Media | 1960 | Sound | B/W
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A behind the scenes study of the Director Anthony Asquith on the set of the film "Libel" which also looks back on his career.
A black screen fades into a shot of an Dirk Bogarde standing in the distance. Around the actor can be heard instructions from one of the film crew instructing the rest of the set to be quiet. We then see a closer view of the actor who is standing on a dock with a sign saying "fire exit no 3" behind him. The lighting man is standing directly in front of him and the actors face is brightly lit, the actor then begins to deliver his lines concerning an event he witnessed from under a bridge.
He then stops and we see the film's director (Anthony Asquith) get up from his chair and move to the Bogarde. As Asquith does this his name comes up in the same font and colour as the films title. A voice over can now be heard, it starts with the line "So you want to be a film director," the voice over is humorous and describes the role of a film director as "having the lot". From above we can see the whole crew which the narrator seems to feel makes the whole process of film directing rather easy, intoning "it can't be very hard, look at all those assistants". In the same shot we see Anthony Asquith directing the crew while the narrator invites us in to show us how Anthony Asquith does it and why we can't.
A close up on Asquith as the narrator gives us a brief description of Asquith including his age and the various roles that he has fulfilled in film, including editing and directing as well as starting in the silent era. Asquith is dressed in an all in one work suit. We then see Bogarde continue with his lines as the voice over continues, the camera then moves to the left into darkness.
The next shot is a close up of a woman and the voice over tells us that this is footage from the first film that Asquith made in 1929 and that film making has change little since then, the film appears to be grainy. This film is silent. A man is then shown at a barbers shop having a shave, the barber is using a cutthroat razor and the mans chin and throat is in close up. We are told that the film is called "A Cottage on Dartmoor ". There is then a shot of the barber who looks menacing his eyes staring intently at the man in the barbers chair. Apparently this film was the “tops in terror" for its time. There is then a shot of a man stroking a woman’s hand, which then goes back to the barbershop. A music score comes up and the barber moves to the side of the man and appears to be saying something threatening. A black screen comes up with dialogue imposed over it, which reads " Don't move or I'll cut your throat,".
The film then goes back to the set that we started with, Asquith is instructing his crew. The voice over tells us that Asquith is terrified of cameras, not of cameras themselves but rather appearing on "the wrong side of them". As an example we then see Asquith standing in a room, there appears to be manuscripts on the table in the middle of the room, while at the side are paintings and photographs. Asquith himself paces around the room smoking a cigarette while talking to the camera, he is quite camp. He is talking about a film called The Green Bay a film that gave him his first break; He did everything, even doubling with Paul Davis in a chariot.
There are then shots of the courtroom set we initially saw Bogarde on but this time from above. There are many crew members carrying out their jobs and the narrator talks about the time just after Asquith began making films when there was a new influx of film makers who used bigger crews, Asquith it emerges was one of the people who were doubtful of using bigger crews. Then we see Asquith talk about his initial negative reaction to the bigger crews, however once seeing these bigger crews work he then infers that he changed his mind, realising that this was " A different medium". There is then footage of a war film, Asquiths first 'talkie' - Tell England. The footage shows World War One troops ( ANZAC troops at Gallipoli) charging the enemy lines. There are several shots of the troops moving accompanied with the information that this was the first time that Asquith used locations and big crowds. From the War film we move to footage of Asquith's next film Fast and Furious, the shot that we see is of a couple ( Michael Redgrave and Rosamond Johns) Redgrave is dressed in a Royal Air Force uniform and is helping Johns with the washing. Redgrave appears serious as does Johns. The film was made during World War Two. They are discussing missing aircrew, Johns states that she would rather hear it at once if they had died rather than at first hearing that they were missing. The next film from Asquith's career that we see is "Doctor's dilemma", the scene shows two actors in bright light, a man lying down and a woman by his side. The woman is crying while the man tells her that she must always wear "beautiful dresses".
Asquith comes out of the door of a house and we into a chauffeur driven limo. The voice over continues, "How do you become a director, and right to the top of the tree at that, experience helps…" . Asquith then arrives at the studio at 8:30 and as the voice over says "plunges deep into what looks like chaos". The shot is of a street set at night, there are heavy shadows and there is an arch in the distance. The actors and crew are setting up. Asquith is talking to various crew members to ensure that everything is set up for the days shoot, Asquith has his back to the camera while he talks to the crew, the narrator informs us that there are a hundred things to do and Asquith must talk to various technicians and departments while coping with interruptions that have to be dealt with.
The next shot is of Asquith leaning against a table while talking to a man in a suit who is sitting behind the desk. It is his producer. The producer’s role is described and Asquith looks quite animated in his discussion with the producer as we hear them discuss a scene from the film. Following this the camera pans across the street set which has various crew members working, the camera then moves up close to Asquith as he instructs an actor in a uniform who has a microphone waving above his head. Then there is a shot of Asquith behind a fruit stall on the set, with a young blond actress behind him, he is in heavy shadows as the camera moves on to him pointing out what he desires to be done, although we cannot hear what is being said.
There is then a shot of Asquith planning future sequences with 'key members of the team”. In the middle is his producer with Asquith second from right. The men are the production manager, the art director, camera and sound managers. We hear discussion of an actress 'Olivia' needing to finish work on the film by the 24th. There is then a shot of a dog on the set, the narrator continues that some decisions can be made in a conference but others have to be made on the spot. Asquith can be seen with other crewmembers petting the dog, which is in the centre lying down. This sequence on planning moves to specialist planning and Asquith talking to his art director, Asquith is sat down going through some plans while his art director (Paul Shelly) stands behind. They then walk to another part of the room and look at a scale model of the set. The narrator talks about how these are plans for when the actual sets will be built for "their few days life of actual filming". The art director and Asquith talk about the positions of the actors during a scene where an actor has a nightmare, including the position of a piano.
Asquith is now talking to actors on set. The narrator informs us that films are shot out of order and that Asquith must carry the whole film in his head. The camera moves right as the preparations are made on the set. The scene is quite busy with the crew setting up, Asquith himself is in the foreground talking to an actress, in the distance we can see the arches. Asquith then talks to Bogarde, they are both smoking with Bogarde slightly higher up than Asquith and the crew in the background. Bogarde is now wearing a heavy coat over his suit. The voice over concerns how a director must coax what he wants out of an actor, ruthlessly if needs be. We then hear slightly muffled discussion concerning how Bogarde is to move in a scene. The voice over then asks how we would go about handling people. The screen goes to black and comes back in with two men talking to each other on set, one is Bogarde and the other is an interviewer who has his back to us, the voice over informs us that Asquith brings a human touch to how he handle actors, how he doesn't tell Bogarde what to do but rather gets him to "think about the problems of a character,". Bogarde then describes Asquiths intellectual approach to his work, how they have a good rapport and a good understanding of each other, a "chemical blending". Bogarde then states that there "isn't always time," to give actors personal attention, a line that the narrator repeats over a shot of the set. The camera then moves to the right following the actor Paul Massey who is dressed in a uniform.
Next Massie discusses Asquith to an interviewer. It is a formal interview with Massie in a suit; the interviewer is not on screen this time. Massie talks about how being a newcomer it is to work with Asquith. Asquith lets him make and learn form his own mistakes. He also reveals that the film that they are working on is called 'Libel' this is the first time that the films title is revealed. Previously he had worked with Asquith on a film called Orders to Kill. Massy says that it is more of a challenge working with Asquith for the second time.
Then a shot of an elderly couple in a bedroom set, there are two separate beds and a lamp on a table. The narrator sums up what we have learnt so far concerning the groundwork of filmmaking. Half of the screen is in darkness while the couple appear in the top right corner. They then collect their belongings and move out of view. Asquith then moves onto the set and turns to the left, talking to an unseen person. The narrator goes on to say that now all the groundwork is set it is only left for Asquith's final briefing before production starts. Asquith then moves to the dark area of the screen, we can here him give instructions and clearly see his arm point and move. He then moves back on to the lit part of the screen and informs the unseen figure how he wants the scene to play out. The voice over then tells us that we are ready for a take, that there can be no interruptions and that red lights spring up every where, there is also we are told a tenseness in the atmosphere and every body is waiting for Asquith.
The screen then goes to pitch black and muffled directions can be heard from the crew, until some one says "take 1". From the black screen the camera moves right, a couple enter the bedroom by the side door, the woman puts her things on the bed while the man (Massy) moves to the far left of the screen and sits down putting his items by the television set, he is possibly sitting in front of a television set, although this is unclear. Asquith then stops the take, the narrator informs us that this was not good enough, that Asquith wants the items placed by the chair not the television set. Asquith comes onto the set and informs Massie of this, while in the background the crew prepare o do the take again. The screen again goes to black and again pans to the right as the couple re-enter the room. The woman tells the man "over there" and points to the other side of the set. The man places his coat down and again goes to the far side of the set, sitting down by the television set. The narrator suddenly says "That’s it, another piece of the jigsaw finished and off for processing so that the director can check his progress ". The screen again goes to black.
Asquith reappears on the right of the screen talking to his producer who has his back to the screen. From behind a man in a suit and rain jacket walks towards them and joins another group of men to their left. The narrator says that it is a matter of not just 2 to 3 shots a day rather it is important to take as many shots as possible without sacrificing quality to speed. Then a shot of Massie from above in a uniform on the street set with a microphone above his head and crew in front of him as the narrator explains that costs can run to £20,000 a day.
Another close shot of Asquith looking around which fades into a shot of him standing outside, he is in the middle distance with a man close to the camera on the right side and two behind Asquith himself, this it transpires are his second unit. Behind Asquith appears to be a power station. The camera moves to the right, past some parked cars to reveal a camera looking at Bogarde on a horse. The voice over mentions that being in more than one place at once is part of a director’s life. Close up on Asqiuth talking to a man in sunglasses and another man who is not in the shot. They are outside and Asquith is wearing a cardigan with a striped pattern on it. Shot goes to black and then fades in with a shot of Asquith talking to a crew member while drinking from a mug. Behind him a man moves a light. They are inside and the camera moves around following Asquith as he talks to the crew. The Voice over asks the viewer whether they still want to be a film director, imparting the advice that they remember to be as good as Asquith. Accompanying this scene is mid paced violin music typical of the 1940's .
A shot from above following Asquith as he moves around the bedroom set. The voice over says that Olivia de Havilland was one of the stars on the film. The next shot is of the actress with Bogarde on her right and Asquith on the left, directly in front of the camera is the shot of the back of some ones head. Havilland and Bogarde are drinking what appears to be cocktails. There is then interview footage of Havilland . She is looking off screen at an unseen interviewer and is describes Asquith on set, Asquith according to Havilland gets results through affection.
The screen fades to Asquith walking around the set. On the bottom right appear the end credits, these credits appear in the same white font as the titles. The first tells us that the narrator was Peter Lee, the camera continues to follow Asquith as the credits for camera (Ian Struthers), sound (Digby Jones), script (John Dunn) and editor (Howard Lanning) appear. These fade away and the credit for the associate producer appears (A.C. Ripley) in a larger font. The last credit across the screen reads produced and directed by Peter Lee. We can also hear the score that has run through the documentary and Asquith's voice, although it is not clear what he is saying.
The final section has a close up on Asquith while the narrator continues with "Make a lot of films, meet a lot of people, maybe you'll make it, still you'll have a hard time getting into the Asquith bracket, you see he's not just successful, he's one of the best loved personalities in British film,". The music then builds as Asquith talks to his crew
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