WHY NAVAL MOVIES ARE SO SCARCE
Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)
You may travel far and wide to see the class of films you prefer, and, in desperation, you may apply to the fountain head.
"I want ten cents' worth of thrills and excitement, please," you begin.
"What kind?" the producer would ask.
"Oh, naval dramas."
"Sorry I am unable to supply you, but we seldom produce these."
And if you was determined on ferreting out the whys and wherefores of the case, you would soon be informed that there is considerable difficulty in securing the co-operation of our navy department, without which the successful filming of these movies is not possible. The motion picture manufacturer seldom permits a mere trifle (as he regards it) to prevent him from carrying out his purpose. But naval photoplays are a different proposition altogether.
The producer cannot, for instance, purchase a battleship as he could a train and make a present of it to old man Neptune. It is going to cost him a million or more dollars, whereas he draws the line at fifteen thousand. There would be a balance on the wrong side of the ledger after that film had been marketed.
A submarine was once loaned to the Imp Company. the action hinged upon the stealing of a safety valve, and when the vessel, manned by the real crew, sank to the ocean's depths, the men heroically gasped for breath. The did not, of course, go through such and experience, for the scenes inside the submarine had to be erected in the studio. Had they been filmed in the heart of a genuine ship the scenes would not have come about clear enough.
The second example was when the Atlantic fleet took a cruise to Cuban waters. On a very slender story the well known "Victory" film was composed for the purpose of featuring the fleet. J. Parker Reed, the director, fully availed himself of a special permit by acting as commander of the firing operations. He did this from the bridge of the battleship Utah. Hundreds of marines volunteered in a land engagement for the production. This was not all, however, for Lieutenant John H. Powers took his life in his hands when piloting his hydroplane in the midst of battle smoke, the smoke burning the skin off his hands.
As a rule, the director is not fond of faking things, but he knows how to do it when it comes to a pinch. He builds up the hull of a battle ship in the studio and fastens it on gliders so that it may be given a realistic and rolling motion. To sink it is another story. This is done by manipulating a battleship model on a canvas covered table.. The camera operator films the "wreck," accomplished by electric wires, as it disappears below the table which does duty as the water line. On another day a second exposure is made somewhere on the rural sea coast, and by the clever joining of the two negatives, a perfect illusion is produced.
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