Weird Movie Crap in Mike’s Place
Besides astronomy and software design, I am also a movie buff. I typically prefer the ones from the 30s and 40s, but of course, love many of the offerings since then. And good ones I’ll watch several times, study the lighting, composition, visuals and how they all dovetail into a single unified presentation. One such film was Cameron’s Titanic. It was the troubled child of Paramount, dragging on for months due to its complicated and overwhelming use of CG. It seemed like it was shaping up to be the perfect “director runs wild” story in the media, champing to knock Cameron down a few pegs like Michael Cimino’s infamous Heaven’s Gate from 1980 (the film that bankrupted United Artists). And I am sure not a few reviewers were ready to use the headline “Titanic Sinks Again.” Fortunately, with Cameron at the helm, Titanic came off as one of the best films of the decade, and now is considered one of the best films ever made. I had heard of some costumes and props popping up on the market. J. Peterman sold off many of the screen used life-jackets, deck chairs and hero costumes.
While the life-jackets were fetching only a few hundred dollars, the price of the costumes were set at about $30,000. Darn the Peterman! I wanted Billy Zane’s tuxedo for a Titanic themed grand ball, but my dreams were dashed. Same for Rose’s red beaded “jump gown.” However, many bits and pieces started popping up on eBay as one would expect. Nothing really cool or affordable until a window from the promenade deck popped up. The story was that the seller had been a full-time extra, pretty unusual for films as extras come in for a few scenes then go home so they won’t be recognized as the story continues. Apparently Cameron had about 100 for the entire shoot. Once the film was over, most of the sets were scrapped as is typical, with a few kept intact for a future tour of props and costumes. However, many bits of the sets were scooped up by the locals in Playas de Rosarito where most of the film was shot. One is likely to find bits of the sets in various bars, restaurants and homes of the area. The seller recovered the window from a pile of scrap and put it up on the auction site where I had the good fortune to find it. It had a couple qualities I like: it was cheap and it looked cool. The crate it came it was very nicely made, I almost wonder if it was worth the seller’s time to build such an elaborate container.
As a set piece, and one that was not likely to be see close-up, it was undeniably cheaply made (one reason why a lot of the sets were torn down as opposed being recycled they just won’t handle the additional stress of another film.) It looked like a strong breeze would break it apart and had to be reinforced someone to put on display. Ah, display, how does one show up a thin, tall, fragile Edwardian piece like that? I was in an arts and crafts store a few years later, and came across unfinished country wooden shelves that were absolutely perfect for the job. Picking up a couple and using them as a clamp with feet looks like they were made for the job. And now the window graces my dining room-cum-R&D center of First Light Design.I also did get a porthole, really cheese-ball, but makes for a fun serving tray
Years later when the RMS Titanic Inc. the owners of many of the recovered artifacts had their wonderful traveling exhibit (no reference to the film whatsoever, except for a couple of small pieces in the gift shop), some friends of mine and I went in costume. While getting the tickets, the ticket seller told us to wait while she dashed to the office and returned with the exhibit manager who loved us and gave us free upgraded tickets. Since photography in the exhibit was forbidden I asked if we could get some shots on the Grand Staircase. She came with us and took several of the photos, but while doing so one of the other staffers came running in no doubt to throw us overboard, having see the illegal flashes. A waltz was playing in the set, and as vintage dancers we had a short but memorable waltz before we left for afternoon tea at one of the local hotels.