Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘pan’

Dead Pan

Posted by Admin on February 24, 2011

When someone or something is expressed in an impassive, matter-of-fact way, that’s dead pan … expressionless, empty, blank, wooden, straight-faced, vacuous, impassive, inscrutable, poker-faced, and completely inexpressive.

When Snub Pollard, comedian of the pie-throwing days of silent movies, died in January 20, 1962 the headline run the following day in the New York Times read:

SNUB POLLARD, 72, FILM COMIC, DEAD: Dead-Pan Actor Was One of the Keystone Kops Appeared in Recent Movies

The news bite included this additional information:

Mr. Pollard was known to movie audiences of forty-five years ago as a little man with a dead-pan expression whose black mustache twitched and was often reversed.

On November 22, 1939 the St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent newspaper reported on Stan Laurel of Lauren and Hardy fame and his wife, Illiana.  It began with:

A charge that the Dead-Pan film comic, Stan Laurel, once ran down a Beverly Hills residential street, clad only in shorts, chasing his Russian-born wife, Illiana, who wore a thin negligee, was injected into their prolonged court battle.  The actress is asking that the Laurel divorce be set aside on grounds she was forced to agree to it.

In Pennsylvania, the Greensburg Daily Tribune ran the Today’s Sports Parade column by Henry McLemore, United Press Staff Correspondent, on its pages.  On April 1, 1935 he wrote about boxer, Joe Louis:

Putting the sport shot here and there: Old-timers say Joe Louis is the first killer of the ring with a dead pan they’ve seen in years … The Detroit negro is as cooly deliberate as a butcher working on a ham hock … There’s no Dempsey snarl, baring gleaming fangs or a mouthpiece … Just a fearsome fish eye as he shuffles in throwing anvils.

It wasn’t the first time Joe Louis had been referred to in this manned.  In New York state, the Rochester Evening Journal of November 8, 1924 ran an article entitled, “Tad’s Tidbits: Dead Pan Louie and the Low Class.”  In this story, he reported:

Mr. L. Angel Firpo is not boxing these days.  He isn’t even training.  In fact, he hasn’t even signed up for a match, and behind it all is a story of uncouth manners and rough-neck tactics.

One hardly thinks of manners and boxing being found in the same room together, but back in the 1920s, manners were important.  The article continues farther down with:

Mr. Romero Rojas, who is also a South American and who made quite a rep down there as a leather pusher, wishing to engage in a bout with Louie, adopted the American tactics of calling his rival names, using such terms as “piece of cheese,” “palooka,” “big punk,” etc. 

That sort of shocked Dead Pan and sent him to his room brooding for two days.  The idea of any one referring to Dead Pan as a piece of cheese was terrible to even think of!  Louie immediately cast Mr. Rojas from his life.  He cut his name off his calling list, and when they pass on the street now Louie doesn’t even give him a tumble.  As for a fight.  No chance.  Mr. Romero will never hear a word from Louie until he apologizes.

The word “pan” meant “skull” or “head” as far back as the 1300s and manuscripts from that era contains words such as “brain pan” and “head pan.” It wasn’t until the 19th century that vaudevillians began using the word “pan” as a slang term for face.  And “dead” means “dead.”

So, dead pan is as emotionless as you can possibly imagine … especially if you’re imagining a corpse.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pan (Visual)

Posted by Admin on February 23, 2011

The term “panning” in visual terms means to swing from one object to another in a scene.  In still photography, panning is used to suggest fast motion, and bring out the subject from other elements in the frame.  In moving pictures or video technology, the use of a camera to scan a subject horizontally is called panning.

On March 2, 1963 the Ottawa Citizen provided camera tips to their readership in an article written by Irving Desfor entitled, “Tricks in Fast Shooting.”  The article stated in part:

In order to get sharp pictures of people in fast action, it is generally true that you must shoot at a high shutter speed.  But in photography, as in other things, rules are made to be broken … <snip> … Secondly, there’s the trick of shooting while panning the camera, that is, of following the moving subject in a smooth, steady arc.  Fortunately for camera fans, a great many actions reach a high point or peak, stop, then accelerate again at high speed.

On January 21, 1923, the New York Times published an article entitled “Screen Without A Double” that discussed the life of a motion picture actor.

No one would contend that the motion picture actor’s lot is always a happy one.  He has to take chances sometimes — or his double does — and he, or his double, really performs some of the hazardous stunts you see on the screen.  But this does not alter the fact that many of the movie’s best thrills are faked … <snip> … Out on the end of a wing with one hand on the pan crank, the other on the camera crank, and with a rope which, tied around his ankle. Pan up to the top wing strut. You may have seen what was the kick, but you are mistaken. Have you ever seen a seaplane execute a landing at a seventy-mile-an-hour clip?

Back on March 16, 1913 the New York Times — in an article entitled “Plans For The Travel Show: Panoramic Views of Vacation Spots Arranged at Grand Central Palace” — had this to say about photographs to be displayed at the travel show:

All the inviting vacation spots on this continent will be shown in panoramic views at the Grand Central Palace when the Travel and Vacation Show opens there on Thursday, and all those who do not intend to spend their allotted two, three, four, five, or six weeks in a tour of Manhattan’s roof gardens are summoned to see what the rest of America has to offer.

A Toledo Bee article dated May 31, 1900 reporting on art souvenirs of the Paris Fair available for purchase at the newspaper’s office, had this to say about the souvenirs:

The Bee has completed arrangements for the publication of “The Art Souvenir of the Paris Exposition and its Famous Paintings,” consisting of a magnificent collection of photographic views of the most noteworthy features of the International Exposition of 1900 … <snip> … These superb views will embrace a panoramic presentation of the international fair, and are intended to take the place of a trip to the Paris exposition, its beautiful buildings, rare paintings, interesting objects of art, wonderful exhibits and choicest treasures.

The term panning in this sense of the word is derived from panorama, which was originally coined in 1787 by Robert Barker for the 18th century machine that unrolled or unfolded a long horizontal painting to give the impression the scene was passing by.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »