The following is the conclusion of an article which came from the 1921 collected edition of “Our Paper,” put out by the Massachusetts Reformatory. The first part and second part were previously posted:
Bossing the World
by John B. Wallace
This is only a sample of the painstaking care with which pictures in the larger studios are filmed. It explains why so many persons who have been abroad have been fooled into exclaiming, “Why, I know that was taken in France, because I have been on that very spot,” when in reality, the “scene was shot” in California. The pictures are made with such careful attention to detail that directors and property men who know every trick of the trade are often imposed upon.
The research department is the prop that Wells leans upon in times of doubt. Three persons are employed who do nothing but look up the proper costuming and settings for scenes laid in times other than the present. In addition to a large library maintained by the studio they have the Public Library of Los Angeles to fall back upon, as well as several splendid private collections of millionaire book fanciers.
Other departments that come under Mr. Wells’ supervision are the large repair shops. In the drapery department curtains and draperies are constantly being altered, cut and repaired. Furniture is revarnished, repaired and reupholstered. In the pottery department antique vases are duplicated in cheaper materials and the bric-a-brac that is to be smashed in comedy and battle scenes is made out of plaster of paris. Costumes require a large force of seamstresses to make and alter. The electrical department requires a large force of electricians and expert mechanics are employed in the upkeep of the motor trucks and automobiles.
Wallace, John B. “Bossing the World.” Our Paper. Vol. 38. N.p.: Massachusetts Refomatory, 1921. 153. Google Books. Web. 24 Nov. 2015
I am the Master of Props. I am the Devourer of Foam. Ok, that’s a bit much, but you can check out a Q&A with me in this month’s USITT Sightlines. I talk about my blog and reveal a bit of my origin story.
Tested takes a look at this very cool animatronic Skeksis puppet being built by Chris Ellerby. He’s using a great mix of traditional and high-tech techniques to bring this creature from Dark Crystal to life.
Lost Art Press introduced me to the Index of American Design. This WPA project had artists drawing and painting all manner of household items, toys, furniture and tools in an attempt to document and define the American aesthetic. You can follow the links on his page to get to the online Index, which has over 18,000 of these images for your viewing pleasure.
Finally, if you’re really bored, check out this board foot calculator you can use on your next carpentry project.
The following is the fourth part of a 1920 article on David Belasco’s property collection. The first part, second part and third part were published earlier:
Mementoes of Napoleon
by Frank Vreeland
He knows every object in this store-room by heart, and when he discovers that one of them is missing not even the omniscient property man questions his memory. That singularly retentive memory is one quality which Mr. Belasco has in common with Napoleon and may perhaps account for some of his admiration for the great Corsican, for the manager might be said to have acquired the remnants of Bonaparte’s empire. Continue reading Belasco’s Property Room Part 4, 1920
Ok, this isn’t props, it’s models, but still pretty cool. Tested has a long profile on Greg Jein, one of the main model makers on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, and Star Trek. Despite advances in CGI, he is still going strong, working on new films such as Interstellar.
Propnomicon has a great history of adhesive plaster, the fix-it-all tape used before duct tape was invented. Besides the history lesson, he has some great photos of vintage packaging for the plaster.
Korwin Briggs has put together this fun and educational infographic on the gross and deadly history of color. He reveals the origins of many popular coloring agents, such as mummy brown (made from ground-up mummies) and ultramarine (crushed-up gemstones).
Make has a great round-up of five wood gluing tips. I’ve done the ol’ “nail the boards together before gluing them trick” but always thought I was somehow cheating. It’s good to know it’s an actual technique used by others. Not that you can actually “cheat” in props. If it lasts until the show closes, then it’s a good technique.
President Obama and his daughters attended the July 18, 2015, performance of Hamilton on Broadway. His wife, Michelle, had seen it off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. Former president Bill Clinton and his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, also caught an off-Broadway performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s celebrated show about the Founding Fathers. Miranda first performed songs from the show way back in 2009 to Obama, and he sat next to the President during last week’s performance at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Many of my friends worked on the show (Jay Duckworth even has an article on how the props shop made 160 turned candlesticks). It made me wonder about the theatre habits of other Presidents. Turns out, the American Presidency has long had a rich involvement with the theatre. Thanks to the book American Presidents Attend the Theatre by Thomas Bogar and a few hours of Googling, I’ve dug up a few interesting stories. Continue reading US Presidents and the Theatre