Tag Archives: 1909

The Staging of the Picture, 1909

The following is a very early “advertorial” from an antique shop extolling the benefits of historical accuracy in the props in films:

It is astonishing to note how rarely the moving picture is accurately staged; by staging we mean correctness as regards details of scenery, dress, furniture, etc. Only the other day we saw a great picture, the scene of which was laid in a distant foreign country; and yet the furniture in an interior scene belonged to American colonial days. Now this, as we have repeatedly pointed out in these pages, is an example of what is known as a glaring anachronism. How rarely the pictures are correctly produced, correctly lighted, etc.! These reflections were suggested to our mind by an interview with Mr. S. M. Jacobi, the art director of the Genuine Antique Shop, 34 East 30th street, New York city. The Genuine Antique Shop has retained Mr. Jacobi’s services in a new capacity, which, we think, should be of great value to moving picture film makers.

Mr. Jacobi, a trained artist and authority on artistic matters generally, has had wide experience in theatrical producing, and also in supplying the furniture, dresses, costumes and accessories for notable productions. The Genuine Antique Store possesses a unique collection of very beautiful paintings, furniture, costumes and refined accessories, which it is willing to let out on hire to moving picture makers who are anxious to have their historical and other productions accurate in respect of accessories and costumes. This is a very important point, as everybody who has the smallest regard for the welfare of the moving picture must realize. At the Genuine Antique Store you see relics of the Colonial period, paneling from old chateaux in France, and even the very finest of furniture from Fraunce’s Tavern, where George Washington met his officers, so that there is a good collection from which to choose. Mr. Jacobi has given attention to the moving picture for a great many years, both in Paris and New York. Besides being an artist, he is a trained photographer, and his services are to be available for the designing of studios for moving picture work and generally in the production of the picture with regard to its accurate presentation, photographic lighting, grouping, etc. We advice all to get in touch with the Genuine Antique Shop at the address given, either by mail or, better still, by a personal visit. We feel convinced that they will come away as we did; namely, with a feeling of envy for the treasures it contains—treasures that will look good in a moving picture.

“The Staging of the Picture.” Moving Picture World Vol 4, Num 26. 26 June 1909: 18. Print.

The Tangible Elements of Fantasy, 1909

The following comes from a 1909 edition of the San Francisco Call. Besides the description of the props, pay attention to an early description of spike marks.

The Tangible Elements of Fantasy

by Walter Anthony

In the first place as you wander about the stage observing the traps which have been cut into the floor; the mysterious marks here and there which show the exact location of every individual piece of furniture and scenery; the accumulation of cannons and birds and dogs’ heads; the lion, the crocodile, which as tasted of Captain Hook’s hand and wants the rest of the pirate for dinner; the dog’s skin, that poor Harcourt has to perspire in; the maze of wires to swing the Darling children out of the window when Peter Pan teaches them the difficult art of flying—I say, when you take in the mass of mechanical detail which the production of “Peter Pan” requires, your admiration will grow for Barrie, the whimsical Scotchman, who conceived the whole thing; for Manager Walter Hoff Seely, who has not hesitated at putting $8,ooo into the production; and for George Foster Platt, the stage director, who is bringing all the ends of this fantasy together and is literally piecing together moonbeams and moth wings.

Then Stage Director Platt takes descriptions and roughly draws the scene, Ralph Nieblas, the scene painter, makes a model out of cardboard, with every measurement carefully indicated. When the model is done, it is an exact reproduction in miniature of what the scene is going to be like. Nieblas and William Finley, the head carpenter, get together and puzzle it out. Finley told me he had to be able to make anything from heaven in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to hell in “The Black Crook.”

Plans and specifications, drawn by Platt’s imagination from Barrie’s imaginary pictures, are made and the work of producing the scenery and the properties begins. Meanwhile, the propertyman is scouring the city for accessories, such as the bell which is used on the ships; for in the pirate boat scene there must be a real bell with a real clapper, to emit real vibrations. William Richardson, who is the propertyman, is now in a state bordering on nervous prostration, for the strange things he has had to collect include everything that a fantasy could demand. “I got the bell at a ship chandler’s,” he said, “and a bad cigar for Captain Hook to smoke at every performance, but I will not tell you where I got that. It wouldn’t be fair to the pirate. I had to get a hook for him to wear after the crocodile has eaten his hand, and the list of things that I have raced around town for would bewilder the most enthusiastic shopper in the world.”

Tangible Elements of Fantasy

Anthony, Walter. “The Tangible Elements of Fantasy.” The Call [San Francisco] 11 Apr. 1909: 25. Library of Congress. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.