Of jalopies, steam locomotives and reality T.V./movie-making

Now I know I’m not gonna win any popularity contests by my writing this or earn any awards, for that matter. But, because the Air Quality Matters blog is all about “discourse for all interested in all things air-quality related,” nothing here in this regard is off limits; nope, not even this. So, with that …

Lights, cameras, action … props!

I see it all the time – well, some of the time if I want to keep this discussion honest, which I do – and that’s television commercials, made-for-T.V. movies and theater productions whereby old-time scenes are depicted. And, in the “back-in-the-day” depictions are anachronisms like period cars, trains, buildings, dress, etc. I mean you can surf the many T.V. channels these days and quite easily find some movie offering that has in it exactly what I’m alluding to. I had no trouble yesterday doing just that, in fact, when I stumbled upon the movie Seabiscuit while watching T.V. Seabiscuit, incidentally, if you do not already know, was the name of a famous racehorse back in the day, as it were. In this particular Hollywood production, I saw things that I have only rarely seen in real life.

As a matter of fact, the movie opens with narration. In practically no time at all the viewer is introduced to of all things automobile manufacturing with references to the assembly line which, of course, was invented by none other than Henry Ford himself. As it happens, in one scene a collection of period racecars can be seen being coaxed by hand into a stable made for horses. An oddity to be sure!

In one DVD I own, The Legend of Baggar Vance, there is a scene where Rannulph Junuh (one of the story’s main characters) is seen driving some period pickup truck and lo and behold pouring out the tailpipe in the back of such is this pall of blue smoke no doubt for effect.

So, I would ask: Even for a film whose copyright date is 2000, was that sort of thing really necessary? Then, toward the end of the movie, there is another scene where the golf match for all time, if you will, between Junuh, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen is getting down to the wire and darkness descends upon the match. And, so as to avoid having to postpone the match which no one seemed to want to do, a local high-profile judge (Neskaloosa) directs many of those on the golf course to get their jalopies and park them in such a way with engines running and headlights blazing so that enough lamp-power can be provided to allow the match to be finished. Well, being brutally honest, every time I’ve watched this movie, I couldn’t help but focus in this scene on all of the exhaust (from these vehicles) descending upon and radiating over if not filling the frame, smoke that truth be told, is really hard to miss. Of course, all the actors and extras seem not to be fazed by this one bit.

So, in motion pictures with these scenes in them, how do producers, directors or whomever’s responsible for getting the props, equipment, etc., do it? Very often in the bonus features or special features of DVDs, explained is how movies are made. Only once have I seen in the ones I have where it is elaborated upon about the clothes that were used and how every effort was made to make the clothes used as authentic-looking, period-representative as possible. But, never have I ever seen anything at all related to vehicles or steam locomotives described where such were used in the movie production itself. You have to wonder in these cases where when they do apply did the production crew in question get access to a certain steam locomotive pulling a certain type of train that you may see in the scene and was this apparatus, machine running under its own steam or was that a special effect to make it look like it was?

Welcome to Hollywood.

Credit(s) where credit(s)’s due?

At any rate in cutting to the chase, before this conversation reaches The End, I would just like to say that in all of the scenes where, as an example, structure fires are shown, I would think and hope that such is the work of special effects personnel and not the real thing. If so, props (read: “accolades”) to said movie-production crews. That route when taken means all our lungs are a lot better off for it. Keep the clean-air scenes coming!

That’s a wrap!

Note: As referenced above, I originally stated that the pickup truck in the movie The Legend of Baggar Vance that Rannulph Junuh was driving in one of the scenes had a “flatbed back.” It doesn’t. The article has since been updated and now contains the correct information.

Images: Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation (upper); Dorothea Lange (lower)

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “Of jalopies, steam locomotives and reality T.V./movie-making”

  1. I imagine that the number of wild-fires consuming woodlands is far more effective in sending CO2 skyward, than all the exhaust products from cars and trains and aircraft. So why isn’t there more interest, concern and fire guarding of our trees than on our highways?

  2. CO2 is fuel for plants. It has at best a 3 percent effect on atmospheric temeperatures. Every prediction of the warming alarmists has been wrong as far as the temperature goes. Time to stop bashing CO2 and petroleum and natural gas consumption.

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