Concerning the Presentation of "Gone With the Wind"
July 22, 2012 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Concerning the Presentation of "Gone With the Wind" [via]
posted by brundlefly (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gone with the Wind is just a prequel to Avatar.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:34 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Projection instructions aren't that uncommon: Barry Lyndon, Mulholland Drive, uh, Transformers 3. I'm sure there are one or two similar directives from Hitchcock, although cursory Googling isn't helping me out here. We're less likely to see them these days, as it's pretty unusual for a human to be involved in the technical side of projection at your average multiplex.

As for the sexism, respectfully, is taking 1940 to task for that really productive?
posted by figurant at 9:48 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's funny, I always thought the opening music in old movies was like an overture but I didn't realize it was literally considered as one.

After having read the whole thing I can only imagine how many times this all got screwed up. I wonder if those people who watched the screwed up versions considered it a good movie or not.
posted by bleep at 9:48 PM on July 22, 2012


From the wikipedia entry on Selznick: Hm.

In other news, Gone With the Wind will be showing as the final film in the summer movie series at Austin's Paramount Theater on Sun, August 9th, if anyone in the area is interested.
posted by hanoixan at 9:49 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here are similar instructions for The Ten Commandments.

If only new movies were released with this degree of premeditated showmanship!

It's not even actually that complicated — Selznick's note is basically just about curtain and lighting cues. But a little bit goes a long way.
posted by bubukaba at 9:52 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


God. Picky much?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2012


Also, while this stuff does look crazy picky on paper, these memos are actually pretty practical.

They help the projectionist not accidentally cut off the sound too early or leave the audience in complete darkness while the entrance/intermission/exit music plays, etc. Since all of this sound is printed on the actual film with nothing but blackness where the image would normally be, it's really helpful to have documentation that describes how long the sound keeps going and to have authoritative recommendations from the studio about how to fill that time (whether by closing the curtains, bringing the house lights up part way, etc). I house managed a screening of The Ten Commandments, and having DeMille's memo on hand was genuinely helpful.

On preview: why is this interesting? I was asking myself that! I'm interested in it because I am a projectionist, and I love learning things about the behind the scenes technical history of the movies. I assume there are people who don't work in the field who are interested for similar reasons; the movies are mass entertainment, and most of the stuff that made (and makes) them actually happen is, by design, invisible (that's part of the whole point of these memos).
posted by bubukaba at 10:19 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Clearer copy of Gone with the Wind.
Less claustrophobic copy of Ten Commandments.
Instructions for Ben-Hur, El Cid, and West Side Story.

All from one of my favorite technical geek sites, Widescreen Museum.

While we're on the subject, here's a frame from an ill-conceived 70mm (widescreen) print of GwtW.
posted by plasquatch at 10:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a relevant history of film projection, written by a longtime projectionist and film collector. He talks a little about showmanship, and wraps up with later developments that eliminated the need for professional projectionists, ending with this line:

Goodbye, projectionists and showmanship! You will be missed by those old enough to remember you.
posted by evilcolonel at 10:46 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


--Casual sexism--(comment from the document poster)

If it's 70-odd years ago and all or just about all projectionists as the doc poster notes) were in fact men and the norm of the times was to address men or expect that by using a male orientated word they were actually including all people, I find it a little bit umm.. unnecessary to frame it as 'casual sexism' (even if it is, technically speaking: the inference of the comment, seems to me, is to point out the fact as being somehow unusual). I'm not saying it doesn't clang or that it shouldn't have changed, but this particular document is not of itself a standout in this respect is it? If it was from the last 30 or so years, I'd be wanting to point out the archaic and sexist language choice, but is it still "casual sexism" if it's of its time? (I'm genuinely wondering)
posted by peacay at 12:28 AM on July 23, 2012


Hey kids -- you think that's bad -- wait til you see the sexism IN THE MOVIE ITSELF!

(Not to mention the racism...)

The documents themselves, though, pretty awesome.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:19 AM on July 23, 2012


As for the sexism, respectfully, is taking 1940 to task for that really productive?

mentioning stuff =/= taking to task
(no need to make a female projectionist sound militant because she's mentioning in passing evidence of a different time for her field. If you are not a lady I will share with you that it is actually jarring at times to realize how anomalous you would be in terms of history, for reasons of prejudice.)

(I mean, is pointing out that no one should mention sexism if it was a long time ago really that productive? It's pretty unproductive. Sometimes people just like to talk about things though, y'know.)

is it still "casual sexism" if it's of its time? (I'm genuinely wondering)

If the definition of casual sexism is sexism that passes for casual language, then I'm thinking yes. There being few or no female projectionists at the time is obviously tied up with sexism. Again, the experience of being a woman includes occasionally being confronted by evidence of a time where your rights and privileges were severely curtailed. It does feel slightly smothering when people/men feel the need to take that personally or quash the conversation.



Anyway, as a big film nerd and erstwhile projectionist's assistant, I find this really charming and wonderful. Pure experience of film is undervalued, imo. And these directions aren't actually that divergent from our typical practice when I worked at a small film house. (Except that we chose our own music to fit the mood of our film each week.)
posted by stoneandstar at 1:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


-It does feel slightly smothering when people/men feel the need to take that personally or quash the conversation-

I've written and rewritten many thoughts by way of response and then jettisoned them all. I don't know what to say if you think that because I react differently from being a guy, yet ask questions to try to understand a woman's point of view, that I take it personally and am trying to quash a conversation. Casual sexism is a modern expression. I find it odd projected back 70 years is all. You and other women see that document and see a sexist framework from a bygone era. I know men and women view many circumstances of the world differently. If we can't ask each other questions about our respective points of view and reactions, we can't build bridges to understanding or empathy.
posted by peacay at 3:02 AM on July 23, 2012


This was more common in the '30s and '40s and into the 50's - the golden age of the movie palace - where they tried to put in stuff to make the presentation more like a stage production, with scripted lighting and curtain cues. The drive-in pretty much brought this to an end, and the multiplex, with smaller screens and audiences in a cinder-block room lined with black fabric and no curtain or even house-lights beyond what was needed to find your seat, drove the final nail into that coffin.

Intermissions were snipped out: with three or more shows running at once, a projectionist could not guarantee they'd be able to pull the shutters and bring up the lights without neglecting another show's cutover or intermission. Showtimes were also staggered for this reason. One film's cutover, where the one reel runs out of film as the other reel is started to take over, won't interfere with another film... and this has also extended to "thread-up" times in the platter systems that no longer use reels.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:53 AM on July 23, 2012


Gone with the Wind was a roadshow movie which means that it was shown initially in limited release only in the biggest downtown theaters probably with reserved seats and a printed program. Going to a movie like that was more like going to a concert or a play than our modern movie viewing experience so the studio would want to make sure that the details were correct at each theater it played in.
posted by octothorpe at 5:42 AM on July 23, 2012


is it still "casual sexism" if it's of its time? (I'm genuinely wondering)

Yes, the answer to your question is yes. It's still sexism because it's the idea that women aren't capable of the task, and it's casual because it's mentioned in passing. If we don't describe accurately what happened in the past, we're doomed to repeat it.
posted by bleep at 7:00 AM on July 23, 2012


Can't say for sure, as it's been at least ten years since I've read it, but I think that the contents of that instructional memo (the very thing that the post links to) is reprinted in Memo from David O. Selznick, a fantastically interesting book that offers more insight into the day-to-day workings of "Golden Age" Hollywood than anything I've ever read.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:07 AM on July 23, 2012


If you ever get out to Hollywood, skip the Universal theme park adolescent BS and instead take the Warner Brothers Studio tour. One important tour stop deep inside the campus is at the WB movie memorabilia museum, where they have costumes and other items from the production of various movies. Photography is strictly forbidden, and I mean strictly -- IIRC you even have to keep your cell phones powered off.

And I would kill to have been able to take pictures of the memos they have on display in glass cases in their. Endless unholy rants by the power brokers of the industry, from studio heads to marquee stars. I went by myself (was in town on a business trip) and it tore me up that I couldn't capture it to later share with fellow movie buffs.

Take that tour.
posted by intermod at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2012


I've written and rewritten many thoughts by way of response and then jettisoned them all. I don't know what to say if you think that because I react differently from being a guy, yet ask questions to try to understand a woman's point of view, that I take it personally and am trying to quash a conversation. Casual sexism is a modern expression. I find it odd projected back 70 years is all. You and other women see that document and see a sexist framework from a bygone era. I know men and women view many circumstances of the world differently. If we can't ask each other questions about our respective points of view and reactions, we can't build bridges to understanding or empathy.

I don't mean that you were intentionally quashing the conversation, though it does seem like you've taken it rather personally, if you had to write and rewrite your response so maybe times. But as women, it is tiring to nearly always be questioned about whether discussing sexism is valid. If it's a grey area, we're told it's maybe not necessarily sexism, and if it's obviously sexism, then we're told it's not clear why bother bringing it up. You asked a question, and I gave you my best answer, and also let you know that it's somewhat annoying to hear (often) that talking about sexism is problematic in itself. I thought I was pretty understanding in answering the question, now you can be the same.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:19 AM on July 24, 2012


You and other women see that document and see a sexist framework from a bygone era.

Wait, what exactly do you see?

Anyway, the reality is that when women talk about these things, usually men pop in to ask us whether the conversation is really that important (A: yes), and if we don't answer, we're not "building bridges to empathy and understanding," and if we do answer, then we're spending energy we might want to spend on the original conversation on explaining why our feelings are valid. It's just very boring for most women and it's better sometimes to do a little self-reflection and research on one's own. No personal offense meant.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:23 AM on July 24, 2012


(Also, as important as empathy and understanding are, they're often quite difficult to bring about, so you can see why a woman might just want to make a passing reference to some striking instance of casual sexism and leave it at that, instead of making three consecutive self-consciously delicate comments trying to justify calling the exclusion of women from various fields "sexism," which it obviously is.)
posted by stoneandstar at 3:34 AM on July 24, 2012


I'll be off doing some self reflection then.
posted by peacay at 4:19 AM on July 24, 2012


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