As you may know, Hollywierd has certain practices in movie making that determine the way they "cast" props and wardrobe: The movie is often shot non-squentially so that special scenes can be lumped together. As a result, wardrobe and weapons must be readied for all of the scenes right up front. They will often have multiple copies of props and wardrobe to fit the action that the outfit has gone through. See the background documentary from Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. Mel had multiple uniforms with varying levels of sweat, dirt, blood, and grime to match the time in the film. Also, if there will be close-ups with a weapon, many producers and directors will go to great lengths to assure the authenticity of that weapon. A good example is Gibson's The Patriot, where the film company actually paid one of the foremost musket makers to hand build a pair of completely authentic, hand-crafted muskets complete with hand tool marks for the close-ups. Most of the rest were contracted from a weapons contractor or manufactured under contract to fill out the background.
Where is all of this leading? Look what this hobby will do to you: I was watching a rather good war film recently (The Great Raid) and started paying close attention to the Garands featured in the flick. In some of the close-up shots, the Garand carried by the star had the dark reddish-brown finish we've all become familiar with, a finish that is the result of years of the stock being re-oiled and the surface of the action being re-oiled while in the stock and the oil having run onto the stock. The rifle's action also had generous parkerizing wear as you expect from an older rifle. There were also lots of deep knocks in the wood that almost looked like the knocks from being stored in pallets. Now, when I've seen pictures of the rifles being carried in WWII, most of them have had most of their Park intact and the stocks have had a uniform color, far from that dark red-burst effect from years of maintenance. The Army unit portrayed in this film, the 6th Ranger Battalion, was described as the best-trained, least-proven outfit in the Army. So the questions become:
When the armorer for the film assembled his hero weapons, how did he do it? What level of aging was he striving for? Was the look intentional or haphazard based upon a lack of good research?
There were many sequences with 50 or more Garands running around the frame, many of them apparently shooting blanks. Do you suppose there are stocks of Garands sitting in some studio warehouse? Remember, films like The Longest Day had to have them in numbers, along with a bunch of other 60s films. Are they owned by a Hollywood contract armory?
The Great Raid was shot largely in Australia. Do they ship the weapons over to Australia and back (with BATF rules these days? Harrrumph!) or does a film group or contract armorer in Australia own a bunch of these?
Can you imagine the rifles they needed to produce Band of Brothers? You can see spotless, new issue rifles during training. There are slightly aged ones for the drop into Normandy - though some of the guys went into the jump with fresh weapons. there are muddy ones for the rainy, muddy scenes. With the entire series shot in the U.K., a gun-free zone, how did they pull that off? Manyl of those appeared to at least fire blanks.
The aging was done with paint. I do not hink the prop guys sst up nights oiling the stock. Nor did they sand the bluing finish to show ware. The air brush can make anything or anyone for that matter look great or worn.
There are stocks of blank adapted Garands, and everything else sitting around in hollywood lots. My daughter has a friend who is among other things a prop. manager who tells me that blank adapted weapons used by most studios today have been rendered permanently incapable of firing live ammunition. This was originally done because of incidentss like the accidental killing of Brandon Lee. It also helps a lot in firearms unfriendly places like the UK. A lot of the weapons used in movies are very realistic rubber or plastic replicas. In the great raid these could often be picked out if you looked very closely. When the replicas are made up the prop men are looking often at the rifles with years of wear and oxidation on the stocks so that's what they go with.
Individual studios have their own stocks of weapons and some big name producers maintain their own armories. Geroge Lucas and Stephen Spielberg have very large armories including lots of automatic weapons.
"Band of Brothers" had rubber M1's for most of the cast. Look close and you'll see T105E rear sights on everyone's M1. They even had rubber clips of ammo.
Owee. That bubble bursting was painful, and I work in video and film. We've typically gone to one of the local shops that has all sorts of weapons and rented them. The proprietor removed the firing pins before we used them.
There's a certain look and feel that the director wants and gets.
While employed on the "Brinks Job" movie back in 1978, I worked for the Art Department. Personally had manufactured for the production all sorts of stuff in plastic and rubber. There were dozens of fake rubber cut in half pigs for a slaughter house interior scene. We created a Ford dealer showroom for 1950 with "new" cars and trucks. Thick enamel paint sprayed on junker cars can work wonders. Those were the only shiny things in the picture with the rest of it looking gloomy and worn.
Principle picture car taxi cabs used for close ups had original working Pittsburgh fare meters with correct rates for the time period. Paint shade of 1948 vintage Checker taxi cabs was modified from authentic chrome yellow to a mustard shade with black lettering to match the film stock color temperature. In daylight to the eye, the things looked weird. Didn't matter anyway, as all vehicles were sprayed with a fake water base grime paint. A crew with a water truck kept the streets in camera view constantly wet. There's a certain look and feel that the director wants and gets.
Located official photos of 1950 Deluxe Chevrolet police cars. A friend came across an old Federal Light-Siren combination unit. It was exactly like the type used on Boston cruisers during the Brinks robbery era. We rebuilt the electric motor and mounted that thing on my 1950 Ford sedan. Wow! Worked like a champ! Late at night we'd go over to East Boston for supper in the antique Ford and then scream back through the Sumner Tunnel with siren wailing! What a rush! That one Ford sedan and six Chevrolets were professionally painted blue with silver and then lettered as Boston Police cruiser of January 1950. Had a model maker create ten prop siren-light combo units made out of formed thin plastic and then painted dull silver.
Owners of the other cars, which were all rented, would not allow us to drill holes in their roofs. Prop light-siren units were held onto the cars using taped on Velcro. Wires hidden under duct tape ran over the top for illumination. Looked stupid up close, but in the foggy night within the film, non of it mattered.
My own 1950 Ford police car was the only one of them equipped with the original 6-volt siren-light combo unit. Spent one morning in post production with a crew at the then abandoned Charlestown Navy Yard. They had me drive up and down in the old V8 sedan while recording sounds of siren roaring and tires squealing. Later, those sounds from my real siren equipped car was multiple overlaid onto the movie audio track. In the film, the Boston cops come screaming up Prince Street in a half dozen police cruisers. There are screeching tires as the fleet of old Chevies come to a stop at the side door of the Brinks garage. Sirens slowly wind down to a growling stop, amid the excitement of a gathering mob. Hey . . .those police car sounds were all done by me and nobody will ever know.
The scene came out really cool and of course is my favorite part of the movie. As things shake out it's all done for drama and visual effect at the whim of the director. He's dictator of the production! Everything is for that art image captured on the film.
The only thing that did bug me with "Band of Brothers" was the absence of Lock Bar sights on the M1 Garand rifles. Heard someplace that the model for the rubber rifles was an H&R Garand from the 50s. All that research and work and the Production Design / Art Department missed the Lock Bar sights. Could have just glued a piece of plastic on the side of the knob and painted it. That little thing does drives me bananas !
But, as Andy Warhol once said . . . "It's not real life . . It's just a movie".
Last edited by Capt Quahog; 04-09-2009 at 12:46 AM.
The lack of lock bar sights didn't bother me much. Compared to war movies of the 1960 that was a very small price to pay. One of the worst was "The Longest Day." A lot of the performers in it didn't even have the correct web gear for the weapons/equipment they carried. I'll also never forget Henry Fonda shooting the German tanker with an M1 rifle with no rear sight in "The Battle of the Bulge" either. All in all I think the authenticy scale of war movies today is much higher than it's ever been.