Thursday, July 21, 2011
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I worked on a few Westerns during my movie extra job. This shot was from the TV series version of The Magnificent Seven. Fortunately, I was not required to carry a gun. In a twelve-hour workday, that ole six-shooter starts a-weighin’ heavy on the hip. The whole concept of a movie extra is to provide atmosphere without drawing attention to the individual. Sometimes, you’re given nonsense tasks, like pushing a wheelbarrow down the street. You might just sit at a table in a saloon for several hours. No great strain. Wardrobe is dull earth tones, usually in layers - shirt, vest, jacket, suspenders. It can be a little uncomfortable, but the work is certainly less strenuous than breaking up cement with a jackhammer.
I always enjoyed hearing the background of a location. On the Universal studio lot, the train depot is still in place, the one used in 1939 for The Son of Frankenstein, where the townspeople greet Basil Rathbone’s arrival, and he assures them that he’s there solely to settle his father’s estate, and nothing more. Of course, he becomes obsessed with his father's work, and resurrects the monster…This Western was filmed at Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch, north of L.A. Gary Cooper strolled the streets there in High Noon. And later, with a little spiffing up, hauling in more dirt, adding more fake buildings, HBO took it over for Deadwood. Made me wonder whether the ghost of Gene Autry's old sidekick Pat Buttram might walk the faded plank sidewalks when no one is looking.