Mitchell Leisen (director): “Charlie Chaplin and myself went up there (Pickfair, pictured, home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford) almost every night for dinner. Mary would go to bed and we’d run a picture. Pickfair had a Turkish bath and a pool with a three-hundred-pound cake of ice in it. We had to go in every night and take a sauna and then dive into the ice bath. We’d go to bed, and climb into the Rolls Royce the next morning and go to the studio.”

“When sound first came in, that’s when popcorn and all the drinks started and necking in the theatre started, because you could turn away and still hear. You wouldn’t miss anything. In silent films you had to pay attention the whole time.” – King Vidor (pictured), director, producer, and screenwriter.

Over the past few days I’ve watched Clara Bow in It and Mary Pickford in Secrets. Mary wanted Clara to appear in Secrets, but it didn’t happen. At that time, Mary offered this insightful comment about Clara: “She is a very great actress and her only trouble has been that she hasn’t known enough about life to live it the way she wanted to live it.”

In Stalag 17, 1953, American airmen held in a German prison of war camp suspect that one of their number is an informant. Director Billy Wilder kept the identity of the informant a secret from the cast to encourage genuine surprise in their reactions at the moment of the great reveal.

By the time Marilyn Monroe made Some Like it Hot, she was struggling. She required forty-seven takes to get, “It’s me, Sugar” correct. After thirty takes, director Billy Wilder wrote the line on a blackboard. Sad.

The Hays Code of 1930 altered the nature of motion pictures. Amongst many pieces of ‘advice’, the Code stated that, “Special care should be exercised in the manner in which the following is treated: “Safe-cracking and dynamiting having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron.” Hays also hated kissing. In response, photographer Whitey Schafer produced ‘Thou Shalt Not’ a 1940 photo deliberately subverting the Code’s strictures.

The Hays Code stipulated that screen kisses could only last three seconds. In his 1946 film, Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock ensured that Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman paused after three seconds. However, their kissing sequence lasted two and a half minutes.

Director Edward Dmytryk later said, “If we wanted to get something across that was censorable, we had to do it deviously. We had to be clever. And it usually turned out to be much better than if we had done it straight.”

Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, 1931, did not have any fangs. However, cinematographer Karl Freund did intensify Dracula’s piercing gaze by highlighting each eye with an individual keylight.

Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack jointly directed and produced King Kong, 1933. However, they only took a screen credit as the producers. In younger days, they’d both been wrestlers and were able to act out the fight scenes between King Kong and the Tyrannosaurus Rex to help the animators.

The scene in City Lights where Charlie Chaplin’s the Tramp first meets the Blind Flower Girl, played by Virginia Cherrill, was shot 300 times. Chaplin and Cherrill did not get on. She was casual in her attitude to filmmaking whereas he was stressed, seeking perfection. 

Virginia Cherrill married Cary Grant on February 9, 1934. The couple divorced on March 26, 1935. 

Although Citizen Kane has topped many movie polls it was not popular on its release. Indeed, at the 1941 Oscars, Citizen Kane was booed every time one of its nine nominations was announced.

Ninety-three of 12 Angry Men’s running time of ninety-six minutes take place in the jury room, a set measuring sixteen by twenty-four feet. To heighten the claustrophobia, as the story progressed director Sidney Lumet gradually increased the focal length of the camera’s lenses and lowered the angle of the shots.

Before production started on The Grapes of Wrath, studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck sent undercover investigators into the migrant camps to see if author John Steinbeck had exaggerated the plight of the working man during the Great Depression. The investigators discovered that the reality was even more shocking than Steinbeck’s book had suggested.

1920s – 1960s