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Chapter XXI

PRESENTING CAFES AND HOTELS IN
MOTION PICTURES

Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)


pp. 87-91

When the motion picture producer puts on a photoplay in which the characters lead a gay life, you can be sure that either a cafe or a hotel will figure in the most important scenes.

The scenario writer can make his characters do wonders under the influence of wine and lovely women. He finds, also, that hotels are ideal places for misadventures; the characters get into wrong rooms, thus placing themselves in awkward situations.

The director now pays more attention to atmosphere than in the past and obtains the genuine article as often as he possibly can.

The director, or producer, as some prefer to call him, has generally been credited with using soft drinks such as ginger ale in cafe scenes, but in the Ince feature production, "The Reward," the director would not go ahead until six dozen quarts of imported champagne, obtained from a well-known Southern Californian cafe, were served out to the principals and extras in the scene. So there were no half-hearted efforts aobut the merry making and this improved the photoplay wonderfully.

In putting on "Midnight at Maxim's," the Kalem Company had to represent the interior of this well known metropolitan cafe on an elaborate scale at their New Jersey studios. But in order that every detail should be scrupulously correct, the employees and entertainers of the establishment were brought over one afternoon.

The employees attended to waiting on the "guests" in business like fashion, the entertainers, all of whom were Broadway favorites, provided a sparkling Musical Revue.

One of Maxim's regular customers is Baron Hand von Ringhofer, who claims to be related to the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. He obtains his income from his family in Bohemia, but on account of the war these remittances have ceased. He therefore turned to the stage as a means of livelihood, and when the news of the Kalem undertaking reached his ears, he pleaded hard to be allotted a part. He argued that unless he was shown in Maxim's the picture would not be true to life. Accordingly, the Kalem Company engaged him.

When putting on "The Dancer," which called for a fashionable Parisian cafe, the director assigned to produce it by the Universal Company inspected all their properties. Extensive as they were, they proved quite inadequate to meet the special demand.

The director tore his hair and swore like a maniac, but was pacified when the purchasing agent reported that there was a chance to get the necessary equipment at a famous local cafe which an insufficient trade was causing to shut down.

The powers that be, when conferred with, realised that the "props" would come in handy on like occasions; so the purchase was promptly transacted. Before many hours had elapsed, the whole equipment of the cafe, including chairs, tables, tapestries, linens, silverware and crockery, was doing service in the delayed production.

Now that the portable arc lamp provides sufficient light for filming purposes inside cafes and restaurants, the director sometimes prefers not to go to the trouble of erecting such sets in the studio.

It is not possible, of course, to take scenes in hotels in daytime without attracting attention. So the Celebrated Players Company decided to have free run of the Alexandra Hotel in Los Angeles in the wee hours. They had not, however, counted upon the peculiar fascination exerted by the movies; and soon inquisitive people in pajamas and kimonos began to peep out of their rooms. The plentiful array of brilliant lamps in the 150-foot lobby made it resemble New York's Broadway on a miniature scale. Scenes were filmed in all parts of the hotel. Too bad to deprive tired humans of their beauty sleep!

The Kalem Company have given another example of their ability to do things on a big scale. In producing "The Mysteries of the Grand Hotel" at their Glendale, California studios, they engaged Arthur Siedle, technical director for the Metropolitan Opera Company, to design a magnificent hotel lobby. This has been declared by those who should know to be the most costly and elaborate set which has ever graced a motion picture.


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