Many period movies were made in the 1950s and I was lucky to work in dozens. There is the little kid syndrome in most us that is suddenly loosened on a period set; after all we are being paid to dress and act in a fantasy recreation of olden days.
In this scene from The Purple Mask, I was almost a swashbuckler… OK so I wasn’t Errol FLynn. 🙂 It took almost a week to shoot this short sequence. Understandably, it was a complex fight choreography by Ralph Faulkner. Mr. Faulkner was the master fencing expert in the 1940/50 era. You would see his name on the screen credits of nearly every period movie that had any kind of fencing involved.
I knew Mr. Faulkner quite well. Right after I was discharged from the Air Force in 1953 (Honorably), I enrolled at Falcon Studios under the GI bill. Right, Falcon Studios was owned and operated by Ralph Faulkner. In order to qualify for the GI bill, I had to take a full curriculum which consisted of: Adagio, modern ballet, ballet, acting, singing, fencing, stunts, public speaking, all of which were standard courses at Falcon Studios.
Let me tell you how this scene was filmed. In slow motion. All the complex fencing movements were done in slow motion which is why they look so professional. Then the film is speeded up to show them in real time. And how about us in the background. Right we too had to perform all movements in the same slow rhythm. Turning our heads or moving our arms – slow slow slow. Notice that we had very little movement during the fencing moments. That was to minimize the need for us to act in slow motion. You say, how about clapping? Take a look at the cuts. The clapping did not take part during the fencing action. And when Tony was in a close up or not fencing it was filmed in real time. Thus the slow motion and real time cuts were expertly joined in the cutting room to give you a seamless performance.
I added this clip two times to itself. First to stop it twice to point myself out and secondly to show it without the stops.