Editor | Nick Dawson
Mark Rappaport's "The Secret Life of Objects"
Posted May 12, 2009
Last fall, I spoke with filmmaker and photo essayist Mark Rappaport for our article Mark Rappaport: Zigzagging through Film History. The interview was timed to coincide with Rappaport's exhibit at Lincoln Center, “Brief Histories Of… and Correspondence Course(s),” a series of photo essays in which disparate images from classic Hollywood movies were juxtapositioned with each other, creating resonant and often surprising collisions.
Yesterday, I was very happy to receive an email from Rappaport to alert me to the fact that a new essay of his appears in the current issue of the online film journal Rouge. The piece is called The Secret Life of Objects and is a fascinating look at the way that movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood re-used the same period sets, and has numerous photographs demonstrating the way in which the same backlot locations were used in different ways.
Here's a quick burst:
"In their heyday, all of the major studios and even some of the minor ones had backlots. Very often, on the backlot – which included acres of land used in Westerns or outdoor country scenes – they built a small nineteenth-century town standing set, with houses and an old-fashioned town square, as well as a semi-permanent Western set. The larger studios had standing urban street sets which would they would use if the movie was set in the streets of New York or Chicago or Boston. Since they shot so many films, these sets were permanent fixtures and lowered the overhead of building each location from scratch for every new film."
Rappaport's article is typically sprightly, smart and entertaining. You can read it in its entirety at the Rouge website.