A week ago, I delivered a post that deconstructed some intriguing shadow play in the studio-era gem, Casablanca (1942).

            Well, its cinematographer, Arthur Edeson, ASC, was hardly the first to engage such a device.  In 1939, Ernest Haller, ASC pulled off a similar feat in another legendary movie, Gone With the Wind.

            As the clip unspools, pay attention to Vivien Leigh and Anne Rutherford, who occupy the foreground.  You’ll notice that the direction of their key light makes it impossible for them to cast the shadow we see on the back wall.  The angle is just too severe, the geometry and physics untenable.  Further giveaways come from the actions of the silhouetted stand-ins.  Rather than having their shadows projected through a semi-opaque material as in Casablanca, they are placed and lit straight-on, from a somewhat elevated, well-flagged area off camera right.  Though they’re pretty good at matching, they’re not perfect… especially toward the end of the scene when Rutherford suddenly leans forward.

            There’s also a considerable cheat in the positioning of the lantern, on the lower right of frame.  If it’s indeed intended to play as the sole source of light, the shadows on the stars’ faces tell us that it too is in the wrong place.  Nonetheless, the effect is successful and the lantern anchors a powerful composition within the 1:33 aspect ratio.

            I seem to have become sensitized to these little gimmicks lately, and have no idea why.  Though I only notice such things when not intentionally searching for them, I wonder how many others have slipped by in the past simply because they were so well executed…



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