
sources of lighting units possible. ‘Under these conditions, it is always much
easier to keep parts of a set in low key by keeping light away from them, than it
is to paint them dark and then be forced to illuminate them strongly.’186 In its
early days, Technicolor’s constraints of using color on the set imposed
limitations on the color pallet employed by the Scenographer. According to the
contracts made with Technicolor, film-makers had to have color consultants, who
demanded that the color used on the set should comply with the laboratory
process. Sets had to be flooded with light, which reduced the setting’s dramatic



1 84
        “Side Arcs” and “Scoops” were developed to answer this question. The twin-arc units illuminated with no flickering
or noise. Their intensity equaled the daylight’s radiation level, and generated 250 percent more light than their predecessor
“ t w i n a rc broadsides.” “H. I. Arc” was the following arc unit in this Series. It had a similarity to the incandescent
“ S o l a rspot.” H. I. Arc operated smoothly and noiselessly. It was a rotary arc with an intensity of 120 amperes. “Ultra H.
I. A rc ” w i t h 150 amperes followed by “MR Type 65”, the little sixty-five amperes spotlight. The advancement of
T e c h n icolor cut down the current consumption, and these new arcs were adapted in all of Hollywood’s Technicolor
production ; Pan and Sound Put Inkies on Top, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 3 (April 1938), p. 47.

185
       Robert Surtees, Color is Different, in: A. C., Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 1948), p. 31

1 86
     J. A. Ball, The Technicolor Process of 3-Color Cinematography, in: International Projectionist, Vol. 8, No. 6 (June
1935), p. 14.


                                                                                                                       242
        efficiency.187 On the other hand, flooding the set with high-key light from every
        possible direction exposed the set more clearly to the beholder. This required the
        film Scenographer to introduce a form of definition into the spatial-temporal
        parallelism. When the Technicolor process was improved in 1939, settings were
        illuminat ed with less light, while their details had to be kept elaborate.188
        Arrangingsets for color pictures was a time- and labor consuming task. They had
        to conform with the standards of the laboratory process. While working on The
        Wizard of Oz (1939), ‘Gibbons, . . . had Jack M artin Smith do a series of color
        sketches (three feet wide by two feet high) of all the sets so that he could check
        their colors. When Smith finished, Gibbons told him to start all over again,’ as
        G ibbons wanted a quality of ethereal and not full color.189 M easuring the
        dramatic quality of the color effect in the motion picture is based on the color’s
        stimulus level in telling the story, in addition to its profiling of the characters and
        it s communication of the dramatic mood of the filmic story. This calls for
        t reat ing color as a dramatic and psychological means. When this is properly
        achieved, the desired artistic intention is completed. Film practitioners synthesize
        their scenes’ dramatic values by painting them with light, and in building this
        equation, color assumes an impressive relevance. Supposing we recognize the
        film as a continual flow of dramatic images, ‘then many attributes of the art of
        painting become valid for the art of films.’190 The dramatic relevancy of color
        proved its narrative success for the first time in the second half of the decade,
        when pictures such as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone With the Wind (1939)
        manifested that highly perceptual accomplishment and secured their historical
        success.

4.7 Sonic Perspective: Acoustic Control
        Recording sound means: ‘a reading, a deciphering, an attending to a sonic event.
        This is the meaning of the difference between the three-dimensional, physical

        187
               Robert Olson, Art Direction for Film and Video. Boston: Focal Press 1993, p. 8.

        1 88
              Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and London:
        McFarland 1990, p. 34.

        189
              Ibid., p. 91.


        190
               Controlling the color quality in the motion picture may be exercised at three levels: by the artist who selects the color,
        t h e c i n e matographer who records it, and by the process in the laboratory; see Rouben Mamoulian, Colour and Light in
        Films, in: Film Culture, Vol. 21, (Summer 1960), pp. 70-72.


                                                                                                                                  243
“sound” and its recording as a one-dimensional, analogically encoded event.’191
In reality when hearing a sound, the ear transmits it to the brain by means of
binaural perception, where each ear sends its message to the brain independent
of t he other. Defining the sound’s attributes (pitch, distance, or location) is
commanded by the binaural perception. M onaurally perceiving a sound does not
have the same recording quality as binaural perception. It transmits to the brain
only half of the data that could be obtained binaurally, and discriminating the
depth of space will be ill-defined, except by loudness. Recording a sound with
one microphone and a single recording channel on the set, will render it being
perceived as monaural, and with it defining the characters’ motion or location on
the screen will be impossible. Therefore, giving the impression of spatial depth
and spaciousness can be introduced by loudness and reverberation.192 To induce
a realistic illusion of a sound image, an elaborate parallelism of sonic perspective
is t he prerequisite. This is vital in covering a sound composition. When a
character is speaking in the foreground of the set, the sound source would
comp os e a pitch frequency analogously nearby to the beholder whilst going
unnoticed, permitting the beholder to share the event with the set’s inhabitants.
A s t he distance of the sound source increases from the camera, the sound
frequency will decrease and the illusion of the spatial depth will be amplified in
relation to the beholder and vice-versa.193 This makes the pitch of a close-up
produce greater frequency than that of a medium or long-shot, since the distance
from the camera to the sound composition is assigned according to the shot.

Sets from the early sound period were well constructed, and their spacing of the
studding was reliably done, so ‘that the natural frequencies of the wall sections
occurred in the same frequency region as the fundamental tones of the average
male voice.’ Out of this emerged an emphasized low-pitched frequency of the
sound source, in comparison to the shielding of the greater frequencies, ‘which
are responsible for both the crispness and articulation.’ This problem escalated
in sections where sets were boldly dressed, because these sections absorbed the


191
      Alan Williams, Is Sound Recording Like a Language? in: Yale French Studies, No. 60 (1980), p. 61.

192
      S ee Leon S. Becker, Technology in the Art of Producing Motion Pictures, in: S. M. P. E. (Ed.), The Technique of
Motion Picture Production. New York: Interscience 1944, pp. 5&6.


193
        W esley C. Miller, The Illusion of Reality in Sound Pictures, in: Lester Cowan (Ed.), Recording Sound for Motion
Picture. New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book 1931, p. 215; Alan Williams, Is Sound Recording Like a Language?
in: Yale French Studies, No. 60 (1980), p. 59.


                                                                                                                  244
higher frequencies more than they did the lower tones. This made a clear
recordingof a high-pitched sound in those sets hopeless, if the sound source was
not aimed toward the microphone. In the livelier sets, even when the microphone
did not capture the sound directly from its source, the latter would arrive to the
microphone after having bounced off the walls of the set.194 It took Hollywood
cinematographers a great deal of practice to correctly represent the illusion of
dep t h in the sound set. The correct focal length of the lens, as well as a
correlating illumination of the space notably aided the capturing this illusion of
spatial depth. ‘Fortunately, for the acoustic engineer, the impression of depth
depends upon factors which are almost as effective with monaural as with
binaural listening: namely, the change in the ratio of the intensity of the direct
sound to the reverberation present.’195

Hearing binaurally permits a sense of direction and determination of the source
of s ound. M onaural listening does not provide a sense of orientation, where
casual tones and reverberation would seem to accelerate. This motivates keeping
the sound frequencies in the set less than they are in reality. Correspondingly,
when constructing a set of material of the same acoustic quality as that of reality,
t he absence of the fourth wall and the ceiling will allow acceptable damping
quality, which is needed for recording the sound. This acoustic control would be
granted either by building the set outdoors or on a dead sound stage. To make
this task practical, constructing the set should consist of imitative materials as
close as possible to reality, and bracing the set reliably so ‘that they do not tend
to materially partake of the vibrations set up in the air by the sound.’196 Finally,
a s et ting assembled for a monaural sound recording would be acceptable
s t ereop honically. Acoustically, this makes a good monaural set- one that is
qualified for a stereophonic sound as well as for a qualitative acoustic. Copying
sound stereophonically is cost effective ‘because of the poor records frequently
obtained in portions of otherwise acceptable sets which, if sufficiently inferior,




194
       J. P. Maxfield, Technique Recording Control for Sound Pictures, in: Lester Cowan (Ed.), Recording Sound for Motion
P i cture. New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book 1931, p. 262&263; J. P. Maxfield’s papers belong to the most
reliable studies related to the sound track and acoustic control during the transition period.


195
      Ibid., p. 257.


196
      Ibid., p. 261.


                                                                                                                   245
are dubbed or re-recording time is used up in attempted correction.’197

In a TSM PE article dating back to 1927, it was outlined that Fox-M ovietone’s
soundproof recording was secured within two different sound stages: one was
build from thick masonry walls, the other was a double walled and roofed stage,
w hich had empty spacing between the walls and a sound absorbing material.
With this double insulation, large and small soundproof stages were constructed.
T he vast soundproof stage was reserved for musicals because of the intense
reverberation quality it could provide, and measured 50 feet in width, was 21 feet
high and 80 feet long. The smaller stage was 22 feet wide, by 21 feet high and
56 feet long, and was assigned for recording dialogue due to its notable damping
quality.198 Upon the introduction of the talkies, capturing a realistic sound track
in the set affected everyone’s assignment. Arc lights had to be placed in new
positions which did not interfere with the microphone. In the set construction,
s cenographic departments started introducing new materials with sound-
absorbent qualities. Characters had to stand away from the doorways and corners
(t o avoid the spilling out of sound through possible cracks in the joints).
Otherwise, sound recording within these sections of the set would have produced
a “tubby” sound quality. By then most settings’ walls continued to be produced
from cloth to provide sufficient resonance, and the scenographic requirements
were painted on those walls of cloth. Just when sound recording was improved,
set assembling went back to using solid materials.199 When the first half of the
1930's came to an end, Hollywood sound recording had achieved considerable
improvements. In the small sets, Hollywood had an assured qualitative acoustic
control in sound recording. Sets consisted of cloth, which met the scenographic
requirements of the Scenographer, and was stretched over wood skeletons which
were braced firmly. Attention was paid in joining these frames to ensure that no


197
      Lorin D. Grignon, Experiment in Stereophonic Sound, in: J. S. M. P. T. E., Vol. 61, No. 3 (September 1953), p. 375.

198
            F o x -C a se Corporation’s Technical Director, Earl I. Sponable, sketched out the characteristics of these sound proof
s t a g e s . ‘The inner walls of our studios’ commented Sponable, ‘are made with 4-inch solid gypsum block, 1 inch of hair
fe l t , 3 inches of air space, and another 4-inch solid gypsum block wall. These walls are started about 6 inches down in
t h e concrete foundation. The outer walls are made of brick and masonry and are about 24 inches in thickness. A double
c e i l i n g i s supported from the roof trusses. It is made of concrete plaster and separated by a 3-inch air space and 1-inch
hair felt. The floors of the studios are covered with soft carpet. The inner walls and ceilings are covered with Celotex and
fu rt h e r d a mped by hanging heavy Monk cloth drapes perpendicular to the walls and ceiling. These drapes are arranged
fo r ra i s i n g and lowering, so that the degree of resonance may be varied to meet different conditions of recording.’ Earl
I. Sponable, Some Technical Aspects of the Movietone, in: T.S. M. P. E., Vol. 11, No. 31 (1927), pp. 458-461

199
      William C. DeMille, Hollywood Saga. New York: E. P. Dutton 1939, p. 282.


                                                                                                                            246
cracks existed around the entrances and exits of the set. The backs of these
frameworks had to be covered with black fabric preventing the penetration of
light beams from coming through. M eanwhile, in the large settings, it was
common practice in Hollywood to employ hard walls for the acoustic quality
they could provide.200

Addingsound to the image created more aesthetic signs and data for the beholder
to perceive. Here, the beholder was not simply viewing, but also listening to the
act ion. Sound then had to comment on the visual and explore the beholder’s
imagination, and should not be a repetition of the visual. Only by balancing
between the acoustical and visual, could the filmic narrative have an enhanced
outcome. In this audio-visual equilibrium, sight communicates far more data to
the beholder than sound does. No matter what role the sound track has in the
talking picture, a film would always be a medium of visual communication
w herein the dialogue stays its subordinate.201 M artin Broones, the chief of
M etro’s music department confirmed the aforementioned. ‘The picture’ for
Broones, ‘comes first, music second.’ Broones selected music that would sustain
t he p ict ure’s narrative efficiency. Erno Rapee, the musical expert at First
National and Warner Brothers, agreed on the same principle: applying the music
composition to the picture and its characters, but only after defining the
scenographic mood of the picture.202

In 1930, tests were carried out under the supervision of the Academy of M otion
Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood, to reduce the noise resulting from the
carbon arc lamps while recording sound pictures. The lamps noise was picked up
by the oversensitive microphone during sound recording, and solving this
t echnical question was the main concern of Hollywood technicians since the




200
       S ee E. A. Wolcott, Recent Improvements in Equipment and Technique in the Production of Motion Pictures, in: J.
S. M. P. E., Vol. 23, No. 3 (October 1934), p. 213.

201
      Cf. Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, pp. 103-105; the eyes are the main source
o f fe eding information to the human nervous system, therefore eyes are considered as “information gatherers,” which
p ro v ide far more data to the nervous system than hearing or touching does; see Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension.
New York: Doubleday 1966, p. 61.

202
      Verna Arvey, Present Day Musical Films and How they are Made Possible, in: The Etude, Vol. 49 (January 1931),
pp. 61&72.


                                                                                                                 247
arrival of sound.203 During this transition period, moving picture sound recording
w ent t hrough a long tunnel of technical adventure that no one previously
attempted or experienced. “Single sound system” meant having the sound track
and t he image on a single negative, which induced an obvious disharmony
between the image and its sound, i.e., the sound was running about twenty-one
or twenty-two frames in advance of the image. This technical problem had to be
solved by cutting the sound track from the film and reinserting it back and forth
until it joined the image. This sound-attaching technique was exercised in the
phonograph recording of “At the End of a Perfect Day” in Fox’s first two-reeler
sound film on location The Family Picnic (1929), among other pictures.204 The
microphones’ over-sensitivity recorded any and every incidental sound while
filming a scene. M GM ’s musical director, Herbert Stothart, had to conduct the
orchestra without holding a thin baton in his hand, as it caused a swishing noise
in the air. Robert Taylor snapped his fingers unintentionally when singing.
Therefore, he was instructed to keep his hands in his pockets, while singing “I’ve
Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ ” in Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935). The same
p roblem faced Eleanor Powell when tapping her feet as she sang- she had to
s t and on a rubber mat to eliminate the noise.205 During this critical period of
s ound recording (the transitional years), speaking of a dynamic composition
cannot be regarded as accurate. Within the form of “canned theater,” group
composition was almost static. It was a stage-bound composition. Characters
were gathered tightly together, with a minimum of action, and the narrative had
to be more concentrated on their conversation than dynamic. This localization of
characters’ composition allowed the sound mixer an easy task in manipulating
the sound and its frequencies. We may see this elementary recording technique
in Paramount’s first all-talking picture Interference (1928), or Fox’s first all-
talking feature In Old Arizona (1928), or Anna Christie (1930), in which Greta
Garbo first talked, and the microphone had to be hidden within the mise-en-scene
to capture the dialogue.

T he moving picture’s years of metamorphosis worked toward establishing a


203
       Technicians Investigate Arcs, in: A. C., Vol. 10, No. 12 (March 1930), p. 22.

204
      B e rn ard Freericks, Sound Recording, in: Mike Steen (Ed.), Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History. New York: G. P.
Putnam’s Sons 1974, p. 316.

2 05
      Douglas Shearer, Sound, in: Stephen Watts (Ed.), Behind the Screen: How Films are Made. London: Arthur Barker
1938, p. 135.


                                                                                                               248
       stable norm of sound recording. Hollywood attempted a post-synchronization
       t echnique (or dubbing) in production. King Vidor introduced the post-
       synchronizing sound recording in Hallelujah (1929), where much of the picture
       was shot in silence on location and the sound track added later. This allowed
       King Vidor to insert the rhythm and pitch of the sound far from the incidental
       nois e influences on location. Lewis M ilestone, Ernst Lubitsch and Rouben
       M amoulian were alike in revolting against the technical constraints imposed on
       the film medium by the newcomer, sound. They devised their own ways and
       went around it, and succeeded where others could not in formulating a period
       claimed by film critics as the post-synchronization period. The technique was a
       form of liberating the camera from the soundproof booth, and the limitations
       forced upon on the action by the microphone’s immobility which created
       “canned theater.” During this turbulent period of sound recording, Hollywood
       managed, sometimes with ease and sometimes not, to bridge the gap created by
       the technological limitations of the emerging technology.

       When copying a sound track onto the film, the process is governed by: ‘(1)
       int elligibility of dialogue; (2) naturalness or acoustic fidelity to the original
       rendition.’206 By the second half of the nineteen-thirties, recording a sound
       composition in the motion picture came to a turning point. By then, recording a
       sound track was a matter of artistic assignment; it was characterized by elaborate
       originality and a balance in sound-image juxtaposition. This high ideal of sound
       recording was manifested in the task of George G. Schneider, the head of
       M etro’s musical library (America’s second largest musical library, the first being
       the music division of the Library of Congress). Schneider and his staff invested
       about three years of intensive research to find the authentic music for Romeo and
       Juliet (1936) and The Good Earth (1937). In the following years, this persistence
       of p reserving a high level of acoustic fidelity continued in Schneider and his
       staff’s work. It took the team eight years to compile the authentic music for Quo
       Vadis (1951).207

4.8 Illumination Effect and the Scenographic Space
       Duringthe early days of photoplay, sunlight was the only source of illumination


       206
             Carl Dreher, Recording, Re-Recording, and Editing of Sound, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 16, No. 6 (June 1931), p. 756.


       207
             Clifford McCarty, Filmusic Librarian, in: Films in Review, Vol. 8, No. 6 (June-July 1957), pp. 292&293.


                                                                                                                          249
in the interior setting that was constructed on an open stage outdoors, in that no
special lighting effect was permissible. Daylight lacks constant intensity
throughout the day, making a scene taken in the late morning differ from another
one recorded in the afternoon. As a result, a discontinuity emerged in the picture
between two different shots of the same subject (from close-up to long-shot): in
the one shot the subject might look normally lit, and in the next was darker. This
rendered effective filming elusive.208 In the primitive period of film-making,
lighting the space meant helping the beholder to see. The spatial was illuminated
by one level of a diffused lighting effect, no matter what the narrative action
might be. Infrequently a light would emerge from a fireplace or enter the space
through a window. Progressively, film-makers understood that highlighting some
dramatic objects more than their surroundings would reveal their position in the
spatial depth, and involve the beholder more in the screen narrative. Providing
realism and aesthetic to the filmic story were other vehicles of sustaining the
screen narrative.209

Among the pioneers who tried to control their pictures with dramatic light were
M elies and Porter. By 1905, mercury-vapor tubes and carbon arc lamps were
active in production in the East coast studios, to maintain a flat and diffused
effect. Later came Griffith, who experimented with light as a dramatic effect, but
the shortcomings of the film emulsion and lamps available did not allow further
exp loration with artificial lighting.210 In 1914, Wilfred Buckland came to
Hollywood (to stage his sets in an aged barn, centered in the middle of orange
and lemon groves at Vine and Selma avenue). Buckland, a former Broadway
producer and stage Scenographer at David Belasco, teamed with DeM ille as an
associate of Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company. ‘The stage was an adjoining
unroofed platform two feet high, with a telephone pole at one end that was rigged
with a boom, with ail attached. This was moved around, as the sun moved, to
diffuse the sunlight’s hot rays and glare.’ Buckland’s interiors, on this stage,


2 08
         Frederick S. Mills, Film Lighting as a Fine Art, in: S. A., Vol. 124, No. 8 (February 19, 1921), p. 148; the
c i n e ma t o g ra phic process’ dependency on light and the sunny climate of Southern California most of the year, were the
p ri me attractions for basing the motion picture industry in Hollywood; Ray Hoadley, How they Make a Motion Picture.
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell 1939, pp. 55&57.

209
    D. Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, pp. 223&227.

210
       T h o ma s W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren with Daniel H. Johnson, Light and Shadows: A History of Motion
Pictures. Port Washington, N. Y.: Alfred Publishing 1975, pp. 228&229.


                                                                                                                       250
resembled one walled set dressed with real objects. Here, painting objects on the
s et t ings ’ walls was abandoned. Because it was believed that sunlight was
neces s ary for filming, convincing those producers to use the impressive arc
spotlights was not easy for Buckland. He was finally authorized to use two arcs
in his sets ‘and artificial lighting came to Hollywood, and “movie sets” moved
inside, out of the sun.’211 By applying this artificial illumination instead of using
daylight for lighting the interior, Wilfred Buckland re-fashioned setting
illumination in Hollywood. Buckland’s introduction of the theatrical lighting
effect of Kliegl lights allowed him to sustain a drama and realistic mood, as well
as achieve aesthetical visualization and elevate the narrative efficiency of the
s ilent visually rather than verbally. Buckland’s interior lighting method was
instrumental in shifting Hollywood production into a new era of filming around
the clock throughout the 1930's and 1940's.212

Up to the early 1920's, two-sources lighting was the standard in Hollywood.
DeMille’s cinematographer, Alvin Wyckoff, was the artist who exposed Wilfred
Buckland’s sets to a highly narrative illumination. With Wyckoff’s artistic
ap plication, lighting a scene was no longer a matter of whether or not it was
reas onably lit to produce an adequately exposed negative; lighting the set or
characters’ composition came to mean reflecting a dramatic mood, with various
sources and levels of lighting effect that sustained the dramatic quality of the
scene. ‘The model of lighting in the American Cinema’ observed Peter Baxter,
‘lies in the practice adopted by DeM ille, Buckland, and Wyckoff ,the use of
which entailed acquiescence to the contradiction of a light, that, in the words of
the reviewer, is both ‘natural’ and ‘expressive”.213 Archetypically, arc lights were
beneficial on the stage for their blue-white effect. On the set, Kliegle lamps not
only generated high temperatures and ultra-violet rays troubling the characters,
but went to the extent of harming them. Flickering arc lamps did not match with


211
         Arc spotlights were developed by the Kliegl Brothers of New York; Leo K. Kuter, Art Direction, in: Films in Review
(J u n e - J uly 1957), p. 249; “Uncle” Carl Laemmle built an observation balcony alongside his outdoor “stage” platform
and charged tourists and local yokels 25c to watch. Then, as now, people were interested in how movies are made. When
a rt i fi c i a l l ighting made Laemmle move indoors, the fun of Universal’s outdoor stage became a thing of the past.; ibid.,
fn*



212
    John Hambley and Patrick Downing, The Art of Hollywood: Fifty Years of Art Direction. London: Thames Television
1979, p. 14.


213
      Peter Baxter, On the History and Ideology of Film Lighting, in: Screen, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Autumn 1975), pp. 90&97.


                                                                                                                        251
the consistency of the film exposer, which rendered Cooper-Hewitt mercury-
vapor tubes to be an advantageous source of light on the studio set. Cooper-
Hewitt provided an intense blue, ultra-violet radiance, and other colors producing
actinic effects, because mercury vapor was not composing any complementary
tones to the red of the color palette. On Orthochromatic emulsion these red tones
did not exude any cinematographic quality. M ercury-vapor lamps produced high
actinic intensity, i.e., true cinematographic quality.214 During the filming, the arc
lamp s ’ high intensity of radiant white on the set had to be toned down by
releasing carbon powder in the air that went everywhere on the set. Working
under t hes e conditions caused the characters severe eye pain, and by the
following day they were not able to continue their job.215

A ft er the arrival of talkies, set lighting was revolutionized by the significant
course of change from arc to incandescent light (M azda lamps). Noisy arcs from
the silent era were now substituted by the noiseless incandescent tungsten light.
This technological metamorphosis invited some divided opinions among film-
makers: some opposed, while others favored the new change. Incandescent light
creat ed blurred and hazy images resulting in the loss of some details of the
s ubject recorded. This resulted in some studios going back to using arcs and
placing the hissing arcs within a soundproof box, allowing the light to penetrate
through a glass front. M azda lamps were more cost effective, lighter in weight,
consumed less current, were simpler to use and provided a softer image, which
motivated some cinematographers to use M azda exclusively.216 In 1928, when
incandescent tungsten lamps came onto the market, they not only replaced
carbon arcs, but also Cooper-Hewitt mercury-vapor tubes, which had been the
norm in moving picture set lighting for two decades.217 In association with
Hollywood, a series of tests of Panchromatic and M azda were conducted through
the Academy Research Council during the Winter of 1927-1928. The results of
these tests were announced at a conference of the SM PE, which described the
great advantages of M azda: ‘the cost of incandescent equipment represented a
saving of almost 55 percent; operation, a saving of nearly 58 per cent; and in

214
      Ibid., pp. 90&91.


215
      King Vidor, On Film Making. New York: McKay 1972, p. 148.


216
      Mary Eunice McCarthy, Hands of Hollywood. Hollywood: Photoplay Research Bureau 1929, pp. 60&97.


217
      Pan and Sound put Inkies on Top, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 3 (April 1938), p. 43.


                                                                                                        252
current used, an economy of close to 65 per cent.’ Upon combining these with
the new cinematographic quality of M azda and Panchromatic film, a sweeping
change in lighting the set came into being. The arrival of sound, meanwhile,
came to speed up this transition. By then, during the filming of the frequent long
tak es , s et s had to be free from noise and flickering light. The new “inkies”
proposed the answer in every studio’s set.218

With the change from carbon arcs to M azda lighting, and from Orthochromatic
to Panchromatic film, a new era of illuminating and arranging the Scenographic
Space was introduced in Hollywood. Previously, arc lamps did not allow the
application of pure white color on the sets. The arc dictated the reproduction of
w hit e tone into being either green or pink- if not, the tonal values of the set
would have been glaring. M azda showed the real value of white color, which was
enhanced by the new speedy emulsion of Panchromatic to produce a polished
image of the M oderne on the screen.219 This technological breakthrough enabled
Hollywood Scenographers to deliver the M oderne with its constituents to the
screen throughout the 1930's, and establish the “house style” without reservation.
M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer initiated a scenographic convention of overpowering
white in the studio’s spatial organization. Right from Hollywood’s revolutionary
year of 1928, Cedric Gibbons started with Art Deco stylization of overwhelming
white tones: in Our Dancing Daughters (1928), The Kiss (1929), Grand Hotel
(1932), The Merry Widow (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), and Marie
Antoinette (1938) Cedric Gibbons introduced a new setting style, dominated by
overpowering white tones, to the screen. So did Paramount in One Hour With
You (1932), Duck Soup (1933), or Artists and Models (1937), and RKO in
Astaire-Rogers’ musical cycle , gaining the trademark of “BWS.” With the new


218
       ‘T h e fi rst incandescent unit developed commercially was an analogous to the arc broadside universally employed
fo r “ g e n e ra l ” and “filler” lighting. These first “inkie” broadsides borrowed much from arc practice.’ see Pan and Sound
Put Inkies on Top, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 3 (April 1938), pp. 44&45; R. E. Farnham, Motion Picture Studio Lighting With
In c a n descent Lamps, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood: The American Society of
Cinematographers 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), p. 253; a Special Incandescent
L i g h t R e s earch Committee held a meeting on Saturday, March 3 rd, 1928, to review the Mazda tests preceded at Warner’s
s t u d i o .. Tests were classified according to the following: ‘1. Comparative Tests of Mazda and Carbon Lights. 2. Highest
Efficiency in Mazda Lighting. 3. Mazda Light Effects. 4. Color Chart. 5. Make-up Tests. 6. Deficiency in Mazda Lighting.
7 . M i x e d L i g h t ing-Mazda, Carbon Lights, (White and Yellow) Neon, Cooper-Hewitt.’ See The Mazda Tests, in: A. C.,
Vol. 9, No. 1 (April 1928), p. 30.

219
         S e e Lewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. New York: Teachers College Press 1939, P.
4 4 5 ; G e o rg e P . E rengis, Cedric Gibbons: Set a Standard for Art Direction that Raised the Movies’ Cultural Level, in:
F i l m s i n R e v iew (April 1965), p. 226; Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, Screen Deco: A celebration of High Style
in Hollywood. New York: St. Martin’s Press 1985, p. 34.


                                                                                                                        253
Pan and M azda, these leaders of the M oderne gained a new artistic freedom in
t heir s et tings, and consequently sketched a new canonical idiom in film
scenography that imposed its values not only on other studios, but even on the
way American women treated the interiors of their homes.

An ideal exposition of a film is governed by the light’s quantity, intensity as well
as by its diffusion. Sufficient illumination means lighting what is occurring in the
scene so that it is visible, and permitting shadow where it would look natural.
The attention should be concentrated on lighting the characters and not the set.
When illuminating a scene, the chief section of light should be the focus of
at t ent ion.220 Added to those lighting principles comes the direction of light.
Within the set, all these lighting effects are united simultaneously to project a
cert ain dramatic mood, while each of these illumination’s principles must be
evaluated independently.221

Illuminating a scene with a flat lighting defeats the quality of the form. Artistic
photography depends on three factors, reflects Lewis W. Physioc: ‘First, the
rendering of effects. Second, the preservation of natural beauty. Third, the
suggestion of proper form.’222 Distributing lights and shades in a given “shot”
is a process that is more elusive than that of applying color on a canvas. The
principle of tone distribution in a shot relates to the canons of pictorial art, and
by taking these as a reference, it will guide the cinematographer in deciding to
where every tone should be assigned. Carrying out this artistic formula is a time-
consuming process that refuses to be linked to any particular procedure.223
F urthermore, lighting a scene is not governed by a certain formula, said King
Vidor, as it is an matter of interpretation. The most agreeably narrative
illumination in studio set lighting is that calling for simplicity, which is not easy
to secure.224

220
       Arthur Edwin Krows, The Talkies. New York: Henry Holt 1930, pp. 162&163.

2 21
      Ernst Lindgren, The Art of the Film. New York: The Macmillan 1963, p. 125; Laurence Goldstein and Jay Kaufman,
Into Film. New York: E. P. Dutton 1976, p. 266.

222
       Lewis W. Physioc, More About Lighting, in: I. P., Vol. 8, No. 7 (August 1936), p. 4.

223
     Wiard B. Ihnen and D. W. Atwater, The Artistic Utilization of Light in the Photography of Motion Pictures, in: T.S.
M. P. E., Vol. 21 (May 1925), p. 28.


224
       King Vidor, On Film Making. New York: McKay 1972, pp. 150&151.


                                                                                                                  254
It is highly recommended that a balance should be secured between the mood of
t he filmic story and its illumination. A well-lit picture does not only have a
highly narrative quality, but it prepares the beholder for perceiving that particular
mood of narrative action.225 In the early days of film production, exterior night-
scenes were filmed during the daytime, and sets were under-exposed to the light
then printed on blue tinted emulsion. After the introduction of the new lighting
unit s , and the accelerated trend for capturing ever more realism in the filmic
image, after-dark scenes were shot at night. The cinematographer was enabled
to command definite lighting control in the exterior, just as it was handled in an
int erior scene.226 In the modern settings, multi-camera shooting, or using a
moving camera, imposed a new challenge on illuminating these sets, because
when the camera moved or its set-up is altered in the Scenographic Space, a great
degree of lighting multiplication was required in the space to match the action.227

Lighting effect and composition relate closely to one another, as the effect of
light has convincing possibilities to illustrate drawing lines and composition.
When taking a scene (mostly an exterior one), changing of the camera angle may
t rans mit a disturbing and poor-looking shadow onto a cheerful effect or a
composition. Sometimes the story lines call for simple spatial arrangement,
w here a t rue artistic distribution of the lighting effect will cover the lack of
aesthetic and lend the set a sense of grace. ‘In this manner, we have frequently
seen very simple sets made to appear very beautiful. This suggests an element of
art that has been grossly neglected -that of simplicity.’ These realizations involve
an experienced eye to transform the words into a delightful image.228 We have
s een t his principle of simplicity in the previous Chapters, and how Warner
Brothers’ shabby sets of the gangster genre captured the attention of the onlooker
through their highly artistic illumination; without the contribution of light in the
cinematographic treatment, there would be no other way of recording an image.
Out of the combination between light and shade not only emerges a spatial depth,


225
       Victor Milner, Painting with Light, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood: The American
Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), pp. 96&97.

226
      Ibid., p. 106.

227
      Ibid., pp. 106&108.

228
      Lewis W. Physioc, Cinematography an Art Form, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood:
The American Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), p. 25.


                                                                                                                255
but from this every other visual aspect in the image will be transmitted. Light and
s hade are two unified mediums of representation, they are the cause and the
effect at the same time.229 Under the variation of light the spatial dimensions can
either be enlarged or reduced. Light defines the shape of a subject and blots it
out . The scenographic organization is only complete when it is finally
illuminated, and manipulating the lighting balance of the set will ruin its
aesthetical charm, flatten the depth, destroy the form, wash its tonal values out
and make it uninviting.230

In a Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, submitted in a conference in the
Springof 1931 in Hollywood, it was decided that the power consumption for the
set illumination, ‘per square foot of floor area within the set,’ alternated between
50 and 150 watts.231 Under such intensity and diffusion level of lighting the set,
Hollywood established its various genres, which landmarked the Golden Age.
T he American film industry assigned certain lighting tones for every type of
action unfolded within the Scenographic Space, forming various levels of story-
telling on the American screen: William Cameron M enzies defined that tragedy
or p at hos are narrative under low-key illumination. Reflecting a comedy
composition is granted by a mood of caricature, and sentiments are balanced by
the sense of the diffusion, while violence and melodrama predominantly need a
low-key lighting effect, with violent highlights.232 Asserting this narrative quality
in the set is not complete unless the spatial arrangement allows that balance. ‘The
mos t at t ractive set is (otherwise) worthless if it cannot be photographed ’,
commented Hans Dreier.233

In an article written by Clifford Howard for Close Up magazine in January 1928,
Howard praises the Scenographer and cinematographer’s artistic effort. For

229
       V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, p. 61.

2 30
     Lee Simonson, The Art of Scenic Design: A Pictorial Analysis of Stage Setting and its Relation to Theatrical
Production. New York: Harper & Brothers 1950, pp. 28-29&31.

231
       Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 17, No. 4 (October 1931), p. 645.

2 32
      William Cameron Menzies, Pictorial Beauty in the Photoplay, in: Richard Koszarski (Ed.), Hollywood Directors
1914-1940. New York: Oxford University Press 1976, p. 244.

2 33
         Hans Dreier, Designing the Sets, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton 1937,
p. 86.


                                                                                                              256
Howard, pictorially, the cinematographer’s task outranks all the assignments of
the production team, because the pictorial outcome of the film rests in the hands
of t he cinematographer, and the latter’s job is governed by the spirit of the
picture (light).234 ‘The moving picture industry is the only industry dominated
geographically by the question of light.’ With no exception, every interior setting
of t he mot ion picture needs some degree of artificial lighting in order to be
recorded (seen). This elevates the set’s artificial illumination to the degree of
being consequential.235

Usually, the way light reaches the set relates immediately to the Scenographer’s
organization of an unroofed set, because, mostly, the main source of lighting the
s et emerges from above, which in turn makes it difficult to plan a set with a
ceiling. Correspondingly, letting the light source emerge from around the set will
require the absence of its fourth wall, which would stay unnoticed by the
beholder. It is, therefore, understandable that some settings’ compositions are
held away from the ceiling to keep its absence unnoticed. Yet some
Scenographers arrange ceilinged sets and still achieve the balance of the spatial
illumination.236 Earlier (Chapters Two and Three), I covered this balance between
the narrative action and lighting of a roofed-over set.

O ccas ionally, certain sections of some settings are not easy to control with
illumination. James M itchell Leisen handled such a question of light by
showeringaluminum paint on those spots or by painting them with light color to
blot them out.237 Before the actual shooting, Gregg Toland made some extensive
preparations on the set. On each of Les Miserables’ [1935] fifty-four sets, it took
Toland about three hours, sometimes working until dawn, to arrange their proper
mood of lighting. ‘Right on the daisy cloth, by his instructions, the painters’
spray guns put in the shadows, accentuated the blacks, definitely determined the
grays, brushed in highlights; providing a supplemented foundation for his light


234
      Clifford Howard, A Hollywood Close-Up, in: Close Up, Vol. 2. No. 1 (January 1928), p. 20.

235
      W. M. Roy Mott, White Light for Motion Picture Photography, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 8 (Philadelphia: Meeting of
April 14-16, 1919), pp. 10&12.

236
     It is noteworthy to say that the set’s fourth wall is absent, but the beholder never missed it; R. Myerscough-Walker,
Stage and Film Decor. London: Pitman 1939, p. 134.


237
      James Mitchell Leisen, Some Problems of the Art Director, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 12, No. 33 (1928), pp. 77&78.


                                                                                                                         257
       to play upon.’ To every scene of the picture Toland assigned a laboratory liaison
       officer, recording the required data for later laboratory purposes.238 All this
       allowed Toland to create maximum cinematographic quality upon the screen.
       Some of Hollywood’s Scenographers, such as William Cameron M enzies and
       Charles D. Hall, were masters in applying light and shade to their spatial
       organization. Through their tonal manipulation, they attained an Expressionistic
       atmosphere and highly narrative visualization. This was , for example, notably
       manifested in The Iron Mask (1929), and The Black Cat (1934).

       In a report of the Studio Lighting Committee, presented at the 1941 Fall M eeting
       in New York, it was indicated that manufacturers supplied Hollywood studios
       with a special “exposure meter,” which aided in achieving maximum accuracy
       and time efficiency in setting up the lighting units. The new device gathered the
       light in a translucent hemisphere and was graduated ‘in lens f / values instead of
       in foot-candles’. The exposure meter’s calibration was devised to match each
       studio’s need.239 M anufacturers of the American film industry provided each
       s t udio with custom-made devices, to meet each studio’s requirements and to
       sustain their own outlook on the screen (style). On the other side of the coin, hard
       work and high artistic skills were present within every studio and on every level
       of production, to maintain that artistic ideal.

4.8.1 High-Key: Flood Lighting the Set
       David W. Griffith believed in enhancing the narrative and aesthetical stylization
       of his scenes through the composing of highly contrasted tonal values, that he
       termed “Rembrandt Lighting.”240 Like David W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeM ille was
       interested in this illumination model of conventional composition. Yet with the
       new technological improvements of lighting equipment and the increasing speed
       of Panchromatic emulsion, a new mood in illuminating a scene could be achieved
       in Hollywood productions. This characterized a new concept in motion picture
       set lighting, and in particular enabled lighting those settings of the ‘extravaganza’


       238
            Toland’s daily set-ups in Les Miserables required about twenty-eight takes. He finished shooting the picture in thirty-
       six days, compiling one thousand fifteen set-ups; see Harry Burdick, Intensive Preparation Underlies Toland’s
       Achievements, in: A. C., Vol. 16, No. 6 (June 1935), p. 240.


       239
             Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 38, No. 3 (March 1942), p. 281.


       240
             A. Knight, The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies, pp. 20&21.


                                                                                                                            258
type, i.e., revealing every one of the spatial attributes for the beholder to see
while preserving the narrative excellence at the same time. After being in use for
almost a year, incandescent tungsten lamps marked this anniversary by marking
a turning point in studio cinematography. For the lighting of the Paradise Night
Club in Broadway (1929), Hal M ohr used M azda lighting units of various
intensities. ‘Forty-eight hundred lamps, ranging in size from 40 to 5000 watts,
and totaling 3,900,000 watts,’ were put in service highlighting the grand scale
stylization of the Art Deco setting. Flooding the set with this intensity of M azda
light marked a new era in the enrichment of studio illumination.241 The
emergence of the new high speed Panchromatic film was complimented by the
new technological innovation of incandescent lamps. Added to these was the new
form of the M oderne, which cannot be better displayed under any other mood of
lighting than by high-intensity illumination. Both Hollywood Scenographer and
cinematographer had entered a new age of set visualization in motion picture
history.

In the year 1928, Hollywood repeatedly witnessed historical changes: with
Eastman Kodak’s finer-grained Type I Panchromatic film and its soft
p hot ograp hic quality, carbon arc abandoned for M azda lamps in the studio
light ing, and sound introduction into the film-making, a new convention for
arranging the set had emerged. Hollywood’s Scenographers redefined their
concept of spatial organization, because white color could be introduced in their
settings, which had been hitherto impractical in its application. Sound resonance
or dampingwithin the set required prompt solutions,242 which further required the
ut ilization of new materials and the exercise of new techniques in the setting
cons t ruction, as we have seen earlier in the foregoing analysis. With these
t echnological breakthroughs, Hollywood entered a formation period of new
vis ual s t yles and genres. Within a tight time frame, the American studios
mastered these newborn technologies to produce cycles that established a model
of filming for coming times, and had no match throughout the history of the film.

D uring M GM ’s past, the studio preferably flooded its sets with lights.
Expenditure on settings was high, and this lavish cost had to be flooded with


241
      R. E. Farnham, Incandescent Lighting Improves, in: A. C., Vol. 10, No. 1 (April 1929), pp. 31&33.

242
          L ewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. New York: Teachers College Press 1939, P. 445;
P a t ri c k L . O g le, Technological and Aesthetic Influences Upon the Development of Deep Focus Cinematography in the
United States, in: Screen, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring 1972), p. 51.


                                                                                                                    259
light to be seen. Cinematographers were instructed to expose the spatial
properties to a high-key, and if someone ventured shooting the sets with a low-
key, he would be fired.243 M etro’s film scenographic style and visualization were
established during the early years of the studio’s formation. Louis B. M ayer, the
head of the studio, opposed any distorted mannerism or arty stylization in the
studio’s screen image. M ayer was convinced in his belief that people visit the
movie theater to see stars and not a landscape or beautiful pictures. He wanted
his character stars to be exposed to as much light as possible.244 M GM ’s
institutional constraints would never allow the lighting intensity, per square foot
on the set floor, to be under a certain wattage. The philosophy behind this was
clear: to permit the exhibition of M etro’s pictures even in the least technically
equipped theaters. ‘Full high-key lighting, bright and relatively shadowless, came
to be synonymous with M GM productions and in close-ups a kind of glamourous
back-lighting called “Rembrandt” lighting was developed for their male and
particularly for their female stars.’ This level of lighting came to dominate most
of Metro’s exquisite still photographs of its stars for the next two decades, after
t he emergence of talking pictures.245 M etro-Goldwyn-M ayer, the name that
carried the image of heyday, gloss and glamour, was sustained by those
impressive technological improvements and skilled artists who formed faultless
adap t ations of M oderne on the American screen. Richard Day and Cedric
Gibbons’ settings for Our Dancing Daughters (1928), and The Kiss (1929) are
scenographically classified among the most visually lasting Art Deco stylizations
that Hollywood could afford. Sets of the M oderne reached that narrative level
only after they were illuminated with high-key intensity, which brought them
closer to the beholder. Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931), Dinner at Eight
(1934), Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Rosalie (1937), or Conquest (1938)
are further productions of this class. William Daniels shot the settings of Hobe
Erwin and Fred Hope in Dinner at Eight, balancing between the spatial form,
dramatic atmosphere and high-key illumination. With this lighting level, Daniels
s us t ained keeping the space, while framing the action, scenographically
narrative. Even in other period productions, Gibbons or his team did not hesitate
to introduce their favored color -“white.” The historical-musical, Maytime

243
       Eric Sherman (Ed.), Directing the Film: Film Directors on their Art. Boston: Little, Brown 1976, pp. 132&133.

2 44
      Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and London:
McFarland 1990, pp. 58&59.


245
       Ibid., p. 58.


                                                                                                                       260
(1937), is a typical picture in this regard. Its sets are overwhelmingly white,
somewhat anachronistically, but only to enforce the studio’s image on the screen.

Paramount’s Lubitschian comedy relied significantly on the white tone and
flooding the set with light. This lighting quality well matched the rhythm of the
action and kept every bit of it constantly perceived, while the M arx Brothers’
dadais tic comedy adapted the same lighting intensity to its narrative. In
Universal’s musical comedy, Top of the Town (1937), the new film stock allowed
John Harkrider and Jack M artin Smith to define the depth of the Scenographic
Space with tiny lights in the background. Under a sparkling light, every line and
surface of the Streamlined Art M oderne in the M oonbeam Room was clearly
visible. The same lighting key marked Columbia’s Lost Horizon (1937). In
RKO’s “BWS,” the studio established its own high-key lighting that continued
being used throughout the studio’s musicals during the nineteen-thirties. When
the American studios delivered a new image onto the screen, it only came after
t he new technological improvements had enabled that approach, and allowed
Hollywood’s artists to form their distinctive image by exposing the space and its
properties to contrasted tonal treatment or high-key lighting.

Between 1928 and 1938, technological refinements in studio lighting reached a
notable degree of progress. Fast-Films and the new lighting units contributed
effectively to the use of an ever-decreasing wattage for lighting the space. A new
technique, named “key lighting,” was developed, freeing the set floor from being
clut t ered with the complication of general or flood lighting equipment. Key
lighting called for mounting a few light sources higher beside the camera, and
operated as a key light in illuminating the focus of attention, so the set and the
action’s general lighting emerged from above, from spotlights mounted on lamp
rails. ‘This is largely a result of the moving-camera technique, for it was early
learned that the old method of lighting from the floor not only interfered with the
camera’s movement but gave rise to undesirable shadows as the camera-angle
changed.’246 Enhanced by technological support, Hollywood’s image on the
s creen gained an increasingly narrative accent of realism. When Dead End
(1937) reached an original narrative value in both interior and exterior settings,
on the screen, the picture had depended significantly on the improved arc
lighting units. Dead End needed a large crew of electricians to light the picture’s
one principal set and to help ‘pulling 8000 amperes on practically every scene


246
      Pan and Sound Put Inkies on Top, in: I. P., Vol. 10, No. 3 (April 1938), p. 48.


                                                                                        261
        exposed.’ Gregg Toland intended recreating artificial sunlight on the main set.
        He secured this level of light intensity when ‘he bunched eight arc lamps on one
        huge parallel for his key lighting.’247 By the early 1940's, carbon arc lamps were
        improved to the level of being used not only in Technicolor illumination, but in
        lighting monochrome as well. The modern carbon arc has been considered as the
        most intense and best lighting unit available for simulating artificial sunshine.
        Additionally, its penetrating capacity with a notable blue-white radiation, placed
        the arc above any other lighting source available. By then, maintaining a depth
        cue on large exterior settings required ‘the use of arc equipment to supplement
        the more familiar M azda.’ The arc also worked well in illuminating relatively
        small sets with dark and light absorbing walls, yet deep and crowded as in Ball
        of Fire (1941). Gregg Toland admitted that without the modern arc, shooting
        Citizen Kane (1941) could not have been possible.248

4.8.2 Direction-Selective Light
        Two basic conditions govern the illumination of any subject for the camera work:
        one calls for sufficient lighting of the subject to obtain a proper exposure, and the
        other requires light to induce the maximum impression of roundness and depth
        cue when it reaches the subject.249 Furthermore, in the photographic process light
        is codified under two levels: hard and soft light. Hard light resembles the
        sunlight on a clear day, and it produces a high contrast and sharp angles in the
        image. Soft light, as its name infers, creates softer angles, with weak contrast and
        diffusion. Still ‘the direction from which the principal illumination falls upon a
        subject has a distinct bearing upon the way it will photograph.’250 Hollywood’s
        cinematographer William Stull summed up his recommendations to amateur

        247
                 T h e c ost of the picture’s main set reached 62,000 dollars; Toland’s “Dead End” Selected in Caucus one of Three
        B e s t , i n: A. C., Vol. 19, No. 4 (April 1938), pp. 141&142; regarding the “key-light” see also R. G. Linderman, C. W.
        H a n l e y , a nd A. Rogers, Illumination in the Motion Picture Production, in: S. M. P. E. (Ed.), The Technique of Motion
        Picture Production. New York: Interscience 1944, p. 72.

        248
               G regg Toland, Using Arcs for Lighting Monochrome, in: A. C., Vol. 22, No. 12 (December 1941), p. 558; Gregg
        Toland, I Broke the Rules in Citizen Kane, in: Popular Photography, Vol. 8, No. 6 (June 1941), pp. 55, 90&91.

        249
                  W i l l i a m Stull, The Elements of Lighting, in: Hal Hall and William Stull (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 2,
        H o l l y w o o d : The American Society of Cinematographers 1931(Rep. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times
        1972), p. 312.

        250
             William Stull, Cinematography Simplified, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood: The
        American Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep., New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), p. 477.


                                                                                                                                262
filmers, on how to introduce their lighting effects when lighting a figure: side
light (right or left) will create natural shadows and a realistic impression.
Lighting a subject from above produces repulsive shade, is mostly intense and
‘is too balanced for pleasing photography.’ Shooting against the light source
induces the most expressive effect, as it outlines a figure and lends the
impression of depth. Back-light reveals the subject’s contoural outlines and gives
the hair of a character a shimmering look. It is cheerful and gives the impression
of depth. Backlighting is dramatic in land- or seascape takes, and is advisable for
full figure shots.251

William Stull maintained that usually four methods are central in the interior
light ing, and the effect of these is at its best when two or more of them are
associated together: front lighting has the same plain effect of the exterior’s front
lighting, as it provides no depth cue; side lighting divides the subject into two
portions, one shaded and other highlighted. It is appropriate for certain dramatic
means but not for overall application. Interior backlighting is commonly utilized
in combination with other lighting effects; if used alone, with sufficient intensity,
it would create a silhouette. If backlighting moves slightly to either side of the
s ubject it becomes a cheerful rim-light outlining the subject. Finally, three-
quarter front lighting is another means of natural illumination. If the light source
is intense, it reveals details of the figure’s texture, and thus is the most practiced
method in studio lighting.252 A key light (side light), fill light (another side light)
and a backlight were a lighting model used in Hollywood’s studio lighting: after
the key light governs the scene and produces the main shades, the fill light will
soften these shades or wash them out, and then backlighting will be introduced
in the scene. Hollywood standardized this norm of studio lighting in each shot,
which was called “three-point lighting.” Hollywood also used a fourth source of
light, with less wattage, that was placed in the back of the scene.253 Hollywood
film-makers established this lighting model to become an unchallenged form of
lighting a scene during the 1930's. This type of lighting in a scene guided the eye


251
       Ibid., pp. 477&478; Nilsen defined eight principles of lighting a subject: back, front, right, left, both sides (right and
left), top, bottom and mixed lighting effects; see V. Nilsen, The Cinema as a Graphic Art, pp. 62&63.

252
     William Stull, Cinematography Simplified, in: Hal Hall (Ed.), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 1, Hollywood: The
A me ri c a n Society of Cinematographers 1930 (Rep. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), pp. 481-485.

253
       D a vid Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 1979, p.
84.


                                                                                                                           263
of the viewer to the center of attention without any distraction. In particular,
t hree-point lighting provided an exquisite narrative effect of a characters’
composition, and lent to the setting a sense of the novelty of depth.

Rear lighting a scene is an impressive model that delivers natural and narrative
images to the screen.254 Hollywood studios used backlighting to underline the
glamour of their blonde female stars, and separate the characters from their
background.255 In pointing a spotlight toward a character’s head from the back,
the character will gain roundness, while the scene will obtain a sense of depth.
Without rear lighting a scene, it would lack the impression of depth, and figures
would not be detached from their background, ‘no matter how far out they stood
in the perspective.’256 Hollywood advocated the backlighting effect with blonde
hair during the 1930's, trying to convince the beholder of the blonde’s ultimate
beauty. This was a representational convention that distinguished, mostly,
Paramount’s and M etro’s pictures. But when backlighting a scene was introduced
alone in t he set with a certain intensity, it provided a totally new mood of
narrative. In The Black Cat (1934), John J. M escall and his team’s camera work
us ed backlighting to reveal the eeriness of the character, and to invite the
beholder to assume that there is a moving phantom in the open space.

By merely placing some light sources on both sides of the camera and simply
filming a group composition or a character in a three-walled and unroofed set,
the scene would not contain any depth cue, plane separation or details. Each of
these lights would cast a shadow on the opposite wall of the set. Commissioning
a few spotlights above the set focussing on the background of the scene, would
remedy this question. These spotlights would cast off the distracting shadows on
the side walls, but would circle the composition, and therefore separate it from
its surroundings. Spot light may produce some shadows on the setting floor,




254
     Wm. Roy Mott, White Light for Motion Picture Photography, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 8 (Philadelphia Meeting of April
14-16, 1919), p. 10.

255
      A. B. Laing, Designing Motion Picture Sets, in: The Architectural Record, Vol. 74 (July 1933), pp. 63&64.


256
        D u ring photoplay’s silent period, character backlighting with carbon arc (spotlights) was a common convention in
H o l l y wood, to detach a figure from its background and gain a depth cue in the space; Frederick S. Mills, Film Lighting
as a Fine Art, in: S. A., Vol. 124, No. 8 (February 19, 1921), p. 148.


                                                                                                                     264
which would distract less from the narrative action.257 When light beams emerge
from above the set and travel a distance to reach their targets, ‘the so- called
“general lighting units,” with their broad beam spreads and limited penetrating
power, have almost entirely given way to spotlighting equipment with accurately
cont rollable beam spreads.’258 Lee Garmes twice captured a highly narrative
image in Shanghai Express (1932). ‘I just had an inky-dinky spot directly over
her [M arlene Dietrich’s] head, that’s all. And I used that again when she stood
at the back of the train. Things like that won me the Oscar.’259 When Lee Garmes
placed M arlene Dietrich under the ‘inky-dinky’ spot, he highlighted her blonde
hair and detached Dietrich from her surroundings. With that distinctive simplicity
of spotlighting, Lee Garmes drew the beholder’s attention only to the character
and what she had to say.

In a Report of the Studio Lighting Committee presented at the 1939 Spring
M eeting in Hollywood, it was pronounced: Faster-Films created an unresolved
question as to how low the lighting level of the studio setting may be assigned
and still provide a quality image. In addition, whether the cinematographic
quality could be enhanced or not by higher levels of set lighting with a reduced
lens aperture. The Report observed a holding-back in the use of the studio’s
floodlighting lamps, while acceleration in the use of spotlighting units was
registered. This lighting trend signaled a proper shooting level, in which shaded
sections of the set were permitted to be dark, and this made small spotlights
favored in illuminating a scene.260 The Committee Report maintained that with
t he new films, the amount of lighting units used equaled that introduced
previously for securing the same general quality of filming, but the intensity level
of those lamps was reduced either by the application of less wattage, smaller
carbon arc lamps, by utilizing diffusers, or placing the lamps far away from the
camera. The reduction of the studio lighting relates to the desired image’s
quality, i.e., sharp or soft. ‘Considerable light reduction has been accomplished

257
     Wiard B. Ihnen and D. W. Atwater, The Artistic Utilization of Light in the Photography of Motion Pictures, in: T.S.
M. P. E., Vol. 21 (May 1925), p. 26.

258
      Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 30, No. 3 (March 1938), p. 294.

259
       O ri g i n ally, James Wong Howe planned to shoot and direct a silent documentary about the farmers’ life in China.
M u c h of this footage was borrowed in Shanghai Express joining the camera work of Lee Garmes; Charles Higham,
Hollywood Cameramen: Sources of Light. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press 1970, pp. 42& 83.


260
      Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 33, No. 1 (July 1939), pp. 98&99.


                                                                                                                    265
in some cases, but the present trend seems to be toward higher levels.’261

D uring t he earliest stages of artificial illumination, “Aristo” carbon arcs and
Cooper-Hewitt mercury-vapor tubes were the means of lighting the set with an
intensity substituting the light of the sun. These lighting units were positioned
always in the same place above, with a fixed wattage for lighting the set. Settings
were constructed ‘to conform to the lighting.’ Additionally, front light (arc and
Cooper-Hewitt) flooded the set from units mounted on upholds on the set floor
close to the camera. This produced a flat image lacking any depth cue quality.262
In T he Warrens of Virginia (1913), DeM ille and his cinematographer Alvin
Wyckoff experimented with direction light, by exposing the set only to a light
source from the side. This one-source lighting effect was contested by DeM ille’s,
partner Samuel Goldwyn, who sent DeM ille a telegram complaining from New
York: “Exhibitors will pay only half usual rental for film because only half of
actors’ faces are lit. Advise.” DeM ille replied from Hollywood: “Tell them that’s
Rembrandt lighting. Charge them double!”263

Back- and spotlighting in Warners’ gangster genre were concepts borrowed from
the Germanic Expressionist school. Light in the crime cycle may emerge from
a single street lantern or a shop window, and may rise ‘inexplicably from around
the corner of a building -cutting up the image into foreground, middle ground
and background, the latter often left in pitch darkness. Silhouettes created by cut-




261
      Ibid., p. 99.


262
        A c c o rding to G. Gaudio, these early “Aristo” arcs were ‘adapted probably from street-lighting service’; G. Gaudio,
A New View Point on the Lighting of Motion Pictures, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 29, No. 2 (August 1937), p. 160.

263
        Joseph V. Mascelli, What’s Happened to Photographic Style? in: I. P., Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 1958), p. 5; DeMille
re c e i v e d a telegram from the head of the sales department: “Have you gone mad? Do you expect us to be able to sell a
p i c ture for full price when you show only half of the man?” Then came the exhibitors sending DeMille “We don’t know
what to do; we can’t sell this picture.” By then DeMille boldly replied “If you[r] fellows are so dumb that you don’t know
R e mb ra n d t l i g h t ing when you see it, don’t blame me.” ‘The sales department said, “Rembrandt lighting! What a sales
a rg u ment!” They took the picture out and charged the exhibitor twice as much for it because it had Rembrandt lighting.’
S e e C e cil B. DeMille, Motion Picture Directing, in: T. S. M. P. E., Vol. 12, No. 34 (1928), p. 300; Rembrandt had the
main source of light in his studio coming through a large window (in the ceiling or at the end of the studio) from the north.
Rembrandt presented some details on his canvas, only to the extent of what he wanted the beholder to see- the rest of these
d e t a i l s w e re l e ft out to invite the beholder’s imagination to continue the composition. Lee Garmes imitated Rembrandt
i n h i s c o n c e p t of low-key illumination; Charles Higham, Hollywood Cameramen: Sources of Light. Bloomington and
London: Indiana University Press 1970, p. 35.


                                                                                                                        266
       outs break up the stark walls.’264 M uch of this illumination technique was settled
       beforehand in the studio’s scenographic department, and in particular on Anton
       Grot’s sketching board, who decided on the mood and dramatic quality of the
       pictures he was working on in advance. Thereafter, this predetermination of the
       dramatic values was transmitted to the screen. An immediate glance at Grot’s
       sketches for Captain Blood (1935), for instance, would reveal this dramatic pre-
       stagingof the picture’s artificial illumination. By contrast to M GM ’s cameramen
       during the 1930's, Warner Brothers’ cinematographers were directed to bypass
       exposing their sets’ corners to light, because the studio wanted them to conceal
       the shabby build-quality.265

4.8.3 Low-Key Illumination: Diffused Light
       J ames Wong Howe has always regarded the low-key lighting effect as his
       beloved choice. This tonal application of light values is the commonly-accepted
       tradition when illuminating melodrama, bold drama and sometimes melodramatic
       comedy-drama. Two lighting formulas will provide these atmospheres: ‘one may
       lay a foundation of soft, diffused light, and build up to the required highlights -or
       one may determine his highlights, and let the rest graduate down to the required
       shadows.’ Faster-Films encouraged Howe to go with the latter type, because
       these dramas relied notably on a dominant velvet shades, and did not need many
       light ing units. After assigning the high and modeling lights to the set, ‘the
       “ s p illed” light which leaks from even the best of equipment, will keep your
       shadows from becoming too unpleasantly empty.’266 A close reading of James
       Wong Howe’s camera work in Transatlantic (1931) would reveal in detail his
       concept of low-key lighting: in every scene Howe appointed a highlighting
       s ource that served as the focus of attention, and the surrounding of the
       characters’ composition was gradually less visible until it became dark. Howe’s
       ap p lication of this particular formula guided beholder to the center of the


       2 64
             Beverly Heisner, Hollywood Art: Art Direction in the Days of the Great Studios. North Carolina and London:
       McFarland 1990, pp. 137&138.

       2 65
              Calvin Pryluck, The Aesthetic Relevance of the Organization of Film Production, in: Cinema Journal, Vol. 15, No.
       2 (Spring 1976), p. 4.


       266
              Spilled light is a risky matter when dealing with the new film; James Wong Howe, Lighting, in: Hal Hall and William
       S t u l l (E d . ), Cinematographic Annual. Vol. 2, Hollywood: The American Society of Cinematographers 1931 (Rep. New
       York: Arno Press & The New York Times 1972), p. 59.


                                                                                                                           267
narrative action, and kept the spatial of the ship in equal narrative balance by
highlighting some dramatic sections of its interior. Howe’s lighting composition
separated the space in the three tonal territories of foreground, middle ground
and background.

Hollywood’s veteran cinematographer Tony Gaudio developed what he called
“precision lighting” technique, i.e., ‘with the aide of the light-control features of
the new spots’ Gaudio highlighted the center of attention more intensely than its
s urrounding. When the subject moved or turned from one point to the next,
already arranged spot lights, which were controlled by dimmers, would be lit at
a required intensity highlighting the subject’s action. Thereupon what was not
required from the previous position would be slowly dimmed down. Gaudio’s
p recision lighting kept the beholder constantly following the narrative action
with no interruption.267 Tony Gaudio narratively introduced this illumination
technique in The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Anthony Adverse (1936). In The
Life of Emile Zola, Gaudio kept the facial expression of Paul M uni in focus as he
turned from one position in the set to another, and kept the rest of the set in less
intensity; thereafter the spots from the previous set-ups were dimmed down.

The editor of the International Projectionist found the metamorphosis from the
carbon arc’s “hard lighting” to M azda’s “soft lighting” uninviting. The editor
w as mis sing the arc’s highly contrasted monochrome image with its defined
lines . Soft illumination brought, according to the editor, ‘the poorest quality
screen images we have ever seen.’ Under such illumination the spatial details are
indistinct, ‘it’s just a waste of time, because nobody can see the set anyhow.’268
O ur editor certainly belongs to those hard-liners who opposed the change in
Hollywood’s practice after the introduction of sound. As connoted earlier, upon
the event of sound, incandescent tungsten and the improved Panchromatic film
brought a new model of image stylization to the silver screen, with previously
unknow n characteristics, and marked the heyday of the Golden Age’s
Scenographic Space.

Gregg Toland’s mainly low-key illumination of Kidnapped (1938) was praised
by a critic of the American Cinematographer, as this mood of lighting reflected


267
      Report of the Studio Lighting Committee, in: J. S. M. P. E., Vol. 30, No. 3 (March 1938), p. 295.


268
      Indictment Against ‘Soft Lighting’, in: International Projectionist, Vol. 1, No. 3 (December 1931), p. 20.


                                                                                                                   268
the spirit of the screen story. Yet Toland did not hesitate in using illumination of
other types when he thought the action required it.269 Toland mastered his own
unique composition of matching between the dramatic mood of the filmic story
and its illumination. Les Miserables (1935) could be seen as one of the finest
models of 1930's low-key illumination. Toland’s application of this low lighting
in the historical drama invoked the age spirit of Paris in 1865. Any other lighting
quality would have detracted from Victor Hugo’s story and made it narratively
les s effective. Toland manifested another ascendancy of tonal treatment in
Wuthering Heights (1939), where low- and soft-key balanced between the mood
of love, revenge, the horror of the action and its scenographic stylization.




269
      Toland with 20th’s “Kidnapped” Awarded Camera Honors for May, in: A. C., Vol. 19, No. 7 (July 1938), p. 274.


                                                                                                                     269
5 Scenographic Space-Beholder: The Interaction Discourse

      Metro-Goldwyn-M ayer’s cinematographer John Arnold once expressed: ‘“going
      to the movies” is not merely a matter of watching a pictured story, but of feeling
      and living it with the characters.’1 True, our perceivable experience relates to a
      p s y chological level achieved by the visualization of a profilmic event on the
      s creen. However, supposing that we watch an image projected for a brief
      durat ion on the screen, we can only recollect it in our visual memory after
      something of a befitting categorization. ‘The label given’ in this analysis, said
      Ernst Hans Gombrich, ‘ will influence the choice of a schema. If we happen to
      hit on a good description we will succeed best in the task of reconstruction.’2 In
      a single instant of analogical information, the beholder is likely to be confronted
      w it h a flood of constantly alternating visual properties.3 In that visual
      communication, any individual possesses the satisfactory qualifications to
      compare any given object with its photographic representation, without the need
      of prior training in deciphering a photograph; as in motion picture production,
      when a model is placed under proper artistic control the outcome will match or
      equal the real event. When this is viewed under controlled conditions, the
      beholder will be led to believe are that they witnessing or being involved in an
      actual occurrence. Unlike words or symbols, pictures, like models, are a far more
      effective means for learning and informing ourselves about the real world.4

      Dealing with the terms of perceptual organization reveals that the beholder’s
      expectations are what command their behavior during the course of the visual
      p ercep t ion. Expectations also govern the action of locating the obscured


      1
         John Arnold, Shooting the Movies, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton 1937,
      p. 172.


      2
          C f. E rn s t Hans Gombrich, Truth and the Stereotype, in: Melvin Rader (Ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An
                                                                                    th
      Anthology. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston 1935 (1952, 1960, and 4 Ed. 1973), p. 41.

      3
            S e e C a l v in Pryluck and Richard E. Snow, Toward a Psycholinguistics of Cinema, in: A. V. Communication Review,
      V o l . 15, No. 1 (Spring 1967), p. 61; the American short storyteller Edgar Allan Poe explained with regard to the digital
      i n f o r m a t i o n : ‘if words derive any value from applicability-then ‘analysis’ conveys ‘algebra”; see Edgar Allan Poe, The
      P u rl oined Letter, in: Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Doubleday 1938, p. 134; Michael G.
      J o h nson, The Distributional Aspects of Meaning Interaction in A-Grammatical Verbal Contexts. Ph. D. Diss., Baltimore,
      Maryland: Johns Hopkins University 1968.

      4
          James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 1 (1954), pp. 11&22;
      Gibson’s examination of the pictorial perception belongs to the most valuable studies related to the subject.
mes s ages in the envisioned images.5 These concealed meanings in the artistic
p roduct are the artist’s assigned cryptogram, that contain the essence of the
artist’s mission in the anticipated scene. American M oviegoers were filled with
such high expectations when visiting the movie theaters, and knew what are they
w ere looking for in the screen image. This level of tutored public imposed
challenges on the American studios, who met that demand eagerly with
excellence; Hollywood realized the narrative quality of introducing the ‘real
thing’ into its formation of the screen image. American film-makers were fully
aware of the public’s high expectations and critical viewing of their productions,
and they admired it. The American beholder could discriminate a good lighting
application of a scene from a bad one, a shabby and cheaply constructed setting
from a well built one, an inferior gown from a charming one, or poor spatial
representation from skillfully operated camera work.6 Some film critics and
theories have always attempted to classify the beholder’s interactive discourse
with the image imposed upon the screen. This pictorial communication claims
a basic viewing ability as having a ‘few skills of attention, memory,
discrimination, inference-drawing, or hypothesis-testing’ and that prerequisite
the perceiver to handle these. ‘Classical films’ in this respect ‘call forth activities
on the part of the spectator. These activities may be highly standardized and
comparatively easy to learn, but we cannot assume that they are simple.’7

A s et ting’s cues in a farcical filmic story will psychologically prepare the
beholder to see anything absurd taking place within the set the perception as
acceptable.8 Regardless of how it may sound, this tale of balancing between the
absurd and acceptable has always attracted the public to the screen. In western
society, logical thinking sometimes may not apply to every aspect of life as it is
supposed to. This form of narrative is one of Hollywood’s screen attractions,


5
    C a l v i n F . Nodine, Dennis P. Carmody, and Harold L. Kundel, Searching for Nina, in: John W. Senders, Dennis F.
Fisher, and Richard A. Monty (Ed.), Eye Movements and the Higher Psychological Functions. Hillsdale, New Jersey:
Lawrence Erlbaum 1978, p. 243.

6
   Paul Rotha, The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema. London: Jonathan Cape 1930 (Vision Press 1949, 1960,
and 4 th Ed., Spring Books 1967), P. 139.

7
   D . Bordwell, J. Staiger and K. Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to
1960, P. 7.

8
   J e rome Lachenbruch, Interior Decoration for the “Movies”: Studies from the Work of Cedric Gibbons and Gilbert
White, in: Arts & Decoration (January 1921), p. 205.


                                                                                                                 271
which is well defined in the horror genre. When watching Frankenstein (1931),
for instance, we are sitting on the edge of our seats accepting the recreation of
Henry Frankenstein of The Monster in the laboratory setting, in which every
aesthetic sign is pointing to hell but still provoking our curiosity and acceptance
of this illogical behavior, because the spatial attributes of the laboratory have
prepared us to be in a receptive mood. Seemingly, Dracula’s (1931) story and
setting enabled the beholder to attain a receptive attitude toward a centuries-old
vampire, who lives off the blood of humans, cannot withstand the light of the
day, and lives in his grotesque castle (setting).

Bot h the scenographical organization and its representational treatment are
equally valid means of calling the perceiver’s attention to the event being
presented upon the screen. A camera shot, indicated Jan M ukarovsky, implies a
p ot ence of narrative quality, since the camera views the object from various
angles. In this relationship, the shot introduces the effect of the close-up, which
gains its narrative paradigm by bringing a subject unusually close to its
beholder. 9 During the pictorial representation, a shot or camera angle is not
arbitrarily taken by the cinematographer. The camera setup, as we have seen
previously (Chapter 4), is the practical implementation of pervious planning and
study, so as to capture the most narrative point-of-view of a scenic composition.
‘The artist’ as defined by the experimental psychologist James J. Gibson, ‘is a
perceiver who pays special attention to the points of view from which the world
can be seen, and one who catches and records for the rest of us the most
revealing perspectives on things.’10 By doing that, the artist is appointed a noble
assignment. ‘What the artist can do is not to create a new kind of vision, but to
educate our attention.’11

By contrast to the camera’s recording of images, which seems to have the
tendency of being two-dimensional, our eyes have the ability to perceive the
spatial depth and record it as three-dimensional space. Overcoming depth cue
limitations imposed by the camera ever-challenged the film Scenographers. At
the hands of these artists “optischen M anipulationen” became a reliable artistic

9
  Jan Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays by Jan Mukarovsky. Tr. and Ed. by John Burbank and
Peter Steiner, New Haven: Yale University Press 1978, p. 182.


10
     James J. Gibson, Pictures, Perspective, and Perception, in: Daedalus, Vol. 89 (Winter 1960), p. 220.


11
     See Ibid., p. 227.


                                                                                                             272
means in making the camera eye induce the impression of spatial depth. ‘Der
einfachste ist die Aufstellung von M auern, Zwischenwanden oder anderen
grossen Objecten im Vordergrund des Bildes. Diese Elemente funktionieren wie
Rahmen und erhohen den Eindruck von Distanz zwischen Vorder-und
Hintergrund.’ Equally important is the introduction of the forced perspective
principle to invoke the impression of extended space in depth.12 Among the film
Scenographer’s cues of optischen Manipulationen is the reduction of certain
parts of the setting in the back (background miniature), because at that range the
beholder cannot be aware of any particular abbreviation in the setting scale, and
this will produce the illusion of spatial depth. Yet placing a foreground miniature
in front of the camera is another artistic means of providing the impression of
dep t h, and is introduced by building the lower part of the setting in actual
dimensions for the action, while the upper part is abbreviated and placed in front
of the camera’s objective.13

Our familiarity with objects’ sizes belongs to our background experience with
such objects. This permits us an easy appreciation of the “cues” of depth, and the
t echnique of spatial representation on flat surfaces, i.e., when we see a
characterization of familiar objects on a two-dimensional surface, our
clas s ification of these will be based on our “knowledge” of their sizes.14 As
perceivers of the world surrounding us, we acquire our familiarity with objects
from t he real space we are moving in, and this allows us to make certain
judgements regarding the juxtaposition or counter position of a given spatial
organization we see on the screen. Placing a large piece of furniture in the front
and smaller one in the background of the set, or dividing the Scenographic Space
in sections by either a piece of furniture, character composition, alcove, three-
points lighting, or by means of imposing arches or forced perspective, will guide
our reading of the scene in depth because we know the relative sizes of these
objects. Hollywood Scenographers and cinematographers admirably governed
t he t echnique of realistic spatial representation and translated it in terms of

12
     C f. D o nald Albrecht, Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies. New York: Harper & Row 1986 (Aus
d . Engl. Ubers. u. hrsg. von Ralph Eue, Architektur im Film: die Moderne als Grosse Illusion. Basel: Birkhauser 1989),
pp. 15&16.

13
      H ans Dreier, Designing the Sets, in: Nancy Naumburg (Ed.), We Make the Movies. New York: W. W. Norton 1937,
p. 84.

14
    See Carol Barnes Hochberg and Julian Hochberg, Familiar Size and the Perception of Depth, in: The Journal of
Psychology, Vol. 34 (1952), pp. 107-114.


                                                                                                                 273
persuasive images on the two-dimensional screen. They honed their skills after
having acquired a certain level of knowledge and experience with every aesthetic
sign they projected in their settings and images. William Cameron M enzies, like
A nt on Grot, Cedric Gibbons, Hans Dreier, Richard Day or Charles D. Hall,
among others, were all fully aware of these canons of reading the space in depth
on the screen. We in turn, as beholders, form our hypothesis and classifications
of the spatial attributes, since we are armed with our past experience that allows
us the discrimination of the spatial stylization.

One might learn an idea first-hand by having direct contact with that idea, or
s econd-hand by being made aware of an occurrence. This communicational
process is called perception. In this vein, an image or model are both means of
creatinga second-hand experience. By definition, however, ‘perception’ outlined
James J. Gibson, ‘is a form of organic response, but this kind of response
probably has the primary function of identifying or discriminating features of the
environment; it is implicit rather than overt and it does not in any reliable way
tell us what the individual will do.’15 It is false correlation to say that the
perceptual process is a mere recording of reality, through the eye, of the visible
w orld in the mind, then analyzing those upside-down images on the sensory
p roject ion areas or on the retinas, commented Julian Hochberg. There is no
copying of objects in the brain, related Hochberg, but some distinctive neural
p rocesses are assigned by the nervous system and activated by the physical
energies, which mobilizes our sensory organs.16 By continuation, many theories
have been written about the perceptual interpretation and the interaction between
us, as perceiver, and our visual surroundings. ‘The concept of perceptual theory
as a ratiomorphic model of functional achievement and of its strategy-that is,’
related the psychologist Egon Brunswik, ‘as a model of focusing and of vicarious
mediation- as well as the attendant methodological postulate of behavior-




15
    James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 1 (1954), pp. 4&6; Julian
Hochberg, Perception: Toward the Recovery of a Definition, in: P. R., Vol. 63, No. 6 (1956), pp. 400-404.

16                                                                                          nd
        Julian Hochberg, Perception. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall 1968 (2 Ed. 1978), Chapter Two; having
s o me p a rt i cular likings, both the perceptual and internal processes relate to one another. The perceptual interpretation is
a c t i v a t ed when the perceiver starts observing a visual stimuli, while the internal organization signifies a mental analogue
re s u l t ing from the communication with an external cause; see Roger N. Shepard and Sherryl A. Judd, Perceptual Illusion
of Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects, in: Science, Vol. 191 (5 March 1976), pp. 952-954.


                                                                                                                           274
res earch isomorphism.’17 By rephrasing , we have not covered the extent of
perceptual organization, but no one has yet attempted such a sweeping theory
illuminating perceptual organization. For more than a century, perceptual
organization has kept psychologists busy defining and interpreting this
fundamental process of human communication with their environment. This is
not a pure psychological study, and covering the perceptual theory as a whole is
beyond the aim of this investigation. We are attempting here only to touch the
main stream of the perceptual experience during the course of pictorial
communication.

In its narrative, Hollywood treated psychological motives with distinctive care.
St ill, under the influence of French Impressionist film, Hollywood’s practice
focused considerable attention on a form of psychological narrative associated
with subjective camera representation and cutting. This Impressionistic
accent uat ion was co-opted into the film noir as well as the horror film.18
Hollywood was influenced also by the Germanic Expressionist school of the
silent era. Josef Von Sternberg, who mastered this film form beforehand in
Germany in The Blue Angel (1930) through his illustration of the psychological
struggle of professor Unrath (Emil Jannings), repeated the form in his historical
drama The Scarlet Empress (1934), with the same Expressionistic touch, but this
time in the form of setting of the M uscovian court. Joseph H. August’s subjective
cinematography and John Ford’s psychological interpretation of the character’s
state of mind in the drama The Informer (1935), paralleled the Germanic accent
through its concentration on the hero’s inner conflict during the Irish Revolution.
Joseph H. August employed subjective camera techniques and John Ford staged
his action within foggy settings on the streets of Dublin at night, in the church or
p olice office to show Gypo Nolan’s (Victor M cLaglen) psyche, and that of
Ireland in 1922. Anton Grot’s spatial interpretation in Svengali (1931)
manifested this internal narrative. His spatial externalization of the drama
mirrored the characters’ subjective behavior, which corresponded to German
Expressionism. Grot applied a distorted perspective to the setting’s walls, and


17
     See Egon Brunswik, Perception and the Representative Design of Psychological Experiments. Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press 1947 (2 nd Ed. 1956), p. 143.

18
      The French Impressionist film kept the characters as sufficiently aware of their characterization as possible in front
o f t h e c a me ra.The Impressionists’ narrative principles manipulated the temporal aspect and filmed the characters’
t h o u g h t s . . F l ashing back or forth in time is common practice in this form. Impressionist film-makers experimented with
l e n s e s, masks, filters, superimpositions or dizzy mobile camera to reflect a character’s state of mind; David Bordwell,
Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 1979, pp. 301-304.


                                                                                                                          275
int roduced tilted floors, out-of-shape objects, and equally deformed spatial
composition and its lighting. In addition to the Expressionistic influence on the
drama, its effect reached other forms of American film-making, such as the
horror film. This model of psychological narrative controlled the externalization
of the Scenographic space and placed its composition, form and lighting under
not ew orthy artificial control. Frankenstein (1931), Doctor X (1932), or The
Black Cat (1934) are some highlights of this filmic narrative.

In the modern world, we are living in an environment of increased second-hand
experience, and as humans we need first hand experiences. This explains why
high realism in pictorial communication became a great attraction to the
beholder. In other words, because this form of visual perception is the nearest
neighbor to available first hand experience. We cannot expect a complete
interaction between a perceiver and an object, where the perceiver is given few
corresponding or distinctive landmarks relating to that object. ‘The danger of low
fidelit y is vagueness or nonspecificity. When the artist either omits some
dimensions of fidelity or departs from fidelity by distorting form, he takes the
ris k, but he may achieve a picture which clarifies and specifies instead.’19
Comp lying with the belief that everything that looks different is easily
dis tinguishable may explain the motives resting behind the unrealistic
ap p lication of Hollywood’s scenography. Expressionism in the spatial
configuration was validated by some American film Scenographers, to the level
of being classed as landmark deliberation in the filmic narrative. William
Cameron M enzies, Charles D. Hall and Anton Grot delivered this attention-
capturing spatial organization by deforming objects and settings. Again this low
fidelity or deformation of the scenographic form was manifested remarkably in
the horror cycle: Bulldog Drummond (1929), Dracula (1931), Mystery of the
Wax Mus eum (1933), or The Black Cat (1934) to name but few. M enzies’
intentional low fidelity introduced dramatic gravities in his settings for Bulldog
Drummond invoked the psychological state of the Coney Island crazy house’s
occupants. He composed incorrect vanishing points, slanted floors, windows with
wrong angles, and he displaced and exaggerated shadows. M enzies, like Grot,
achieved this clarification and specification after borrowing from German
Expressionist scenography. In Doctor X, Grot maintained the same psychological
narrative through low fidelity and by manipulating the objects’ originality:
slanted floors, wrong vanishing points, twisted walls and staircases, all point to


19
     James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 1 (1954), p. 22.


                                                                                                                276
t he p sychological state of the horror story of strange “M oon M urders” and
cannibalism that occur under the full moon.

Duringour communicational experience with a horror story on the screen, we are
likely to oscillate between the fascination of the horror and the freakishness that
touches our psyche. Even if the picture seems thrilling, we continue to like it in
some way or another; the illusory and mostly violent faculty of the horror fable
equips us with a psychological immunity and a favor for antagonism that we
mus t control within ourselves. When Dracula and his conquest over death
captures our attention, it is not because of Dracula’s victory over the inescapable,
but because of the ultimate triumph of our imagination.20 M ysteries of the horror
genre, like the tales of Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932), Bride of
Frankenstein (1935), or Son of Frankenstein (1939) challenge the psychological
state of the beholder to the extreme. This form of psychological narrative became
paradigmatic only after it was balanced with the spatial externalization of the
horror.

When dealing with ‘verschiedenen Erscheinungsweisen eines Gegenstandes’
these do not have the same visual efficiency, while organized in the space. Some
of these objects will have a further-reaching narrative quality than others because
of t heir claim to some distinctive attributes that are “sprechende”,
“characteristische”, and “typische.” Seeking a well planned spatial composition
means it should undergo slight alteration and not blindly resemble the real. Such
objects’ composition ‘muss mit Hinsicht auf “ihre Verstandlichkeit als
Raumobjekt” angelegt werden.’21 Julian Hochberg’s empirical suggestion
indicates that the theory of viewing an image from various points-of-view
without any perceptual distortion does not hold any practical evidence, because
by viewing an image from a wrong angle, the scene would no longer provide the
same lighting characteristic to the eye as that of the original.22 A perceiver
viewing the Scenographic Space or the screen image from the balcony in the

20
     According to Freudian theory: the strange death is hidden inside of every mankind, psychologically we all are afraid
of the inescapable and the unknown after our departure from this life; See Drake Douglas, Horror! Woodstock, New
York: The Overlook Press 1989, p. 27.

21
     H e rtha Kopfermann, Psychologische Untersuchungen uber die Wirkung zweidimensionaler Darstellungen korperlicher
Gebilde, in; Psychologische Forschung, Vol. 13, Berlin: Springer Verlag 1930, p. 296, fn. 1.

22
    Cf. Julian Hochberg, The Representation of Things and People, in: Maurice Mandelbabum (Ed.), Art, Perception, and
Reality. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1972, pp. 54&55.


                                                                                                                   277
movie theater will experience some visual distortion of the setting and screen
comp osition, different from one perceiving the scene from the seat on the
ext reme right, the very left, the very front of the screen, or from the proper
stationpoint of the movie house, the point at which the camera objective was
directed while recording the scene. Without light we would not be able to
perceive a scene, read it, or communicate with the visual world. Light delivers
information to the eye. The search for representing the illusion of reality was
ult imat ely rewarded by the origination of the moving picture. This medium
secured its unique place of realistic representation not only by representing the
spatial, but the temporal factor as well. ‘The light surrounding a living person is
a continuous flow of transformations and changes which specify the sequence of
events in the neighborhood. This is what the cinematography succeeds to some
ext ent in representing.’23 Light can be perceived as an aspiration or hope. A
person seated in gloomy darkness will feel relieved when seeing a trace of light.
A s ource of light in the motion picture is a profound dramatic means. The
dramatic value of a filmic scene will be elevated either by the turning on of a
lamp or a light source, by the sudden emergence of a light, or by a character
ent ering the scene while carrying a light.24 The only possible way to read a
spatial organization and its characteristics is if the spatial acquires an adequate
illumination level. Here, a constant flow of changes of the tonal values would
surround every moving object in the scene, and make it distinct in its
environment. By casting shadows over the mise-en-scenes, the light effect may
aesthetically deform them while reaching them from one angle or another, or it
may lend them a realistic fidelity. In the absence of light, there would be no
motion picture. Our receptive system depends on its operation on the tonal values
of light of the visible world in which we are moving. This validates light as being
an indis pensable aide for perceiving our environment and supplying our
receptive system with the fundamentals with which it needs to operate. We all
know the association of the name Allah with light, and that this raises light to
mean infinity and peace.

From a psychological point-of-view, color in the motion picture relates to the
psyche and subconscious of its perceiver rather than to the intellect. Lines of a
composition may give the impression of masculinity, while color invokes


23
     See James J. Gibson, Pictures, Perspective, and Perception, in: Daedalus, Vol. 89 (Winter 1960), pp. 216-227.


24
     John Alton, Painting with Light. New York: The Macmillan 1949, p. 56.


                                                                                                                     278
femininity and suggests mood. Lines and color each have their own expression
and dramatic indications.25 Psychologists attempted studying the effects of
viewing monochrome compared with a colored film. One of these psychological
investigations supported the fact that a beholder seeing a subject in a black and
white film, would learn an equal amount from that picture as when they viewed
it in color. The exception to this relates to memory retention over the course of
t ime: the perceiver of the colored film would forget less data concerning the
subject matter than the one viewing it in black and white.26 An image formed of
a series of gray will challenge our imagination to continue guessing what might
be missing in the image, which will keep the monochrome image safeguarded
from eventual criticism which would always favor the colored scene.

When communicating with a visual scene, our communication with it is
selective. We pay particular attention to those cues that concern us. If one or a
set of signs enhances our attention more than other signs during our reading of
a scene’s message, it means that those cues elevated the perceptual efficiency of
the image’s message and made it more effective.27 Whether a well thought-out
scenographical composition, lighting effect, or well-studied camera angle, they
all contribute to the narrative credibility of the screen image and its message-
therefore they are cues sustaining our attention during the communicational
p roces s; regardless of what our surrounding might be, it will confront our
perceptual machinery with a colossal amount of attributes or information, and
t his interactive communication operates constantly in a highly selective
manner.28 During the operation of the perceptual organization, the latter strives
toward the abbreviation of the redundant data obtained from the visual stimuli.
When encoding the perceived information, the beholder’s interpretation or
encoding will be far more simplified compared to the incoming form they were


25
     L. Giannetti, Understanding Movies, pp. 25&26.

26
    A. W. Vandermeer, Color vs. Black and White in Instructional Films, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 2 (1954),
pp. 121-134.

27
     See Percy H. Tannenbaum, The Indexing Process in Communication, in: Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 19 (Fall
1 9 5 5 ), p . 293; Hochberg and Brooks examined three measures of attention of pictorial stimuli in which separate images
received dissimilar concentration of interest; Julian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks, The Prediction of Visual Attention
t o D e signs and Paintings, in: The American Psychologist, Vol. 17, No. 437 (1962), pp. 368-369; Julian Hochberg and
Virginia Brooks, A Psychological Study of “Cuteness”, in: Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 11 (June 3, 1960), p. 205.

28
     C a l v i n Pryluck, Structural Analysis of Motion Pictures as a Symbol System, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol.
16, No. 4 (Winter 1968), p. 381.


                                                                                                                    279
recorded in on the receptors. A simplified encoding form of perceptual data will
op erat e ‘only if the amount of information required to describe the
t ransformation is less than the amount of information saved by virtue of the
transformation;’29 being selective during the communicational process with our
environment is not a matter of choice, we have to be selective, insisted
G ombrich, otherwise we would be overwhelmed by data to the degree of
confusion.30 Our perceptuo-motor capacity has it limits during its operation. We
cannot record the visual world as it is, neither we can memorize a pictorial
stream such as the camera apparatus does; alternatively we are more likely to
recall the highlighted events of our pictorial experience that relate closely to our
solicitude.

After the beholder’s expectations are satisfied while viewing a filmic scene, the
beholder has no further motivation to search the scene. By then, the image retires
into being “cinematographically dead.” To the film-maker, this is a challenge that
he can meet by changing to a new camera position, ‘even when there is no need
to do so in order to tell the story [my italic].’ Shifting the camera from one set-up
to the next is used merely to refresh the beholder’s attention of an otherwise
monotonous and tiresome set-up. These variations of the ‘visual momentum’
(camera angles or cutting) are what keep the screen story “alive.” Fresh, short,
and non-redundant views deliver new data that keeps the beholder’s attention in
constant response to the presentation.31 The addition of sound to the screen image
extended Hollywood’s shot length from five to seven seconds during the silent
period, to 9-10 seconds of the talking image. This stretching of the shot’s time
or visual momentum explains that the new scene obtained additional aesthetic
signs and data, which needed more time to be properly digested by the perceiver.

By the mid 1940's, Hollywood introduced the method of analysis of responses,


29
     See Fred Attneave, Some Informational Aspects of Visual Perception, in: P. R., Vol. 61, No. 3 (1954), pp. 189&191.

30
     E rnst Hans Gombrich, The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art. Ithaca, New York: Cornell
University Press 1979, p. 105.

31
       J u lian Hochberg and Virginia Brooks, Film Cutting and Visual Momentum, in: John W. Senders, Dennis F. Fisher,
a n d R i c h a rd A. Monty (Ed.), Eye Movements and the Higher Psychological Functions. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence
E rl b a u m 1978, pp. 294&295; motion picture’s continuity cutting and organizing images sequentially disclosed that
s e q uential eye glances unite together without the act of assistance from the optical proprioception and the efferent vessels
w h ich have their impact on the perceptual process; see Julian Hochberg & Virginia Brooks, The Integration of Successive
Cinematic Views of Simple Scenes, in: Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, Vol. 4 (1974), p. 263.


                                                                                                                        280
        in order to foresee the public’s reaction to some high budget pictures’
        p reliminary cuttings. The test was implemented by selecting two-hundred
        individuals from a cross-section of society, to view a preliminary cutting version
        and report their impressions; thereupon the studios would put their films together
        in accordance with the audience reaction.32 Hollywood devised elaborate
        techniques of measurements for testing the beholder’s expectation of the motion
        picture industry, and received public appraisal eagerly as means of anticipating
        box-office revenues. ‘Audience measurement acts in this way as a sort of
        insurance against box-office failure.’33 In an article of the late Nineteen-Forties,
        Fortune’s editor praised the role of the public, who constitute the market and
        make a picture successful. The editor called for acknowledging the role of the
        audience and providing them with the pictures they really want to see.34

5.1 The Illusional Filmic Space
        Doubtlessly, the narrative quality of the screen image depends profoundly on its
        pictorial organization. Keeping the beholder actively watching the screen story
        demands an inventive pictorial configuration to be delivered to the pristine
        screen surface. This invention includes imposing the impression of the spatial
        dep th cue on the flat screen, which gives the beholder the feeling of being
        involved within the scenic narrative. Shadowgraphs and shallow artistic thoughts
        would not capture the beholder’s attention for some time or repeatedly on the
        screen.35 The notion of introducing the impression of a depth cue into the motion
        p icture might be achieved by the adaption of various and certain techniques,
        which relate directly to a fundamental and realistic perceptual factor: when
        p erceiving a filmic story, the beholder uses the same psychological and
        physiological machinery used for grasping the real world, and much of the virtual



        32
             For more about Hollywood’s analysis of response see Bernard D. Cirlin and Jack N. Peterman, Pre-Testing a Motion
        Picture: A Case History, in: The Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1947), pp. 39-41.


        33
             See Luelyne Doscher, The Significance of Audience Measurement in Motion Pictures,     in: The Journal of Social
        Issues,. Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1947), pp. 51-57.

        34
             Movies: End of an Era? in: Fortune, Vol. 39, No. 4 (April 1949), p. 148.

        35
           S. Syrjala, Scenery is for Seeing, in: Orville K. Larson (Ed.), Scene Design for Stage and Screen. East Lansing,
        Michigan: Michigan State University Press 1961, pp. 235-36&238.


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practice of perception is utilized in the cognition of the motion picture.36 The
concept of convergence serves as a means of spatial reduction, to the extent that
it prepares the space to be grasped by the beholder at ease. When viewing a film,
we have the desire to see and still be unseen. In an unconditional way, we want
to ally our eye with the role of the camera objective. The camera eye deserves
our recognition, since it circulates the space capturing it from every possible
narrative angle. During this course of representation, the camera objective ‘has
the powerful asset of perspective centered upon an ‘objective’ principal point. By
ident ifying with it, we become all-knowing voyeurs, while at the same time
beinghelplessly exposed -as in dream- to all the images that present themselves.’
Semiologists named this pictorial experience ‘the narrative instance;’ but Claude
Bailble was more elaborate in calling it ‘the desire to sleep, to dream, absolute
idleness, an orgy of affect.’37 By oscillating the beholder between experiencing
reality and spectacle, the motion picture carries an exciting clarification to the
beholder’s ambivalent approach toward indirect satisfaction.38 While the
beholder is experiencing filmic communication in the darkened movie theater,
the spatial depth cue, or close-up shot on the screen invites the beholder to be
clos er to the action as the second or third party accompanying the
characterization, and still go unnoticed by the Scenographic Space’s occupants.
In its narrative representation of the baths, boudoirs, offices or kitchen settings,
Hollywood relied heavily on including the beholder within the action. American
film-makers counted on the “daydream formula” of open spatial conception, and
on “the eye-witness principle” of the office set as if the beholder was included
in the screen narrative and the characters’ most intimate moments of life.

By the addition of dialogue into the moving image, a new psychological factor
merged into the pictorial communication. Supposing the story-telling relied more
on the spoken lines, it would require a high degree of attention on the side of the
beholder to understand the action. With this, patrons had to strive for grasping


36
    Charles H. Harpole, Ideological and Technological Determinism in Deep-Space Cinema Images: Issues in Ideology,
Technological History, and Aesthetics, in: Film Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. (Spring 1980), p. 14.

37
    See Claude Bailble, Programming the Look: A New Approach to Teaching Film Technique, in: Screen Education, Vol.
32, No. 33 (Autumn/Winter 1979/80), p. 113.

38
      ‘F i l m “realism,” defined George Amberg, ‘does not refer to reality as either actuality or verifiable fact, or even as an
i ma g i n a t i v e transformation of actuality, but as a metaphor for wishful thinking.’ See George Amberg, The Ambivalence
o f R e a lism: Fragment of an Essay, in: George Amberg (Ed.), The Art of Cinema: Selected Essays. New York: Arno Press
& The New York Times 1972, pp. 150-153.


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the spoken words. A critic perceived this form of entertainment, by then, as
‘oft en not relished by an audience’ who desired more relaxed methods of
entertainment. On the other side, a large section of moviegoers are unlike those
who visit a stage play or attend a musical comedy - they want to go the movie
house to see and understand as much as they can from the screen story.39 The
American stage Scenographer Donald M . Oenslager saw a conclusive parallelism
bet w een the concept of the opera’s spatial configuration and its sound. The
connection between these two forms should be made clear to the perceiver, i.e.,
the sound heard should match with visual accentuation on the stage.40 The same
concept of balance between the sound heard and the characters’ surrounding
applies to the motion picture, and anything beyond this audio-visual balance will
be elusive. As I suggested in previous Chapters, the drawing of the beholder’s
at tention to the setting and the narrative action within should be linked to
s omet hing related to the real world, in order to inspire the beholder in
overcoming some their everyday annoyances; if we have a realistic perception
of the screen characters and their surroundings, then we expect their relationships
t o be realistic as well. This level of screen realism, noted the anthropologist
Hortense Powdermaker, is what lends the pictorial communication its narrative
quality. The beholder visits the movie with conscious and unconscious
exp ect ations and a curiosity that demands satisfaction from the screen’s
narrative.41

James J. Gibson defined two questions governing pictorial communication: how
closely can an image correspond to the real world, and what level of impact can
it have upon its beholder ?42 On these two qualitative means rests the foundation
of pictorial communication. The effect of moving pictures on the mental order
of the beholder is of our chief concern in this Chapter, as I already sketched out
in the preceding Chapters the correlationship between Hollywood’s spatial code
and the age spirit during the nineteen-thirties. Our attitude in front of the screen

39
      W e s l e y C. Miller, The Illusion of Reality in Sound Pictures, in: Lester Cowan (Ed.), Recording Sound for Motion
Pictures. New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book 1931, p. 211.

40
     S e e Donald M. Oenslager, The Theatre of Donald Oenslager. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press
1978, p. 10.

41
   Hortense Powdermaker, Hollywood the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers. Boston: Little,
Brown 1950, p. 14.


42
     James J. Gibson, Pictures, Perspective, and Perception, in: Daedalus, Vol. 89 (Winter 1960), p. 216.


                                                                                                                    283
is related to a highly complicated psychological structure that we are attempting,
here, to comprehend. When experiencing a filmic communication, we have the
assumption of watching a continuous stream of images on the screen. But, what
w e are actually viewing are strips of discontinuous images. We see a certain
number of images on the screen per second (sixteen, twenty-four or more), and
because each of these images relates to its neighbor, a mental process affiliates
them to one another and makes sense out of the whole. This illusion of continuity
is identified as the persistence of vision.43 In this relationship, the perceptual
process is capable of organizing the scattered information of the visible world,
and of making sense out of these perceptual stimuli.44

Our perceptual communication with our surrounding is governed by our organs
of sense, in which the eye plays the most significant role. The visual perception
of the outside world is recorded on the retina which consists of a ‘sensitive tissue
at the rear of the eye.’45 Furthermore, the retinal image is a flat surface,
ostensibly, upon which a ‘pattern-stimulus’, or a ‘retinal form’ is recorded to
begin the perceptual process. If this is so, what is then the essence of that retinal
form or image ? Closer focusing upon this question leads to the fact that the
retinal image is not a picture, since there is no perceiver stationed behind the eye
to look at it. The retinal image thus, ruled James J. Gibson ‘is in fact not a form
at all. It is a complex of variables of light-energy, definable in terms of steps and
gradient s but not in terms of physical edges, geometrical lines, or graphic
outline.’46 Upon the retinal image, however, depends the communication between
the visible world and our nervous system.47

A great deal of similarities associate the operation of the naked eye with the
mechanism of the camera. During the visual perception of an image, the sheaf of


43
     Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies. Indianapolis: Pegasus 1971, pp. 18&19.

44
     R. L. Gregory, The Intelligent eye. New York: McGraw-Hill Book 1970, p. 86.

45
        J u l i a n Hochberg, Perception: (I) Color and Shape, in: J. W. Kling and Lorrin A. Riggs (Ed.), Woodworth &
S c h l o sberg’s Experimental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1938 (1954, and 3 rd Ed. 1971), p. 395.

46
     Cf. James J. Gibson, What is a Form? in: P. R., Vol. 58 (1951), p. 408.

47
    S e e Julian Hochberg, Perception: (II) Space and Movement, in: J. W. Kling and Lorrin A. Riggs (Ed.), Woodworth
& Schlosberg’s Experimental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1938 (1954, and 3 rd Ed. 1971), p. 476.


                                                                                                                 284
light-rays reaching the perceiver’s eye, may equal the sheaf of light-rays that
penetrated the camera lens at the time the image was recorded.48 When the eye
observes an image from various points-of-views and distances, the retinal
image’s size and form alternate accordingly, while the actual object is not
undergoing any changes. A colored image’s tonal values will be modified if the
image’s illumination is changed. In their spatial relationship, objects’ tonal
values, outlooks, or sizes can be affected in various ways.49 M uch of this relates
to the illumination quality of the subject. The object’s aesthetic efficiency in the
space depends upon the mood set by its illumination. The lighting quality may
induce t he impression of cheeriness or horror. During the pictorial
communication, the light level, diffusion and angle of it reaching an object will
define its attributes and artistic quality. Hollywood defined a certain level of
illumination, as we have seen in Chapter 4, for each genre. Even each studio
formed its own level of lighting wattage on its sets’ floors, in compliance with
the studio’s own identity or style. In pictorial communication, photographers
influence our reading and perception of their images by the artistic grammars
they introduce into their products. The lighting angle, for instance, under which
a subject is photographed, is one cue among others influencing the meaning of
t he image and the way we encode it. Lighting angles vary in their visual
efficiency, i.e., one may exceed or differ from another. In their experimental
investigation, Percy H. Tannenbaum and James A. Fosdick found that a forty
five-degree lighting angle produced a more favorable and invariably more
pronounced impression than a low-angle, eye-level or high-angle lighting
effect.50

P ictorial cues such as dimensions, shades, aerial and linear perspective,
interposition or covering, in addition to the gradients, will mostly mediate the
impression of a depth cue and spaciousness in the visual image.51 Because of


48
     James J. Gibson, A Theory of Pictorial Perception, in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 1 (1954), pp. 3-23.

49
        J u l i a n Hochberg, Perception: (I) Color and Shape, in: J. W. Kling and Lorrin A. Riggs (Ed.), Woodworth &
S c h l o sberg’s Experimental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1938 (1954, and 3 rd Ed. 1971), p. 396.

50
    Percy H. Tannenbaum and James A. Fosdick, The Effect of Lighting Angle on the Judgment of Photographed Subjects,
in: A. V. Communication Review, Vol. 8, No. 6 (1960), pp. 253-262.


51
      S e e Julian Hochberg, Perception: (II) Space and Movement, in: J. W. Kling and Lorrin A. Riggs (Ed.), Woodworth
& Schlosberg’s Experimental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1938 (1954, and 3 rd Ed. 1971), pp. 494-
502.


                                                                                                                   285
these, our eye is very sensitive to the linear perspective we see. Psychologists
have found that the reason for this perceptual phenomenon mostly relates to our
familiarity with the rectilinear outlines and straight edges of our surroundings.
O ur living space is primarily organized from those lines, which explains the
visual efficiency of the linear perspective of which we are in favor.52 After the
s olid scenographical stylization of a linear perspective or any other form of
setting is represented by the camera on the screen’s flat surface, it will be
transformed into an image. Psychologists refer to this image as a “pictorial
form.” This refers to any representation of a solid body on a flat surface,
including the motion picture’s representation of the spatial attributes and
delivering of them to the flat screen.53

We have the impression of “depth” only if the “cues” of such depth exist in the
imagewe see.54 This pertains specifically to the perception of depth in the motion
p ict ures. When a character moves in the Scenographic Space surrounded by
objects of variant shapes and sizes, the character’s mobility will give us
something of an approximate clue regarding some of the distances of the spatial:
after a character enters the room, takes his hat off, walks to a mirror then goes to
s it at t he desk, we have by then obtained a relative notion as to the spatial
dimensions in which our hero is living. This contained movement within such a
spatial reflects different dimensions from where another character is taking the
gondola and sailing in a canal across the set. Our perceptual interpretation and
reading of a scenic depth and its retrogressive arrangement (foreground-
background and other objects projected in between), is based on our learning and
experience from the past with similar matters. This would allow us to conduct a
legitimate analysis ‘from certain of the visual sensations and impressions which
we perceive.’ From an analytical point-of-view, our visual perception of a scenic
depth relates to the “Objective Depth Factors,” i.e., we receive the illusion of a


52
     James J. Gibson, Pictures, Perspective, and Perception, in: Daedalus, Vol. 89 (Winter 1960), p. 223.

53
       In addition to the pictorial form, Gibson defined a solid object form, and abstract form; see James Gibson, What is
a F o rm? i n : P . R., Vol. 58 (1951), pp. 403-412; Other psychologists observed in the form a ‘somewhat vague set of
p ro p e rt i e s which are invariant under transformations of color and brightness, size, place, and orientation;’ see Fred
A t t n e a v e a n d Malcolm D. Arnoult, The Quantitative Study of Shape and Pattern Perception, in: Psychological Bulletin,
Vol. 53, No. 6 (1956), p. 463.



54
    Julian E. Hochberg, Effects of the Gestalt Revolution: The Cornell Symposium on Perception, in: P. R., Vol. 64, No.
2 (March 1957), p. 80.


                                                                                                                      286
depth cue’s rendition of the spatial properties from the retinal image, and our
gaining of the sense of a depth cue is due to the “Subjective Depth Factors” that
we experience during our observation of those subjects.55 Our classification of
the scene we see may not have any validation, without drawing some standards
of comparison, reflects Ernst Hans Gombrich.56 This supports the fact that our
past experience with similar matters is profoundly decisive in helping us to form
our judgments and categorization regarding the scene with which we are
communicating.

P ers p ective, extended Gombrich, is a lawful artistic principle formed for
originat ing images that invite illusion.57 No other art succeeded in creating a
mental space like the film medium did. Producing a kinetic depth or scenic space
on t he flat screen relates to the essential cues of a narrative paradigm of the
motion pictures. In addition to the direction of gesture, as a means of rendering
a screen space, i.e., reversing the perspective by a motion coming out from the
screen toward the perceiver, Jan M ukarovsky nominated other possibilities that
may sustain the illusion of pictorial space for the beholder during the pictorial
communication- either by changing the axis of vision of the scene and viewing
it from some steep angles (low or high), or by introducing a tracking shot that
gives t he impression of penetrating the space, and granting the beholder the
assumption of moving into the screen space.58 Andre Bazin expressed his deep
appreciation for the production of the impression of a depth cue on the screen.
F or Bazin, the novelty of filming in depth is not only more economical and
simpler but more narrative, in providing the beholder with the maximum amount
of narrative data possible from the scene, and by doing so, sustaining the
pictorial communication. Shooting in depth, continued Bazin, relates closely to
the filmic language: it benefits the perceiver’s perceptual attitude while encoding



55
       F o r further analysis on “Objective Depth Factors” and “Subjective Depth Factors” see; A. Ames, Jr., The Illusion of
D e p t h from Single Pictures, in: Journal of the Optical Society of America and Review of Scientific Instruments, Vol. 10,
No. 2 (February 1925), pp. 137-148.

56
    Ernst Hans Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York: Bollingen
Foundation 1960 (2 nd Ed., New York: Kingsport Press 1961), p. 178.

57
     See Ibid., p. 250.

58
     Jan Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function: Selected Essays by Jan Mukarovsky. Tr. and Ed. by John Burbank
and Peter Steiner, New Haven: Yale University Press 1978, p. 181.


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the screen image, and therefore enhances the perception of the screen story.59 No
matter what the concept of creating the illusion of spatial depth on the screen
might be, unless the perceiver is equipped with prior contact or basic past
exp erience with related depth cues, there will be no adequate pictorial
communication (beholder-image). Julian Hochberg supported this theory of
t act ual-motor experiences which aid the perceiver in having the compelling
mental structure. For Hochberg ‘all depth cues are symbols, and what makes
each effective is its prior association with other depth cues, and with the
movements and touching that the history of the viewer has furnished.’60 It is
clear, however, that this internal process of producing spatial illusion on a flat
s urface has a lot to do with the beholder’s own mental organization. In this
relat ionship, some investigators have confirmed how highly the beholder’s
mental attitude may affect the level of the spatial depth we see.61

In a well-organized snapshot featuring a figure against its surroundings, a clear
dis t inction will be made between the foreground, middle-foreground and the
background of the shot. It will induce the impression of the three-dimensionality
of the objects recorded. A picture might be perceived as representation of depth.
In this visual perception the beholder is aware of the fact that the image is a flat
s urface. O n the other hand, the picture might be viewed as a set of objects
arranged in depth, where the beholder will perceive the image as what the
p s y chologist Harold Schlosberg terms, ‘plastic effect. Depth, then,’ resumes
Schlosberg, ‘is not merely something added to a picture in various amounts, but
rather a way of perceiving.’62 We all are aware of the screen as a flat surface
featuring for our receptive system the illusion of kinetic depth, which we accept
politely. Introducing a perspectival system onto the screen image is qualified to
elevate the efficiency of its communicational stream to the degree of excellence.
This artistic system of representation places the beholder at a fixed distance and


59
    Andre Bazin, Qu-est-ce que le Cinema? Paris: Editions du Cerf, Vol. 1 ( Tr. and Ed. by Hugh Gray, What is Cinema?
Vol. 1, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967), pp. 35&36.


6 0 S e e Julian Hochberg, Art and Perception, in: Edward C. Carterette and Morton P. Friedman (Ed.), Handbook of
Perception: Perceptual Ecology. Vol. X, New York: Academic Press 1978, p