Ray Harryhausen Film Notes: THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

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*The following are my notes as part of an ongoing Ray Harryhausen film study course, which I currently instruct in Lawrence, Kansas.

We are about to set sail for a new type of adventure in our quest to explore the world of Ray Harryhausen. In this week’s screening and discussion, we take a marked turn from the black-and-white science fiction monsters and aliens. In Nathan H Juran’s THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958), Ray Harryhausen ventures into a fantasy voyage- in color- for the first time.

Filmed in Technicolor, this kicks off the first of the three Sinbad films in the Harryhausen filmography. It also denotes the first time we see the term “Dynamation” used. Dynamation was a new brand for Ray’s style of stop-motion animation painstakingly blended with live action. Now filming in color, producer Charles Schneer felt they needed to market Ray’s special talents and designate his special effects as a modern update that is a significantly different effect from standard animation. Schneer was inspired by his Buick automobile that was embellished with the word “Dynaflow” on the wheel, which led to the new branding. Interestingly, this “Dynamation” term didn’t always stick. Other terms such as “Dynarama” and “SuperDynamation” were used in later films.

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As typical for many of the films partnering Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer, it all began with Ray’s drawings. Ray created a dozen such detailed drawings many tears prior to meeting Schneer, which he then presented for his concept for this particular film. Ray had his misgivings about the transition to color, which presented new challenges for his stop-motion animation techniques when sandwiching with live action. Ultimately, Schneer prevailed in convincing Ray to embrace color. Ray was able to produce this “dynamation” with stunning results.

Filmed in a remote section of Spain and on a tight budget, filming and production presented its own challenges. For example, after the long haul to this remote area in Spain far from any nearby cities, the prop crew realized the swords were left behind. So, they chopped down tree branches, formed and painted the wooden swords right on the spot.

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Most of the filming was done on a sound stage in Madrid. To capture the ‘princess on a pillow scene,’ Kathryn Grant stood on a giant pillow that was 25 feet high by 40 feet wide in size, occupying a corner of the sound stage. A camera crane then pulled back 70 feet to create the effect that she is doll-sized. In the end, this sequence and all the scenes were processed through a Technicolor optical printer in London.

After the live action sequences were all filmed, it was then turned over to Ray Harryhausen who spent 14 to 18 months splicing in his work.

Music:

This is the first, of four, film collaborations between Ray Harryhausen and composer Bernard Herrmann. They additionally collaborated on THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961), and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963). In my opinion, this score is truly magnificent and should be considered not only one of Harryhausen’s best music scores within his filmography, but also as one of Herrmann’s, as well.

When you listen carefully to the opening titles score of this film, which takes just under two minutes, it’s as breath-taking and heart-thumping as many of his most-popular scores composed for an Alfred Hitchcock film. For example, listen to the overture (opening title music) of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (https://youtu.be/s9eBhmIIf8k ) then listen to the overture music for North By NorthWest: https://youtu.be/db4LjufUY-Y Additionally, Herrmann’s treatment of the skeleton warrior scene is especially playful and memorable; a true signature.

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Well-known soundtrack producer Robert Townson has worked on many Herrmann projects, including the extended re-recording of a 7th Voyage Of Sinbad score by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In an October 1998 interview, Townson was asked about his attraction to this particular film score, he replied…

It’s always been one of my favorites and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. It’s so rich and vibrant. Herrmann is clearly having fun with it. I mean, he really just went crazy. It’s so witty and charming. He covers so much ground. I would cite The 7th Voyage of Sinbad as one of the scores which most validates film music as an art form and a forum where a great composer can write a great piece of music. As pure composition I would place Sinbad beside anything else written this century and not worry about it being able to stand on its own.

For the full interview on the Bernard Herrmann site:  http://www.bernardherrmann.org/articles/interview-townson/

Cast:

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Kerwin Mathews was under contract for Columbia and made the perfect choice for Sinbad. He was athletic, handsome, and adapted well to the unique skills needed for the action scenes to counter the stop-motion animation. From talking to a miniature princess on a pillow, to sword-fighting creatures like giant cyclops, a two-headed Roc, a skeleton warrior and even a dragon. Mathews worked with Italian Olympic fencing coach Enzo Musumeci-Greco for the fighting scenes. Greco stood in for the fighting skeleton but for the final shoot, Mathews had to pantomime fighting his opponent.

When Mathews was able to see the finished product for the first time at a premiere in Monte Carlo, even he was astounded by Ray’s work. He felt as though he was watching a completely different film from the one that he filmed in Spain, thanks to the magic of Ray Harryhausen. Mathews would work with the Ray Harryhausen magic again, when he appeared in the starring role in THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960), where once again he proved he could handle the task of portraying a ‘giant role’ in contrast to his miniature co-stars.

He retired from acting in 1978, when he moved to San Francisco to become an antiques dealer. He attended film conventions occasionally and always appreciated his fans and acting days. Overall, he kept his private life quiet. In 1961, he met Tom Nicoll, who was his life partner for 46 years, until his death. Tom was a British display manager for Harvey Nicolls. Kerwin died July 5th, 2007, at the age of 81.

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 Kathryn Grant portrays Princess Parisa, who spends a majority of this film appearing tiny enough to fit in Sinbad’s hand. You may also know Kathryn as Bing Crosby’s 2nd wife, Kathryn Crosby. When Bing married Kathryn, he had been a widower for 5 years. He was 54 years old at the time, Kathryn was 24. Born Olive Kathryn Grandstaff, she had been performing since age 3 and continued to find work on the big screen. But this film was a big break for Kathryn, giving her a starring role. This was not the first time Mathews and Grant performed together. They both appeared in a little film noir, starring Kim Novak, FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE (1955). Usually playing small roles [such as an uncredited party girl at the song writer’s party in REAR WINDOW (1954), Lt. Betty Bixby in OPERATION MAD BALL (1957) with Jack Lemmon, and as Mary Pilant in ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959)], her career was just starting to gain traction when she semi-retired after marrying Crosby. Kathryn remains active and is still with us.

In a 2016 interview, she was asked, “Did you enjoy playing the leading lady in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” which is now a cult classic?”

“It was wonderful. Jean Louis, Columbia’s big designer, made me gorgeous clothes. And then we shot in Spain, in Granada and Majorca and Barcelona and Madrid. We didn’t know what was going on much of the time. During the swordfight with skeletons, Kerwin (Mathews) was looking at a stick, and then (visual effects master) Ray Harryhausen did all of the drawings afterwards. Columbia Pictures was wonderful.”

To read the entire interview:  https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/music/kathryn-crosby-bing-crosby-s-widow-brings-irving-berlin-revue-to-li-1.11563275

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Richard Eyer portrays the Genie boy. The studio cut costs by filming his scenes in California, at a salary of $600 per day. In comparison to his co-stars, Eyer’s acting career was in many ways more prolific, with twice the career under his belt by late puberty. He was a child actor with 54 acting credits from age 7 to age 22.

When I think of Eyer, I enjoy his role as little Billy Kettle in a couple of the Ma and Pa Kettle films, plus as the boy with the pet goose in William Wyler’s FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956). But many science fiction fans may recall him more as the boy with Robby the Robot in the FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) follow-up, THE INVISIBLE BOY (1957). Eyer was also known for westerns, many TV series, and even crime thrillers. After quitting acting, he married (now divorced), had three children, and taught elementary school in Bishop, California. He still resides in that area.

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Torin Thatcher, who spins troubles and magic as Sokurah in this film, boasted the largest filmography of them all, though. From 1927 to 1976, Thatcher performed 154 acting gigs. He firmly projects a commanding presence on screen and has a full resume of stern and villainous roles. Born to British parents in Bombay, India in 1905, he began with a more Shakespearean stage onset to acting, but then found his way to a multitude of genres on the big and small screen. He passed March 4th, 1981.

Ray’s Creatures Checklist:

Tonight, we will be looking for the following creatures of Ray Harryhausen’s creation…

Serpent Woman

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Cyclops- TWO of them!

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Roc Hatchling

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Roc

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Fighting Skeleton

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Dragon

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Questions and thoughts for discussion:

How does this film compare to the film Ray made just one year (release date) prior with MILLION MILES TO EARTH, in terms of his special effects?

Now in color, what are, if any, noteworthy differences from his black-and-white work?

What do you notice about lighting, shadows, and live action blending?

What are some examples of Ray infusing personality and/or humanistic qualities to a creature?

In this film, what is your favorite stop-motion animated character?

What impact did the performances, Technicolor, Bernard Herrmann, and Jean Louis costumes have in adding to the success of this film?

For a fun bonus, we listened to a promotional song called, “Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good To Me.” It’s swinging, sultry, little number that was given to select theatre managers (for playing in the lobby), as a marketing tool for the holiday 1958 release. Sung by Ann Leonardo. Take a listen: https://youtu.be/S_qZWzzAM3A

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31 Days of Oscar 2019 – Day 3

And now for Day Three in our #31DaysOfOscar Blogathon, hosted by the amazing and lovely co-host Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club…

Paula's Cinema Club

While this year’s Academy Awards ceremony is officially host-less, the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon has three! Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, and I, here at Paula’s Cinema Club have been celebrating the Oscars themselves and TCM”s tribute to same for the past seven years!

It’s almost a wrap on the third and final day, as I continue to collect the knowledge and opinions of our astute bloggers:

First up, Amanda at Old Hollywood Films focuses on Five Times the Academy Got It Right. Her picks include one of my favorites, George Sanders’ win for All About Eve; click for the rest.

Linda at Backstory: New Looks at Classic Films examines the life and career of “strikingly successful art director” Ward Ihnen.

Pale Writer analyzes Nat King Cole’s Best Song win for “Mona Lisa.”

at Crítica Retrô

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Day Two: #31DaysOfOscar Blogathon

I passed the baton for DAY TWO of the #31DaysOfOscar Blogathon to fellow and phenomenal co-host Aurora of Once Upon A Screen…

Once upon a screen...

I’m happy to say that we approach the halfway mark of this year’s 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon without incident or controversy. As is the case with my co-hosts, I will not be hosting any posts during commercials today, my day to host this year’s event. To put you at ease here is a 1957 Oldsmobile commercial, which aired during the Academy Awards ceremony that year. I will watch it with you thereby pausing my hosting duties.

Welcome back. Before we get to today’s list of entries, you might want to visit the Announcement post, which includes the entire participant roster. Also, be sure to visit Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled and the Day One submissions. Terrific stuff there. Otherwise, I’m getting to the main course of this entry, the tributes to the movies and the people who have had relationships with Oscar…or should have had. Enjoy!

  • We begin…

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Merry Christmas from the Pratts

This Christmas, we celebrate our 10th year as a married couple, as a blended family. My husband Gary, in his own creative way, has created some festive holiday cards over the past decade that express our love of our family, friends and classic film.

This year, we decided to go a slightly different direction to celebrate a decade of joy. So here is our twist on the song “My Favorite Things” (with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein), a la classic film. EnJOY!

(Sing to the tune of “My Favorite Things”)

Hitchcock and Spielberg, Welles, Capra and Wilder

Ford, Hawks and Huston; Lang, Kubrick and Wyler

Director geniuses, talents do sing

These are a few of my favorite things

 

Russell and Cary, Dunne, Stanwyck and Hepburn

Harlow and Hayworth, Jean Arthur and Coburn

Fast-talking through their mis-un-der-stand-ings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

Keaton and Davies, Lloyd, Harold and Astor

Pickford and Fairbanks. Gish, Brooks, Bow and Dressler

Silver screen antics and soundless acting

These are a few of my favorite things

 

When my mood sinks

When my job stinks

When our cable lags

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad

 

Dietrich and Henreid and Laughton and Gable

Cagney and Greenstreet, they’re actors well-abled

Dark smoky talent that gives my heart wings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

Tierney and George Raft, Dan Duryea and Bogie

Bacall and Ned Sparks and Bella Lugosi

Finely schooled actors with whose voices do ring

These are a few of my favorite things

 

John Wayne and Tom Mix and Carey (and Jr.)

Bond, Hunter, Cooper and Mitchum and Stewart

Rode tall in the saddle, our favorite gun slings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

When my mood sinks

When my job stinks

When our cable lags

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad

 

Caron and Gene Kelly, Astaire and Miss Rogers

Powell and Deb Reynolds plus Nicolas Brothers

Hoofing their way cross the stage and big screen

These are a few of my favorite things

 

I will have missed some, so sorry they’re lacking

Christmas is nigh and my presents need packing

Too many talented film queens and kings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

One final mention of TCM talent

Ben Mank and team, they’re really quite gallant

Passionate sherpas of classic film-rings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

When my mood sinks

When my job stinks

When our cable lags

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad

We hope you enjoyed our little song created to lift your spirits this holiday season, especially for our fellow classic film devotees. From our family to you and yours, we wish a very merry and bright! Here are some of the cards we made over the years…

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HoHoHo!

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Day 3 of the 2018 What A Character! Blogathon

Co-host Paula of the 7th annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON wraps up the 3rd and final day. Read on for all the terrific entries…

Paula's Cinema Club

‘Tis the season to recognize the names below the title, as our yearly recognition of those supporting players whose faces you know (but names you might not) concludes today.

Check out Day 1 by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled and Day 2 at Aurora‘s blog Once Upon a Screen. All the nitty-gritty blogathon details are in the Announcement post. Thanks to my partners in cinematic tribute for making this such a fun project and to Turner Classic Movies for the blogathon title and inspiration. And now on with the show…


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WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon – Day Two

For Day Two of the WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON co-host Aurora of Once Upon A Screen brings in even more amazing entries to read!

Once upon a screen...

BREAKING: People are turning off the negativity and putting holiday preparations aside this weekend to make way for the characters! It’s thrilling news as sidekicks parade across the blogosphere. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else.

I’m thrilled to be hosting Day Two of the 2018 What A Character! Blogathon. This is the seventh consecutive year that I co-host this tribute to character actors and the excitement has multiplied. As you probably know my co-hosts are Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled who kicked things off with the Day one posts and Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club who hosts the third and final day tomorrow. We have lots of fun and informative posts to share so sit back and enjoy.

If you want a refresher on the back story for the What a Character! Blogathon take a look at the Announcement post, which includes the entire list of participants and chosen character…

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31 Days of Oscar: Day 3

The final day of the 31 Days Of Oscar Blogathon wraps up at Paula’s Cinema Club. Read all the terrific entries in Day 3…

Paula's Cinema Club

While there’s still a week of Best Picture nominees and winners left in TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar tribute, today our Sixth Annual blogathon of the same name draws to a close with a bumper crop of fabulous and informative entries centered on the Golden Man and his history with everyone from Janet Gaynor to Forrest Gump and Agnes Varda.

Always Try discusses Katharine Hepburn’s [many] Oscar Wins.

Another Old Movie Blog analyzes the context around Joan Crawford’s win for Mildred Pierce.

Life’s Lessons Daily Blog delves into the social and emotional significance of the Awards in More than an Award Show: Oscars, The Host and Forrest Gump (1994).

Blog of the Darned presents seven films that should have been nominated for Best Picture in Great Movies: 7, Oscar:….

Old Hollywood Films recaps the career and Oscar year of Janet Gaynor, The First Best Actress Winner.

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Day Two: 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

For our Day Two entries, I passed the baton to co-host Aurora. Enjoy!

Once upon a screen...

The Oscar frenzy continues on Day 2 of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Today is my day to host a group of entries covering topics from a memorable drag competition to Oscar mistakes. If you missed any of the posts from Day One, please visit Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled. Lots of terrific stuff was submitted spanning Oscar’s storied history. Paula will host the third and final day tomorrow leaving you free to enjoy the 90th installment of the Oscars on ABC on Sunday, March 4. I also highly recommend you carve out as much time as you can to enjoy the final full week of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar marathon during which the network spotlights Best Picture winners and nominees from the 90 years of the Academy Awards.

“For the first time, you can actually see the losers turn green”.
Bob Hope, Academy Awards…

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Sixth Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Day 3

Co-host Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club closes in with Day Three of our What A Character! Blogathon, as more entries celebrate those kooky characters!

Paula's Cinema Club

Welcome to Day 3 of the Sixth Annual What A Character! Blogathon, in which we celebrate those actors whose faces you know but whose names you may not. I’m your hostess for the Day 3 offerings. Be sure to also check out Day 1, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled, and Day 2, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon A Screen. It’s been my pleasure to work with these two dames to shed some light on the names below the title. And now, on with the show…

First up, my co-host Aurora at Once Upon A Screen recaps the multi-faceted stage, TV, and film career of Mary Wickes from her earliest theater work to Sister Act and beyond.

Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts reminds us that William Schallert, who is so well-known for his intelligent and/or nice characters, could actually be “not exactly sympathetic…downright…

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6th Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon: Day Two

Lovely co-host Aurora of ONCE UPON A SCREEN kicks off DAY TWO of our What A Character Blogathon. Our second day of entries offers up an amazing array of character actors. Take it away, Aurora!

Once upon a screen...

I’m thrilled to be hosting Day Two of the 2016 What A Character! Blogathon. This is the fifth consecutive year that I co-host this tribute to the lesser known players that enriched so many movies. As you probably know my co-hosts are the fabulous Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled who kicked things off with the Day one posts and Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club who hosts the third and final day tomorrow. As always, I’m honored to be in cahoots with these two ladies.

If you want a refresher on the back story for the What a Character! Blogathon take a look at the Announcement post, which includes the entire list of participants and chosen character actors. Otherwise I’m getting to the main course of this entry, the tributes to memorable supporting players. Here they are…

What a Character!

Silver Scenes discusses the career of Lovable Old Gent Henry Stephenson who could be benevolent…

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