Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Where in the world is Laurence San Francisco?

Google Street View of 643 Bowdoin Street

"I want you to find Murray Lerner."

BENNINGTON -- Finding Murray Lerner was easy. He's famous (here, here, here).

Finding Laurence Craig of Bowdoin Street in San Francisco is harder and continues to baffle Art Gallery Dude, who began the journey yesterday after this gift arrived ...

For an interview with David Benedictus,
author of You're A Big Boy Now, click HERE

... the June 1967 American Cinematographer magazine with a cover story on "The Far-Out Photography" of my favorite movie You're A Big Boy Now. Andrew Laszlo, ASC, who was director of photography for YABBN, wrote the article spanning about 2,000 words and several bold sub-heds such as The Problems Before Us and Filming in a Book-Lined Cavern and Up In Central Park--With Kite And Camera and the like.

American Cinematographer magazine:
Scene from You're A Big Boy Now with director Francis Ford Coppola (left)
famed Director of Photography Andrew Laszlo, ASC, Cameraman Genkins
and actor Peter Chanticleer (who plays Bernard)

Laszlo's story begins: The first time I heard about "You're A Big Boy Now" was during a short meeting with the film's director, Francis Ford Coppola, a very pleasant young man in his mid-twenties. This was some time in January, 1966. The meeting came about on the recommendation of one of our New York TV series producers, Edgar Landsberry, for whom I had just completed the photography of a color TV series and a pilot film. Much of this work had been done on location, in and around Manhattan, where the difficulties of the Director of Photography are not to be envied. Besides the usual milling crowds of interested onlookers, the weather is anything but predictable and the canyons between the Manhattan skyscrapers do little to help exposure and color. Under conditions like these, one must learn to cope with a multitude of problems, in fact learn to turn them into factors of decided advantage in order to come up with interesting, pleasing and artistic results and yet move within the limitations imposed on the Director of Photography by the ever-present schedule. This and some other reasons, such as having directed photography on pictures like "One Potato, Two Potato" (which was shot entirely on location utilizing actual interiors) made me, it seemed, a prime candidate for photography of "You're A Big Boy Now."

Being a lover of photography, Art Gallery Dude understood most of the themes and jargon Laszlo used in the article, like when he talked about "pushing" film that was shot in dark spaces such as the New York Public Library or in the department store just before the climactic chase.

A long time ago, from 1995 to 1997, AGD was the ASE (Assistant Sports Editor) of the Bennington Banner, the local rag. Those were the days small-town newsies photographed the games they covered, which meant they developed their own film in the darkroom, and what a deadline rush it gave you, from pulling apart the film canisters to spooling the film and dropping it in the chemicals to making the prints -- all the while writing a gamer and taking phone calls and laying out a page or three.

Those were the wonderful days and harried nights of do-it-yourself journalism.

So then, AGD's 35-mm camera was nothing special but he knew how to use it, trigger finger for the ages, and most times he didn't use the flash during night football or soccer games. It meant that even if you stood beneath one of the old football stadium light poles, which didn't exactly emit great light, and captured decent action the processed film would come out soft after normal developing times. In those cases you would "push" the film by letting it soak in the developer chemicals a few minutes longer. But you had to be careful not to ruin the film by letting it soak too long, which happened a few times because shit happens on deadline when you're a 2-man crew.

Here's an example of an AGD photo taken during a 6:30 soccer game during the fall in Bennington, Niskayuna High (New York) at Mount Anthony High, sky quickly fading from overcast to night. The Niskayuna striker was tall and strong as an ox, and she was an All-American. Poor little MAU fullback held her own here, though ...

(Joey Kulkin photo circa Fall '96)

... AGD pushed the film a minute or two longer, then burned the image onto the paper a minute or two longer without blowing out the exposure. The photo worked out well.

Here's another example of an MAU boys game once sky became night. AGD has a rule about sports photography: Never run a photo unless the object (ball, puck, discus, etc.) is seen, and so this photo is close to a fail. But it was one of the few usable frames from that roll ...

MAU's Bo Bergman (Joey Kulkin photo circa Fall '95)

... and it works because you can see just enough of the ball. Eye on the prize, Bo.

AGD will insert some pushed night football photos if he can ever find them.

Laszlo -- the only member of his Hungarian family to survive a Holocaust concentration camp, and who in later years was cinematographer for The Warriors, First Blood and Star Trek V -- described the challenges of filming at the New York Public Library, especially inside the reading room. A window from 9 to noon was all the crew got on top of which the natural light that flowed through the seven 3-story windows wasn't so hot. He wrote:

"If I were to be lucky on the day of the shooting, existing light conditions outside would give me about 25 to 40 foot-candles near the windows and of course a much higher reading right at the windows. The back wall, the two sides and the center area of the room where the action was to take place would be far below the light level required to give a satisfactory exposure. Gelling the windows for color correction or balance was out of the question, because of their size and the short time we had to complete shooting. I also feared that in the early morning hours any gels, such as MT-2 or Wratten 85, might cut down the light too much and we might lose the day-light quality of the scene."

The "great gaffer in the sky" did not cooperate that day, and it rained.

Doesn't really matter though because it was a fantastic scene.

Laszlo touched on another problem photographers everywhere often encounter: standard light in a room, when standard light is provided by fluorescent lights. The great chase in YABBN brings viewers into a huge department store. But the production crew couldn't get permission to Hollywoodize the store by making it into a professional set with proper equipment. Laszlo wrote:

"Once again we were off on the, by now, well-traveled path of experimentation. The following day I paid a visit to the store, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible amongst the noon-day crowd, occasionally pointing a small General Electric foot-candle meter at the ceiling. A few of the lady bargain-hunters gave me a suspicious look, aside from which the visit went off without incident and also, I might add, without the offering of any encouragement. The best reading I could squeeze out of the meter was about 25 foot-candles which is about two stops under minimum level. I also noted, with no small amount of dismay, that even this reading came exclusively from fluorescent lighting fixtures, the only type of illumination in the building. My enthusiasm was considerably dampened by all of these factors, but the point of no return had been passed, as I felt that, based on my suggestion, nothing short of a national disaster could now stop the director from going ahead with the sequence."

Yesterday morning, hours before the American Cinematographer arrived and begot this journey, Art Gallery Dude attended a 7:30 meeting at the Bennington Public Library.

Vermont's only Google-certified photographer, Eric Wood, held a morning powwow to sell business owners in town on a business tool for their websites: Street Views inside their businesses -- in essence, virtual tours -- like he did for Fiddlehead at Four Corners (here).

Twenty-one business owners (16 women, 5 men) as well as the executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation and the town's economic and development director listened to the strong presentation that included a slideshow. AGD sat in the back row and took photos on his 8 megapixel smartphone. As you can see, objects in the foreground are pretty sharp but the fluorescent lighting washes out the focus on Wood and all but makes seeing what's on the screen impossible ...

Laszlo wrote a strong article that any photographer and/or cinematographer would understand and enjoy because of the technical component to it. Here are some other photos within the article ...

Bernard has Amy on her lips
but has Barbara on his mind

Andrew Laszlo with "Barbara Darling" up in the cage

Another fun thing about this 46-year-old magazine was flipping through pages to see how Mad Men advertised with words and pictures and ideas ...

And yet one thing grabbed AGD's attention the most ...


Who is Mr. Laurence D. Craig of 643 Bowdoin Street, San Francisco, California, and why did he subscribe to American Cinematographer magazine?

AGD would not have given it a second thought if this had been a photography mag. 

So was Laurence a cinematographer? Aspiring cinematographer? 

Why did he subscribe to a magazine that bills itself as the "International Journal of Motion Picture Photography and Production Techniques"?

That's when AGD gave Google a rigorous workout while using other people-finding sites.

First thing's first: Google Street View ...

... then search 643 Bowdoin Street, San Francisco -- like most streets in San Fran, Bowdoin is tilted -- and it's quite funny how many websites provide 411 galore about property and its value in relation to the value of its neighborhood and so on and so on ...

Page 1 of Google for 643 Bowdoin produces this, this, this, this, this and this. And that's really just the beginning. It's peculiar how one site lists the home at $370K, another $480K, and that only means today's homebuyers should do their homework.

For all of that, AGD still couldn't track down MR LAURENCE D CRAIG.

Then he noticed that sweet silver ride in that Street View ...

... if Laurence Craig still lives at 643, is that his car?

And what kind of car is it?

AGD spent 90 minutes trying to figure it out by posting a picture on Facebook and Twitter and and then tried to make hay of the license plate number.

Deep Web searches produced the big squadoosh. But it might be an antique plate so there are plenty more avenues to explore. Someone at wasn't 100 percent positive but said the car might be a 1940 Nash Lafayette. He might be right (here).

The only two pieces of information about Laurence Craig that are probably true, based on deep Web searches, is that he graduated George Washington High in '52 then City College of San Francisco in '54. For argument's sake let's put his age at 18 in '52, meaning he was born in '34 meaning that if Laurence Craig is alive he's 79 or 80 -- and that means he was 34'ish when this edition of American Cinematographer arrived on his doorstep at 643 Bowdoin Street in San Francisco.

The search for MR LAURENCE D CRAIG continues.

In the meantime ...

Two other things made this edition of American Cinematographer stand out:

Marion Hutchins had a feature called "Behind the Cameras" which told "Where directors of photography are shooting this month" and after seeing this ...

MPO Videotronics, N.Y.C.
MURRAY LERNER: Commercials

... Fiddlehead's owner laughed and told AGD "I want you to find Murray Lerner."

Finding Murray Lerner was easy ...

More at

... Murray Lerner, like Andrew Laszlo, became a god of cinematography.

We're not so sure what became of this "cat" seeking work in the back of the mag ...

... but rest assured that AGD put a call into American Cinematographer today.

Till that answer arrives, here is "You're A Big Boy Now" ...

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