23 March 2011

Dwarfs create forced perspective in a Hitchcock movie

I didn't know that Alfred Hitchcock was an art director before he became a movie director:
Behind the scenes of The Blackguard (1925, dir. Graham Cutts). Art direction by Alfred Hitchcock... Hitchcock either engaged [German director F.W.] Murnau in conversation, or overheard him tell others: “What you see on the set does not matter. All that matters is what you see on the screen.”

Hitchcock never missed an opportunity to quote this remark, which became a cornerstone of his own approach: The reality didn’t matter if the illusion was effective. He then emulated Murnau by hiring a slew of dwarves to stand far from the camera in The Blackguard, creating an artificial perspective for a crowd scene.

-excerpted from Patrick McGilligan’s Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light
Via Old Hollywood.

And speaking of "forced perspective," when I double-checked the term, I encountered this example:
The Potemkin Stairs in Odessa extend for 142 meters, but give the illusion of greater depth since the stairs are wider at the bottom than at the top.


  1. Micahel Curtiz used the same illusion in the last scenes of Casablanca. On the runway, the plane in front of which Rick and Ilsa say goodbye is actually a scale model surrounded by little people.

  2. I remeber reading a making of book about LotR in which Steve Jackson remarked about a zombie movie he had wanted to make. In a scene in which he was going to show an army of the living dead going on for miles on end, he speculated about using children in the far back of a background and adults in the front to create not only a sense of a large group of zombies but forced perspective. Eventualy it never came into fruitition, but the ideas and processes from that failed project proved to be invaluable in the production of all three Lord of the Rings films. There is quite a lot of forced perspective in those movies, even if some of it was green-screened.


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