Chapter XIV


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

pp. 61-63

The automobile has become such an important factor in film production to-day that were the film manufacturers to be suddenly deprived of their machines the loss they feel would be as great as if their "star" player were to be taken ill.

Supposing, for instance, you had an invitation to visit the plants of the motion picture makers. The first thing that would catch your eyes would be the garage in each studio yard. In each one you would find any number up to twenty autos of all makes and ages. For these cars the movie producers have several practical uses.

Since the one great attraction of the movies is its charming natural backgrounds, the director cannot undertake all his work in the studio. He and his company have to do a good deal of travelling in pursuit of choice outdoor scenes and he seldom knows from one day to another what kind of settings will be needed. In nine cases out of ten the film troupe will have to be taken miles before the right locations are found. The trip, too, must be done in a hurry, and the auto, therefore , is the quickest and most reliable way.

The very same autos come in exceedingly handy when the players have to pretend to make a journey in a photoplay. For producing thrills they are simply great. When movie fans see the hero rushing in a motor to spoil the villain's plans and rescue the heroine they grip their seats in tense speculation as to whether he will arrive in time.

Oftentimes the scenario demands that two autos collide or that one fall over a cliff. The expense of these feats done in proper style is prohibitive. There has been a lot of nonsense written as to the extravagance of picture producers, but like men in other lines of business, they do not squander good money rashly if they can help it.

Whenever you see a motor car tumble over the cliff in the movies, and smash to atoms when it reaches the bottom, you can bet your life on it that the picture is faked. What is done is that when the auto proceeds towards the edge of the cliff, the camera stops, -- and so does the car, which turns back and exits. Enter now a wooden replica of the auto you just saw, so cleverly constructed that you would have to look pretty closely to detect that it was not genuine. These machines are turned out quite rapidly and cheaply by the carpenters in the employ of the film concern.

Seated in the auto are dummies to represent the passengers -- for the players are not so dare-devil as all that.

The camera man now gets busy again and the director, out of range of the camera, gives the car a push to send it over the cliff. At the bottom it is revealed completely wrecked, and after another stop, the performers walk down in the ordinary way. They then make up as though badly injured and scramble out of the debris. As none of the intervals are shown on the screen the illusion is perfect.

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