Cold Hands Howard

https://www.youtube.com/embed/q111bDVYNXk” target=”_blank”>Link to DVD trailer

Back in 1966 when Howard Kazanjian was in the assistant director training program with the DGA, he was called up to the Stockton California area to work on a film with 1st AD Hank Moonjean. Moonjean had been in the business since the mid-fifties, and had a solid reputation. Notably, he had been associated with Paul Newman projects since his 1956 MGM film “Somebody Up There Likes Me” based on the life of prizefighter Rocky Graziano, and was on four of Newman’s next five at the same studio (Until They Sail, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Prize).

They were now in Lodi, California doing a night time shoot on a new Paul Newman feature, “Cool Hand Luke,” this time for Jack Lemmon’s production company to be released by Warner Bros. Hank Moonjean kept Howard by his side, right next to the camera, and mentored him. He gave Howard sage advice –  “Never sit down” with the further explanation – “you’re not in control.” And this night as Paul Newman’s character Luke Jackson was lopping off the heads of a line of parking meters, Moonjean further admonished him “Take your hands out of your pocket.” [Howard – this despite the fact that it was freezing out there].

They spent two solid months in Stockton, California to get all their exterior shots. Daily Howard rode the bus with the cast and crew from the hotel to the camp. The only exceptions were the actors J D Cannon and George Kennedy, and Paul Newman of course. [Howard – Paul Newman was nice – he would order Coors beer for the crew every night. But he kept quiet and to himself – distant really. Other people’s radar detected that, and gave him his space].

It was a high testosterone cast. Besides the actors mentioned, this prison tale’s landscape was populated with familiar faces: Strother Martin, Clifton James, Morgan Woodward, Luke Askew, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton, Ralph Waite and Anthony Zerbe. Of the cast’s thirty-seven members only two were women – Jo Van Fleet, an actress who played Luke’s mom, and Joy Harmon, whose car washing scene raised eyebrows among the cast and after the film’s release. [Howard – the scene was not planned in advance].

The lop-sided proportion was reflected in the crew also. Here too there were only two women, a hair stylist and the script supervisor. This fact was overlooked on occasion and led to some ticklish problems. In one instance the female script supervisor was put in a very uncomfortable position. In preparation for an important scene, the one in which Luke was to be punished by being placed in solitary, a small box the size of an outhouse – all unnecessary crew and cast were moved well back from the camera setup (about a hundred feet). The only ones allowed close were those required to be there –  the director and his staff, the cameramen and this script supervisor. She had no idea what was going to happen. The script read:

          Luke steps forward, pulls off his shirt and jacket. He steps
                behind the latticework screen to take off his pants as the
                Captain speaks.

When Newman stripped off all his clothes, the script supervisor burst into tears. Howard watched as Hank Moonjean leapt into action, suddenly aware of the problem, he stepped up to comfort her, and apologized profusely that she had not been filled in completely beforehand.

Howard relates that the DP, Conrad Hall, (“Connie” to cast and crew) was an excellent cameraman, and that he wished he had been able to work with him more.  The director, Stuart Rosenburg had worked mainly in TV and at that time had only one film to his credit (as co-director on Murder Inc in 1960).  Howard remembers him as a nice, quiet individual, a smoker. And perhaps because he was riding herd on such a huge cast – he let Connie select all the camera positions and lenses, controlling completely the look of the film.

When the exteriors were complete, the company moved back to the studio for interiors. But with a week and a half still to run on “Cool Hand Luke,” Howard was taken off and put onto Camelot, (the principals were just back from shooting exteriors in Europe). Howard Kazanjian’s training was over.

The Greening of Finian and Magical FX

When the production of Finian’s Rainbow moved inside, it tied up two of the sound stages at Warner Brothers. One had the running brook set that was bounded by steep rock walls (they were sealed underneath to keep the water isolated), the other held the bridge, a pivotal setting that set up the ending. One of the stages had a wooden floor which was removable, giving access to more area, allowing them to build up from the “basement.” (Howard Kazanjian- WB had several of this type of soundstage. You chose it normally when you needed to give your set a dual level. If your set was on the stage floor and the stairway went down, you needed to remove that portion of the floor to accommodate the stairs down).

Both sound stages were “greened in.” Even though one had just recently held the forest for Camelot (also a credit for Howard, see previous posts), it was completely revamped – with new trees, bushes, sod etc. Some of the trees and bushes were fake, but the sod was all real. The sod gave a rich green color to the scenes, but like the grass out at Griffith Park it would turn brown too, but for the opposite reason. (Howard – inside the sound stages there was no sunlight – hence no photosynthesis could take place). They kept having to replace the sod. This green turf also meant problems for the actors. It was slippery, and had a tendency to slide out from under the actors, notably during the duet “That Old Devil Moon” between Don Francks and Petula Clark.

Like for these two, the stages were busy crossroads for the other main actors. Fred Astaire’s character, shadowed by leprechaun Steele, buries the pot of gold beneath the sod. The SFX department was called in to give this crock some “magical” properties. It is quite striking to see Fred’s face illuminated by the golden light when he removes it from his carpetbag, prior to burying it. It was a simple effect. (Howard – it was a 100W bulb on a dimmer. The interior of the crock was sanded thin so the light could shine through).

A more complicated effect was put in place for the exchange between Tommy Steele and the antagonist Keenan Wynn. Earlier, Wynn had magically been changed from a white man to a black man, when Petula wished for this, in exasperation at his bigoted attitude. (This transformation was an effect all done with the camera, the soundtrack, the editing, and another use of the wind machine). After Steele encounters the grumpy antagonist in the forest he sets about to cast a spell to make him good on the inside. The pool beside them begins to swirl and “magically” change colors (from green-yellow, to red, to yellow, and back to red again). It was all mechanical and chemical. Howard told me that FX guys built into this pool a mechanical device that set the water in motion – and the colors were from different dyes whose release was governed by a timer. (Interestingly, Keenan’s transformation back to white was executed by a jump cut, a nicely done edit, in one clip he was in blackface, in the second he was without).

Barbara Hancock’s ballet was probably the last thing done on the running brook set. There was a large area nearby above the brook simulating a meadow. Water was sprinkled from above, and an arc light flashed for lightning, as she glissades, jetes, etc in the “rain.” (Howard – the master shot was done in one take, with many pick-up shots and closer shots captured later). It culminated in her character unearthing the buried crock, and another chance for the SFX department to display their wares.

Rehearsing Finian

There were three weeks of rehearsals at the studio before principal photography started. It was made up of many elements and Howard Kazanjian was right in the middle of it.

As in his turn on Camelot, Howard was given charge of the stars in the morning call for Finian’s Rainbow. He would check in on them and ask about their needs (had they eaten, etc.). He had one actor this go-around that gave him no end of problems when it came to his make-up call. Don Francks had an attitude problem (it nearly cost him his role in the film). [Howard  – he was not likable – he had that STAR mentality that sometimes infects performers. It went like this – on a first film an actor would talk to you – by the second, you had to knock on his door – by the third stage, who are you? Francks had jumped to the third stage in this his first major film].

On the other hand, Fred Astaire was grand. He and his choreographer Hermes Pan arrived early on the set and would spend the whole day, rehearsing, rehearsing, and more rehearsing. At first the songs were all pre-recorded versions. Later they added a live piano on the set. Howard was in awe of Astaire’s “dance ethic.” Fred was dedicated and meticulous (in his old RKO and MGM days, Fred was known to have rehearsed some numbers for six months before committing it to film).

Astaire had some disappointments along the way in the production of Finian. Fred had preferred one of his experienced dance partners, Barrie Chase, in the role of Susan the Silent. Instead, Coppola opted for a younger unknown dancer, Barbara Hancock (Howard – she turned out to be a real trooper – in the dance number in the rain – Barbara persevered despite suffering from the flu). But his biggest disappointment was the loss of his long time collaborator, Hermes Pan. Coppola let him go half way through production and replaced him with someone far less experienced. Fred didn’t fight it, philosophically he chalked it up to the prerogative of the director. Still, it was a blow to Fred and may have bled into his performance. Howard noticed that the solo dance number that Fred performed in the barn seemed flat and unenergetic [Howard – I had watched him dance his heart out all day long in those rehearsals. He was much more agile than that. He could have done much more and better!]

As part of the rehearsal process, Coppola had a table read through the whole script, just with the principals. And as an additional aid, they booked the rehearsal hall on the WB lot and did the whole show, a full-blown “Broadway Musical” – just no sets. Coppola even brought in his father Carmine to provide the music accompaniment. Howard was the stage manager, cueing everything, including the lights from his place in the theater seats. This was an important step for two reasons. One, Francis got a feel for the flavor of the whole production; and two, the cast got a feel for how all everything fit together, a crucial understanding, especially as they entered film production and its need for shooting out of order.

Be sure to catch next Wednesday for “Under the Spreading Cement Tree,” the next post in The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.

The Education of an Assistant Director

Having just finished one musical – Camelot – Howard Kazanjian was now being put aboard another – Finian’s Rainbow. But instead of a veteran director, he was being teamed with a young film school grad, who had only one other film under his belt – Francis Ford Coppola.

This production marked the end his trial period with the DGA. On his own time, Howard took in all the PGA / DGA seminars he could, seminars that addressed the rules and regulations of the SAG, the Teamsters, IA, etc. As a result, he became quite knowledgeable in these matters, often knowing more than the first ADs, men that were often 25 years his senior. (Aside – Howard was once in William L Schaefer’s office, the executive assistant to Jack Warner himself. A question arose about one of the SAG regulations. Howard explained to him what the rule was and how it would benefit the production. Schaefer had to call the SAG to confirm what Howard proposed. They did. Schaefer who had worked at the studio since 1933, was completely unaware of this particular regulation).

So on the set, as an AD you had to have your fingers on the pulse of all the situations before you, so as to not fall afoul of any of the SAG or other union regulations and incur unwanted monetary penalties that were charged against the production. Chief among these regulations were those governing work hours and meal times.

First, you had your 8 hour day, at your regular rate, but overtime did not kick in until after 10 hours. Overtime would mean time and a half on the pay scale. That means you could work your people 9 plus hours before multiples of their rates kicked in.

If the production did go into overtime, the AD had leeway to send certain crew members home – like a greensman or a certain number of electricians or even unneeded extras. In these instances they were people that had already finished their work, having prepped the set, and were only on standby for emergencies.

And then there were the meal rules –

Beginning the day, actors in for make up at 6AM would be offered a bite of breakfast. Then counting from 7AM the next meal (lunch) had to be offered within the next 5 and half hours. Counting from the end of their meal period their next meal had to be offered within the next six hours. As AD you had to keep all these things in mind and watch your clock, for there were penalties when these time frames were exceeded.                                                                                                                                          

 If they failed to break for a meal within the prescribed time the meal penalty kicked in – the first half hour meant a rate of time and a half – the second half hour double time.

At the end of the day, Howard took his time cards, made all the calculations and handed them in to payroll.  For his attention to detail, he earned the respect and approval of the studio.  They liked him, and he was being groomed for bigger and better things.

On the other side of the coin, Howard Kazanjian was well liked by the actors and the extras. He tried to have answers for the questions they came to him for. If he didn’t have an answer, he told them he would try to get one, especially for the extras.  Howard knew that as extras, if they were not working, they needed to be looking for work. And they did not want to move on, if there were any chance at all there would be something for them. It was the considerate thing to do.

Come back next week for the continuing Adventures of Howard Kazanjian in “Meeting Francis Ford Coppola.”

Howard’s Friend Joel Freeman

Howard's Friend Joel Freeman

Camelot as a Warner Bros. project was Jack Warner’s baby. But he only put in a couple of appearances on set. Joel Freeman, listed as the “associate producer” (and Howard Kazanjian’s friend), actively produced the movie.

Howard Kazanjian was at a good age – fresh from the DGA training program and full of questions and wanting to excel in his craft. He found a willing mentor in Joel. Howard learned more from Joel than anyone else in the business.

Joel Freeman is now 93, and still active.  (In fact, Howard talked to him recently about some projects that Joel was trying to launch).   At the age of twenty, Joel started as a messenger at MGM (where his uncle, Dore Schary then worked).  During WWII, he served in an Army Air Force film unit. After the war he became an AD at two of the smaller studios, RKO and Selznick. In the late 40s he made the move back to MGM, where his uncle Dore had taken over the reigns from Louis B Mayer. Later in the fifties, Joel became an independent supervisor for film and TV, then followed his uncle to WB  for two projects – Sunset at Campobello and the Music Man.

Joel was extremely cautious – he would call on Howard to supply him with numbers, lots of numbers.  If extras were used – how many? How many hours did they work? When did they start the day? Could extra crew be sent home early? What time did they go to lunch? Howard learned to count everything, right down to the amount of lunches consumed.  [Howard – (on their next project together – Finian’s  Rainbow) – “buses were used to transport extras to off locations – seats on one bus numbered 32; on the other 33 –  how many empty seats were there? Remember there were no vans in that day. You recorded what time you left one stage and what time you arrived at another, and what time you started shooting.  Optimally you would move around lunch time. All this was recorded in the Production report, from which you could see your money savings”].

But there was another side to Joel.

Once, when they were still in the midst of shooting Camelot, a big press junket was announced for the studio. Joel took Howard aside and told him he was invited.

Howard replied – But I’m not dressed for it. And that he’d have to go home to get a proper change of clothes.

Instead, Joel ordered him to the wardrobe department.  There they fitted him on the spot – selected a suit, marked  and pinned it up and told him to come back. When he did, they were just pressing it. They supplied him with socks and proper shoes and he was off to the junket.

Howard noticed that on the suit there had been a tag with an actor’s name. He attended the press junket in a costume originally made for Christopher Plummer for his role in another recent WB film –  Inside Daisy Clover.

Be sure to return next week for the last Camelot post – The Iconic Ending –  in The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.

Painting Stars and Falling Knights

Painting Stars and Falling Knights

For Howard Kazanjian, the day started before 6AM. He had to be on the Warner Bros. lot and look in on the two stars of the production, Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. They had appointments to keep with the make up people each day at 6:00 sharp. If they were in place, he could check two items off his list.

They each were given two hours for the process.  Vanessa kept her appointment in the make up department itself. She had her hair tended to for the first hour – washed etc., then make up took up the second hour. Harris had his make up done in his dressing room. Howard would bounce back and forth between the two, asking if there were anything at all that they needed. And he had it as his responsibility to keep a vehicle on hand at all times for them, even if they decided to walk to the set afterwards.

[Aside – The terms bungalow and dressing room are often thrown about without reference, so it might be important to understand the difference between them. The bungalows were little cottages, built right on the studio lot. Harris and Redgrave had ones right across from the tennis courts (now gone).  (David Hemmings also had one). They were for daytime use (naps etc), and could only be used overnight by permission of the studio guards. The dressing rooms were located right on the sets themselves or just outside the stage doors. They were little 10’ by 10’ wooden structures on wheels. They were spartan, containing little more than a mirror and a cot, a little hideaway retreat when not needed for a shot. Make-up would get a touch up when there and they only could be moved by the transportation department].

In the pre-production phase, Howard was present for some of the costume and hair tests on Camelot. These were important to keep all the production departments in the loop, especially the art department. Howard cites an example of what can go wrong if, say the wardrobe and art departments are not communicating. On an indie production on which Howard was executive producer, an academy award-winning actress appeared in a red dress at a funeral parlor with red flocked wall paper – with the result – all you could make out was her face.

If stuntmen were needed for a shoot, Howard had to put them on his call sheet the morning before also. He would also list what they would need for wardrobe and equipment. Here again the wardrobe and art departments would take note. Armor came within the purview of the Wardrobe Department.  There were two types of armor used in Camelot. Metal or rubber. The horses were always in the rubber version. And depending on what was being filmed, people were in metal ones for close ups, and the lighter stuff for action or battle scenes.  Extras in the BG were usually in rubber. (Their swords were rubber too as can be seen by too close attention to that area of the screen during the battle sequences). The Wardrobe Department  would age them governed by the cues gleaned from the script, i.e. before battle or after battle.

One of the major sequences requiring stuntmen was the jousting tournament between Lancelot and three of the knights who disliked him. These stuntmen came on early in the production to work with the co-ordinator and the Art Department. Joe Cannutt and his brother Tap were two of the main stuntmen. (Hal Needham of Smoky and the Bandit fame also worked with them – all three had recently worked together on another medieval period film – The War Lord with Charlton Heston).

A lot of planning went into it.  The jousting scene was a wire gag. They would rehearse the gag beforehand. The jousting field was scheduled for an exterior location, listed on the call sheet as Devil’s Gulch, a special area in the backlot.  The dirt in the jousting area was combed through and any rocks removed. Consulting with the Art Department they picked a structure upon which to anchor the wire, paying close attention to the height at which it was attached.

The wire would be attached to the back of the stuntman and of a measured length so as to yank him off at the desired distance – coinciding with his being struck from the front by his opponent’s lance. (Howard – “Any sign of the wire would be blurred or erased using vaseline on the glass plate in the printing process”).

Howard was only involved directly with the stuntmen after the camera was turning. In one of the screen captures of the joust that I sent Howard to identify, he said that he was one of the figures in the frame running to check on a minor accident. Any time anyone hit the dirt, he had to check them out.  In this particular incident, one of the stuntmen had fallen and hit the rail that separated the charging knights. A center section of the rail was balsa wood, but not all of it.

Howard was making sure that the falling knight had landed on the right section of the rail. Thankfully he had, and he was uninjured.

Join me next week for the next installment in the Adventures of Howard Kazanjian – “Howard’s Friend Joel Freeman.”

Dick Kline DP

Dick Kline DP

So Howard Kazanjian on one side reported to the director Josh Logan, but he also came in the orbit of influence of the director of photography, Dick Kline. Sometimes there can be a struggle between the Director and the DP in creative matters, with the Director holding the upper hand.  Instead Logan concerned himself more with the major talents (and the budget, and cutting costs), and he gave a lot of latitude to Kline in setting up the shots.  He trusted him to do more than just light for the camera.

Dick Kline’s father was cinematographer Benjamin H Kline, who had been working in Hollywood since the silent days in the 1920s – up through the 50s and 60s when he switched to television.  (At Columbia in the 40s he turned the camera on the shenanigans of the Three Stooges).

In Dick Kline, Howard found an excellent friend and a mentor. They had worked together on another project here at Warners – a pilot for a TV series called “House of Wax”.

[Aside – House of Wax was turned down by the network, so WB released it as a feature, under the title it would have had as the first episode – Chamber of Horrors].

Kline’s turn as DP on it had caught the eye of studio head Jack Warner, who in acknowledgement gave him the DP position on his next personal production – Camelot.  And because Kline had been impressed by Howard and his get up and go attitude, he went to the powers that be and asked that Howard be assigned to Camelot too. [Howard – I never walked but ran everywhere, tackling my tasks. I used to be on two phones at once, and listening to what was going on, on set]

Howard also liked Kline’s camerawork. [Howard – Dick had a different way of lighting a scene.  And on Camelot his style conflicted with the key gaffer, causing a little friction].  The old timers were more attuned to the slower film speeds (AS200) which called for tons of light.  Kline toned down the lights, but would throw extra on smaller areas. For example, in Vanessa’s arrival at Camelot, for the dolly shot that followed her horse litter, he trained a PAR light (Parabolic anodized reflector) on the star while they did this traveling shot.

And Howard especially appreciated the fact that Kline was helpful with directors, or more specifically young ADs. Kline kept Howard informed. He would let Howard know when his cameras were in place, and the set lit, giving Howard ample time to have the actors and extras in place. (Unlike Howard’s experience later with the DP on The Wild Bunch). Or conversely he would give him a heads up about delays, and if it were near to the lunch hour, Howard could fully use that intelligence and call an early lunch, saving both time and money.

Kline also gave him advice about the business and about people.  And pointers on why he did things a certain way. Howard would write notes on the margins of his script about camera setups and lighting. [Howard – you have to pick a style – you move or you don’t. Kline only moved when he had to, preferring to keep the camera stationary. And he used the crane a lot.]

For one shot – one end of the throne room set had been converted to the round table room. (These sets were housed within the largest sound stage on the WB lot). A simple establishing shot was planned – the whole entirety of the round table would be in view and the camera operator was to pan up from there and take in the stained glass windows on the wall behind them.  Howard was watching and thought the operator hadn’t quite fulfilled the task. He brought his concern to Kline. Kline quizzed his operator if he had panned up as instructed. The cameraman assured his boss that he had, and it was left at that.  However, the dailies came back and when run they showed that the operator had not covered them completely. But it was all too late, the round table set by that time had been broken down and it would have been too expensive to set up again.

Stay tuned next week for “Painting Stars and Falling Knights,” the next post in The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.

Josh Logan Director

Josh Logan Director

Howard Kazanjian called him Mr. Logan. And to Josh Logan, Howard was Howard.

Logan was not only a respected director, with lots of credits on stage and in film, he was also a writer and producer in both mediums. Josh used to talk to Howard about personal things – the difficulties in his life – stretching back to losing his father to suicide when but three years old.  Though, now happily married and with children of his own, he hinted to Howard that challenges and struggles dogged his steps.  (A couple years later Logan talked in public more freely about his bipolar disorder and the relief that lithium was bringing him).

Mr. Logan was 58 at that time, which was probably the median age of those who made up the crews at WB. The studio made the choice for first AD on Camelot.  It was a poor one – there were quite a few projects at the time that were tying up the best. Howard was given the second AD slot. With his get-up-and-go, can-do attitude, Logan came to depend very much upon Howard.

Howard was the only one from the crew (except for perhaps DP Dick Kline) that was invited out to the home Logan had rented in Beverly Hills. Howard came with his girl friend. When the butler, towel over his arm, answered the door, and greeted them each by name, a small mystery was cleared up. Josh when on set was always impeccably dressed in a dark suit and tie. And highly polished shoes. And this was despite what type of setting they toiled in. At times it was downright gritty. For instance, when working in the “snow” scene which I have noted before was actually salt – all the shine had worn off those shoes by the end of the day. The next morning when Logan arrived on set, the shoes were restored to their glossy glory. And here greeting them was the reason why they were always pristine.

There are sometimes uncomfortable chores handed out to ADs by their directors. Two weeks into shooting, preparations were being made for the “It’s May” scene that called for lots of extras. Howard was charged with arranging their auditions. It seemed that Logan interviewed every male extra in Hollywood. He would have Howard line them up for review en masse in the street – different groups – knights – street musicians – townspeople etc. Logan would walk the line like a general reviewing his troops. One group he wanted to have a second look at, and ordered Howard to assemble them again, but this time just in their underwear. Shades of Erich von Stroheim, but understandable when considering this group needed to look fit – no unseemly bulges in the tight leather jerkins or other close-fitting garments that these extras would be wearing for the lusty month of May number.

Logan had an office on the lot (the one currently occupied by Clint Eastwood and his Malpaso Company). His secretary administered things for him there. From this HQ, he would drive over to whatever set was scheduled for that day, (sometimes visiting a couple) and after a review with Howard and Kline, Logan would tell them what needed to be done, and return to his office until the preparations were complete. One afternoon when they called the secretary to relay a 10 minute warning, she informed them that Logan wasn’t in. The associate producer Joel Freeman called down to the studio gate, and the guard there confirmed that Logan had indeed driven off the lot. Logan had visited the set, but upon leaving there, he switched to auto pilot and drove home. Thereafter Joel left a standing order with the gate guards – that if it were only midday they weren’t to let Logan off the lot.

On tap for next week – Dick Kline DP, the next installment in the Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.

Camelot on the Warner Lot

Camelot on the Warner Lot

Principal photography on Camelot commenced in Europe. The director, Josh Logan took his key cast members and some of the key crew on the expedition, and filled up the balance of the crew (a larger contingent) with Europeans. It was a quick trip over there to set the big locales against the backdrop of real castles and landscapes. If you remember Lancelot “singing” his way down to the sea to take a boat for England, that was all shot at that time.

While they had been busy shooting in Europe, the carpenters back at the studio were busy constructing the sets based on production designer John Truscott’s vision of Camelot. Under his direction the largest building on the lot, called The Mill, was buzzing. It was the facility where all the props, large and small were fabricated. And besides “dressing up” the sets they supplied the actors with most (not all) of their hardware. They were called upon to supply the armor and swords for those filling the part of knights.  [Howard – some chain mail and boots were brought back from London].

So when Howard drove his 1966 GTO onto the WB lot that day when photography began at the studio, he found the Casablanca street converted into King Arthur’s mythological England. [A side note – this standing set was later converted for use on the TV series Kung Fu starring David Carradine].

First up before the cameras was Laurence Naismith, who had the part of the wizard Merlin. His costume, Howard says, was a marvel, with all manner of strange critters, slugs and bugs woven into it. In fact it was more striking in person than what the camera was able to capture. And the actor was fitted for a pair of contact lenses that had a mirror-like surface that gave a striking cast to his appearance on screen – lending a air of mystery, fitting for a character who was living his life backwards in time.

A winter scene was set up for the arrival in Camelot of Guinevere, Vanessa Redgrave.  The stage was decked out with a blanket of snow, and nestled in the background was Camelot castle.  Of course, no snow was harmed (or melted) in the filming of this picture. Lots of salt stood in for that wintry substance. It was replaced in close ups, when the actors needed to fall back onto a “snowy” cushion, by ice that was ground into a fine powder. In that instance the doors were kept closed and the AC on the set boosted, prompting the crew to don parkas. And that castle in the background was actually a miniature. This miniature also had been made at the Mill.

This winter scene was the showcase for the title song – “Camelot.” As was the form, Redgrave lip synched her part, but Harris had other ideas. [Howard – “Harris wanted to sing live, not on pre-recorded track – – because Rex Harrison (who could sing) was over at the Fox lot singing/filming Doctor Doolittle.  Logan and the music department were against this.  And it showed in the movie.  Harris couldn’t sing.   Have you ever watched American Idol or heard a friend who THOUGHT he could sing, but really sounded terrible. Well……”].

Though Howard was given an office on the lot he spent little time in it. Instead he had a “stand up” office on whatever set he was working. [Howard – “it was a little stand up desk 3’ by 3’ on wheels. A high stool came with it. The top was tilted, higher at the back than the front”]. There he kept his records and tended to an important facet of his job – co-ordinating the orders of director Logan and the director of photography Dick Kline.

Join me next week for “Josh Logan – Director” the next post in The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.

In the Loop with Camelot

In talking with Howard Kazanjian lately about redoing sound for a film he cited this example. He had recently watched “Room with a View” – and noticed the sound of the wind blowing in the background on the track, yet the dialogue was perfect – crisp and clear.  He deduced that the dialogue had been redone later.

It is difficult to record a good sound track outside of a sound stage. Once principal photography is done, if necessary the actors are called back in to re-record their lines. The process is called ADR or Automated Dialog Replacement.

Or back in the days that he was working on Camelot, it was simply called Looping. This is because the scene (or clip of film) is run repeatedly in a loop, while the actor stands in front of a microphone with headphones on, watching the scene and listening to the recorded lines that he is trying to improve. He speaks and is recorded trying to match the lip movement among other considerations. It’s very difficult to get the right tempo, the right inflection – to get into the moment again – (if the actor did not think that he got it right, he would often beg for another take to improve it. And no wonder, for his future career depended on his performance.)

Howard was there for the first looping session which was with Franco Nero, who played Lancelot du Lac. Franco had a heavy Italian accent. Howard spent two to three weeks with him in this process. And Franco’s grammar and pronunciation gradually improved over this period. He came back later for three additional lines and was better still. Howard was also present with the director, Josh Logan, for the looping sessions with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist (and in this case the screenwriter for the film) was there. Sometimes it was just the producer or the sound crew, and other times the sessions were run by other people in the production.

This brought up the question, what about the music? Did they have to come in to re-record the songs? Howard set me straight on that right away. For musicals (like sound tracks for animated films) the songs are always recorded first, usually weeks ahead of shooting. This was the case on Camelot, with a notable exception that will be discussed in the next post.

Howard – “The pre-recorded songs are played back in sync with the camera during photography.  That way the editor can cut from shot to shot without missing any part of the song or the sync.  And usually there is a musical assistant on the set watching lip movement to the recorded track.   He knows if he can adjust the recorded track to match lips if the lips are several frames off.   Nowadays, this is much easier to do with digital tracks, vs. the days of tape recording.”  

     Join me next week for “Camelot on the Warner Lot”  when we continue in this series The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian – the Musicals.