AVIATION IN THE MOVIES
Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)
What most of all does the average motion picture director like to put on the film? Why, a story pulsating with thrills, as he would describe it in his trade paper advertisements. Aviation fills his somewhat exacting desires admirable, and one does not have to seek far to ascertain why he exhibits such a desired preference for aircraft being "featured," to use a studio term, in photoplays. There are tricks in every trade, which fact is as true of the motion picture industry as any other.
Maybe you have got into the habit of dropping into a movie show to pass an idle hour or so away and witness an aviation picture every now and then. The most common situation of all is that in which the hero figures in the capacity of aviator. There is a scene where he kisses and embraces his sweetheart, after which he steps into the machine in proper costume and gets ready for the flight. Then, as if a magic wand had been waved, he appears flying in mid air. But there is a big motive for deliberately deleting the actual start. At this stage, a real aviator, whose services are hired, takes the place of the movie airman. When the airman is in full flight, the substitution cannot be detected. The same ruse is repeated when the aviator reaches terra firma again.
Antony Jannus, the well known young, old time airman, recently complained of the awkwardness with which the machines were manipulated in most cases. He has always been keenly disappointed to see an airman apparently approaching close to the camera to demonstrate his ability, and then have him promptly turn aside before he had got anywhere near.
"Many men who are picking up easy money with aircraft are not expert enough," he said, in a press interview, "to make a mchine to what they want it to do. But assuming that they are top notch pilots, their usual lack of histrionic ability must necessarily keep them upstage to a certain extent."
Another plan the director favors in certain instances is to utilise a portion of an animated newspaper containing views of an aerial derby or a trial flight and ingeniously combine the pick of the scenes in the play. There was recently shown in England a war drama dealing with the Zeppelin peril. Real airships were introduced and it was stated that they flew over England. Little, however, did the audiences realise that the scenes were cut out from a journal illustrating a trial flight of several of these air monsters over Germany prior to the war.
In a French film a wonderful panorama of the earth was presented. This was taken with an Aeroscope camera, which is just like an ordinary kodak. The operator was taken up in the aeroplane as a passenger. He strapped his machine to the flying machine and merely turned the handle.
If you really believe that the producer is rash enough to squander good money on the wrecking of a genuine flying machine, then you are very much mistaken. A rough skeleton is constructed by the studio carpenters and is smothered with gasoline to make it burn fiercely and quickly. Then at the end we see the actor airman, made up to appear injured and dishevelled, free himself from the wreckage. And so the make believe game goes merrily on.
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