Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Warner Brothers’

A Face To Stop A Clock

Posted by Admin on April 1, 2011

The movie Harvey starring Jimmy Stewart in the role of Elwood P. Dowd had a number of interesting phrases and expressions, not the least of which was talk of having a face to stop a clock.  In the movie, Elwood says:

ELWOOD – Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey — can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like — with anyone you like — and stay as long as you like — and when you get back — not one minute will have ticked by.

When someone says his face would stop a clock, it means that the other person has an unexpectedly unattractive face. 

In the “Tale of the Tudors” from the Warner Brothers’ animated television series, Histeria! that ran from 1998 to 2000, the following is found:

Boys:     So for a while, our Henry grieves,
              Then he marries Anne of Cleves.
              Anne came from fine German stock,
Toast:   She had a face that could stop a clock.
Girls:    Their marriage was cancelled in less than a year,
              His fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was dear.
             But Henry found out that her love was not true.

The Dallas Morning News ran a story on January 12, 1986 that read:

The Goddess of Liberty might have a face that could stop a clock on the University of Texas Tower, but she suddenly has attracted her share of suitors. At least two groups want to move the 3000-pound zinc statue out of Austin and put her on permanent display elsewhere.

Just shy of 26 years before that news article, the Milwaukee Journal edition of January 13, 1961 ran the column written by Ione Quingy Griggs of the Journal Staff.  From what Idiomation can see, Mrs. Griggs was a cross between Miss Manners and Dear Abby, offering up advice to those who were at a loss as to how to proceed with a particular situation.  The topic that day was how to copy with a mother-in-law who picked people apart and respones from readers whose opinion differed from Ms. Griggs’ earlier published opinion on the matter.  The following, authored by “Troubled Owner Of Mink Coat,” is an excerpt fromher response.

I read with interest your suggestion that a daughter-in-law voice the words “I am sorry” to her mother-in-law.  In my case it should be my husband’s mother to say it.  But no, she is always right everybody is wrong!  I’m not one to hold grudges, but when she sits with a face to stop a clock because my husband gives me a mink coat for Christmas, I’m ready to give up.  The mink coat was a surprise.  Everyone but Gran raved about it.  She sat frozen faced!

The expression was also found in a news story published on October 19, 1888 in the Chicago Daily Tribune in a story entitled, “The Beautiful Boston Man.”

After the parade the other day a well known Bostonian who is unfortunate in having a face to stop a clock approached an offer of the Cadets in a patronizing sort of way and said, “I saw your company today old man It looked very well very well indeed.”

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of the expression, a face to stop a clock, however it can safely be assumed that if it was used in a news story in 1888 that it was a well-understood phrase among the Chicago Daily Tribune‘s readership and one can guess that the expression dates back at least to the  mid-1870s.

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

In Glorious Technicolor

Posted by Admin on November 25, 2010

Herbert Kalmus had hoped to be a concert pianist, a career choice cut short by a sports injury.  He enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied physics and chemistry.  In 1912 the firm of Kalmus, Comstock, and Wescott was formed by Herbert Kalmus and Daniel Comstock, graduates from M.I.T. and W. Burton Wescott, a self-educated mechanical genius according to all news accounts. 

In 1916 and 1917, Kalmus, Comstock and Wecott worked long and hard to overcome a number of technical problems involved with a very promising film process they invested.  The end result of the work was a set of technologies Kalmus called Technicolor.  The new word was a hybrid of the Greek word techne which meaning “art” and the the English word color.

The original Technicolor colour process (1917 – 1922) was a 2-colour additive system using a conventional black and white record that ran through a special projector with 2 apertures as well as lenses with colour filters to tint the film. This technology was hailed by everyone within the movie industry and in the general public as one of the greatest technological advances.

The Technicolor colour cement print (1922 – 1927) was a subtractive process that allowed cameras to film at a rate of 32 frames per second with 15 pairs of red and blue-green records.  It did away with the need for filters, which was a major problem with the original Technicolor process and allowed for colours to be reproduced with greater accuracy.  The first feature film made in Technicolor System 2 was “Toll of the Sea” produced by Joseph Schenk.  The film premiered in New York City in November 1922 and its success was Technicolor‘s first profitable venture since the company was founded in 1915.

But the love affair between the general public and Technicolor wasn’t always universal.  Back on December 28, 1924 Mordaunt Hall reviewed the movie “So This Is Marriage” for the New York Times and gave a negative critique of the color technology:

Although the Technicolor section of “So This Is Marriage” is beautiful, it is questionable whether it adds much to the picture.  Often such ideas detract from the actual interest in the story, whether the narrative supposed to be told by one of the characters is in color or not.

The Technicolor two-color dye transfer print (1927 – 1933) was the next step in Technicolor’s evolution.  Instead of a duplicate negative that would be dyed and cemented to the black and white negative, everything was generated from the camera negative.  This process also accommodated the addition of sound to film as the shift went from movies to “talkies.” 

In 1930, Technicolor had contracts for 36 features — 15 of which were with Warner Brothers.  Of those 15 Warner Brothers movies, 11 were full colour movies and not just black and white movies with colour sequences.  Technicolor would soon be responsible for classic films such as The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

The Technicolor three-strip print (1932 – 1955) saw the completion of the first “glorious technicolor” camera in 1932 that would make this process possible.  As a side note, the “glorious technicolor” camera cost in excess of $30,000 USD.  In 2010 terms, it takes approximately $13 to equal the purchasing power of $1 back in 1932.

Kalmus approached Walt Disney with the offer to allow Disney to use the new 3 color process for the first time.  Disney jumped at the idea and his first Technicolor movie, Flowers and Trees, was a resounding success with the public due, in large part, to the vibrant colours coupled with the engaging story and symphonic sound track.

It didn’t take long before movies made in technicolor made the most of that fact.   When “Her Jungle Love” starring Dorothy Lamour and Ray Milland was released in theatres, ads ran in all the newspapers.  On the last night it was playing at Petone State Theatre back in 1938, the advertisement in the Wellington (New Zealand) Evening Post newspaper read:

FINALLY TONIGHT, at 8 o’clock.
DOROTHY LAMOUR, RAY MILLAND in
— “HER JUNGLE LOVE” —
All in Glorious Technicolor.  The “Jungle
Princess” in a picture of action, romance,
and thrills.

On this side of the ocean, the Tuscaloosa News was busy promoting the movie “Men With Wings” — which also starred Ray Milland along with Fred MacMurray, Louise Campbell and Andy Devine — and not only did the word “technicolor” show up the advertisement’s headline but in the accompanying description of the movie as well:

Here they come! … Roaring into Tuscaloosa!  MEN with WINGS in glorious TECHNICOLOR!  For the first time on any screen, and in the heart-throbbing reality of Technicolor … the mighty story of America’s flying fools, gentlemen unafraid!  The whole thundering parade of American aviation, told in the heart-stirring, blood-pounding, tense human story of two boys and a girl whose romance is the romance of aviation itself.

From descriptive terms such as “heart-throbbing” and “blood-pounding” describing Technicolor movies, it’s easy to see that the general public began to associate vivid colors splashed on the big screen and, in time, with any larger-than-life collection of vivid colors found in real life and the term itself.

Posted in Advertising, Idioms from the 20th Century, Slogans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »