Vivien Leigh knits between takes on the set of “Waterloo Bridge” 1940.
Part I is here.
“Hurry up and wait!”
Anyone who has worked on a major Hollywood production is familiar with this ironic command.
There is a tremendous amount of down time on a Hollywood film. It takes hours to set up lights, rig camera and sound, and make sure the sets and props are in place. Thus, actors spend a huge amount of time waiting, waiting, waiting for the the cameras to roll.
In the past, especially in the 1930s, scores of Hollywood actresses took up knitting to help pass the countless hours between takes.
Several years ago, at a swanky Hollywood party, I met the wealthy widow of a prominent producer who had been active during Hollywood’s Golden Age. After draining a few glasses of champagne the elderly lady talked about, well, the good ol’ days. When I expressed my admiration for classic Hollywood movies she told me that at the tender age of 15, she was one of Busby Berkeley’s chorus girls.
“We didn’t really dance, y’know, just walked up and down those darn stairs and tried not to break our necks, while Buzz whipped the camera around on a huge crane.”
After a few more glasses of champagne the lovely ex-chorus girl explained that setting up Buzz’s excruciatingly complicated shots took so long that the chorus girls nearly went crazy with boredom.
“Some girls drank bootleg and flirted outrageously with front office wolves,” she said. “Other girls quietly knitted.”
“Which one were you?”
“Honey, I figured it out very quickly: Men had a good time with the girls who drank gin — but they married the girls who knitted.”