TV Tropes: Troubled Production

Today, I will talk more about TV Tropes.  Specifically I will discuss an entry on their site called Troubled Production.  This refers to a production that is troubled.  As is common in such film shoots, things can go wrong.  Cast and crew can get sick.  Weather can disrupt filming.  Props can malfunction.  Films can fall behind schedule.

I had issues of my own when I shot my first film for my digital filmmaking class last semester.

First, I had trouble finding actresses.  Then I had trouble finding a location.

When I finally had those two things, I had trouble with with availability and weather.

My cousin who played one of the roles, had to cancel on the originally scheduled filming date because she had a school assignment to work on.  Two days later, we planned shoot but then there was a huge storm that affected much of the state of Illinois.  My cousin had returned home early from getting her hair done because of the weather, and when she returned to get her hair done, she had to cancel because she could not guarantee when she would be finished.  Finally, we rescheduled filming for two days later.  My cousin arrived at my college to film, and we  got to work.  Then I realized that I made a mistake.  I did not turn the microphone on the camera and I had no sound.  Luckily, my other actress, who was a classmate in my filmmaking class told us that the dialogue could be rerecorded and then I could re-sync it when editing it on the computer.

When time came to edit, however, I still had issues because I did not have much time to work on it; I could only edit it at school since only at school did I have access to Macs with Final Cut Pro, or any type of good film-editing software.  I tried to finish the editing on the day of the screening of all of our films, but I could not.  First, the computer on which I saved the files was used by another student (the classmate who appeared in my short film as the mother and aunt) and when I had time, I struggled with re-syncing the audio and realized that I had to do it line-by-line.  I ended sending my professor an incomplete version that was missing audio in two of the three scenes.  He did not show it at the screening because he could not download the file in time.  I was relieved because in my mind, I was scared of him showing it and being humiliated by it; even if it had been complete, I would have not been in the room while it was being shown because I feel it was a sloppy job, and I am committed to doing better next time.  It was my first film, after all, and not many people’s early works are their best, anyway.

Later on the last day of the semester, I finally had the time to finish the editing of the video and audio, and I submitted the project to my professor.  The people who saw it like it, though I really don’t.  But, I value the whole experience, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Of course, I am an amateur, and professionals often have even bigger issues when things go wrong.

TV Tropes has many examples, but one noteworthy one they don’t mention is the film Something’s Got to Give, directed by George Cukor and starring Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin for 20th Century Fox.  The troubles were so bad, that they indirectly caused the film to be abandoned.

First, on the day that filming was to begin, April 23, 1962, Monroe didn’t show up because of a sinus infection.  Cukor changed the shooting schedule to work around her since waiting for her recovery would have delaying the entire film for a month, had she followed a doctor’s orders.

Throughout the next couple of months, Monroe was frequently absent because of various health problems.  On May 19, she was scheduled to perform for President Kennedy at his birthday party; no one thought she would keep that commitment, but she did, and that was yet another iconic moment in her life.

In early June, shortly after Monroe’s birthday, she missed yet another day of filming because of a fever.  Cukor and Fox were fed up, and the studio fired her.

However, Dean Martin, was contractually given the right to approve his leading lady.  He refused to do the film without Monroe.  Fox agreed to rehire her, but compromises were made on both sides.  Monroe had to do two films for Fox including Something’s Got to Give, and Monroe insisted that Cukor be replaces as director; Fox also offered more money than she originally was offered.

However, in August of 1962, Monroe was found dead in her home.  The movie was shelved, but later it was overhauled and filmed as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and James Garner as the leads and released in December 1963.

According to Wikipedia: “In April 1963, Fox released the 83-minute documentary Marilyn which included brief clips from the screen-tests and unfinished film showing Monroe. This was the only footage from the film seen by the public until the hour-long 1990 documentary Marilyn: Something’s Got To Give, which used extensive excerpts from the footage…Nine hours of largely unseen footage from the film remained in the vaults at 20th Century Fox until 1999, when it was digitally restored by Prometheus Entertainment and assembled into a 37-minute segment for the two-hour documentary, Marilyn: The Final Days. It first aired on American Movie Classics on June 1, 2001, which would have been Monroe’s 75th birthday.[5][6] It is available on DVD.”

Another noteworthy case is that of Judy Garland.  Her drug addictions contributed to her being fired from several films and having trouble with others.

First, she suffered a breakdown while filming The Pirate and she was committed, but finished the film.  Later, while filming The Barkleys of Broadway, in 1948 migraine headaches, and the use of morphine and sleeping  led to her missing several filming days; she was fired from the film after doctors said she was only healthy enough to shoot for 4-5 days at a time with extended rest periods in between ans was replaced by Ginger Rogers.  She was, a year later, cast in the film version of Annie Get Your Gun, but Garland suffered with insecurity with the role and did not like director Busby Berkeley’s treatment towards her on set; as a result she was frequently tardy, and failed to show up.  Eventually, she was fired from the film and replaced by Betty Hutton.   Later, she appeared in Summer Stock,  and she missed the “Heavenly Music” number; she did not show up the day it was filmed, and therefore, it was shot without her.  She took a break from the film for two months and returned to shoot the famous “Get Happy” number; as a piece of trivia, Garland lost weight in the interim, and as a result there is the myth that it was originally filmed for a different film because she was noticeably thinner than in the rest of the film.  Finally she was cast in Royal Wedding, replacing June Allyson who dropped out of the film after becoming pregnant; however once again, frequent absences led to her being fired from the film, replaced (by Jane Powell) and she was released from her MGM contract in 1950.  Seventeen years later, Garland was cast as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls.  She was unreliable on the set, missing several rehearsals, and was fired and replaced by Susan Hayward.  Her wardrobe tests and her recording of the song “I’ll Plant My Own Tree” survived.



TV Tropes: Non-Singing Voice

This is not a trope, but rather trivia that is on the website of TV Tropes.  The reason that it’s not a trope is because it is not a narrative device.  It’s absence or presence has nothing to do with the story at hand.

Non-Singing Voice refers to the phenomena where an actor is cast in a musical film.  However, the actor does not sing his or her character’s songs in the movie; somebody else does.  The reasons are that the actor cannot sing or that he or she simply does not have the right voice for the material at hand.

This was most common during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Rather than cast actors who could sing, studios would cast whomever they felt was best for the role or whomever was a bankable actor.  If the actor could not sing the songs in the film, then the studio would hire someone who could.  This was done in secret because it was felt that it would ruin the film for viewers if they knew that actors were not really singing the musical numbers.  Usually an attempt was made to make sure the singer could sound the way the actors might if the actors could actually sing; so in a way these singers were also acting the roles at hand.  Such singers were known as playback singers and their actions for the films were known as dubbing; they would often sign contracts promising to keep their roles in the films secret.  Eventually, the fact that the singers would dub famous actors became common knowledge, but there does not seem to be any backlash against the films themselves.

Now here are some noteworthy cases of the Non-Singing Voice.

Marni Nixon was one of the most common playback singers; she might as well be called the “Queen of the Playback Singers/Dubbers”.  She dubbed for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

Natalie Wood appeared in several musical films and was dubbed in most of them.  The most noteworthy is her role as Maria in West Side Story.  She recorded her songs for the film, but her voice was considered sub-par because the songs were written for a higher vocal range than she was capable of.  She was given the impression at least some of her voice would be used in the final film, but after shooting completed, she was informed that all of her singing would be thrown out, and that Marni Nixon would re-record her musical numbers.  She felt betrayed.  On YouTube there are clips comparing Wood’s voice to Nixon’s voice; it’s clear that Nixon has the more refined voice, and Wood simply lacked the range to adequately sing the songs. In 1962, a year later, Wood appeared in the adaptation of the musical Gypsy as the title character, and did sing her parts; it helped that the score of Gypsy was not as demanding as West Side Story.  Wood would be dubbed two more times.  In 1965 she appeared in the film The Great Race; Jackie Ward recorded the song “The Sweetheart Tree” which Wood’s character sings.  Later that year Wood appeared in Inside Daisy Clover; she had three numbers, A slow and fast version of “You’re Gonna Hear from Me” and “The Circus Is a Wacky World.”  Once again, Wood recorded all of those songs, but only her recording of the first four lines of the slow version of “You’re Gonna Hear from Me” appeared in the final film.  The rest was dubbed by Jackie Ward.  Ward later remarked that after she recorded the songs in the studio with the orchestra, the orchestra erupted into a standing ovation; when she asked why, they said that they were happy that there was finally someone who could sing the songs; Wood’s performances of the songs were apparently sub-par.  Wood later stated that she was not against filming another musical, but only if she could guarantee that all of her songs would be recorded by her and appear in the final film.

In 1990’s several animated films featured voice actors who did not sing their musical numbers, and who instead had other people provide the singing voices of their characters.  This included the Disney films, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan.  Other non-Disney animated films that did this included Anastasia, The Swan Princess, Quest for Camelot, and The Prince of Egypt.

Audrey Hepburn appeared in the 1964 adaptation of the hit Broadway musical  My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle.  Julie Andrews, who originated the role on stage, was considered, but was rejected as she had never shot a movie before.  The role called for a soprano vocal range, that Hepburn simply did not have.  She recorded all of her songs, but all of them were re-recorded, except for the majority of “Just You Wait” which was in a lower range than the rest, and one line of “I Could Have Danced All Night,” by Marni Nixon.  Audrey Hepburn stormed out the studio when she learned that her singing would be replaced, but she shortly afterwards apologized her behaving so childishly.  When it was somehow revealed that Hepburn was dubbed by Nixon, Nixon gained infamy, and it is rumored that this revelation is why Hepburn was not even nominated for her role in the film which won several Oscars, including Best Picture.  Ironically, Julie Andrews made her film debut in Mary Poppins that same year and won the Oscar for Best Actress.  There are clips available of YouTube comparing Hepburn’s voice to that of Nixon’s.  Once again, Nixon is clearly more skilled for the material at hand.

In film version of Carmen Jones, much  of the cast could sing, including Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Diahann Carroll, but they could not sing opera.  So, opera singers dubbed their voices. The exceptions included Pearl Bailey and Olga James; interestingly, Bailey’s voice did not sound operatic at all, and therefore, does not fit in the rest of the voices in the film (supposedly she refused to be dubbed) and James did have the ability to same opera.  Similarly in the film version of Porgy and Bess most of the cast (some of them had appeared in Carmen Jones) was dubbed, but some were not including Pearl Bailey.

Interestingly, it seems rare nowadays for modern musical films to use playback singers.  I think the reason might be because most actors nowadays have the clout to be able to sing their songs.  Also and perhaps, audiences would not accept the fact that their favorite actors in the film are not really singing.  Modern examples in musical live-action films inlucde George Clooney being dubbed in O Brother Where Art Thou by Dan Tyminski, Zac Efron being dubbed by Drew Seeley in the first High School Musical film (the others in the series had the songs written to fit within Efron’s vocal range) and Minnie Driver being dubbed by Margaret Preece in the film version of The Phantom of the Opera.

My Love for Classical Music

As I mentioned in my new introductory blog post, I also had plans to talk about music from time to time, even though it is not the main purpose of my blog.  Today I will talk about music.  More specifically, I will talk about classical music.

My love for classical music came from three primary sources.  One the film Fantasia 2000, the sequel to my favorite movie ever, Fantasia.  In late 1999, I first saw commercials for Fantasia 2000, I was entranced by the use of classical music combined with animation.  Early that next February, me and my father and my brother and sister went to see it playing at the IMAX theater at Navy Pier.  That was also the first time I had ever seen an IMAX movie. (Now, it seems like every movie or at least every major movie is released in IMAX format).  I loved it and the experience.

Months later, I rented Fantasia on VHS from Blockbuster (there’s not many of those stores anymore).  I also fell in love with that movie, perhaps more so than its sequel; I suppose in many cases it’s true that original is always best.  Later, I eventually purchased the DVD (months after my aunt gave me the VHS of Fantasia 2000 as a Christmas gift), and enjoyed the experience of that as well as the bonus features which enriched my understanding of the film’s background and history.

Later on my mother introduced me to two cassette tapes from Victoria’s Secret.  They were called Classics by Request, they were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and my mom owned the second and fifth volumes.  The second volume included such classic such as Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons and the second movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (also known as the Pastoral Symphony) which was also in Fantasia.  I loved those cassette tapes very much, and that just cemented my love for classical music more and more.  I eventually found a box set of all five volumes of the Victoria’s Secret Classics by Request on Amazon, and I hope to purchase them one day.

I like classical music because of it’s feeling.  I feel like I am listening to something with a lush texture.  I feel like I am listening to something pleasurable and fun.  I very often listen to it on various music-streaming platforms such as Spotify, Songza, Pandora, and iTunes Radio.  My love for it will always stay.