“SI ME NECESITAS… SILBA!” TENER O NO TENER…. «sex appeal»

No hay nada, nada, que le pueda gustar más al público que las historias que toman forma real nacidas entre las bambalinas de las etéreas paredes del cine. “A dream comes true”, que tanto le gustaba repetir al tío Walt. Y pocas historias pueden enmarcarse con tanta perfección dentro de esa fantasía como la de Lauren Bacall y Humphrey Bogart.

Lauren Bacall y Humphrey Bogart

No podían ser, aparentemente, más opuestos o antagonistas. Humphrey Bogart, su verdadero nombre, era un niño bien nacido en una familia adinerada que conoció la fama siendo muy joven. Su familia, eso sí, perdió hasta los pantalones durante la crisis de la gran depresión en 1929. Bogart había nacido con buena estrella, incluso se tomó la molestia de nacer el 25 de diciembre, sin embargo, el cine no se lo puso nada fácil. Pasó diez años entre las bambalinas de Broadway hasta que la crisis del 29 hizo que se moviera, junto con muchos otros actores de su generación hasta la soleada California en busca de mejores oportunidades en Hollywood. Y Hollywood no le regaló nada. Pasarían varios años antes de que en 1934 tuviera su oportunidad en “El Bosque Petrificado”. Ese papel haría de Bogart lo que es comenzando a perfilar su icónico personaje de tipo duro y anti-héroe.

Lauren Bacall, nacida Betty Joan Perske, llegó al mundo 35 años más tarde, como única hija de una familia judía de inmigrantes polacos bastante más humilde. Sus padres se divorciaron cuando ella tenía cinco años. Su madre hizo cuanto pudo porque Betty tuviera una vida mejor y, pese, a sus dificultades, Betty tuvo una educación en una escuela privada. Pero las ideas de Betty sobre su futuro no pasaban por la universidad. Desde muy niña Betty quiso dedicarse a la farándula y estudió en la famosa Academia Americana de Arte Dramático de Nueva York.

En cuanto salió de la escuela primaria decidió ponerse a trabajar como actriz pero rápidamente descubrió sus posibilidades como modelo y no hizo ascos a ninguna oportunidad. La Bacall siempre tuvo un concepto muy claro del poder de su imagen. En el 43 fue portada del famoso Harper´s Bazaar y fue así como la mujer de Howard Hawks, uno de los más grandes directores que haya dado Hollywood, se empeñó en que este le hiciera una prueba de cámara.

Cautivado por su belleza, o con tal de no tener problemas en casa, Hawks, que estaba preparando “Tener o no tener”, “To Have and Have Not” (1944), con Bogart como protagonista, decidió darle unas líneas y ponerla delante de la cámara.
“Tener o no tener” era una novela de Ernest Hemingway, de esas que escribía con la intención de llegar al gran público, que fue Premio Nobel de literatura unos años más tarde, en el 1954 por su obra completa. Jules Furthman y William Faulkner se encargaban del guion. Ha sido la única vez en toda la historia, hasta la fecha, en la que dos Premios Nobel han tomado parte en el mismo guion de una película. Faulkner fue Premio Nobel de literatura en 1949.

Pero ninguna de estas vacas sagradas iba a ser convocada para una prueba de cámara de una jovencilla sin estrenar por muy bonito que tuviera el porte. Ni corto ni perezoso, Hawks, escribió una escena para que la chiquilla dejara ver cuáles eran sus poderes… si es que tenía alguno. El test se hizo a cuenta de la Warner Bros, y, por supuesto, tampoco se iba a molestar a Bogart, que para entonces ya era una estrella consagrada que ya contaba en su haber con “El Halcón Maltes” y “Casablanca” entre otras muchas mitologías fílmicas para una intrascendente prueba de cámara al uso. No, la prueba se rodó con John Ridgely, un secundario habitual de la Warner, que aquel año rodaba tres películas, entre ellas, “Arsénico por compasión”.

Dicen las malas lenguas que la Bacall estaba tan nerviosa que optó por bajar la barbilla y mirarlo todo y a todos desde esa incómoda posición. Sea o no cierto, lo cierto es que bastó una sola toma para que todo el mundo presente en el plató concluyese que, sin ningún género de dudas, la chica tenía madera. Tenía tanta madera que la escena escrita por Hawks para un sencillo test fue incluida en la película para acabar convirtiéndose en una de las escenas más memorables de todos los tiempos y el inicio de una de las leyendas más famosas en torno a una de las historias de amor más fantaseadas.

Ni Ernest Hemingway ni William Faulkner tuvieron el honor de escribir el famoso “Tú sabes cómo silbar, no?” que una veinteañera, novata e imponente Lauren Bacall le lanza a una desconcertado Bogart que hace lo que puede por mantener el tipo.

Tal vez, Lauren Bacall no era un animal de este mundo. De una belleza impresionante que manejaba con la elegante habilidad de un jugador de póker entrenado en juegos de manos, la Bacall se movía con la lentitud de una pantera a punto de atacar. Lauren Bacall inventó la elegancia; antes de ella, ser elegante era una pose aprendida, pero la Bacall nos hizo comprender a todos que hay cosas que, sencillamente, “se tienen o no se tienen” y no se pueden aprender. Bacall era la mirada, una mirada profunda y penetrante que te penetraba con esa barbilla agachada siempre hacia un lado porque era demasiado alta para poder mirarla de frente y era demasiado altanera como para poder manejarla. Lauren Bacall era una diosa pétrea, inalcanzable, un bunker inabordable que derrochaba una majestuosidad embriagadora produciendo siempre un largo silencio tras su paso. Era como si hiciera falta un tiempo para poder reaccionar tras su impertérrita presencia. Famosa por sus respuestas ácidas, Lauren Bacall fue de todo menos una niñata estúpida o frágil. Sus pies se sujetaban tan fuertemente a la tierra como su cabeza. La Bacall nunca fue una chica fácil de llevar, ni para sus relaciones, ni para los estudios. Miraba los guiones con lupa y se negaba a participar en películas que no le resultaran interesantes. Bacall hacía lo que quería hacer, en cualquier aspecto de su vida.

Respecto a Bogart, para ella fue fácil, conoció al hombre de su vida, se enamoró de él y se quedó con él hasta el último minuto de su existencia. Bogart fue siempre el amor de su vida y todo el mundo lo sabía, su segundo marido, Jason Robards, la llamaba “la viuda de Bogart” a sabiendas de cuanto le molestaba a ella.
El día en que Bogart murió ella dijo, “my husband died. My life collapsed”. Pero, ese mismo año, cuando el famoso periodista M. Parkinson la entrevisto preguntándole por su increíble capacidad para recuperarse ella contestó “ser viuda no es una profesión”

Bacall permaneció al lado de Humphrey hasta el último minuto y luego siguió adelante con la fuerza que la caracterizaba. Se casó con el “tipo duro de Hollywood”, sin embargo ella era la parte más dura y fuerte del tándem. Bogart solía decir que era demasiado dura, pero que a él le gustaba así.

Bacall y Bogart comenzaron a salir juntos inmediatamente después de conocerse. Por aquel entonces, Bogart estaba casado con la actriz Mayo Methot. Su tumultuosa relación, sembrada de borracheras y agresiones físicas, les valió el apelativo de ““The Battling Bogarts” en el todo Hollywood. A principios de los cuarenta, mientras su vida personal se derrumbaba, la carrera de Bogie subía como la espuma. En el 41, “El Halcón Maltés” cosechaba aplausos de crítica y taquilla por doquier, y en el 42, “Casablanca” tuvo un éxito todavía mayor.

Bacall fue a ver Casablanca en Nueva York, donde vivía por aquella época, acompañada por una amiga que se quedó atrapada por el cautivador sex appeal de Bogart, cuando se lo comentó a Bacall a la salida del cine ella le dijo que estaba loca.

“Casablanca” se convirtió en un éxito tal, que la Warner decidió adaptar el material de la novela de Hemingway “Tener o no tener” al estilo de la película con la intención de repetir el éxito del personaje de Rich que con tanta solera ya interpretaba Bogart. La película estaba hecha para que Bolgart la calzase y la recién llegada Bacall se encontró de bruces protagonizando un papel junto al hombre menos sexy del planeta que ella pudiera imaginar.

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, 1944

En su primer encuentro, Bacall descubrió, para su sorpresa, que Bogart era un tipo educado y cordial. Durante su primer día de rodaje, ella se puso muy nerviosa cuando empezó a comprender su inexperiencia como actriz, especialmente al lado del veterano Humphrey, y a temer que el papel y la situación le quedaran grandes. Bogart, zorro viejo en estas lides, comprendió en seguida la situación y comenzó a hacer bromas hasta conseguir que Lauren se tranquilizara. La química entre ellos comenzó a fluir. El la llamaba “Slim”, flaca, y ella a él, “Steve”, nombres y apelativo de los personajes en la película. Ella también comenzó a llamarle “Bogie”.

Tres semanas después de comenzar el rodaje, estaban gastando bromas como de costumbre, cuando, repentinamente, Bogart la besó y le pidió el número de teléfono que utilizó sin reparos esa misma tarde.
Hawks no estaba muy contento con el romance que sus dos protagonistas estaban desarrollando fuera de la pantalla. Dijo que Bogart no estaba siendo profesional y que ella era una tarada. Se enfrentó a los dos y les amenazó diciendo que dejaban de tontear fuera del plató o que aquí se acababa la película. Incluso la amenazó a ella con arruinar su incipiente carrera.

Lo que Hawks ignoraba es que Bogart no estaba “tonteando” con ella en absoluto. En una de sus muchas cartas de amor, Bogart le escribió
“I never believed that I could love anyone again…you are my last love and all the rest of my life I shall love you and watch you, and be ready to help you.”

La madre de Bacall estaba más disgustada de lo que el director Hawks puediera estar. La diferencia de edad era abismal, Bogart era famoso por su afición a la botella y, por si fuera poco, estaba casado. ¿Podía ser peor?

Para desgracia y fortuna de todo el mundo, “Tener o no tener” fue, un glorioso exitazo de taquilla y, por supuesto, la Warner quiso repetir al duo que también había funcionado en taquilla. Se preparó una adaptación de la novela de Raymond Chandler, “El Sueño Eterno” y Bogart y Bacall serían, sí o sí, las estrellas que la harían posible. En 1945, apenas comenzado el rodaje del “Sueño Eterno”, Bogart le pidió el divorcio a Mayo Methot y se fue de su casa.

La imaginación popular quiso hacer de la famosa escena de “Tener o no Tener” en la pantalla el momento real del flechazo de la pareja imaginando que a partir de ahí surgió todo, imaginando una historia de amor sin fisuras que acabó porque la muerte así lo quiso.

Pero, por más que nos empeñemos en que la magia traspase la fantasía, la vida real tiene sus propias ideas sobre sus guiones.

Bogart y Bacall no se divorciaron jamás y estuvieron siempre dispuestos a apoyarse mutuamente hasta el final. Aprendieron a tener una relación más allá de la fantasía del enamoramiento y su unión se mantuvo gracias a su mutua independencia.

Cuenta Bacall que el día en que le dijo a Bogart que se había quedado embarazada tuvieron la mayor bronca de su vida. El tenía 48 años y la paternidad no entraba en sus planes y era algo para lo que, desde luego, no estaba preparado. El continuó gritando y gritando a los cuatro vientos que él no se había casado con ella para perderla por un crío.
Pero, al día siguiente, él, muy en su papel, le escribió una larga carta confesándole que estaba asustado y que le daba miedo ser un mal padre, pero que él sabía lo mucho que ella deseaba tener un hijo y que prometía acostumbrarse a la idea de ser llamado papa.

Los Bogart tuvieron dos hijos que tenían 4 y ocho años cuando él murió.

Disfrutaron de diez años de matrimonio, con sus altos y sus bajos momentos.

Bogart amaba navegar y había superado la etapa del todo Hollywood, así que se sentía más cómodo en la intimidad y en medio del mar que en las fiestas de sociedad. Bacall se mareaba en el barco y prefería las grandes fiestas hechas para ver y para dejarse ver, así que mientras el uno navegaba la otra hacía sociedad.

Pero en los últimos años él no navega solo y ella no bailaba sola.
La eterna compañera de Bogart se llamaba Verita Bouvaire Thompson y gustaba definirse a ella misma como la peor pesadilla de Bacall. La Bacall aseguraba que jamás tuvo celos de ninguna mujer, de lo única que estaba celosa era del amor que su marido profesaba por su barco. Su secretaria y él compartían las dos cosas que más le gustaban a Bogart del mundo, navegar y beber. Se conocieron en el 42, después de Casablanca, según Verita y mantuvieron su relación a pesar de los matrimonios y los años.

Bacall comenzó a mantener, según ella misma, una relación con Sinatra en los últimos años de vida de Bogart quien, parece ser, se hacía perfectamente cargo de que su mujer iba a necesitar una pareja cuando él y no estuviera y acariciaba con agrado de que fuera su viejo amigo Sinatra quien viniera a tomar el relevo. La relación consiguió permanecer en el silencio hasta poco después de la muerte de Bogart en que un periodista aireo que Sinatra le había pedido a Bacall que se casara con él. Parece que este pequeño detalle molestó a Sinatra hasta al punto de dejar plantada a la Bacall.

Bogart fumaba como un carretero y bebía más que un camello, tal vez, quizás eso tuvo algo que ver en su muerte por cáncer de esófago.

Al sentir popular le gusta decir que el día en que se casaron él le regaló a ella un silbato, en referencia a la escena de la película en cuestión, “si me necesitas silba”, que es un concepto, no una línea literal de guion, pese a que la traducción al español decía algo muy parecido “si me necesitas, sólo tienes que silbar”. Pero lo que de verdad dice la Bacall en su famosa línea de guion es “may be just whistle. Tú sabes cómo silvar, no? Solo pon tus labios juntos y sopla.”

El mismo sentir popular es también muy amigo de creer que antes de depositar la urna de sus cenizas en el cementerio ella colocó un silbato en su interior, por la misma razón.

No sabemos si este intercambio de silbatos realmente se llegó a producir, desde luego Bacall no dice nada en sus memorias. Pero si es cierto que ella se refería a él como “Bogie” y él, cuando se ponía cariñoso, la llamaba “flaca”. Y no es menos cierto que a su primer hijo le llamaron “Steve” porque ese era el nombre del personaje de Bogart en una película en la que todos aprendimos a decir “si me necesitas silba”, pese a que nunca fuera esta una línea del guion de una de las historias de amor más intensas y más envidiadas del todo Hollywood.

“No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it,” dejó escrito la Bacall en sus memorias.

Pepa Llausás

A RUSSIAN IN PARIS.THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART II

BEETLESAND WIRES. THE STOP MOTION IS BORN! THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART I

A NEW HOME, A NEW COUNTRY, A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Starewitch arrived here, just where I am right now, in 1920. I have tried to imagine the landscape but I can’t. They, probably, understood nothing at all; didn’t speak French, and had no idea about the place; the city and its customs. Not google or Facebook, for sure! I prefer not to think about his first night there being, again in a new country; this time in a post-war situation. Despite this entire circumstance, he didn’t lose hope and he carried on working, went ahead with his personal projects, and found the way to feed his family.

I wonder how it would have been if he was an American, with the only obsession to fight for his puppets and his films, in a land where “war” was a Griffith film. But, he wasn’t. He was a Russian running away from death, literally struggling for survival, in a land where the blood of the fallen was still flowing in the streets.

We prefer to remember “the happy twenty” like a romantic moment full of prosperity and enthusiasm because that is more comfortable than feeling the desperation and pain before the mass killing of the war which produced the reaction so-called “happy twenty”. I can’t blame them, how could we do it? After the war, they had to carry on with their lives among the devastation, walking between millions of dead people. Millions of people had to resurrect from their own ashes. There wasn’t a single human being who had not lost some of his loved ones. So, they had to call the life back with all their strengths, and that was the “folly of the twenties.” It is better to focus in Charleston when you think about that time.

However, for a certain group of Russian people who were into filming, the situation was not the worst. Once in Paris, Ermolieff visited his old Pathé chief. On July 16, 1920, Pathé signed with Ermolieff a lease of Montreuil studio, along with a promise of sale in 52, rue du Sergent Bobillot, known today as “Albatros” cinema school. Ermolieff created Ermolieff-Cinéma, which became Films Albatros in 1922. It was a short, but interesting adventure. For a while, the Russian community made an oriental inspired cinema with splendorous decorations and costumes. Russian was in fashion in Paris for a moment in the middle of twenties’ folly. Starewitch made one animated film for this studio, The Scarecrow.

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The first Pathe’s studio today used by  “Albatros” school cinema. 

Paris danced to Charleston, but it didn’t dance for long. In Joinville-le-Pont, the French cinema industry struggled for waking up again after the war. I am pretty sure that Starewitch knew the relevance of the French film companies at the moment when he arrived there with a mountain of other fellow Russian cinema workers. He was already a successful director, and I imagine that he hoped to have some opportunity in Europa with his work, although he had to learn to speak French and break through a period of adaptation. I suppose he went to Joinville-le-Pont, (sometimes, I ride my bicycle until there), in the first place because he probably knew the fame of the place, at that time known as ‘Little Hollywood’.
He built his own studio at his home, and with the help of his family, he quickly started working; making new puppets and new films while he worked taking pictures for Albatros films company, and also while working as a cameraman for others.

He made Le Mariage de Babylas Midnight Wedding, L’épouvantail, The Scarecrow, 1921, Les Grenouilles qui Demandent un Roi, The Frogs Who Wanted a King 1922, Amour Noir et Blanc, Love in Black and Bhite, 1923, and  La Voix du Rossignol,The Voice of the Nightingale, 1923. He was honoured with the Hugo Riesenfiels Medal “as the most novel short subject motion picture in the USA during the year” 1925  for his The Voice of the Nightingale.
In 1924, he made La Petite Chateuse des Rues,The Little Street Singer. In these films, he was assisted first by his daughter Irina (who had changed her name to Irène) who collaborated in all his films and dedicated her life to defend the rights of his father’s work. His wife, Anna Zimermann, made the costumes for the puppets and Jeane Starewitch (Nina Star) was the star for the most of his films (The Little Street Singer, The Queen of the Butterflies, The Voice of the Nightingale,and The Magical Clock etc). This year, Starewitch moved to Fontenay-sous-Bois, where he lived until his death in 1965. I guess he thought it would be easier to be closer to the Russian community in Montreuil. In fact, he was known for his generosity and hospitality, especially with refugees from the Soviet Union.

The rest of his films were made in Fontenay-sous-Bois. Among the most notable are The Eyes of the Dragon 1925, a Chinese tale with complex and wonderful sets and character design in which Starewitch shows his talent as a decoration artist and ingenious trick-filmmaker clearly influenced by the orientalist style that had been adopted by the Russian filmmakers community in Albatros studio. The Town Rat and the Country Rat, 1926, a parody of American slapstick films; The Magical Clock, 1928, a fairy-tale with amazing middle-age puppets and sets, with the music by Paul Dessau; Love in Black and White, 1928, the Hollywood expansion is clear through the presence of a puppet of Charlotte in the short,, and The Little Parade, from Andersen’s tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

THE FOX, THE FIRST STOP MOTION FEATURE FILM AND THE END OF THE ARTIST FREEDOM

The Romance of Renard or The Tale of the Fox the first stop-motion animation feature film ever and its production has its own amazing history. This point is a very important moment in the history of animation; it started in one era and finished in another. Everything had changed then, the sound, the colour. That Fox is a masterpiece lost in the middle of the fireworks of the new technologies. However, the meaning inside it has not timed, and, ironically, the story inside looks like a mirror of the changes that were happening in the animation world and with the film itself.

Six weeks after the premiere of The Little Parade, the sound was added by Louis Nalpas Company to the film. Starewitch started a collaboration with him, wishing to make a full-length feature film: Le Roman de Renard. It was 1928. That was the same year that Walt Disney released his Steamboat Willy showing a new path for sound cartoons. Nalpas not only wanted to produce a feature film with sound but with a stereoscopic process as well. It must have been a tough moment for Starewitch. Roger Richebé was the Nalpas partner and he had an agreement according to which he, the producer, had the right to the final cut.

I can feel how painful this part would have been for an artist like Starewitch. That historical
moment is not only remarkable for the personal life of Starewitch. It is also an important day in the cinema history because it means the end of the artistic independence, like at the end of Le Roman de Renard the fox loses his freedom to serve the king. Just like that from that day, the artist was not free ever again, not even the owner of his work, not in the business of cinema anymore.

Starewitch thought that “sound had supremacy over picture”. However, he understood that times were changing and there was nothing to do about it, and, overall, he was not able to do it all alone. Thus, despite his reluctance, he shot the film with sound finishing in 1931. Nalpas had chosen the process of post-recording on disc, but that technique was taken over quickly. That mistake put Nalpas in economic problems, and after that, he refused to finance the post recording of Le Roman de Renard . Starewitch brought the dispute to the court and as a result, he obtained the right to the movie, but five years had already passed by then, and he needed another producer.

Meanwhile, in 1930, in EEUU, Disney had given colour to animation with the success experiment of the Flowers and Trees, and an excellent entrepreneur as Disney was, he had the patent on the process for three years. This was an insurance for Disney, ensuring an important business advantage, and killing in one day the possibilities of other processes like hand-painted films. “Since the arrival of the colour, black and white movies are suddenly too old”, the British distributor of Starewitch will say.

Despite the film was finished long away, Starewitch and his fox had to wait until October 3, 1937, when, thanks an agreement with Berlin’s UFA , a German version of the Le Romance de Renard saw the light of day. This same year Disney conquered the world with his version of Snow White, changing the rules of the animation business forever.

On 10 April 1941, with the help of Roger Richebé, the film could be seen on French screens. However, the problems were not finished, not even then. The ending of the Fox was a considerate immoral for Franco and Benito Mussolini who banned the film in Spain and Italy. Starewitch has some problems as well, being criticised and under suspicious for his collaboration with UFA.

Le Romance de Renard was the third animated feature film to have sound, after Quirino Cristiani’s Peludópolis, 1931, and The New Gulliver, 1935 from the Soviet Union.

In 1933, Ladislas and Irene Starewitch produced and directed a long film which was greatly reduced, becoming Fetishe Mascotte, The Mascot, distributed in 1934. Starewitch made a contract with Marc Gelbart from Gelma Films to make a series with this character. It was intended to make 12 episodes, but because of economic reasons, only 5 were made between 1934 and 1937 and were distributed in the entire world. These were Fétiche Prestidigitateur, The Ringsmaster, 1934, Fétiche se marie, The Mascot’s Wedding, 1935, Fétiche en Voyage de Noces, The Navigator, 1936, and Fétiche et Les Sirens ,The Mascot and the Mermaids, 1937. However, these episodes were not released because sound could not be added. There was also an unfinished film, Fétiche père de Famille The Mascot and his Family, 1938. In 1954, L. Starewitch conceived The Hangover, using the images not included in The Mascot.

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Léona Béatrice Martin-Starewitch, his granddaughter, and her husband, François Martin started the reconstruction of the original movie from multiple copies of The Mascot distributed in the United Kingdom and the USA, the negative of The Hangover, and material from the personal archives of Starewitch. In 2012, the negative called “LS 18” has found recovering its length and montage from 1933. It was named “Fetish 33-12”.

In 1946, Starewitch tried to make The Midsummer Night’s Dream but abandoned the project due to financial problems. Next year, he made Zanzabelle a Paris adapted from a story by Sonika Bo. In 1949, he met Alexandre Kamnka, Alkam Films, an old Russian friend, who produced Starewitch’s first colour film, Fleur de Fougère, Fern Flower. It won the first prize as an animated film in the 11th International Children Film Festival in Venice Biennale.

After the success, he started a collaboration with Sonika Bo to adapt another of her stories, like Gazouilly petit oiseau , Gazouilly the Small Bird, and Un Dimanche de Gazouillis, Gazouillis’s Sunday Picnic. Still working with Alkam films, Starewitch made Nose to Wind. That year, his wife Anna died. Due to the success of the previous film, Winter Carrousel was made, starring the bear Patapouf, the protagonist, and the rabbit going through seasons. This was his last completed film. All his family collaborated on it, as remembers his granddaughter Léona Béatrice, whose hands could be seen in animation tests from Like Dog and Cat, Starewitch’s unfinished film.

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Ladislas Starewitch died on 26 February, 1965 while working on Comme Chien et Chat, Like Dog and Cat. He was one of the few European animators to be known by his name in America before the 1960s, largely on account of La Voix du Rossignol and Fétiche Mascotte because The Tale of the Fox was not widely distributed in the US. Filmmaker Terry Gilliam ranks The Mascot among the ten best-animated movies of all time.

A WORK MADE OF LOVE
He held all his puppets during all his life. A lot of them, after being starred in a film became secondary characters in others. For instance, in Fétiche Mascotte, 1933 there are puppets from The Scarecrow, The Little Parade, and The Magical Clock. And that is the reason because it is still possible to watch his work today. I cannot avoid wondering how he did it to come here from Russia with them in those circumstances. They are just the same that stand in front of my camera today, still playing his song, smiling like the forgotten Norma Desmon in Sunset Boulevard only for me. I cannot believe these puppets are watching me today just in front of my very eyes!

In 1923, The Voice of the Nightingale had a remarkable answer from the USA audiences. It was so successful that Starewitch received an offer to work there for the film industry. But Americans asked him to produce 1500 metres of film every month. While he was making 120 metres max on his own. If he accepted he would have had to give up his working system, adopting a new one following the modern Taylor philosophy. That meant loose the personal control over every part of the production, and of course, forget to work together with the rest of the family members. He could have won millions becoming a famous and rich Hollywood producer. He could have written a different history of animation. But he did not. That condition was impossible for him to accept. He could not renounce to make every puppet by himself; every shoot and every cut. Nina star could have been a rival for Shirley Temple, and maybe Starewitch thought about that, not like a dream, but a nightmare. Films will be not a game anymore for them, and he preferred to have a life than to have a place in the big Hollywood. And for that, I feel a deep admiration for you, Mr Starewitch.

People like Starewitch loved what they did, and I really believe that they did it because that was what they were, and they were not able not to be. They were consistent and loyal with themselves. They had to do it. That was an answer to them; that is the sense of the artist’s lives. It was personal and for his honesty with themselves, they became valued for the rest of us.

Nowadays we teach our youngest that there is only one, absolute and unique goal in the life and it is the same for all of us; be famous and rich. It is for this that we teach names, dates, and numbers. “He was famous, he was the first, he was the best” because that is what you have to be. We don’t teach to love life itself, the act of creation itself; we are not helping the youngest to understand themselves or how to discover their own, personal, private and unique path making creations through  which share their personal world.

We are telling only the half part of the history, and with that, we are stealing from the new generations the opportunity to know about the reality of life and about themselves. For this, they think that all, out of a computer program, is already done. But it is not.
Ladislas Starewitch is buried in the beautiful Fontenay sous Bois cemetery with his wife Anna and his two beloved daughters. Just a ten-minute walk from my house. He lies under his Russian name, Wladyslaw Starewicz.

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When the sun shines, I like to walk to visit them. I put some water in their plants while I imagine all of them still making puppets with the clouds. To arrive at them you have to pass before close to the World War deaths. It is impossible do not wonder how the human being can be at once as amazing as cruel and stupid. I do not know.


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Léona Béatrice Martin-Starewitch, his granddaughter, and her husband, François Martin works still today to hold fresh the important and beautiful heritage of him. Here you can see their official website.

Rest in peace Mr Starewitch and family, you deserve it. Very thanks for your amazing  work and his “never give up”  heritage.

Only Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam know how much they owe to Starewitch work without which works like Nightmare before Christmas did not exist.

I have read a lot about the surrealism in Starewitch’s work. But if you ask me I tell you that his work is full of symbolic meanings and deep sense. If you want to know about it, let me explain in the next post,

THE SYMBOLIC MEANING IN STAREWITCH.
BEETLESAND WIRES. THE STOP MOTION IS BORN! THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART I

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BEETLESAND WIRES. THE STOP MOTION IS BORN! THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART I

My gratitude to Isabel, responsible of this amazing meeting.

Sometimes life kisses us in the mouth, in a surprise. And that is the most beautiful day.

Usually, most of the articles are written by filling them with dates, names and places that can easily be found online. But, I always wonder what kind of information  the reader can achieve with that.

To me, names, dates, and numbers are almost impossible to be remembered . However, I never forget a  man’s story, and that feeling I get when I understand his work. It is not possible to appreciate someone’s work if you know nothing about the author. I love to study about stories, fantasies and narratives because I really believe that every meaning of human life is in there. We need to realise that these meanings are the basement of the human soul.

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER

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A couple of days ago, Isabel, a friend, invited me to visit the local village’s museum, Nogent Sur Marne Museum. She insisted. I am a writer, so I am always curious. You never know what is around the next corner waiting to surprise you. The Nogent Sur Marne Museum is a little space with some pictures from the XIX century given by the local generosity, showing country scenes.

 

At this moment, and until 31th May, there is a small temporary exhibition about the history of the cinema in the area; I will share that interesting part with you some other day.

Here is the web of the museum of Nogent Sur Marne.

I walked to the end of the exhibition where a small space hides a surprise inside a couple of glass cases. Like some lost treasure from a pirate’s map, quietly protected behind the glasses a century old piece of animation looked at me silently. I could not believe what was before my very eyes! The old Lion Queen herself from the Tale of the Fox, Le Romand de Renard, 1930, joined by her loyal troubadour cat who carries on playing and singing his sweet love song always close to his beloved queen.


….. You know how much I love you, meow, meow, I won’t go away, meow, meow, as you know, you own my heart give me yours. Tonight, in the moonlight with ecstasy, meow, meow, I want to say you’re my only love, meow…..

I still can hear the magical sound coming from the cat’s instrument.
They are not alone, with them are a couple of rats from The Town Rat and the Country Rat, 1926; some diabolic creatures from the hell from the glorious The Mascot, 1934, and a couple of insects from earlier legendary films like The Cameraman’s Revenge, 1912– a century old.

Like an old Norma Desmond walking down through the stairs, shining again for a second under the camera lights, at the end of the (also forgotten)
Sunset Boulevard, these old puppets pose for my camera-phone smiling again as if the times of their greatest moments had come back (thanks to my honest admiration).

I wish to ask them for an autograph, have the opportunity to sit down and talk. I cannot even imagine what kind of amazing things these old puppets could explain if they could talk. I would give a hand to have the opportunity to take pictures of these puppets properly, making them sparkle again.

I was a professional photographer once, and now I feel like a child putting the objective of my spontaneous camera in front of the display trying desperately to steal a smile from these old characters that I know well from years ago. Just as if I was five, and that was a shop window in Christmas, and I was wishing the toys inside would be mine but now I know that I can have them. I have come back a couple of times to visit them again at the museum, only to be sure that I was actually watching the real ones.

Ladislas Starewitch is a man to be remembered, and today I want to honour him, one of the main, but forgotten, master of animation and cinema the world has ever known.

SO, WHO ARE YOU, STAREWITCH AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOU?

Well, guys, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the real father of STOP MOTION !

Ladislas Alexandrowitch Starewitch was born on 8th of August, 1882 in Moscow. Son of Alexandre Starewicz and Antonina Legiecka, members of the small Polonaise aristocracy from a village then called Surviliskis in Lituania, then part of the Russian Empire. Alexandre, his father, took part in the January Insurrection of 1863, and because of that, he had to go into exile to Moscow, where Ladislas was born. After the death of his mother and his sister’s too, his father decided to send him to live with his maternal grandfather in Kaunas where he grew up in a feminine universe. Probably was there where his love for fairy tales started.

I imagine him like a little stubborn kid, expelled from school because he was too independent; and he had a critical mind. Interested in almost everything, he was a self-taught man; always curious, always wanted to prove and taste everything. He knew pretty well what he wanted and he was always ready for doing whatever was necessary to achieve it.

Later it was in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he got married to Anna Zimmermann, and where his first daughter was born , Irina- his future assistant director, and his passion for cinema.
The director of the Kovno Ethnography Museum, Tadas Daugirdas, asked him to photograph the countryside and film folk ceremonies. There, he shot his very first live-action film, Beyond the River Niemen, in 1909. In 1910, he became director of the museum as well. Starewitch carried on making films, sometimes ethnographies, and sometimes about the life of the insects like Zukow Walka, The Dragonfly life in 1909. Always with the support of Daugirdas, he decided to make a film about a combat between the beetles Lucanus cervix with a pedagogic objective for the museum. But that kind of insects have a night life and they did not always want to fight in front of the camera; other times they simply died under the intense lights of the stage.

AN INGENIOUS FRENCH SOLUTION

At that time, cinema was as young as extended  everywhere, especially French cinema.France was the motherland of the invention and in the first decade of the 1900s, the French companies, like Gaumont and Pathé, were the kings of the business, known all around the world. In 1907, Pathé had a Russian branch in Moscow. There, Joseph N. Ermolieff was hired as a projectionist to later become director of Pathé-Russia. Pathé, Gaumont and Eclair hoarded until 1910-11 75% of the films produced and distributed in Russia. Emile Cohl, so called the Father of the animation, became a start for Gaumont; later he worked for Pathé, both of them with an office in Russia at that moment. Thus, it’s not surprising that Starewitch watched Emile Cohl’s rudimentary but effective 2D animation work  and a stop motion animation made out of paper cuts in the local cinema.
That was an inspiration for Starewitch and his beetle problem; he decided to work with the dead beetles filling them with wires so he would be able to move them like Cohl animated the paper cuts in his film. Then, with the patience of Jacob, and some dead beetles filled with wires, he produced a film, shooting picture by picture. That innovative way of moving his characters meant the birth of a new kind of cinema making. Piękna Lukanida, Lucanus Cervus in 1910 was his first movie. The Stop Motion Animation had been born!

MOSCOW

Animated by the success of his first film, Starewitch wrote and directed his first scripts. Until the beginning of the war, there were three companies that dominated the Russian market: the Russian subsidiary of Pathé, Thiman & Reinhardt, and Kanzhonkov.

Kanzhonkov was the most important pre-revolutionary cinema entrepreneur. From a newspaper publication Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, the most relevant Russian director and producer of films at that moment, found out that a certain young clerk in Lithuania had been taking prizes for fancy Christmas dresses made of wrappings and hay. Not knowing exactly what it could come out of this offer, Khanzhonkov immediately invited Starevich to Moscow. Starewitch worked with him until the Revolution of  October forces both of them to leave the country.

This was a great period. Starewitch made two dozen films; most of them animating dead animals as a puppets. La Bella Lucanide 1912 inspired by the opera bouffe, The Beautiful Helena by Jacques Offenbach, gave him international fame. The result was above all expectations – many of the viewers were convinced that the insects on the screen were real trained beetles.
And after that, The Ant and the Grasshopper, a version of the Aesop’s fables, was the first film produced by a Russian company and distributed around the world. More than 140 copies were made. Zar Nicolas II offered a reward to Aleksandr Khanzhonkov who worked on it as the producer, and to Starewitch as director, which allowed him to go ahead with his work and have a better live. That was the first time the Zar gave such an honour to anybody. It was a remarkable success.
In 1912, he had his own movie studio inside his home in Moscow. Working with Khanzhonkov as the producer, he makes The Revenge of a Kinematograph Cameraman, 1912, the best-known film of this period.

It was a beautiful time for him. His second daughter, Jeanne, who would be known as Nina Star for being the main star of most of his films, was born in 1913.
I love watching this little girl in Starewitch’s movies. I can  imagine the whole family working on it together. The mother made the costumes for the puppets. The sister was the assistant director and she was the main actress. Everyone had a role in this game. That is a great childhood.

During those years, he worked with real actors as well, and made live action films but, unfortunately, not one of those films survived. When the World War I broke out, he had already directed more than twenty films with some of the most famous Russian actors of that era, like Ivan Mozzhukhim. Particularly remarkable is The Night Before Christmas, 1913 that is an adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol story. His film Terrible Vengeance, 1913 won a gold medal at an international festival in Milan in 1914, being one of the five films which won awards among 1005 contestants.

PUPPETS, FILMMAKERS, REVOLUTION AND WAR.

The start of the twenty century was a hard time. Everything was changing; new countries like EEUU were emerging; new technologies; new communication systems; new philosophies, and new working class system too. New revolutionary ideas were springing up everywhere. It was a convulsion. In 1914, the first global war in the history breaks up, and in 1917, the Russian Revolution. The revolution hampered Khanzhonkov’s business. Ladislas Starewitch lost his comfortable life and tried to go ahead by working for other diverse producers. In Russia, the situation became hard day by day and Starewitch, like thousands of other cinema workers, decided to go out of the country in 1918. In 1920, the Red Army won and Lenin set implementation of a decree on the nationalisation of film industries. The studio team of Ermolieff, the old chief of Pathé branch, decided to go to France, via Constantinople.

Starewitch left Moscow in 1918, going to Odessa first, and then to Yalta, Crimea, where Khanzhonkov had also gone to. But before the Red Army conquered Crimea, he decided to go to Italy. It was not too long when he opted to go to Paris like thousands of Russians did.

FRANCE

After the January Insurrection, 1863 a big number of Russian refugees had gone to France; to the Paris suburbs. In the 1880’s there were an estimated 5,000 Russian emigrants in or near the French Capital. Maybe because of that, after the new revolutionary moment, Russians turned their eyes to Paris again. On the other hand, before the World War I, this area was the European Hollywood, thus made a lot of sense that the community of Russian cinema workers decided to choose the place.

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In 1922, there were approximately 70,000 Russian exiles in France, and the number reached a peak of 175,000 in 1930. Starewitch and his family arrived in 1920, to Joinville-le-Pont first, also called “the little Hollywood”, the most important centre of French cinema production at that moment, but finally he settles in Fontenay-sous-Bois, which is really close to  where I am living right now. He lived in Fontenay until his death in 1965.

It was then when Владисла́в Алекса́н дрович Старе́вич, or Vladislavas Starevičius, changed his name to Ladislas Starevitch, as it was easier to pronounce in French and in English. However, he used to sign with Starewitch, that being the reason I am using this version. I saw his signature and I prefer to respect his own way.

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I am pretty sure that I am walking the same streets that Starewitch did. Since I met his puppets, I look for him in every corner. I can imagine his arrival. The Spanish and the French are “cousins”. All of us are Latins, sons of the Romans. Our cathedral, our medieval streets and our passion for food is the same. However, I am an outsider here, an outlander. My problems are things like pointing my finger at the right cake in the bakery or not feeling too ridiculous trying to pronounce correctly the few French words that I know when I need it.

How it would have been if you were Russian, in a world just after a world war, almost one hundred years ago, I wonder. That I cannot imagine.
I have been a script teacher for a while. I have always felt that when we are teaching dates, names, and places, we are not actually “teaching” anything at all. When you tell the young ones that “Starewitch was the father of the stop motion” they feel invidious and small. “Starewitch and the others were great men, you are not”; this is what they hear. Nobody is showing them the real, human part of the history. Looks like one day someone wakes up and become the most famous director ever; invents stop motion; builds Disneyland from nowhere, or discover the relativity because today is the day. Being famous is the only thing that is important nowadays. Some idiot will call it “success”. But life is a process; a complicated, private and long one. And money is only a tool, not a goal. Unfortunately, we are hiding this part as if it was something dirty and shameful. However, if you ask me, this part is the only really interesting one.

II part: A RUSSIAN IN PARIS.THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART II

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CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. III PART. THE CODE

I PART, THE BEGINNINGS.
II PART THE HAPPY 20’S
III PART: THE CODEcensor
In 1930, therefore, a new code, which came to be known as the Hollywood Production Code or Hays Code, was written. Hays Office had to organize formal self-regulation of movie content through its notorious Production Code Administration (PCA). But, that, certainly was not a real censorship for movies industry. Censorship takes place when an outside force, usually a governmental agency, dictates what may be published or shown. The Hays Office policed the productions of its own member companies: any fines were paid to the Hays Office, owned by and operated for the members themselves. The PCA was created so that federal censorship, most strongly advocated by the Catholic Church, would not become the law of the land.
The industry accepted The Code nominally. Hays had established some kind of morality suggestions more than rules and the most producers followed them or pretended to do it. However, after a few years the guidelines started to relax and by the coming of sound in the late 1920s, the treatment of crime, violence, sexual infidelity, profanity, and even nudity became alarming to some people. The arrival of sounds made even more shocking this kind of contents and the strong morality Catholic group in society claimed for the necessity of a governmental censorship control.
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THE NATIONAL LEGION OF DECENCY

In 1933 a new organization dedicated to identifying and combating objectionable content in motion pictures from the point of view of the American Catholic Church was founded, it was The National Legion of Decency, also known as The Catholic Legion of Decency. At the time, the population of Catholics, some twenty million, were theoretically forbidden from attending any screening of films under the notion of mortal sin. Then, films were submitted to the National Legion of Decency to be reviewed prior to their official duplication and distribution to the general public, after receiving a stamp of approval from the secular offices behind Hollywood’s Production Code.
Hays and Hollywood reacted and 1 July 1934, Hays’ Code was actually working. For that reason, movies made between 1930 and 34 are thus often referred to as precede or pre-code, even though the Production Code was theoretically in effect. Under the original 1930 Production Code, all films were designed to be suitable for viewers of all ages, even if adults were their primary target audiences. They were created for an adult audience and they were full of trickery and salaciousness, as well animation. Like the rest of the industry, cartoons were not particularly worried about The Code. They do include the broad ethnic and gender stereotyping that was common to the comedy of the era, and an inordinate amount of caricatured cameos of celebrities and newsmakers.

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BETTY BOOP VS MINNIE MOUSE
Betty Boop made her first appearance on August 9, 1930, in the cartoon “Dizzy Dishes”; the sixth installment in Fleischer’s Talkartoon, a series of 42 animated cartoons produced by the Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1932. At 1932, Talkartoon were replaced by the Betty Boop series, which continued for the next seven years. It is regarded as one of the first and most famous sex symbols on the animated screen. As it is well known, Betty, a sexualized woman character, has never been the favorite character between conservatives, however, her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences having a healthy profitable life until 1934 when The Production Code was operating effectively. The Code of imposed guidelines on the Motion Picture Industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos. This greatly affected the Betty Boop cartoons in deep.both-bettys

At that time, Minnie Mouse was as well displayed showing their underwear or bloomers regularly, but in the style of childish or comical characters, not an entirely defined woman’s form. Disney’s style had no problems with the conservative Catholic thought. Although his ancestors arrived at EEUU in between the lately 18th and the early 19th centuries, his family preserved the original Irish Catholic mentality. Elias Disney Minnie mouse 1930educated his children inside of a strict conservative style of life. Walt Disney did not need to do any work to make cartoons according to with the imperative moral at the moment because he was a good example of it. And audiences appreciated it. So, meanwhile others producers were in trouble with the application of The Code, that became an excellent opportunity for the company of the Mouse.

DISNEY AND THE DEPRESSION
It was not until 1934 when the things actually started to be serious about the code. Scenes, scripts, shoots even whole films were banned. Nude, violence, racial points of view or religious critics were cut. And, of course, that was for animation as well. But, unlike films, animation fed on irony, social and political criticism, sarcasm, surrealism and, of course, sex. People did not make drama or philosophy using animation and the code represented a hard blow for a business which was difficult enough. It was starting to be pretty difficult to make money with animation. The production required a higher look5lotechnical quality every day and that meant money; however, the cost of the production increased day by day, the income produced by short cartoons did not. The effects of the depression were present all around; the problems with the censors made more complicated to find the fun for the cartoonist and the development of the new technologies were another handicap to add to the enough difficult economic situations during the depression.
However, even Disney was affected by the censorship. There were two main reasons for that. By one hand, the competitors who were not very happy with the successful of the mouse; by the other, Disney behaviour became an example of how the things should be work in cartoons.
On February 16, 1931, The Times explainedCLARABELLA 2
“Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. 250clarabelleCows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting when the cow stood still; it also stretched, when seized, in an exaggerated way.”

But that what for the most of the people are all problems is the same that for someone become an opportunity. Disney had the right point of view, the one which audience were opened for accepting and dreaming with. Free of what the conservatives could feel like a treat and full of the happiness and hope that the desperation of the time during the Big Depression needed it after, Disney had an opened path to becoming a kind of the land. He developed a character that represented the purest and classic American Spirit: Mickey Mouse clasicos_de_mickey_mousebecame quickly a phenomenon. Disney, always learning from the successful before him, and deeply wishing to be as famous as they, wanted that his Mouse was more loved than the previous “Felix The Cat”. Mickey was ready to have his own line of products, but Disney was going to do it better, he was going to invent merchandising.

THE MOUSE’S MERCHANDISING

During the early years of the depression nothing was easy for nobody, but while the whole country was in bankruptcy Mickey Mouse/Disney became rich, richer and richer, and more and more selected as the model of the perfect American.

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“The fresh cheering is for Mickey the Big Business Man, the world’s super salesman. He finds work for jobless folk. He lifts corporations out of bankruptcy. Wherever he scampers, here or overseas, the sun of prosperity breaks through the clouds.” H. L. Robbins. The New York Times March 1935.
The feeling and the rules of censorship will be changed, but for that moment, Disney was already the absolute kind of the land. Disney was laying the foundation of cartoons production with a very concrete and defined way to do it. The eternal happy Disney ending, and cute characters with sweet colours suitable for the whole family, according to with a conservative point of view, had shown how substantial business it could be. Because finally, that is what all is about!

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And cartoons started to become sweeter, happy and sex free like if that was a natural way to do it, and the only right way for fantasy films and adults were losing their interest. And one day, suddenly, it seemed like nobody thought about animation for adults anymore…. until now when business is growing up again thanks to the whole family concept again.

But that is another story….

PART I  THE BEGINNINGS.

PART II THE HAPPY 20’s

Pepa Llausas

CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. II PART THE HAPPY 20’S

I PART, THE BEGINNINGS.

II: THE HAPPY 20’s
pharma-chemical-employees-1920-s-for-webFrom the late 19th century everything had changed in the new world. The working class had been growing fed by thousands and thousands of new immigrants, who, unlike the first ones who came from Britain, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia, these arrived from Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russian. The new immigrants were often Catholics and Jewish and, often as well, their cultural and religious heritage collided with the one of the first colonists.312517041

Cinema and cartoons were the main forms of entertainment in cities, a cheap ticket to dream for a while trying barely to escape from a harsh life. Cinema was not only inexpensive so that everybody could go, but it also was silent, so you did not need to speak English to understand the film, and in this way, 20080308194734!Auditorium_Theatre_in_Torontoimmigrants became a very significant volume of the audience.

It was September of a happy 1921 when newspaper showed a new face of the Rosco Abaco “Fatty”, farbuckle 5glamorous joyful dreamed Hollywood.
Rosco Abaco “Fatty”, one the best paid and most famous Hollywood stars was charged with raped and murder. It was a social shock, especially because Rosco was a naive and innocent comic character. Rosco was charged for killing Virginia Rappe, another star, with his weight while savagely raping her. After three days of a wild party, Virginia was translated from a destroyed suite of the hotel to the hospital where she died some days later. Rosco was declared innocent of all the charges, but his career was finished, and the public opinion was convinced of his culpability.
TAYLORBut, Rosco was not alone. February 1, 1922, William Desmond Taylor, one of the most famous movie directors, was murdered in his bungalow in the West Lake District of Los Angeles. He had been shot in the back by a 38 caliber revolver. Taylor’s murder became one of the most sensational cases in the annals of Hollywood crime and one that has never been close to being solved.
Hollywood land of dreams had a dark side and this affected to the box office. The enormous weight of the new immigrants with their traditional Catholics and Jewish moral ideas let showed all his power in the answer of the audiences to the new Hollywood face, and they were not ready to accept this kind of behaviour. The producers had serious reasons to be worried. The forces of moral new-york-1920s-prohibition3conservatism, fresh from their triumph of adding a prohibition against alcohol to the United States Constitution, prepared to challenge the film world. They started to claim to ask the government for some federal action; voices began calling for censorship of the movies, and the box office went down.
The movie industry needed to be put their house in order, and Will Hays was going to be the man for the task. On 14 March 1922, The Association of Motion Picture Producers, and The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc MPPDA, made Hays the first president of it, with an office on Fifth Avenue in New York. He accepted a salary of SI 15,000 per annum (about 8600,000 in 1986 dollars), a prepaid life insurance policy, plus an almost unlimited expense account.

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Hays’s first move was to strengthen the finances of the new trade association. He approached New York bankers whom he knew from his days as head of the Republican party and within a week had set up a line of credit which put the MPPDA on stable economic footing. Such quick action impressed his new bosses. With his political connections, he demonstrated that he was the right man for the job. Then, he created a formal public relations arm of the MPPDA to deal with the religious groups, educational organizations, and other parties so concerned with the presumed negative influence of the movies.

It was Hays who, in 1927, established the Copyright Protection Bureau to register titles of films and thus head off disputes over duplication. The next year saw the establishment of a formal committee on labour relations. This interest in
Labour resulted in the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 1928, today well known for its annual Oscar Awards, but the Hays Office had created the academy to provide a forum for labour disputes.

1st-academy-awards-menu

PART I. THE BEGINNINGS 

PART III AND LAST. THE CODE

Pepa Llausas

CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. I PART, THE BEGINNINGS.

We are in Big Cartoons Database too! Have a look!

The idea that cartoons were born for children is pretty common. However, as far away from the reality. Since Disney became the king of the land, turning animation part of the film industry, his philosophy had been dominating the market until the end of the century. But, animation, not even in Walt Disney intentions, was never only for kids. We must not forget that Disney is more interested in being wearing with the moral of the times than in understanding the child’s mind. For more painful it could be, Disney himself, barely before to die, said that it was never an artistic point, it was always a business, and while the box office worker that meant the people wanted it because that is what all is about and it was always!

Then, everything started with Disney?

Yes and not. Better start from the beginning.

In the early 20th century EEUU was inside of a thick and speed industrialization process. The modern America was born during the so-called “America’s formative period”, between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries when an agrarian society of small producers was transformed into an urban society dominated by industrial corporations. And, a little place called Hollywood was a good example of that. At the beginning of the 20th century, Hollywood was anything else than an orange plantation. One day, “D. W.” Griffith passed for there and thought that it was a perfect place for shooting, full of wonderful opened landscapes, peaceful people, and sun. It was 1910 when he shot “In Old California” the very first film ever filming in Hollywood.  Three years later, C.C. B. Demille arrived to shoot “The Squaw Man”, the very first production filming.

The largest production company, at late 19th and early 20th centuries, was the French Pathe, until the I World War arrival. It was in 1914. Four years later, 1918 the world had changed and Hollywood was about to become a new power in a new era without any barrier in front of it. Like a volcanic explosion, the development of the new industry was a phenomenon that seemed to have own life, and this was unstoppable.

Mary Pickford - Ziegfeld - c. 1920s - by Alfred Cheney Johnston. Restored by Nick and jane for Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans Website: http://www.doctormacro.com/index.html. Enjoy!
Mary Pickford  1920s

In 1909, the Selig Polyscope Company established the first permanent studio in the Los Angeles area.  In 1910, the “Star System” knew his very first American name: Florence Lawrence, the “Biograph Girl.” Barely later, Mary Pickford became the first million dollar contract, the “America’s Sweetheart”. Long before 1920 Hollywood already was Hollywood and the actual nature of the blood in his veins was as well already crystal clear, money. Nobody could imagine how big it was going to be, how capable of influencing the public opinion and the individuals the existences of the Star System was going to be.

 

 

In that decade animation was still looking for his way. In 1911, Mc Cay had imagesmade “Little Nemo” that was a remarkable success, to the point that four years later Mc Cay decided to put colour in the film, and he did it by hand frame by frame. Gertie the Dinosaur saw the light the year of the First World War, 1914. This same year, John Bray opened his studios and made animation series, “Colonel Heeza Liar”, possibly, if not the very first recurring cartoon character ever created. In 1915, Max Fleischer, who was then Art Editor for Popular Science Magazine, invented the rotoscope. Bray, who was already making his animation series, was intrigued by Fleischer’s invention.

 

KOKOHe decided put Max’s brother in a clown suit hired Max with the idea to make a series about a clown, “Koko,” going out of the inkwell; the thought of the famous “Out of the Inkwell” series was born. But with the arrival of the war, Bray KokotheClown-decided to send Max and Jack Eventual, a brilliant mechanical draftsman, to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma where they made some first training films for the US Army. Koko, the clown, had to wait for better times. After the break, Max came back to New York and finally started to make “Koko, out of the inkwell” for Bray Studios. The success of “Little Nemo” probably was an inspiration for “Out of the Inkwell” series, which, in turn, was an inspiration for Disney’s “Alice Comedies” series.

 

It is remarkable the work by Mc Cay, who, always looking for innovations, made “The Sinking of the Lusitania” in 1918. It was a real action film, with the first integrated animation scenes, about re-creating the never photographed 1915 sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania. At twelve minutes it has been called the longest work of animation at the time of its release. The film is the earliest surviving animated documentary and severe, dramatic work of animation. It is a work of propaganda, maybe the first one in animation. It affected in deeply the public opinion about the war and the role what EEUU must play in it.

The Sinking of the Lusitania Winsor_McCay_-_The_Sinking_of_the_Lusitania_still_-_periscopes.large

“The Sinking of the Lusitania” in 1918

Until 1928, the animation was a vanishing novelty. During the 20’s less than 23% of theatres carried animated short, the demand wasn’t high for them. “Felix the Cat” and “Out of the Inkwell” were the only series of importance of that period, and even they were starting to lose steam by the closing of the decade. However, “Felix the Cat”, who came right from comic strips, had been able to develop merchandising about himself.   Koko the Clown, the protagonist of the “Out of the Inkwell” series by Fleischer Studios, was, without any doubt, a successful series, but far away from the real life films capacity to produce money. Cartoons were slower and complicated to produce than real films and the results were good for entertainment and laugh but anything else. Cartoons were not for children, but they neither could produce the deep emotions than audiences experimented with real actions films.

Felix the Cat 6 felix_cat_wooden_jointed_figure followfelix

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“Felix the Cat,” created by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer, saw the light in 1919 with “Feline Follies,” Paramount Pictures. It will be a hugely successful throughout the 1920s. The world must wait until 1922 for Disney opened Laugh O Grams first studios, and two years more, 1923 for he decided to move to the Hollywood land of gold. And nobody, not creators, no distributors, not the audience, had any thought about the necessity of any calcification for films or advises about the contents. There were no distinctions of any age. There were films and cartoons. And, sometimes, cartoons in films or real life stars in cartoons.

During the 10’s, Hollywood went from being a good place for oranges to become the world capital of cinema. It would be not a geographic location in a map anymore; it had converted in the Emerald City of Oz, the place where the Star lived and everything was possible, the capital of glamour, hedonism, and fun. And, of course, eccentricity, dreams, and money. At the end of the decade, Hollywood was a truly gold mine which a clear reason for existing, make money. You could make whatever you wanted, but, the principle was clear, whatever you want if it means money.  That is what it’s all about…

HOLLYWOOD 5The called Star System was surprised but itself, and his powerful capacity to make money and move masses. At the end of the decade, First National Pictures was one of the largest film companies. It opened a studio in Burbank in 1917 and signed a contract with Charlie Chaplin, it was a nine picture deal, becoming the first actor with a million-dollar deal. Next year, the company signed a new millionaire contract with Mary Pickford. But, no one was better to pay than Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was lured in 1918 by the first multiplier, multi-million dollar a year deal to make six feature films within three years with Paramount. And, remember, one million dollars in 1920 had not the same value than now. Life smiled to Hollywood, and nothing and nobody seemed able to stop it.

Animation was in his way, but that was a bit slower than real action films. Everything looked to be smooth, perfect and millionaire for Hollywood business. But, there is always a “but”.
PART II THE HAPPY 20’S

PART III THE CODE

ZOOTOPIA OR THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SECOND CHARACTER

See the article and follow me in  bigcartoon. 

Nick_Wilde_Zootopia

Zootopia is a classic lesson in cinema. Full of reference to the history of Hollywood, its script technically perfect, it’s a good model for teaching new writers how the magic can only emerge when the whole set and the relationship between the parts is working in harmony. A story is not the result of the addition of his individual parts, but a lot more.

Nick Wilde, Disney, 2016.

In cinema, like in the rest of the creative world, there are trends; some kind of structures or characters which are fashionable. The audience decides. It is not a rule, it’s a trend. But, cinema loves what works, because that’s what it’s all about, the box office. And now, there is a particular second main character who seduces the public with his tricky charm, the Disney sweetened version of the trickster.

 

One of the directors, Rich Moore, (the other being Byron Howard,) explained that they eventually made the decision to switch the narrative focus from Nick Wilde to Judy Hopps.

 

About two-thirds of the way through production, we changed the story to Judy’s story, because Nick, being kind of a cynical character, he didn’t like the city of Zootopia. He was kind of oppressed by the city of Zootopia. And in our movies, we want the audience to like the world, not dislike the world. And it was very confusing with our main character as someone who didn’t like the city, how do we feel about this world? So we said, let’s just try, as an experiment, making Judy the main character — since she’s an optimist, she sees the best in everything — let’s try making it her story and see what happens.

Beyond this kind of spontaneous vision of the modern film process, I would like to have a close look with you at this eternal –never disappointing- second character cliché of the trickster, now, definitively remastered by Disney.

disney-s-zootopia-

The protagonist is only one among a lot of other key points to be considered if you want to paint a good story. As much as it may seem, characters are not people; through them, we show different aspects of human nature. Every story is about  a specific conflict and you are going to build a little group of different characters in order to show diverse features of the same problem. The protagonist needs a companion or companions, who allow him to express his points of view, and to face, in one way or another, his fears. A second character, based on some aspects of the archetype of the trickster, is something that the audience always love, especially when your main character is a  smartie-pants cute bunny. That means contrast, and contrast gives colour and rhythm, guarantees the funny opposition and exciting relationship.

 

Have a look at Han Solo, Flynn Rider (Tangled), or Jack Sparrow just to name a few. Disney has a strong background in  this kind of characters. Baloo, The tramp, Genie, Thomas O’Mally… the list could be long. It’s well known, Disney’s habit to feed his stories and characters with his own precedent works. It is not a particular Disney religion; Hollywood feeds on itself and the audience loves when it does. In fact, it is not necessary to have a Masters to notice how the adult public enjoys recognizing some of the most classic films ever inside of Zootopia. However, it is not needed either the audience knows every resource used to make a film in order that the trick works.

 

Personally, I had a deep feeling of deja vu seeing Zootopia. I could not avoid the memories of the old Robin Hood film. Not only because, in this animal world without humans, the animals play our roles like in all the Disney movies that filled my childhood, but for the old trickster fox recycled with pants and tie, but still the same. Sort of Jack Sparrow played  with the classic Paul Newman elegance, a sweet trickster more in accordance with to Disney animation standards, who, agreeing with the moral of our  times, finished as a policeman; so sad after the pre-requisite slice of psychoanalysis of  his societal problems, based in his childhood traumas.

nick-wilde-robin-hood

 

Nick Wilde and Robin Hood are like two peas in a pod.  And, like Robin, he is not actually the bad guy, and he is not “Wild-e” because he is a fox, but because he is outside of the rules,  of course. To be outside of the rules is the essential requirement for being a trickster. However, the Disney trickster is a likable happy fellow always ready to make you smile, and it is impossible not love him and his style. You have to. He is adorable, a little cheater, a bit of a liar, but adorable. He always is going to have a peculiar style, a swing, and a light playboy touch. He gives you the perfume of freedom, but, overall, he will show you eventually the value of integral things, friendship, love, loyalty…. This kind of clean stuff. Please, do not be confused here. This is not an everyday trickster this is a Disney trickster.

 

The tradition of this kind of trickster version in Disney commenced long ago…All started with a mouse. Sorry, (it is a reflex), all started with a mouse fox. Actually with a one called Reynard the Fox, or the red Fox. It was long, long time ago.

 

Just after the Snow White success, Uncle Walt started to furiously buy the rights of whatever sort of story he thought could be good for cinema. Not only because he wanted to keep the future possibility to go ahead with it, also because he wanted to be sure that no one else could make it. These politics are very common in Hollywood productions companies. One of the stories that earlier fell into in his hands was Reynard the Fox. By 1937, Disney was already interested in making the story of Reynard, a red fox and an outlaw in the worst kind of way. Walt  had moral problems with a character who had no sense of decency or honour. Reynard would have to wait until someone was able to find a way to make him suitable for Disney standards. Walt was thinking about Reynard for decades, but, unfortunately, he died without having to see the transformation of Reynard into Robin Hood.  Ken Anderson, a Disney legend, was who came up with the idea. After all, Robin is the perfect good boy outside of the law. Larry Clemmons wrote the story for 1973 animated Disney film.  A new legend was born.

 

But, who is Reynard the Fox?

 

Reynard is one of those magnificent characters whose origins are lost in the mists of time  of the ancient European fairy tales. One of the oldest references is the French tale, Le Roman de Renart by Pierre de Saint-Cloud around 1170.  This tale already sets the typical setting. Reynard has been summoned to the court of King Noble, or Leo, the lion, to answer charges brought against him by Isengrim, the wolf. I am pretty sure that Disney knew him through the American version written by Harry J. Owen and illustrated by Keith, who in turn, probably knew the Ward Henry Morley version, who made a translation from William Caxton’s English in 1481 and published in 1889 as part of Early Prose Romances. Reynard is the main character of a literary cycle of allegorical French, Dutch, English, and German fables, an anthropomorphic red fox and, of course, a trickster figure. All these fables are filled with anthropomorphic animals of whatever kind and the whole Middle Ages are full of amazing manuscripts filled with wonderful illustrations of them.

It is fascinating to see these illuminated manuscripts with Reynard and his fellows more than one thousand years old already playing the same roles that we still use in comics or films today.

Roman.de.renart.2

Jacquemart Gielée: Renart le nouvel

Handschrift, um 1290/1300

 

 

 

 

Fuchs.margin_(MMW10F50_f6r)_detail

circa 1460

Source  Book of Hours/ Livre d’heures/ Stundenbuch – Utrecht, Master of Catherine of Cleves, Lieven van Lathem (illuminators); Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum (MMW), Den Haag: Ms. 10 F 50, fol. 6r

 

 

 

In the medieval bestiary, you can read,

The History of Reynard the Fox edited by Henry Morley, LL.D. William Caxton’s English Translation of 1481 originally published as part of Early Prose Romances George Routledge and Sons London, 1889

Reynard the Fox was medieval Europe’s trickster figure, a nasty but charismatic character who was always in trouble but always able to talk his way out of any retribution. (…)In editing this edition in 1889, Morley modernized the spelling of words still in common use in his day but did not attempt to modernize the style of the text. The result is a readable text that has all the flavor of the original.

In 1945 an American version appeared, written by Harry J. Owen and illustrated by Keith Ward and it is not difficult to appreciate the influence of Ward drawings in the work or Anderson for Disney Robin Hood.

rey1 _rey31 rey25 rey30 _rey14 _rey16 _rey17 _rey5

Keith Ward, 1945

 

robin 1   robin 2     robin 3  robin 4

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Robin Hood  Disney, 1973

Nick Wilde is that sort of secondary character who the audience love as much as the protagonist, sometimes even more. It’s the case of Jack Sparrow, for instance, who, I promise you, is not the protagonist of the story. However, according to the audience, he is, definitely, the Main character!

 

Zootopia is a detective’s story. Hollywood knows everything about that genre. The very first film detective appeared in 1909 during the silent era. It was French and it was a series as well. It was called Nick Cramer. Coincidence or homage? Who knows… does it matter?

 

But, one thing is crystal clear, to create is to re-invent. New writers are usually afraid of taking into consideration an old classic masterpiece and that is a rookie critical mistake. Mickey Mouse is anything but an Oswald evolution and if you want to know something about adventures all you have to do is to read Homer or Virgil. The interest of the story does not lie in the fact that nobody heard it before; but in your particular,  personal, and unique view point of it. That is what creation is all about.

 

PEPA LLAUSAS

Paris, March 2016