A 700 page primer for anyone who wants to be a film maker.
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREAT MOVIEMAKERS OF HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE by George Stevens Jr.(2006) is a collection of 32 interviews conducted at the American Film Institute in seminars with young filmmakers in the 1970’s.
Directors are the core of the book – including Hitchcock, Cukor,Mamoulian, Capra, Hawks, Fritz Lang,, Raoul Walsh – all willing to share their experience and knowledge .
Also producer, Hal Wallis, writers Ernest Lehman and Ray Bradbury; and 4 cinematographers including James Wong Howe.
Sadly, not one female is featured. No Ida Lupino, no film editors like Margaret Booth. Or producers like Joan Harrison.
I wonder if the interviews were filmed. It’s a great read.
Here are some excerpts.
“……the worst chore in motion pictures (dubbing tap-dancing sequences)…… To dub the taps you looked up at yourself on the screen and added the taps afterward. It was a pain in the neck and we all hated it.”
“I got MGM to buy ON THE TOWN after seeing it on Broadway…….After I got out of the navy,I explained to the studio that I could shoot a picture on location in New York. The first stumbling block was Frank Sinatra. Those were his famous days, and he was as hard to hide as the Statue of Liberty. He was always being mobbed……but we never had a cop or any protection and we did the whole thing in five days.
“Hitch and I acted out the entire crop-dusting sequence in his living room (NORTH BY NORTHWEST). Then I incorporated every move into the script, and that was the way he shot it.”
“I went to the United Nations and spent five days there just getting the feel of the place and trying to figure out what would be a good place for a murder. I finally settled on the Delegates’ Lounge, which I call the Public Lounge in the screenplay.”
“I hung around Grand Central Station a bit,got on the Twentieth Century Limited and went to Chicago. I also looked around the train and picked up ideas,though I didn’t run into Eva Marie Saint.”
“Garbo did six or seven takes and she’s kind of finished. Spencer Tracy was that way too.
There are others who will do an enormous number of takes and don’t mind. Katharine Hepburn was that way, especially when she was inexperienced. She didn’t mind it.
And Audrey Hepburn never minded – she rather liked it.”
“They always say I’m a woman’s director……..I don’t know that there’s any difference between the way you direct for a man or a woman. I don’t have a different hat.”
“I prepared it (GONE WITH THE WIND) for a year and made the tests.I certainly did a lot of the casting, though not all. And the sets and everything. Then I shot for a month and I think David was rather nervous about it…….he told me he was going to replace me…….I must say that most of the scenes I did are in the picture.
I don’t really know why I was removed and at this moment I don’t give a damn.”
On accepting the AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 1975, a time when the auteur theory was popular, he said,
“When directing scripts by Lillian Hellman or Bob Sherwood,Sidney Kingsley or Jessamyn West, I could hardly call myself an auteur. However, I’m one of the few directors in town who can pronounce the word correctly.”