Tag Archives: period

Late Weekend Prop Links

How Sharp Objects Made Amma’s Creepy Dollhouse – Don’t read this if you haven’t watched the show yet, since it contains major spoilers for the season finale. But the exquisite detail (and six-figure budget) that went into this dollhouse is stunning, and really shows off the craftsmanship that the props team is capable of.

Cinefex Vault #14 – Troy – Remember that movie, Troy? Wolfgang Petersen’s epic tale of Ancient Greece was filled with extremely accurate period detail, so when they needed boats, they built real boats. Marine coordinator Mike Turk’s business has been building ships in London since 1710 and supplying boats for film since 1938.

The Chair Maker: Lawrence Neal – Lawrence Neal is a fifth-generation chair maker. Watch him work his magic in this stunning short video.

When Damage Is Done – American Theatre recently covered the spate of harassment stories which have unfolded in several theaters over the past year. From Long Wharf, to the Guthrie, to the Alley, these otherwise-renowned institutions represent just the tip of the iceberg of bullying, harassment, and sexism that has long been brushed off in our industry.

Prop Stories for You

Artisans Balance Historical Accuracy With Audience Expectations in Awards-Contending Films – Variety talks with the props masters on several recent period films about how they balance the desire for historical accuracy with the needs of the story. Often, an adherence to strict period detail gets in the way of the film, and the choices to veer away from it have very deliberate reasons behind them.

A Touch of Magic (& Monofilament) – Jay Duckworth and his team tackle the problem of a bookshelf that needs to fall during a scene and then be reset within a six-second blackout. Hint: it involved monofilament.

See a 94-Year-Old Sphinx Emerge From Californian Sand Dunes – Archaeologists recently dug up a life-size sphinx that has been buried since 1923. It’s from the set for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, one of the most expensive films made at that time.

A Fake-Food Maker on the Art of Creating Inedible Meals – A short article and brief video on everyone’s favorite Japanese fake food maker.

The oldest tech, theater, might be an antidote to the newest – This last article is about theater in general, not props. However, it’s an interesting perspective on how theater can become more important as technology increases, rather than becoming less relevant as many believe.

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.

Bossing the World part 3, 1921

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

1920 ‘Props’ for 1920

This article originally appeared in a 1920 issue of Hettinger’s Dental News. Yes, it was actually a longer advertisement to update your dental equipment.

“All the world’s a stage,” but-thank goodness-we can choose our own “props.” Stage props, properties-if you will insist on full-grown English-are all the movables on deck-the flying trapeze of the Figuaro Family, the glass tank of the Diving Venus, the revolver which barks out the villain’s doom in the last act, the chaise longe, the Victrola, the floor lamp, etc., which indicate: “Living room of the Van Flatter’s apartment. Time: present.”

Now suppose you went to the theatre to see that play in which the Van Flatter’s apartment figured in the story. Suppose there were an accident, or misunderstanding, or something behind the scenes, so that when the time came for the stage hands to shove on the chaise longe, Victrola, etc., they couldn’t be found; and they had to hurriedly run on an old set, of the Hazel Kirke period.

The actors would come on in their 1920 attire. The indiscreet Mrs. Van Flatter would lounge back on an 1880 horsehair sofa, smoking a cigarette, and say to the too attentive young Reginald; “Step on the accelerator, Reggie. Give us some jazz.”

And Reggie would step center-left to a brown walnut parlor organ, full of gingerbread trimmings. Then he’d pull out a few stops and do the Zippanola-Rippanola Rag in hymn time-the only tempo the old relic could wheeze out.

Of course such a ridiculous thing couldn’t happen-at least it’s not apt to; and what has this all to do with you, anyway? Just this:

It’s just as ridiculous to try to perform 1920 dentistry with “props” of 1880 as to perform a twentieth century play with nineteenth century stage settings.

“1920 ‘Props’ for 1920.” Hettinger’s Dental News Jan. 1920: 4. Google Books. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.