Sunday, May 3, 2015

The genesis of the close up


D. W. Griffith has been credited, among many other technical innovations, with the invention of the close-up, although some historians attribute it to his cameraman, Billy Bitzer. Not everybody hailed this new development. When the financial backers first saw an actor close-up in the projection room, they were startled.

''It's murder," opined one of them. "Whoever heard of a face with no legs in sight?"

"Museums are full of masterpieces with nothing but large and arresting faces," Griffith retorted. "If the face tells what I mean it to tell, an audience will forget all about legs, arms, liver and lungs."

Henry Marvin, Griffith's boss at Biograph was even more blunt.
"We paid for the whole actor, Mr. Griffith," he is supposed to have said: "We want to see all of him."