Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Fun of Movies

Au Pair Kansas is shooting on the college campus today and tomorrow. I'm hoping that some of my Mass Media students go out and watch the fun of movies being made.

Spending time waiting for the cameras to be set.

Spending time waiting for the lights to be set.

Spending time waiting for the sound to be set.

Spending time waiting.

That's the heart of movie making!

I recently - and finally - got a copy of an early Essanay Film, Sweedie Learns to Swim, starring Wallace Berry as Sweedie, the Swedish maid. It's hysterical.

A silent film, shot in Chicago in 1913/14 (released in 1914), the film shows Sweedie taking her day off and going down to the lakefront to take swimming classes. It is, of course, a disaster.

There's a scene where Sweedie tries to learn to swim in the bath tub. Of course the water overflows, leaks through the ceiling and pours into the dining room below (where, for some reason, the master of the household is gathered with guests, but without a maid). How many times, I wonder, did the carpenters at Essanay have to rebuild that studio dining room? It surely wasn't destroyed in one take.

That's the wonder of film. Nothing is ever destroyed in one take!

BTW: Here's a photo of Beery in 1914 at A dapper dandy, but nothing like a Swedish maid. The thing is, Beery didn't try to be a drag queen. No bust line, no affected walk, no nothing. He just put on a wig and a dress (or a bathing cap and bathing suit) and did a little bit of coy mugging for the camera, and there he was.

Like Beery Au Pair Kansas features a couple of guys in drag. One is the husband's ghost. The second is a local drag queen. I guess it's just a good Swedish American tradition to put guys in dresses for laughs.

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