Old Hollywood
Cinema
1900-1979

Nostalgia is a seductive liar - George Wildman Ball
Kim Novak & Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Vertigo (1958)
On Kim Novak’s performance: “You think you’re getting a lot. You’re not. It was very difficult to obtain what I wanted from [Kim Novak] because her head was full of her own ideas. But as long as I’m pleased with the result…In any case, the role was intended for another actress, Vera Miles. We were ready to begin filming…when, instead of seizing the opportunity of a lifetime, Vera Miles became pregnant. I ask you! I was offering Vera Miles a big part, the chance to become a beautiful, sophisticated blonde, a real actress. We’d have spent a heap of dollars on it, and she has the bad taste to get pregnant. I hate pregnant women, because then they have children.”
-Alfred Hitchcock 
"I don’t know if he ever liked me. I never sat down with him for dinner or tea or anything, except one cast dinner, and I was late to that. It wasn’t my fault, but I think he thought I had delayed to make a star entrance, and he held that against me. During the shooting, he never really told me what he was thinking. I know that Hitchcock gave me a lot of freedom in creating the character, but he was very exact in telling me exactly what to do. How to move, where to stand. I think you can see a little of me resisting that in some of the shots, kind of insisting on my own identity."
-Kim Novak

Kim Novak & Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Vertigo (1958)

On Kim Novak’s performance: “You think you’re getting a lot. You’re not. It was very difficult to obtain what I wanted from [Kim Novak] because her head was full of her own ideas. But as long as I’m pleased with the result…In any case, the role was intended for another actress, Vera Miles. We were ready to begin filming…when, instead of seizing the opportunity of a lifetime, Vera Miles became pregnant. I ask you! I was offering Vera Miles a big part, the chance to become a beautiful, sophisticated blonde, a real actress. We’d have spent a heap of dollars on it, and she has the bad taste to get pregnant. I hate pregnant women, because then they have children.”

-Alfred Hitchcock

"I don’t know if he ever liked me. I never sat down with him for dinner or tea or anything, except one cast dinner, and I was late to that. It wasn’t my fault, but I think he thought I had delayed to make a star entrance, and he held that against me. During the shooting, he never really told me what he was thinking. I know that Hitchcock gave me a lot of freedom in creating the character, but he was very exact in telling me exactly what to do. How to move, where to stand. I think you can see a little of me resisting that in some of the shots, kind of insisting on my own identity."

-Kim Novak

Federico Fellini & Giulietta Masina on the set of La Strada (1954, dir. Federico Fellini) 
Is [your wife, Giulietta Masina] a good actress, in your opinion?
Federico Fellini: Excellent. I think she would have interested me as such even if she hadn’t been my wife. Her mimicry, for example, and that little round face which can express happiness or sadness with such poignant simplicity. That little figure, with its tenderness, its delicacy, fascinates me no end. Her type is crystallized, even stylized for me. As an actress, she represents a special type, a very specific humanity.

Federico Fellini & Giulietta Masina on the set of La Strada (1954, dir. Federico Fellini) 

Is [your wife, Giulietta Masina] a good actress, in your opinion?

Federico Fellini: Excellent. I think she would have interested me as such even if she hadn’t been my wife. Her mimicry, for example, and that little round face which can express happiness or sadness with such poignant simplicity. That little figure, with its tenderness, its delicacy, fascinates me no end. Her type is crystallized, even stylized for me. As an actress, she represents a special type, a very specific humanity.

Anna Karina & Jean-Luc Godard on the set of Bande à part (1964, via getty)
An Inauspicious Beginning:
"In 1959, Jean-Luc Godard attempted to create   publicity for his forthcoming film by publishing a gag advertisement.   Written in the style of a classified ad, it read: Jean-Luc Godard,   who has completed ‘Breathless’ and is preparing ‘Le Petit Soldat’, seeks   young woman between 18 & 27 to make her both his actress and his   friend.
The prank seemed to be a smarmy attempt to use his   growing fame to seek young women in the guise of an open casting call.   In fact, Godard already had an actress in mind for the role, a young   woman who had rejected a role in Breathless - Anna Karina (the   role had required partial nudity and for this reason, Karina refused   it).
Godard sent Karina a telegram asking to speak with   her about a different role in a different film, possibly the lead. She   met Godard at Beauregard’s small office. She took a seat. He walked   around her several times and told her to come back the next day to sign a   contract. She asked whether she would have to get undressed. He said,  ‘No, it’s a political film.’ She said that she wouldn’t know how to give   a political speech; he said, in a colossal deception, ‘There aren’t  any  speeches, so come sign tomorrow.’
Shortly after Karina’s contract was signed,   Godard’s prank ad was published. The effect of this publicity stunt was   to make her casting appear to be the result of a response to the ad.   Unaware of the ad, Karina was returning to her apartment when her   concierge reported the contents of an article in France-Soir, to   the effect that Godard had met Karina through a want ad placed in a   trade journal, looking for his “actress & soul mate”. Karina asked   the concierge what that meant. To the concierge, it meant the actress   had slept with the director to get her role. The young actress, who was   furious at what she considered a humiliating insinuation, returned to   Godard’s offices in tears, ready to repudiate the contract & face   the consequences.  The next day, Godard sent her a telegram making   poetic reference to her Danish nationality – ‘A character from Hans   Christian Anderson has no right to cry’ – which also suggested that   through her association with him, she had embarked on a fairy-tale   destiny. She ignored the telegram; the director appeared at her door   with an enormous bouquet of roses to make amends and apologized for the   ad, which, he said, was his partner’s idea.
Though Karina had already signed her contract,   Godard began his effort to win her over to his cause. Karina recalled,  ‘He invited me to a screening of Breathless. I didn’t like it  at  all. Then we had dinner together. None of this appealed to me in the   least. I was basically a little suspicious.’ Nonetheless, she accepted   Godard’s request that she do a screen test.
Karina: ‘One week later, during the screen test, he   interrogated me – ‘do you like to read? Which books? Which music? And   what about boys? Do you like boys? What kind of boys?’ Good Lord, what   does he want from me? I didn’t want to answer. First of all, I thought   it was none of his business and besides, it seemed very strange. I was   on the verge of tears. I said to him: ‘Listen, this really is none of   your business! He didn’t insist.’
But of course, since Godard sought to eliminate the   barrier between the personal & the artistic, between life  on-camera  and off, he would soon make it his business.
-excerpted from Everything is Cinema: The   Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Brody

Anna Karina & Jean-Luc Godard on the set of Bande à part (1964, via getty)

An Inauspicious Beginning:

"In 1959, Jean-Luc Godard attempted to create publicity for his forthcoming film by publishing a gag advertisement. Written in the style of a classified ad, it read: Jean-Luc Godard, who has completed ‘Breathless’ and is preparing ‘Le Petit Soldat’, seeks young woman between 18 & 27 to make her both his actress and his friend.

The prank seemed to be a smarmy attempt to use his growing fame to seek young women in the guise of an open casting call. In fact, Godard already had an actress in mind for the role, a young woman who had rejected a role in Breathless - Anna Karina (the role had required partial nudity and for this reason, Karina refused it).

Godard sent Karina a telegram asking to speak with her about a different role in a different film, possibly the lead. She met Godard at Beauregard’s small office. She took a seat. He walked around her several times and told her to come back the next day to sign a contract. She asked whether she would have to get undressed. He said, ‘No, it’s a political film.’ She said that she wouldn’t know how to give a political speech; he said, in a colossal deception, ‘There aren’t any speeches, so come sign tomorrow.’

Shortly after Karina’s contract was signed, Godard’s prank ad was published. The effect of this publicity stunt was to make her casting appear to be the result of a response to the ad. Unaware of the ad, Karina was returning to her apartment when her concierge reported the contents of an article in France-Soir, to the effect that Godard had met Karina through a want ad placed in a trade journal, looking for his “actress & soul mate”. Karina asked the concierge what that meant. To the concierge, it meant the actress had slept with the director to get her role. The young actress, who was furious at what she considered a humiliating insinuation, returned to Godard’s offices in tears, ready to repudiate the contract & face the consequences.  The next day, Godard sent her a telegram making poetic reference to her Danish nationality – ‘A character from Hans Christian Anderson has no right to cry’ – which also suggested that through her association with him, she had embarked on a fairy-tale destiny. She ignored the telegram; the director appeared at her door with an enormous bouquet of roses to make amends and apologized for the ad, which, he said, was his partner’s idea.

Though Karina had already signed her contract, Godard began his effort to win her over to his cause. Karina recalled, ‘He invited me to a screening of Breathless. I didn’t like it at all. Then we had dinner together. None of this appealed to me in the least. I was basically a little suspicious.’ Nonetheless, she accepted Godard’s request that she do a screen test.

Karina: ‘One week later, during the screen test, he interrogated me – ‘do you like to read? Which books? Which music? And what about boys? Do you like boys? What kind of boys?’ Good Lord, what does he want from me? I didn’t want to answer. First of all, I thought it was none of his business and besides, it seemed very strange. I was on the verge of tears. I said to him: ‘Listen, this really is none of your business! He didn’t insist.’

But of course, since Godard sought to eliminate the barrier between the personal & the artistic, between life on-camera and off, he would soon make it his business.

-excerpted from Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Brody

Marilyn Monroe, photographed with Tony  Curtis, Jack Lemmon, & Billy Wilder on the set of Some Like It Hot (1959, dir. Billy Wilder) (via  drmacro)

Marilyn Monroe, photographed with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, & Billy Wilder on the set of Some Like It Hot (1959, dir. Billy Wilder) (via drmacro)

Tura Satana as Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965, dir. Russ Meyer)
via Big Bosoms & Square Jaws:The Biography of Russ Meyer by Jimmy McDonough:
"She knew how to handle herself," said Meyer. "Don’t fuck with her! And if you have to fuck her, do it well! She might turn on you!"
In fact, the right for intercourse was Satana & Meyer’s first battle. Once shooting was about to begin out in the desert, Meyer informed her of his production code: no connubial bliss.
"I can’t do that," said Satana matter-of-factly.
"What do you mean, you can’t do that?" barked Meyer.
"You better find somebody else, because I need it every day, and if I don’t get it I get very cranky. If you want me to give you a good performance, I need to be relaxed. And that relaxes me.”
"I knew she had me by the balls, because I couldn’t very well discharge her," RM moaned later. He relented to Miss Satana, and it wouldn’t be the last time.
But, Meyer had to ask, just who was going to fill her need way out here in the desert?
"Not you," she shot back. "You’re the director and you’re the producer. I’ll find somebody, even if I have to pull a gas jockey somewhere." She settled for the assistant cameraman. "Gil Haimson was my stud," she recalled, laughing. Meyer made her swear not to reveal to anyone else what she was getting away with.
Haimson blushed when asked to confirm. “I didn’t conquer Tura. I was set up!” he blurted out. “Tura came on to me. I said, Russ’ll have a fit!”
Gil had no idea that RM was in on the deal until decades later. “I went over to see Russ and said, “I’ve got to apologize for something.” When Haimson confessed, Meyer started howling with laughter. “You son of a bitch! You were set up, Gil!” Satana was one of the mighty few who ignored Meyer’s no sex decree, and she always felt that RM was a little miffed she didn’t choose him for a roll in the hay.

Tura Satana as Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965, dir. Russ Meyer)

via Big Bosoms & Square Jaws:The Biography of Russ Meyer by Jimmy McDonough:

"She knew how to handle herself," said Meyer. "Don’t fuck with her! And if you have to fuck her, do it well! She might turn on you!"

In fact, the right for intercourse was Satana & Meyer’s first battle. Once shooting was about to begin out in the desert, Meyer informed her of his production code: no connubial bliss.

"I can’t do that," said Satana matter-of-factly.

"What do you mean, you can’t do that?" barked Meyer.

"You better find somebody else, because I need it every day, and if I don’t get it I get very cranky. If you want me to give you a good performance, I need to be relaxed. And that relaxes me.”

"I knew she had me by the balls, because I couldn’t very well discharge her," RM moaned later. He relented to Miss Satana, and it wouldn’t be the last time.

But, Meyer had to ask, just who was going to fill her need way out here in the desert?

"Not you," she shot back. "You’re the director and you’re the producer. I’ll find somebody, even if I have to pull a gas jockey somewhere." She settled for the assistant cameraman. "Gil Haimson was my stud," she recalled, laughing. Meyer made her swear not to reveal to anyone else what she was getting away with.

Haimson blushed when asked to confirm. “I didn’t conquer Tura. I was set up!” he blurted out. “Tura came on to me. I said, Russ’ll have a fit!”

Gil had no idea that RM was in on the deal until decades later. “I went over to see Russ and said, “I’ve got to apologize for something.” When Haimson confessed, Meyer started howling with laughter. “You son of a bitch! You were set up, Gil!” Satana was one of the mighty few who ignored Meyer’s no sex decree, and she always felt that RM was a little miffed she didn’t choose him for a roll in the hay.

Crew members prepare Emil Jannings for the scene in Faust (1926, dir. F.W. Murnau) in which Mephisto’s wings obscure the sky as he hovers above a city. (via)

Crew members prepare Emil Jannings for the scene in Faust (1926, dir. F.W. Murnau) in which Mephisto’s wings obscure the sky as he hovers above a city. (via)

Director Anthony Harvey watches Katharine Hepburn rehearse on the set of A Lion in Winter (photo by Bob Willoughby)
"Working with her is like going to Paris at the age of 17 and finding everything is the way you thought it would be."
-Harvey on Hepburn

Director Anthony Harvey watches Katharine Hepburn rehearse on the set of A Lion in Winter (photo by Bob Willoughby)

"Working with her is like going to Paris at the age of 17 and finding everything is the way you thought it would be."

-Harvey on Hepburn

Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell take a break on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, (1952, photo by Ed Clark)
“Marilyn is a dreamy girl. She’s the kind who’s liable to show up with one red shoe and one black shoe.”
-Jane Russell

Marilyn MonroeJane Russell take a break on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, (1952, photo by Ed Clark)

“Marilyn is a dreamy girl. She’s the kind who’s liable to show up with one red shoe and one black shoe.”

-Jane Russell

Faye Dunaway tries to kill director/Fugitive to the Stars Roman Polanski with her mind on the set of Chinatown (1974)
Polanski vs. Dunaway, Or: It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets a Face Full of Urine
"The actors were used to the American warm bath school of directing, which is to say, a collaborative approach. That was not Polanski’s way. ‘Roman is Napoleon with actors, ‘They do what I tell them to do,” says [Paramount production head Robert] Evans. ‘He’d say, ‘In Poland, I could just go make my fucking movies.’ He was dictatorial & controlling. He gave Jack Nicholson so many line readings that Anthea Sylbert, the costume designer, half expected Nicholson to begin speaking with a Polish accent. But Nicholson & Polanski were good friends and Nicholson was more often than not amused by Polanski’s eccentricities. Dunaway, on the contrary, was decidedly not.
Dunaway was puzzled about her character’s motivation, and by all accounts, got little guidance from Polanski. He would shout, ‘Say the fucking words. Your salary is your motivation.’ Things came to a head two weeks into shooting. According to Polanski, ‘There was one hair that would stick out from her hairdo and catch the light and I was trying to get rid of it, trying to flatten it and it would not stay.’ Polanski walked around behind her and plucked the hair. Dunaway screamed, ‘That motherfucker plucked my hair!’ and stormed off the set. Polanski did the same. Evans arranged a truce between the director and his leading lady, but it didn’t last long. ‘There was a scene where she gets in the car after seeing her daughter, and Jack is in the car waiting for her and scares the shit out of her,’ recalls John Alonzo, the DP. ‘She kept saying to Roman, ‘Roman, I have to pee. I have to pee.’ ‘No. No. You stay there. You stay there. We shoot, we shoot.’ And then he said, ‘Roll the window down. I got to talk to you. You’re turning too far right. Don’t look at Jack, look ahead.’ Then she threw a coffee-cup full of liquid in Roman’s face. He said, ‘You cunt, that’s piss!’ And she said, ‘Yes, you little putz,’ and rolled the window up. We were all speculating that maybe Jack peed in the cup for her. [Or maybe] she had a small bladder or something.”
-excerpted from Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Faye Dunaway tries to kill director/Fugitive to the Stars Roman Polanski with her mind on the set of Chinatown (1974)

Polanski vs. Dunaway, Or: It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets a Face Full of Urine

"The actors were used to the American warm bath school of directing, which is to say, a collaborative approach. That was not Polanski’s way. ‘Roman is Napoleon with actors, ‘They do what I tell them to do,” says [Paramount production head Robert] Evans. ‘He’d say, ‘In Poland, I could just go make my fucking movies.’ He was dictatorial & controlling. He gave Jack Nicholson so many line readings that Anthea Sylbert, the costume designer, half expected Nicholson to begin speaking with a Polish accent. But Nicholson & Polanski were good friends and Nicholson was more often than not amused by Polanski’s eccentricities. Dunaway, on the contrary, was decidedly not.

Dunaway was puzzled about her character’s motivation, and by all accounts, got little guidance from Polanski. He would shout, ‘Say the fucking words. Your salary is your motivation.’ Things came to a head two weeks into shooting. According to Polanski, ‘There was one hair that would stick out from her hairdo and catch the light and I was trying to get rid of it, trying to flatten it and it would not stay.’ Polanski walked around behind her and plucked the hair. Dunaway screamed, ‘That motherfucker plucked my hair!’ and stormed off the set. Polanski did the same.

Evans arranged a truce between the director and his leading lady, but it didn’t last long. ‘There was a scene where she gets in the car after seeing her daughter, and Jack is in the car waiting for her and scares the shit out of her,’ recalls John Alonzo, the DP. ‘She kept saying to Roman, ‘Roman, I have to pee. I have to pee.’ ‘No. No. You stay there. You stay there. We shoot, we shoot.’ And then he said, ‘Roll the window down. I got to talk to you. You’re turning too far right. Don’t look at Jack, look ahead.’ Then she threw a coffee-cup full of liquid in Roman’s face. He said, ‘You cunt, that’s piss!’ And she said, ‘Yes, you little putz,’ and rolled the window up. We were all speculating that maybe Jack peed in the cup for her. [Or maybe] she had a small bladder or something.”

-excerpted from Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Above, Herbert Brenon (center) directs Betty Bronson in 1924’s Peter Pan (a role traditionally played by women); below, still of Bronson from the finished film

Above, Herbert Brenon (center) directs Betty Bronson in 1924’s Peter Pan (a role traditionally played by women); below, still of Bronson from the finished film

Art director Erich Kettelhut & crew create the futuristic city set of Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) (via)

Art director Erich Kettelhut & crew create the futuristic city set of Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) (via)

 
“When I was nine I played the demon king in Cinderella and it launched me on a long and happy life of being a monster.”
-Boris Karloff(photographed here w/ make-up phenom Jack Pierce)

“When I was nine I played the demon king in Cinderella and it launched me on a long and happy life of being a monster.”

-Boris Karloff(photographed here w/ make-up phenom Jack Pierce)

Orson Welles on the set of Macbeth (1948, dir. Orson Welles)
"You could write all the ideas of all the movies, mine included, on  the head of a pin. It’s not a form in which ideas are very fecund. It’s a  form that may grip you or take you into a world or involve you  emotionally—but ideas are not the subject of films. I have this terrible  sense that film is dead, that it’s a piece of film in a machine that  will be run off and shown to people. That is why, I think, my films are  theatrical, and strongly stated, because I can’t believe that anybody  won’t fall asleep unless they are. There’s an awful lot of Bergman and  Antonioni that I’d rather be dead than sit through.
For myself, unless a film is hallucinatory, unless it becomes that  kind of an experience, it doesn’t come alive. I know that directors find  serious and sensitive audiences for films where people sit around  peeling potatoes in the peasant houses—but I can’t read that kind of  novel either. Somebody has to be knocking at the door—I figure that is  the way Shakespeare thought, so I can’t be in bad company!”
-Orson Welles

Orson Welles on the set of Macbeth (1948, dir. Orson Welles)

"You could write all the ideas of all the movies, mine included, on the head of a pin. It’s not a form in which ideas are very fecund. It’s a form that may grip you or take you into a world or involve you emotionally—but ideas are not the subject of films. I have this terrible sense that film is dead, that it’s a piece of film in a machine that will be run off and shown to people. That is why, I think, my films are theatrical, and strongly stated, because I can’t believe that anybody won’t fall asleep unless they are. There’s an awful lot of Bergman and Antonioni that I’d rather be dead than sit through.

For myself, unless a film is hallucinatory, unless it becomes that kind of an experience, it doesn’t come alive. I know that directors find serious and sensitive audiences for films where people sit around peeling potatoes in the peasant houses—but I can’t read that kind of novel either. Somebody has to be knocking at the door—I figure that is the way Shakespeare thought, so I can’t be in bad company!”

-Orson Welles

Sandy Dennis in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, dir. Mike Nichols)
"Sandy is really one of the most genuine eccentrics I know of. She sat on the set of Virginia Woolf like a schoolmarm and suddenly  produced the most gigantic belches, like a drunken sailor. Elizabeth [Taylor] is  also a good belcher, so they had competitions, but Sandy nearly always  won.”
-Richard  Burton

Sandy Dennis in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, dir. Mike Nichols)

"Sandy is really one of the most genuine eccentrics I know of. She sat on the set of Virginia Woolf like a schoolmarm and suddenly produced the most gigantic belches, like a drunken sailor. Elizabeth [Taylor] is also a good belcher, so they had competitions, but Sandy nearly always won.”

-Richard Burton

Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant practice their somersault scene on the set of Holiday (1938) (via getty archives)

Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant practice their somersault scene on the set of Holiday (1938) (via getty archives)