Hollywood (1940)

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Trusting that Lon could spell dinosaur, I signalled to him to spell the words out. And so the day was saved! Or should I say our hands' face was saved! Well, maybe I'd better just leave it alone. Anyway, no one else made any more such wild suggestions. After all, even though the sign language was invented before speech, it still has its advantages in modern living. It's fine for making yourself understood over the blare of the radio. It's fine for telling your husband that the guests have heard that story a dozen times before . . . without actually being accused of embarrassing him before guests. After dealing triumphantly with the dinosaur situation, we all started for home. Not having used the sign language for some time, I stopped at a drug store for a bottle of good, old-fashioned liniment, and there was Lon Chaney, Jr., making the same purchase. We agreed that silence is a fine thing — at times! A Ghost Story [Continued from page 30] dozen nuts, bolts and rivets he's a better man than I am. I don't mind, now, doing a bit of ghostwriting about the didos that went on during the filming, but so far as ever again helping someone play "the little man who wasn't there" like I did for Warner Baxter, you can "include me out" as Mr. Samuel Goldwyn would so aptly put it. If all this sounds screwy and stamps me with an I. Q. of minus zero you can blame it on the script and not me. Earthbound is the story of a rich married guy (Warner Baxter) who gets bumped off by his sweetie-pie (Lynn Bari) because she loves him so-o-o-o much, and whose spirit, spook, or ghost can't leave the earth until it can make itself heard by the gal who up and shot him dead. Baxter begins his ghosting on page 29 of the script and after that he spends his shadowy time walking through doors, windows, jail cells, jury rooms and whatnot as surprised as all get out that he is able to do this, and mad as a hatter because nobody pays any attention to what he has to say concerning the modus operandi of his murder. He attends his own funeral, whispers to his sweetie-pie who is one of his chief mourners, and gets angry when she pays him no attention. When the trial begins he's right there beside the judge, jury and lawyers. He tries to tell them that the man (Henry Wilcoxon) who stands accused of the crime is innocent. He begs his wife (Andrea Leeds) to forget her grief and carry on, he urges his rootin' tootin' shootin' sweetie-pie to confess. Well, he finally gets his wife to hear him and she, finally, gets the murderess to confess and with that out of the way he wins his release from earth. Perhaps this vague and rather shadowy synopsis of the story doesn't stamp the picture as being such-a-much, but don't let what you've read fool you. Earthbound, despite its ghostly atmosphere as supplied by Baxter, is mighty entertaining. And believe it or not, there's spots of some ribtickling humor in it. In order that Earthbound could be shot at all, the camera department had to put on its collective thinking cap and produce some new camera magic. This was finally accomplished by inventing what the technicians tabbed as a "two-way" camera. In other words it was able to photograph the ghost sequences in two directions at once. This was done by attaching a prism directly in front of the camera lens. One of the planes of the prism was coated with mercury to make it slightly mirror-like so that it could hold the ghost's reflection. What the film recorded was this reflection, thus giving the ghost its semi-transparency. In many of the sequences Baxter was from twenty to thirty feet away from the other principals, but on the finished film you will see him mingling with them and often reaching out his wraith-like hands to touch them. One of the cleverest tricks in the whole picture so far as shooting is concerned is where Baxter's ghost picks up an injured bird, holds it in his hand and then carries it away. At the same time Baxter's body is shown to be transparent and passes right through all physical objects. H When I reported for work on Earthbound, I had no idea what the story was about, or who was to play in it. All they told me was to report Monday morning and be ready to do a little mountain climbing, so I mosey over to the wardrobe department and ease myself into some heavy woolen clothes, and a guy hands me a coil of rope and a gadget that looks like a second cousin to a pickaxe and tells me to beat it over to Stage No. 4, which is colder than the inside of an iceberg when I get there. The temperature is hovering around forty above. Everybody is pushing everybody else around, trying to get near the electric heaters that are going full blast to keep misery out of their bones. After I push my way inside and get my tootsies warm, what do I see off to one side but a set built to represent a scene in the Alps. The studio-built mountains reach almost to the roof and what's more, I can see that what's supposed to represent snow and ice IS snow and ice. I make inquiries here and there and find that Mr. Darryl Zanuck, the production chief of the studio, had such a yen for realism for this picture that he ordered fifty tons of ice and had it shaved and shoveled up into drifts and slides. To keep the snow and ice from melting, the air cooling system was turned on to its highest point, and, lady, believe you me, it was cold! The sequence was to show Baxter and his wife, Andrea Leeds, doing a bit of expert mountaineering by way of a holiday exercise. 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