"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" ... Bogart, Shakespeare, The Maltese Falcon, Those Great Movies

Sunday, July 3, 2011

She Wasn't Wearing That A Minute Ago, Was She?

Oh no!  Tell me it isn't so!
It is late at night, and I was struck by an interesting thought ... and please, faithful readers, no sarcastic quips about how seldom that happens...  It certainly is not a new thought, not even to me.  Just a memory. I was reading an article about the film noir Double Indemnity written by my friend Dorian.  It's a very good read, and because it inspired this little memory post, I'd like to give you the link to it -- at the end of this post.  (I don't want you to leave just yet!)  Included in the article is a Youtube clip about mistakes within the movie.  Mistakes differ from the bloopers that are always fun to watch.   Mistakes have to do with continuity of scenes -- you know, first the actress is not wearing any jewelry and two seconds later she has a necklace on -- that kind of thing.  It got me to thinking about my first realizations about how a movie is actually made.  I won't even tell you how old I was before I found out that movies are not shot in a linear fashion.  I always thought movies were shot from start to finish, like a play.  I had never even questioned that it could be otherwise.

I was still young and wearing the proverbial rose-colored glasses.  I was totally shocked when I found out that an intense love scene, occurring in the middle of the movie, might be the first scene shot, between actors who had just said hello for the first time.  I almost had a heart attack when I learned the truth about the filming of my favorite scene in Jezebel, with Bette Davis on her knees in her beautiful white dress professing remorse and love to Henry Fonda.  Fonda wasn't even there?!  They were never together in that scene?!  He had shot his lines looking into thin air, then left to be with his wife, who was having a baby.  Bette was looking into thin air as well when she performed her part.  Oy, the anguish!  Then it hit me -- if they really had been standing together, looking at each other, wouldn't you see a camera behind him and a camera behind her?  Jeez Louise!  More and more such technical details began to crowd into my brain.  None of that had ever occurred to me before.  Had I stepped into the Twilight Zone?  No, I had taken that big reluctant step into reality, and I didn't like it one little bit.

Well, I got over it.  That is when I really started studying films, not just watching them.  I learned a new-found admiration for acting as a technical art, as well as an instinctual gift.  I still don't know how they do it!  Pieces shot here and there, bits of dialogue, several unrelated scenes in one day.  It's amazing that any performance turns out smoothly, much less with the kind of genius we see in so many of the best films.  Equally awe-inspiring is the work of the director, crew, everybody behind the scenes who make the mish-mosh of film snippets into a work of art.

So what was the interesting memory that struck me?  Well, at least to movie audiences, probably the least-appreciated, least-recognized member of the crew -- the person who has the job of making sure that Humphrey Bogart's cigarette is still only half-smoked in a short scene that might be shot in 3 pieces -- the one who is responsible for checking to be certain that Myrna Loy's cocktail is the same color from one second to the next  At the lower end of the pecking order in moviedom, it's the script girl.  No gender exclusion intended -- it always seems to be a girl in classic movies.  Probably because it was considered rather a secretarial position, also called script clerk or script reader.  These very important members of the crew were usually uncredited, and probably paid minimum wage.  And for the most part, they did a fantastic job.

Every movie has such mistakes -- there are any number of websites and blogs written by people who specialize in watching movies second by second and find every flaw.  That is their hobby, and they enjoy it.  For myself, I just would not want to live with my finger on the pause button, or whatever is done, to find out if Harry Potter's broken glasses were taped on the right side or the left from scene to scene.  You can also find tons of Youtube videos with mistakes and bloopers.

I would love to hear what you may have seen or learned about interesting mistakes in movies.  But before that, I want to pay special tribute to three unsung women  There were more than a few mistakes for which they were responsible in the movie they worked on -- but frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.  Gone With the Wind is almost 4 hours of hypnotic movie greatness, and as for mistakes, I never noticed.  Here's to the three ladies who helped make sure that Scarlett O'Hara wore the same earrings as she walked up the stairs of Twelve Oaks -- Connie Earl, Franclein Macconel and Lydia Schiller.  A little posthumous recognition is well-deserved!

I'm so glad you stopped by to read my post.  Now you can have the link to Dorian's article -- http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2011/07/double-indemnity-secret-life-of-walter.html.


  1. nice stuff and observations...there are fan sites devoted entirely to tiny errors and missing details...I actually prefer wearing the "rose-colored glasses"....now...where is the SCI-FI BLOG!!!

  2. I'm with you, Doc. Even being more educated now about the reality of film-making, I am still able to forget it and just love them when I watch! Sorry about the delay in the sci-fi post. My picture friend and I are having difficulty with essential pictures of behind the scenes photos, which are my main focus for thet post. Then life got in the way for both of us! Be patient with me....

  3. Mrs. President! (I'm sorry, I need to call you that way...and congrats by the way! :)

    You're right, we never give the script girls the proper credit. Continuity is so important in films, and yet we never stop to think about it. I do enjoy reading about errors and continuity mistakes (or watching them on Youtube), Imdb even has a section about that for each film, but like you, I wouldn't spend my time detecting them!
    Great post, I loved how you described discovering that the movies weren't shot in one take :) And it's weird to know that the actors are not always playing together the scene, sometimes they don't even met during the filming! Or that the ending was the first scene shot, etc.

    A citizen.

  4. Great post, and well-deserved recognition for the continuity crew.

  5. Great post, Becky. Yes, it's a cruel moment when you realize that all of this just doesn't come together as we see it in its final form. I don't mind the boo-boos, but I do ponder the story inconsistencies. Like in DI - why does Phyllis return Walter's hat when he clearly took it with him when he left? Did he drop it on the front lawn? Did Phyllis have any extra one handy just in case?

    See what you started again? Anyway - terrific subject that will keep me look and thinking.

  6. Clara, you promoted me! Actually, I'm not president -- Rick was re-elected to that lofty post. I'm a humble board member (but thanks for the congrats!) Like you, I like to see or read about bloopers and mistakes -- and isn't it amazing that despite those, you never notice any but the most glaring when a movie is good.

    Thanks, Jacqueline! That has to be a really hard job to do well, especially on a monster movie like GWTW.

    FlickChick, I think the script girl must have been out sick or asleep at the wheel during parts of DI. And knowing Phyllis's character, she probably WOULD have extra ones handy for her scheming plans! LOL!

  7. Becky, that was a terrific post about the unsung heroes and heroines of movie continuity -- and I'm not just saying that because you're my friend and you were nice enough to provide a link and a shoutout to my DOUBLE INDEMNITY blog post! :-) Thanks a million for the plug!

    I first learned the truth about moviemaking and continuity from reading books and watching TV specials about making movies. In 1986, a year after I graduated from dear old Fordham University, I actually got the opportunity to see how it was done first-hand! A member of a movie Amateur Press Association I belonged to (kind of like a movie fan club that met by mail, before the Internet came along) was also a filmmaker who happened to get hired by Sony Pictures to make three low-budget horror films. He brought me aboard as a Production Coordinator (where I made sure everyone knew where and what they were supposed to be doing on the set, and making sure they were at the right locations) and a Craft Services person (where I brought the food and laid it out all pretty :-)). In between my duties in those jobs, I learned a lot about continuity and other aspects of filmmaking, too! Maybe I'll blog about it one of these days, before my memories evaporate with age! :-)

  8. Sometimes the thoughts of when the scene was shot and who was there intrude upon my viewing, but I shake it off for my post-movie thoughts so I can live the story.

    Oliver Hardy and his third wife, Lucille, met when she was "continuity person" on "The Flying Deuces". She wrote about how prepared Stan and Oliver always were. Gosh! I always thought they were two fellows just larking about!

  9. Nice tribute to the unsung heroes behind the scenes. It has to be a rough job to deal with considering all the small seemingly "minor" details they have to cover. Enjoyed this!

  10. Dorian, well your post inspired mine, so I thought the link was a fair share. Your story of working on the set is great -- I hope you do blog about it before age kills off those particular brain cells -- LOL!

    Caftain Woman, I know what you mean -- but even learning about behind the scenes has not changed my ability to just lose myself in movies -- I don't look for mistakes at all, and something would have to be pretty bad to pull my focus.

    Thanks John -- it just seemed like a good idea when I thought about it. I know as a kid I thought it was all the actors, not knowing anything about the incredible work that made it possible.

  11. great website. I definitely have more appreciation for the classic movies since you introduced me to them over the years. I think the first classic horror film I watched with you was "The Haunting."
    Mike Sweany

  12. Hi Mike! Great to see you here--thanks so much for your compliment on my blog. And I do remember The Haunting with you - scared you and scared me again too!

  13. Becky,
    As soon as I saw the pic of the baby I knew this would be one wild and fun post.

    I love the 'film error' info section on IMDb and I always go read it before watching a film for the first time like a nutcase. I'm a bit amazed that Bette was doing a scene all by her lonesome in Jezebel...Just like his character, that darn Henry Fonda left her all alone in her misery.

    A great article with wonderful little gems that you've been so kind to share and drive me bonkers with since now I want to go revisit the films you mention just to look for errors. GRRR!

    Thanks for sharing the events that lead to your love and very detailed observations in film making. The best part of your fantastic posts is how they get great discussions going by the reader.

  14. Page, go ahead and GRRR! You make me blush with your compliments...as with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, it was hard to lose the illusion of movies when I was young, but it didn't change my love for them one bit. Somehow, my brain is able to know about real film-making and mistakes, but forget about them when I am engrossed in a movie. I can also do the same thing with monthly bills -- I can pay out every cent I have and still dream!

  15. Great post!! Being a Judy Garland fan, I'm partial to all the mistakes in The Wizard of Oz (all like...3 million of them, haha), and I also love all the silly mistakes and technical errors in Some Like It Hot. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is the little leagues because EVERYTHING is a mistake, but it's so much fun to watch for errors in that movie. So glad to have discovered your site!
    Lara (from Backlots)

  16. Hi backlots! Glad you came! It is fun to spot mistakes sometimes, especially with movies like Wizard of Oz that you are going to love no matter what! I loved that you brought up poor Ed Wood's Plan 9. His movies are so bad they are fun to watch! Of course I'm a big Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan, so I love Ed! If you are subscribed to see this comment, would you give me the link to your blog?

  17. Sure! My site is http://backlots.wordpress.com. I found your site through my friend Caroline's blog (Garbo Laughs)! Talk to you soon!

  18. My dream job on a movie set would be the continuity person (please don't call me script girl!). Great post!

  19. Don't worry -- surely you don't think I would call you script girl! Just don't call me Shirley!