Came the dawn : memories of a film pioneer (1951)

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for so long the field of exciting tricks, were nearly out of sight and the Germans had not yet put in an appearance. This, it seems to me, was where we came to life again, but I am bound to confess the vagueness of my outlook and the very faulty memory which drives me to seek the aid of contemporary accounts. I am on slightly surer ground in the matter of our own produc- tions, when we led the way, so it is alleged, with Till Death Do Us Part, with Gladys Sylvani and Hay Plumb, and gave it more publicity than usual. These two artists were very well received, both for their considerable good looks and for their restrained and effective work; and this film was followed six months later by RacheVs Sin, with the same principals in the cast, and a greater strength of dramatic incident and action. Another very important sign of the times was the increasing use of theatrical actors in films, partly, it must be supposed, because of increasing demand for artists and the scarcity of trained film- actors outside the ranks of the regular stock-companies. But their incursion was by no means an unmixed blessing for they were not graciously inclined to a new technique and were over-apt to the opinion that they already knew all that there was to learn. Among things they had to learn was the prime necessity of restraint of gesture: they had to learn not to act. In moving pictures it is most important to be able to keep still and only to move when necessary and then as little as possible. A couple of actors doing nothing 'up stage'—that is, at the back —must do exactly that, for if one of them so much as flicks a handkerchief the attention of the audience will be immediately diverted to him and away from the figure in front where it properly belongs. This 'direction of attention' is one of the most important qualifications of a producer who knows his job. He can take and hold the attention just exactly where he wants it to be by the deft manipulation of small, quite unobtrusive movements opposed to stillness. Alternatively, think of the dramatic 'attention value' of the only still figure in a ballroom or a moving crowd. It is, of course, understood that I am speaking only of silent film technique—these things may not necessarily be so important in sound films which have other means of accomplishing the same results. But I have often felt in a modern picture, that the director is sometimes obtaining effects by mere enormity of scenery and properties, which could just as well be attained by better attention to, perhaps knowledge of, such little things as these. Lavish 121