Saturday, April 30, 2011
As the MGM publicity machine continued its promotion emphasizing the quality of the production, actors wearing heavy costumes who jumped overboard to escape burning ships during the sea battle had to be rescued from drowning and horses were being maimed and killed with alarming regularity because of the punishing demands placed on them. Even the building of the elaborate sets by Italian craftsmen was delayed by Italy’s new leader, Benito Mussolini. In a bold move, Irving Thalberg, MGM’s head of production, closed the Italian operation and moved the entire effort to Hollywood to contain costs. This was an early instance where the “business side” of show business significantly curtailed the “show side.” Because of the cost overruns in Italy, for decades after Ben-Hur, most movies were mounted on Hollywood’s back lots so that the business men could keep an eye on the productions and their bottom lines.
Filming ran from October 1923 through August 1925—almost two full years. This lengthy filming and final editing of the movie also added to the expenses. For instance, 42 cameras were used and over 200,000 feet of film was shot for the chariot race—in the final cut of the movie only 750 feet of the filmed race was used. Also, sections of the movie boasted an early 2 tone version of Technicolor using red and green filters. While not the first movie to boast color sequences, it was an early use of this technology raising its production value and audience interest.
Although the movie made over nine million dollars in its original run, it was not considered to have made any money for the studio because of the production and promotion costs and because of the deal struck by Mr. Erlanger. In subsequent releases it continued to make money for the studio, but more importantly, it cemented MGM’s reputation as the quality studio in Hollywood. This reputation helped Thalberg and his associates leverage other successful projects and for the next three decades allowed MGM to attract more stars than there were in the heavens.
Note: The color sequences were removed from the 1925 film and replaced with black and white footage when it was re-released. These color sequences were thought lost forever when they were found in the 1980s in a Czech film archive. The restoration of the 1925 film by Turner Broadcasting includes these color sequences.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wallace drafted this telegram to Mr. Howland in Indianapolis. As far as we can make out from Lew's hasty handwriting, it reads, "Capt W Wallace Presidio. S. F. Will be at meeting of GAR San Francisco. Have your acounts ready then. L.W." Notes on other pages refer to plantings and itemized accounts for labor and materials. Some, like the bottom page pictured in the photo, include dimensions for spaces ("7 ft + 9"" is pictured here) - perhaps Lew was planning gardens around his home and Study?
The General was not the only Lew Wallace to write in this notebook. June 14, 1903, a younger writer got a hold of notebook and pen and jotted "Lewis Wallace," and "General Wallace," "Lewis Wallace grand son of general Lew Wallace." Interestingly, the elder Wallace wrote consistently in pencil in this notebook, while the grandson Lew Wallace Jr. tried his hand at pen and ink.
A few years earlier, dated June 3, 1899, a child (we assume Lew Wallace Jr., who was born in 1892) began a letter to his grandfather: "Dear Bumpa We went out rideing yesterday an..." Our guess is that Bumpa, or Grandpa, interrupted the little writer and we will never know what happened during the riding excursion!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Museum buildings sustained no damage, but the grounds weren't so fortunate. A mature basswood tree was uprooted and toppled, beech trees were decimated, and any weak branch has fallen. The 3.5 acres, normally a dog walker's paradise, is now an obstacle course.
On the bright side, a wonderful fragrance and beautiful blooms can be found in the Study's front garden. The viburnum, with its cluster of blooms, survived the wind, hail and rain. The fragrance can be enjoyed all over the grounds.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
For reasons unknown Maurice Thompson moved to Crawfordsville in 1868, quickly followed by his brother, Will. Maurice soon met and married Alice Lee of Crawfordsville and his brother married Alice’s sister. Beginning in the 1870s, a number of Maurice’s essays, articles and publications began receiving broad public acclaim. He is most widely remembered for two works, Alice of Old Vincennes, which was published in 1900, shortly before his death in 1901 and The Witchery of Archery, published in 1878.
An avid outdoorsman Thompson, together with his brother Will, developed a passion for bow hunting and archery. In the 1870s and 1880s, four Crawfordsville men made up the top archery team in the country with Maurice and Will Thompson as two of the men (the others were Henry Talbot and Paul Hughes). The Thompson brothers were also individual champions. The men bow hunted game in the countryside, had contests with archers from surrounding states and even challenged Lew Wallace.
One of the more memorable events in Crawfordsville’s sporting history happened when Thompson and two of his Confederate friends who were visiting Crawfordsville challenged Lew Wallace and two of his Union friends to a competition. Thompson’s team used bows while Wallace and his team used rifles. In this North versus South, bows versus rifles shooting match—the Southern bows won! By all accounts the six marksmen enjoyed the event as “a day’s excellent sport.”
With the significant parallels in their lives, Wallace and Thompson shared a long and strong friendship. They were even neighbors as the impressive Thompson home, Sherwood Place, was within sight of the Wallace Home. Called “The Father of Archery,” Thompson is credited with popularizing sport in the late 19th century and in 1939, the National Archery Association named their highest honor for outstanding members of the archery community the Maurice Thompson Award.