Monday, February 28, 2011

The Return of Elwy Yost

I've been hoping TV Ontario would put some of its old material online, and they recently created a site to do just that, a "Public Archive" with selected episodes of some of its older shows. In particular, they cleared the rights to some of the 16 mm filmed interviews conducted by Elwy Yost, host of "Talking Film" and "Saturday Night at the Movies," who built up one of North America's biggest libraries of interviews with actors, directors, writers and technicians from old Hollywood.

And most of the interviews were incorporated into the show in very large, long chunks without too much editing; it's a style that will be familiar to viewers of public television from the '70s and '80s (when a lot of these interviews were shot) but which I like better than the way such interviews are usually done nowadays -- either interspersed with a lot of clips and stills, so that we can't see the interviewee think before he or she talks, or cut up into really small snippets.

So for example, in this half-hour compilation of interviews about the (then) modern British film industry, the interview with Ken Adam, starting at around 11:30, goes on for more than 10 minutes. It's edited down, but it's edited down less than you'd get almost anywhere else.

Here for another example is the show with Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng; they don't say much that's new, but hearing the contours of their speech and seeing their expressions while they speak is the interesting part.

And for one final example, here's one of the videotaped in-studio interviews TVO periodically did, this one with John Huston. They have a couple of other in-studio segments, including a two-parter with the New Deal documentarian Pare Lorentz.

One of the in-studio interviews I most remember from Saturday Night at the Movies, though it's not on the site, is the one where Eddie Bracken claimed to have directed a scene from The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek while Preston Sturges was unavailable for the day. It was the scene where Trudy meets Norval again after her big night, and Bracken claimed that he panned down to the "JUST MARRIED" sign in imitation of Sturges' love for doing things in one shot. Was the story true? I have no idea; probably not. But I loved that someone could come into a studio in Canada and make that claim. There are all kinds of interviews I saw where people said things I may not have agreed with but were interesting; for example, writer Nat Perrin, who worked on Duck Soup, arguing at length that the movie didn't work. That's just something you won't see on most making-of documentaries.

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