CRADLE WILL ROCK
Robbins and his production team did exhaustive and extensive research in New York City to re-create the era. They examined what the characters were struggling with artistically, and then provided them with settings that demonstrated their varied living and professional situations.
After two weeks of rehearsals in New York City. principal photography began in Manhattan on May 4th, 1998. It was to be a long, hot, but exciting summer, shooting primarily on location in and around New York City.
Tony Award-winning production designer Richard Hoover, who worked with Robbins on "Dead Man Walking" and "Bob Roberts," says, "For each setting, I need to have a concept of what the character looks like, where they would be comfortable spending their leisure time, and what kind of books they would read. That is what makes a film look authentic. It's all about determining personality." Hoover's decisions were as detailed as discussions with the actors about whether their character would have real things, like a gold mirror, or a fake mirror that looks real, or whether they would just have a fake mirror.
"Many of the characters did not have a lot of money, and neither did many of the theaters at the time. There were 110
such theaters in New York City in the 1930s; today, many of them are gone." Hoover looked at photos that he and his team found at the New York Performing Arts archives to copy the facades of the buildings, and for lampposts, cars, newsstands, pushcarts, buses, and other such details. Because the photos were in black-and-white, they had to pick up the colors prevalent in the area in which they were shooting and incorporate them into the design as best as they could. Frequently, the answers were not always obvious.
The Maxine Elliott Theater, where the culminating scene of "Cradle Will Rock" takes place, was re-created by using the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 47th Street in Manhattan. The Brooks Atkinson Theater has not changed much since the 1930s; its original design was derived from European opera houses in the beginning of the century. The Academy of Arts and Letters on 157th Street in Harlem was used as the exterior of the Venice Theater. The National Arts Club in Gramercy Park acted as the 21 Club.
For further research, Hoover found a useful tool to be New York City's fire department archives, as well as a $98 million theater archive at the George Mason University in Virginia, headed Lorraine Brown, professor of English. Also necessary to add to the mood of the period were the posters seen in virtually every outdoor scene. In many instances, the team was able to find an authentic poster or copy. Otherwise, they did their best to reinvent a particular poster they liked using a graphic artist and
The paintings that were used in the film were also replicas of the original pieces. Once legal clearance was received from the respective agents to use the work, a copy of a print of the painting was obtained. Catalogs from the museums or galleries which housed the pieces proved to be the most exact. The copies would be digitalized from a Los Angeles lab and blown up to the original painting size. Then, one of the scenic artists would copy the piece with paints and it was put in an antique-looking frame.
Diego Rivera's mural was the most elaborate piece of visual art in the film, and thus required a lot of the artistic team's
attention. Says Richard Hoover, "There were only two photographs of Diego Rivera showing small parts of the Rockefeller Center Mural. We were only able to recreate it entirely because Rivera repainted the mural in Mexico City after the original was torn down."
First, however, the filmmakers needed to clear the use of Rivera's mural through his museum in Mexico. His estate granted permission to u
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