Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tour of the Thomas Ince Studio - 1924

Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Hunt Stromberg
Stars: Enid Bennett, Hobart Bosworth and Ralph Dixon
Also known as: A Tour of the Ince Studio USA (alternative title)
Production Co: Thomas H. Ince Corporation
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Behind The Scenes | Negative Footage
Genres: Documentary | Short
A behind-the-scenes look at Thomas H. Ince Studios in Culver City, California.
This short publicity film takes a look behind the scenes at producer Thomas H. Ince's studio at Culver City, California. Other studios made similar films, including MGM's '1925 Studio Tour', which has, apparently, been broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies channel. (MGM's studio had been Ince's prior studio for the Triangle Corporation.) Shown here are the technical aspects of film-making, including the making of sets, lighting practices, behind the scenes of the wardrobe department, and the negative developing room where tinting and editing practices are demonstrated. Inceville's private fire department is even acknowledged and shown performing a drill. A couple interesting scenes show sets from how they're photographed and how they appear beyond the frame. Additionally, there are some shots of cameramen filming, including the short's opening shot of seven cameramen shooting at the camera recording them. In another scene, a title card states, "How we photographed that auto chase," and then they show the filming of a trucking shot; then, another title card, "How they photographed us!," reveals a cameraman shooting the cameraman photographing the auto chase scene. Clever.
In addition to a behind-the-scenes look at film-making, including footage of the seemingly real making of films (one scene is said to be the shooting of a film starring Louise Glaum and James Kirkwood, and the only film I see that those two starred in was 'Love' (1920), which doesn't seem to be available anywhere), we are introduced to (or sold) the studio's stars. I don't know who most of the mentioned "stars" were, or at best I've seen them if not recalled them in a few films, and they seem to be mostly lost to history. Some of them, like Margaret Livingston, who would have a role in 'Sunrise' (1927), may be recognizable for their supporting work in some rather popular films.
The biggest name in this short, however, at least by today, is the producer Thomas H. Ince. Here, there is some rather odd footage of him exercising and showing off how youthful and fit he was, which I found surprising. By the end of 1924, he would be dead. The cause of death seems to be a bit of a mystery, involving murder conspiracies and media mogul William Randolph Hearst, but the official story, at least, seems to be that he died of heart failure. Ince is probably one of the most influential movie makers in the industry's history, as he introduced the classic studio system, adopting assembly-line practices and promoting the producer to the head supervisor, who through script authorizing and editing, took control from the director and cameraman over the final appearance of films--a system adopted later by David O. Selznick and others.

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