19 September 2002 | horn-5
It's a wonder Blackie Whiteford didn't put an arrow through his haughty breeches.
This starts out as a primer on the hard life of an extra in Hollywood, Suzanne Emery as Hollywood Extra Girl No. 1472, but soon turns into an early-day infomercial for Cecil B. DeMille's production of "The Crusades," and also turns into an (unintended) documentary in which Cecil B. DeMille quickly shows why he was among the most-detested of film Directors, and appears to enjoy every moment in which he is belittling, mocking or generally making life very unpleasant for anybody within his apparently unlimited area of sight. From a camera boom high on a studio set, he spots an extra miles away with the wrong hair-do, among the ten thousand around the castle set(give or take 5000),and proceeds to rip her and the thoroughly terrified assistant director, who knew the line between reality and play acting was thin indeed when C. B. got started. Once on the floor, he barks gruffly to somebody---with DeMille it could have been a gaffer or his associate producer---to "get me a chair, you think I want to stand up all day?" The highlight comes when DeMille, still perched in the rafters and flash-forward dreaming of Moses on top of the mountain, proceeds to give acting lessons to all 20,000---the head count always grew the closer a DeMille film came to release---of the trembling extras. His pleas for authenticity comes off a little hollow for one who seldom practiced what he preached. It is probably a good thing that Blackjack Ward, who was conceded to be as mean as Blackie Whiteford looked, was not among the extras, or else we would have all been spared "The Greatest Show On Earth" and an Oscar might have went to a deserving film.