Chapter XXIII


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

pp. 95-99

When the history of the motion picture producer's work comes to be written, there will be a whole chapter devoted to the part music has played in connection with it.

In the meantime, however, you will find it interesting to know just what is being done in this connection at the present time.

The motion picture player, like all exponents of true art, is termperamental to a degree. Furthermore, while the legitimate stage actor has a real human audience in front of him to stir him on, the photoplayer has no such vital element as this to act as an incentive. All there is in front of him is a cold clicking camera and a loud-voiced, business-like director. These are just the very things to put the damper on true art. Yet these are not quite all: the director knows that music in a comedy, for instance, hath charms; a catchy waltz would help the acting along wonderfully, and a haunting melody could accomplish much in assisting a player to rise to the full heights of an intensely emotional part. It may surprise you to know that one of the big film producing companies regularly employs an orchestra of several pieces to dispense appropriate music in such dramas. May their enterprising move by followed by others!

In spite of all the advantages of the photoplay profession over that of the speaking stage, the longing comes to those who have left the latter to return to it. And so they do. What is the reason, then? You may count upon the regular theatre as supplying half the cause and upon the opportunity to earn applause at first hand as supplying the other half.

The film players are simply delighted when a film story calls for music. Robert Leonard, the Rex leading man, is quite talneted as a musician, and when he recently had to act as the conductor of an orchestra he rose to the occasion in a praiseworthy manner.

Probably the most common photoplay situation of all is the drawing room where the heroine enchants the hero by playing the piano and accompanying it with her sweet voice. I have visited a good many motion picture studios in my time, but only once have I been disillusioned. The company in question used a "property" piano minus any mechanism inside. So when the leading lady thumped at the keys, not a single sound came from the instrument and both she and her "lover" had the difficult task of imagining that music was in the air.

The photoplayer cannot know too much and a knowledge of music is certainly an advantage, for although you have no opportunity of judging the tone quality of their efforts, it is easy to judge from the manner in which the players operate the instrument whether they are possessed of more than theoretical knowledge.

The movie stars owe rather a big debt to music, since songs have been written around them and have helped to increase their popularity.

There is, for example, the Kathlyn Waltz written aroudnd Kathlyn Williams, and now "Broncho Billy," Gilbert M. Anderson's character creation, has been immortalised in song.

The producing concerns may be slow in accompanying the producing of films with music, but the leading ones take good care that the movie-theaters put on the plays with appropriate music. To this end they issue music hints in connection with their films. Here is just one example:

VICTOR -- Saved by a Dream (Two-Reel Drama).
Reel 1 -- "Dreams," Wagner; "Dreams of Delight."
Rell 2 -- "Lyric Suite," Crieg; "Vilanelle Song."

A German producer was so ambitious prior to the war that he turned out a feature photoplay on "The Life of Wagner" and I must say that the film version did him great credit.

The makers of the movies are by no means averse to adapting songs. Who does not remember the production of "Home, Sweet Home," by that master director David W. Griffith? It showed how the famous song was inspired by Payne, and the full meaning of the song was expressed so perfectly that the display of handkerchiefs indicated that the spectators were affected. It is one of the saddest and most human photodrams I have yet seen. Of course had it been presented without a first-rate orchestra, it would have been a failure on the screen.

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing a film production of the popular song, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." It went with a swing from beginning to end, and the song that fits in so well with the somewhat exacting requirements of the motion picture is a priceless pearl.

The verses were thrown on the screen at appropriate moments.

Judging from the present friendly relations between the motion picture and music, it would seem that they are destined to get on even more intimate terms in the future.

Making the Movies - Contents ... Back to Chapter XXII ... On to Chapter XXIV

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