Winter 2016

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56 CINEMONTAGE / Q1 2016 56 CINEMONTAGE / Q1 2016 by Laura Almo I t was the late 1920s and Jack Foley was a producer, director and writer working at Universal Pictures at its old location on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. Just up the road on Barham Boulevard, competing studio Warner Bros. was busy filming The Jazz Singer. When The Jazz Singer, with snippets of sound, was a success in 1927, neighboring Universal soon realized it would have to jump on the sound bandwagon. At that point, Universal was working on Showboat, a silent picture that would now become the studio's first film to incorporate sound. Universal asked for studio volunteers to help with the process, and Foley, who was interested in sound and always up for a challenge, jumped at the opportunity. He worked with other volunteers to add rudimentary sound. For that first sound production, the studio rented a Fox/ Case-Sponable sound unit to record sound effects, music and voices for Showboat. This was recorded on Stage 10, one of the original sound stages at the studio, which now houses a dubbing stage and an ADR facility. From there, things began to take off. Universal Pictures started doing more Westerns, and they called Foley in to do "footsteps" (this was the predecessor to the term "Walking Foley"). According to Catherine Clarke, Foley's granddaughter and guardian of his legacy, Foley got so busy, he called in people from the prop department to work with him in what was referred to as "Foley's area." This was the beginning of an art form — albeit one invisible and uncredited, as this job was called "sync to sound" (later termed "syncing"). All sound editors would do their own work. As movie sound evolved, so too did Foley. Migrating to the sound department at Universal, he continued to perform sounds for the studio's films for 40 years, concentrating on footsteps and props. Foley's passion was infectious. A real people-person with a genuine love of life, he brought in anyone who was interested in making sounds for film, including family and friends. Before long, he had assembled his own group of people who worked together and developed their own tricks and techniques — one of which was to use a cane to create extra footsteps. It was Foley who suggested that actor Walter Brennan put a rock in his shoe to create a limp for his role in To Have and Have Not (1944), and who rescued Spartacus (1960) from having to be reshot. When production didn't get the desired sound of the chariot armor, Foley shook some old keys to re-create the sound and saved the picture. He worked his sonic magic on many other films, including Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955) and A Farewell to Arms (1957). Foley died in 1967 at the age of 76. While these early practitioners created a staple of tricks and techniques, it was all kept under wraps. "Post-production [and sound effects] was one of the secrets of showbiz," says Clarke. "Everything was supposed to be very real, and nobody Why Is It Called 'Foley' Anyway? A N O R I G I N S T O R Y Jack Foley on Saint Patrick's Day 1944. Right, Jack Foley, shown with actress Martha Hyer, is granted an honorary membership by the Motion Picture Sound Editors in 1962. Photos courte- sy of Catherine Clarke

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