Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Contemporary voices: what use is a B?

 The story stank, but he tried.

Were B's were a taboo subject in contemporary industry journals?  Luckily, no!  Cinematographer Phil Tannura advocated for creativity even in the most mundane assignments in a brief article submitted to American Cinematographer (September, 1941).  Behind the camera for Columbia's Bulldog Drummond series and other B products, Tannura went on to work in television towards the end of his career.  Tannura claims working in a B should be no source of shame to anyone and suggested that they instead should be viewed as opportunities to experiment with the latest technologies.  While a risk-averse mentality may rule A pictures and offer certain obstacles against innovation (such as "a director who is not particularly inclined to cooperate with the photographer, or a star who requires a certain specialized and conservative type of camera-treatment") the B's, according to Tannura, could be a place where a risk could be taken because who cares and who's watching!  "If you try out a lenses on a sequence or two," he reasons, "you're not jeopardizing either a big investment or the appearance of an important star...if you succeed, you've found something valuable; if the experiment isn't so successful you're still likely to be ahead, for you've been concentrating on your camera-technique rather than 'walking through' the assignment."

Unfortunately, Tannura does not name any B's that may have been putting his philosophy into practice.  However he received lukewarm recognition himself for putting his words into action when Harold V Cohen reviewed wartime dud Lucky Legs for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  "Tannura has done full justice to her titular props, but the tale... is just a little too indigestible."

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