Winter 2017

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51 Q1 2017 / CINEMONTAGE 51 Q1 2017 / CINEMONTAGE T here haven't been a lot of movies about moviemaking. Of those few, even fewer depict a post-sync dialogue replacement session. Three that come to mind are Postcards from the Edge (1990, Columbia), Inside Daisy Clover (1965, Warner Bros.) and Singin' in the Rain (1952, MGM). Even though Postcards was released in 1990, and based on a 1987 novel, the post-sync session depicted in the film is staged more like an old-fashioned looping session. The film only shows the lead (played by Meryl Streep) rehearsing the line. She then engages in a lengthy conversation with the director of the movie-in-the-movie (Gene Hackman), all the while the picture of the line to be replaced plays over and over again behind them, just as on a looping stage of yore. Daisy Clover presents a very dramatic and stylized looping session. It is fascinating how the session is staged, photographed, edited and mixed. The story takes place in the early 1930s, but the techniques depicted bear little relationship to how dialogue replacement was actually done at the time. What it surrenders in accuracy, however, it gains in narrative impact for the particular story it tells. The classic musical Singin' in the Rain contains a brief scene that turns out to be a very accurate representation of looping. The story of the film takes place during the transition from silent movies to talkies. The fictitious studio in the story is stuck with a beautiful leading actress (Jean Hagen) who has a screechy natural voice. Any illusion of grace is shattered as soon as she opens her mouth to speak. Contractually stuck with her, the studio decides to save its investment by using the voice of another, unknown actress (Debbie Reynolds) in place of the star's. About 89 minutes into the story, there is a brief scene where the young actress is brought onto a recording stage at the studio. On the screen in the recording stage, the actress is shown the line that she is to re-voice. The lights are dimmed. On a black screen, a white line travels across from screen left to screen right, then the image appears of the leading actress speaking the line, and we hear her harsh natural voice. The young actress indicates that she's ready to do a take. The lights are dimmed again. The white line travels across the black screen, serving as a device to cue her to the start of the line. When the image appears, we hear the beautiful voice of the young actress speak the line in perfect sync with the image. The filmmakers are happy; the film-to-be has been saved! Ironically, in that scene in the finished film, Reynolds is shown re-voicing Hagen, but on the finished audio track, what the audience actually hears is Hagen's real voice coming out of Reynolds' mouth. During post-production, the directors decided that Reynolds' voice didn't sound sophisticated enough, so they had Hagen re-voice herself. Her screechy voice was not her natural voice, but rather a performance voice to fit the role. Therefore, the person doing the re-voicing was actually re-voiced by the person she was supposed to be re-voicing! In the accompanying photo from Singin' in the Rain, note that Reynolds is resting her left hand on a steel bar. Those were called "performance bars," and they are still present on the ADR stages on the Sony lot (formerly MGM Lot 1). Douglas Shearer, MGM's sound director from 1928 to 1955, told a story in a 1938 article in Behind the Screen: How Films Are Made: "Jeanette MacDonald, when she first sang for films, was inclined to sway in time to the music she was singing. That caused microphone trouble. So she was asked to stand behind a chair, holding the back of it with her hands, which restricted her instinctive movements." Eventually, the MGM machine shop constructed a set of stand-alone metal bars so that actors could hold onto something sturdy while singing or speaking to help keep them in place before the microphone. – R.J. Kizer A screen capture from the looping sequence in Singin' in the Rain. Warner Bros. Syncin' in the Rain LOOPING GOES TO THE MOVIES

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