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Moving Picture World, July 21, 1917, p. 46

Clara Kimball Young Discusses Picture Art

By Margaret I. McDonald

Clara Kimball Young weathers the gale of an interview well; she is alert to the situation and handles it with businesslike skill. She talks easily on whatever angle of the subject is presented to her, and does not depend solely on personal charm or charm of environment to impress her listener. She has something to say about the art which she has allied herself professionally and proceeds to say it without forcing the interviewer to the pick-and-shovel method of securing "copy." In short, she impresses you with the fact that she is a woman of professional experience, that she has profited by that experience, and that her familiarity with her art does not stop with the grease paint or mere obedience to the order of a director. She has made a study of her art--she has gathered by the wayside.

[Photo omitted, profile of Clara Kimball Young.]

Naturally the conversation was not without its reminiscent side, when she spoke of the merger of the interests of the spoken stage with those of the screen, of the pitting of the stage star against the screen star in the silent drama and of the consequent survival of the fittest in the birth of a big corporation. Then she plunged headlong into a discussion of, or more properly speaking a dissertation on, the moving picture art.

"In every scene of my pictures I want the utmost care to be given to the backgrounds. If the interior set is representing a home it must reflect the character of the occupant. If it is to be a beautiful home, then the background must be arranged accordingly, not overladen with detail so as to detract from the figures moving against it, but furnished with carefully chosen articles which make a fitting and artistic environment for the character."

"The same idea follows in choosing of exteriors," she continued. "For instance, a director who goes in search of a certain location requiring as its chief essential a road bordered by trees. The ideal location is found, but in focusing the camera on the road at the wrong angle practically all the beauty of the scene is lost, while by a little care in a matter which may seem a trifle would result in a delightful effect.

"People who go out to have snapshots taken make the same mistake. For instance, they stand all in a row, or up against a post, or in a doorway, instead of choosing an artistic background that may be close at hand, or creating an amusing situation, which would at least make the picture amusing to look at afterward, if not beautiful."

"In arranging an exterior background it is only necessary to survey the scene through a circle made with your hands," she illustrated, "which would give you the same perspective that your camera would get focused at the same angle.

"A very little thing may ruin the beauty of your scene. A sloping hill with a single tree surmounting it, for instance, may constitute an artistic study; while the addition of a group of houses may ruin the intention."

"These things may seem too trifling to mention" she continued, "but in the making of a moving picture play it is often necessary for us to interpolate scenes of explanation, scenes which feed a certain situation. Therefore, if these scenes which in themselves may lack action are made interesting by the choice of artistic backgrounds the spectator is spared that sense of "drag" which an uninteresting explanation (and we must sometimes explain) tends to give a picture.

"I do not believe in one woman picture," she stated emphatically. I want all my players to be good players. That is the real meaning of a supporting cast. I want them to have all the opportunity that they can possibly have for the sake of the picture; for, no matter how wonderful I might be, if my support is poor the picture is spoiled.

"There are various things that a woman must be careful of in dressing a character; one of these is the arrangement of the hair. The arrangement of the hair changes the character of the face. It is a common thing to see actresses wear their hair in different styles in different scenes of a play. I always wear my hair in the same style, unless age or conditions call for a change."

Miss Young believes that stage experience is a very essential thing to success on the screen. At the same time she draws attention to the fact that many players of the spoken stage have been failures on the screen. This is due, she says, to two reasons, one being that some of the popular stars are no longer in the bloom of youth, and the camera reading of your very soul, transfers whatever it sees, age or youth, to the screen in its true state of preservation. The other reason is that it is sometimes difficult for the player of the spoken stage to adapt himself or herself to the limitations of the camera. It is difficult for them to move effectively in such limited space, and it is difficult for them to improvise lines to speak in conjunction with the interpretation of a certain idea, having always been used to memorizing the lines of a written play. These and other like obstacles she states have to be overcome in a successful transfer from the spoken stage to that of the silent drama.

A summing up of Miss Young's ideas on the making of artistic pictures leads to the avenue of beauty, and is consummated in her statement that "every scene should be as beautiful as an artist's painting."

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Last revised July 7, 2002