Posts Tagged ‘fresnel lens’

Playmate Revisited: Shannon Tweed by George Hurrell, with bonus Classic Hollywood photography blatherings

June 28, 2011


Lovely Ms. Tweed gets the Veronica Lake treatment from a celebrity photographer.

Backstory: In the still-building comments on my sadly meager original Shannon Tweed entry, from the heady days of NSFW November when I was still relatively new to this game, reader Jed Leyland* suggested this morning that I chase down and post up what I could find from a shoot Shannon did with the legendary George Hurrell.

Here it is!


The new actresses don’t have the sense of posing that the old stars did. There’s no one around to train them. That’s why Hollywood seems less glamorous. But Shannon is different. She knows how to pose and what to do with herself. What surprised me more than anything was her nice personality — the kind of personality that has an intellect to go with it. I was quite impressed with that.

(George Hurrell on Shannon Tweed.)

The lovely and talented Ms. Tweed posed for Playboy Italia in February of 1984. Her spread was photographed by George Hurrell, on whom the article mainly focused.


«George Hurrell, famoso fotografo statunitense, non ha perso il pelo (dei suoi cappelli, della sua barba), ma nemmeno il vizio — che nel sui caso e senz’altro una notevole vurti — di roncorrerre con l’obiettivo il fascino femmininile, per catutrarly e renderlo fermo nel tempo, assoluto.»


«Nelle fotographie di questa paging potete vedere , attualissima playmate degli anni ottanta. Hurrell l’ha ritratta, nella sua inquieta e moderna bellezza, come trenta, quarant’anni fa andava a caccia del fascino segreto, quasi raccolto in una cornice antica del sex-appear, appena accennato ma no nper questio meno pruriginoso, di attrici che sarebbero restate nella storia del cinema. Anche per merito sui, occhio discreto e innamorato che chon le sue “ispiratrici del momento” sapeva creare un sodalizio, quasi un legame sentimentale, queste foto riescono a uscire dalle pieghe del tempo per restituirci un fascio che credebvamo di allora e che invece e anchi de adesso, incredibilmente attuale.»

What’s that? Unlucky enough to have grown up without smatterings of Italian and a certain gameness for descrying cognates? No sweat. Let’s hit the babelfish, shall we? I love living in DA‘s future.


«George Hurrell, famous American photographer, has not lost the hair (of its nails head, of its beard), but not even the defect — that in on the case and senz’ other a remarkable one vurti — of roncorrerre with l’ objective the femmininile fascination, for catutrarly and rendering it firm in the time, absolute.»



«In the fotographie of this paging you can see, most current playmate of years eighty. Hurrell it has ritratta, in its restless and modern beauty, like thirty, forty years ago it go huntinged of the secret fascination, nearly collected in an ancient frame of the sex-appear, as soon as pointed out but not nper questio less pruritic, than actresses who would have remained in the history of the cinema. Also for merit on i, discreet and fallen in love eye that chon its ” ispiratrici of the momento” it knew to create a society, nearly a sentimentale tie, these photos succeed to exit from the folds of the time in order to give back a bundle to us that credebamo then and that instead and anchi de now, incredibly they puts into effect.»

Clear as mud now, jes? Honestly, you get the gist, I wager. Thanks, babelfish! I had originally intended to show the above pictures as proof that Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed were still going strong and sometimes folks get it right, isn’t that affirming?, but in the interest of accuracy I gave “gene simmons and shannon tweed” a quick googly-moogly, and apparently they’re having problems. So that sucks. Different direction required.

George Hurrell was one of the premiere Hollywood photographers for the glamour portraits and studio stills of the 1930’s-40’s. He is particularly famous in classic Hollywood portraiture for his “north light,” seen here applied to Anna May Wong.


Anna May Wong, photographed by George Hurrell.

He achieved this dramatic effect chiefly with the use of fresnels (which we’ve defined and discussed before in the 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies post on my fave-ohs, Twelve Monkeys) placed on a boom well above and only slightly in front of the subject.


Joan Crawford photographed by George Hurrell for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1932.

This bright, diffuse key light, along with some artsy post-treatment of his negatives, created the glowing planes with deep contrasting shadows and illuminated, heroic facial lines in his shots that basically define Art Deco photography and made his name. Joan Crawford adored him (above and below) because his luminous portraits revealed — or maybe created — a softness in her that few other still photographers were capable of capturing, which ran as a nice counterpoint to the brassy, hard women she played, to say nothing of her reputation as a handful on set.


Joan by George, 1933. By applying the north light and having Joan cock her forehead with her hand, probably to break up the imposingly symmetrical lines of her face, Hurrell creates a sort of softer, aw-shucks face that catches the light and interests the eye. I think, at least.

Hurrell preferred his subjects wear as light of makeup as possible, to avoid cakey, pale faces from the fresnel key lighting, which tends to magnify pores and unevenness. As his technique progressed, he especially liked the subjects to be rubbed with a thin, consistent layer of baby oil. The baby oil gave a uniform, glossy surface for the fresnel lights to suffuse, creating a burnished glow when combined with the contrasting natural shadows from the planes of the face.

See how shiny Jean is? Otherworldly, thanks to the north light, the oil, and Hurrell’s radical retouching techniques. This became the defining “look” for MGM’s glamour publicity shots of their stars. Hurrell’s contract with MGM didn’t last long despite the support of Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg; a fallout with a publicity department head resulted in Hurrell dramatically leaving the studio after serving there for three years. Though he continued to photograph almost exclusively for MGM throughout the next decade until contracting with Warner Bros in 1938, Hurrell mainly worked as a freelance, independent contractor.

The look wasn’t flattering on everyone — check out Greta Garbo above. While Anna May Wong’s baby oil-rubbed features work beautifully with the north light, Garbo looks harsh and washed-out. Not surprising that she fomented a close working relationship instead with Hurrell’s gentle contemporary, Clarence Sinclair Bull, who was “head” of the publicity still department at MGM for over four decades.

Maybe another day I’ll do a post comparing Bull, Hurrell, and … I don’t know, Leo Fuchs? I just dig this kind of thing. I mean, I did all this shit completely from memory and it seems crazy not to start using this knowledge for, like, a book or something.


Goofy girls — we are a Thing! (outtake from Shannon’s PMOY shoot, 1982).

Anyway, I’m over all this. I want to go eat a sandwich and watch the Giants game. Probably why I will never write that book: too much of a goof who keeps better track of eating sandwiches and watching ball than using her education for her profit. While I was writing this entry, I was drinking Diet 7-up from a licorice straw the entire time, but different straws every 5 minutes or so because when they start to get hard I like to eat them. This is all true. Super-mature and put together. Call me!

*Joe — “Of course we’re speaking, Jedediah. You’re fired.” Kane? Yes? Do I get a gold star?

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Twelve Monkeys

December 22, 2010

The Freedom For Animals association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas!

12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995). All-time favorite film, all-time favorite director.

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

(the imdb)


So as I said, this is my favorite movie of all time, in any genre — all other comers are just vying for second — and I screencapped the everloving Gilliamic crap out of it last week.


Filled with glee that this qualified as a holiday picture, I innocently thought, “Surely everyone who ever planned to see this film has seen it by now, so it’s okay for me to put up all my pictures.”

But if the internet has taught me anything in the past year on this here thought experiment, it is above all else that it is possible for people to get mad at you for anything, so, at a certain point, this post will have a jump/cut. You will be able to click and be taken to a standalone page with only this entry, so that those sensitive surfers who I think must actually go searching pop culture blogs specifically for spoilers will not be able to yell at me for said spoilers. I’ll also be able to prove why this is a holiday movie.


That point is now. Click below to go to the full-page entry, with trivia, analysis, lines, and tons more pictures.

“I am mentally divergent, in that I am escaping certain unnamed realities that plague my life here. When I stop going [to Ogo], I will be well. Are you also divergent, friend?” Click here if you qualify for bunny slippers at the monkeyhouse. (Be honest.)

edit: I took the jump out. Screw the small minority of spoiler-haters. Sorry, guys. Rail away if you must.

Still with me? Great!


Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s — that’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. Uh-uh. Look, if all of these nuts could just … make phone calls, they could spread insanity! Oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all those poor, sane people — infecting them! Wackos everywhere: plague of madness.



Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. …

Surely there is very real and very convincing data that the planet cannot survive the excesses of the human race: proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, the rape of the environment. In this context, wouldn’t you agree that “Chicken Little” represents the sane vision and that homo sapiens‘ motto, “Let’s go shopping!” is the cry of the true lunatic?

(That last was Dr. “Actual Bad Guy” Peters. He says it to Kathryn after her lecture when he’s getting his book signed.)


The lion James sees at the beginning is echoed by the camel perched on the top of the hotel in 1996. The image also shows up in a frame of a statue of a lion atop a stone as they search for Goines, and by the giraffes running across the overpass in Philadelphia many frames down.

No detail is too small to be necessary to the mise en scene of this film. Kathryn watches this Woody Woodpecker cartoon as she waits for James to get back in 1996 to the Oasis hotel. In the asylum in 1990, the movie on the television in the background as Goines rants is the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business.



I get it! This is your old plan, right?

Plan? What are you talking about?

Remember? We were in the dayroom, watching television, and you were all upset about the–the — desecration of the planet, and you said to me, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a germ, or a virus, that could wipe out mankind and leave the plants and animals just as they are?” You do remember that, don’t you?

Bulishit! You’re fucking with my head!

And that’s when I told you my father was this famous virologist and you said, “Hey, he could make a germ and we could steal it!”

Listen, you dumb fuck! The thing mutates — We live underground! The world belongs to the — the fucking dogs and cats. We’re like moles or worms. All we want to do is study the original!

Chris Meloni of Law & Order: SVU in a lovely little dickish part, a totally Terry Gilliam character: an individual given all the facts who refuses to acknowledge the possibility that the truth suggested by those facts could possibly be. Gilliam thrives on the absurd, and I think throws these Doubting Thomases in to the works to demonstrate how ugly a reception his credulous character constructions would receive in the world we all agree to be “real.”



Women will want to get to know you.

For me this is the creepiest Scientist line in the film. Even in the future, when the plague has driven everyone underground, a guy who considers himself “hep” will try to use the allure of poontang to bring a poor guy down. So unfair and underselling for the Cole character, like that is a carrot that can be held out before him in the face of what he’s endured.

Until I was screencapping, I never really noticed how much screen time the so-called “Apocalypse Nut” and true villain, David Morse playing Dr. Peters, Jeffrey’s father Dr. Goines’ lab tech, is given.



When I was institutionalized, my brain was studied exhaustively in the guise of “mental health.” I was interrogated, I was x-rayed, I was examined thoroughly.

Then they took everything about me and put it into a computer where they created this model of my mind. Yes! Using that model they managed to generate every thought I could possibly have in the next, say, ten years, which they then filtered through a probability matrix of some kind to — to determine everything I was going to do in that period.

So you see, she knew I was going to lead the Army of the Twelve Monkeys into the pages of history, before it ever even occurred to me. She knows everything I’m ever going to do before I know it myself. How’s that?


Who cares what psychiatrists write on walls?

I say this when a Thing matters and we are trying to diminish it.




Hey! Is that the police? I’m in here, I’m an innocent victim! I was attacked. By a coked-out whore and some fucked-up dentist!

I love how deranged Kathryn is in this scene, screaming at James to get Wallace’s wallet before they skedaddle. “We need cash!” But moments before, so tender when she touches his scalp with her curiously ugly hands. Madeline Stowe is the bomb.


Oh, hey, what’s a holiday movie? This is! Besides taking place during the Christmas season, we got some straight-up Santa action goin’ right here. Hope you can handle how very “holiday” this movie is.


James! James! It’s okay. We’re insane! We’re crazy! It’s a carpet cleaning company —

A carpet cleaning company?

No scientists — no people from the future! It’s just a carpet cleaning company. They have voice mail; you leave a message telling them when you want your carpet cleaned.

You … you left them a message?


Yeah, I couldn’t resist. I said, “The Freedom For Animals Association on 2nd Avenue is the —”

“— ‘is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas.'”


I’m not crazy.


I think I’ve seen this movie before. When I was a kid. It was on TV.

The Vertigo moment. This movie’s plot was inspired by Chris Marker’s La jetée, which also, in its turn, refers to the film Vertigo. While in the past, the protagonist of La jetée visits a Museum of Natural History with the blonde object of his affections, who points to the trunk of a cross-sectioned tree, the same way Kim Novak does in Muir Woods in Hitchock’s Vertigo, as shown in this scene from Twelve Monkeys. “Here I was born, and here I died. But it was only a moment for you — you took no notice.” Kathryn wears a blonde wig in this scene.

The lion I referred to further back, part of the recurring theme of wilderness which has been kept in captivity, let loose. Like the camel, like the giraffes, like the lethal virus, like James Cole released from his future underground incarceration to try and make time turn back and stand still.



It’s not just my dream. I was actually here! I remember now. … About a week or two before — before everybody started dying. I think you were here, too. But you — you looked just like you look now.

The exterior shots for the crucial airport scenes were done at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while the interiors are from the Reading Terminal at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.



Today, you gotta take in to account your Army-of-the-Twelve-Monkeys factor.

Wh–what? What did you say?

The Twelve Monkeys, honey. … Bunch’a weirdoes let all the animals out of the zoo last night.

This cabbie’s name is Annie Golden. You can also catch her in the soon-to-be-justly-famous I Love You, Phillip Morris.


That’s what they were up to! Freeing the animals!

On the walls — they meant the animals when they said, “We did it.”

Only assholes write on walls.




Excuse me, sir. I’m going to need to have a look at the contents of your bag.

Me?



Biological samples. I have the paperwork right here.

I’m going to have to ask you to open this, sir.

Open it? … Of course.

The curious, diffuse wash that bathes these final scenes was acheived with Fresnel lensed lights. Fresnels, a favorite tool of Gilliam’s, are a beveled lighthouse-and-old-car-headlamp-style lens.

The entire instrument consists of a metal housing, a reflector, a lamp assembly, and a Fresnel lens. Fresnel instruments usually have a convenient way of changing the focal distance between the lamp and the lens. The Fresnel lens produces a very soft-edged beam, so it is often used as a wash light. A holder in front of the lens can hold a colored plastic film (gel) to tint the light or wire screens or frosted plastic to diffuse it. … The Fresnel lens is useful in the making of motion pictures not only because of its ability to focus the beam brighter than a typical lens, but also because the light is a relatively consistent intensity across the entire width of the beam of light.

(the wiki)


I remember reading a review when this film came out which criticized the inconsistency between Cole’s memory of this moment from dream to dream and what happened in actuality. The reviewer said it took away from the original inspirational idea in La jetée, where Marker’s narrator saw himself die as a child but, they felt, moved more definitely toward that moment as events unfolded in the short film. The supplanting of an unseen “Watch it” man in a yellow jacket with first Goines and then Dr. Peters was, the reviewer claimed, too foggy.


Well, excuse me, Mr. Super-brilliant reviewer, but the fogginess is kind of the entire point. The weirdly symmetrical plot of Twelve Monkeys is a cyclical rumination on the subjectivity of memory and identity. Put that in your cool-guy pipe and smoke it. Asshat.

I went to this film probably a few months after its release, when it hit the $2 second-run theater we had in town at that time, and I ended up going back almost every night that week, taking different friends. I remember very clearly that one of my friends said when it was over, “That’s so weird that in the future the insurance lady that sits by the bad guy on the plane is a scientist.”

“Um — I’m pretty sure she’s from the future in that scene.” Like, maybe it’s too late for Philly, but she’s going to stop Peters from going to San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, et al. She says she is in insurance. Right? I mean, we’ve seen her in 2035, looking exactly the same, a highly placed physicist. I sincerely doubt that in 1996 she was an insurance agent who planned to survive the plague and not age.

Is this even up for debate? I’m serious, does someone have an alternate interpretation of that scene?