Academy Close-Up: The Restoration of “Cock of the Air”

Linville: I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS PROJECT FOR THREE YEARS TO REALLY GET A SENSE OF WHAT THIS FILM REALLY.


Linville: I’VE BEEN WORKING
ON THIS PROJECT FOR THREE YEARS
TO REALLY GET A SENSE OF WHAT THIS FILM
REALLY WAS LIKE BEFORE IT WAS HEAVILY CENSORED. I THINK IT’S OUR JOB TO LEAVE
AN ACCURATE RECORD OF THE FILMS THAT WERE MADE
AND TO PRESERVE THEM IN A WAY THAT IS TRUE TO THE FILMMAKER’S
ORIGINAL INTENT. WE TAKE A LOT OF THOUGHT
AND CONSIDERATION INTO THE FILMS THAT WE PRESERVE. RIGHT NOW, I’M WORKING
ON A FILM FROM 1932 CALLED “COCK OF THE AIR.” THE PROJECT BEGAN IN 2007 WITH A DONATION
OF FILM ELEMENTS. Blanc: IT’S ONE OF THOSE
BYGONE-ERA FILMS THAT HAS THIS WONDERFUL AGE
OF INNOCENCE ABOUT IT. THERE’S ALL THIS SORT OF
DERRING-DO AMONGST PILOTS, WOMANIZING MAN,
THE LUSTY WOMAN WHO CHASES HIM, EVENTUALLY ENDING HAPPILY
EVER AFTER, WE HOPE. Linville: “COCK OF THE AIR”
CAME OUT IN 1932, WHICH WAS THE BEGINNING
OF THE PRODUCTION CODE. THE STUDIOS WERE GETTING SOME
FEEDBACK FROM RELIGIOUS GROUPS, AND AS A RESULT, “COCK OF THE AIR”
HAD MANY RED FLAGS. AS I WAS WINDING THROUGH, I SAW THIS WOMAN WEARING NOTHING
BUT A SUIT OF ARMOR, AND I REALIZE, “OH, MY GOSH. WE HAVE THE UNCENSORED PICTURE
OF ‘COCK OF THE AIR.'” BUT WE WERE MISSING
THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE CENSORED MATERIAL. Lilli: A DIFFERENT KIND… THAT WAS A SONG. Polito: THERE’S RESTORATION,
AND THEN THERE’S RECREATION. WE HAD TO RECREATE
THE SOUND FROM SCRATCH. Linville: THIS HAS TO BE
ONE OF THE FIRST INSTANCES OF RECREATING DIALOGUE THROUGHOUT A FEATURE FILM. Polito: THE GOAL IS REALLY
JUST TO PROVIDE THE AUDIENCE WITH THE EXPERIENCE
OF THOSE CENSORED SCENES. Linville: BUT THERE
IS THIS PROBLEM. WE DON’T HAVE THE AUDIO,
THE SOUNDTRACK, THE DIALOGUE OF THESE
PERFORMANCES. SO, WHAT IS THE BEST
APPROACH TO RECREATE, POTENTIALLY, THIS MATERIAL? WHAT IF WE HIRE
CONTEMPORARY ACTORS TO SPEAK THE LINES IN THE SPIRIT OF THE ORIGINAL PERFORMANCES? AND THAT’S WHAT WE DID. Blanc: THIS IS GONNA
BE A SONG, SEE? [ WOMAN LAUGHS ] Blanc: THAT’S THE BETTER ONE.
GOOD. GREAT. Linklater: MY FIRST REACTION WAS
I COULD NOT BELIEVE THAT A MOVIE CALLED “COCK OF THE AIR”
HAD ACTUALLY EVER BEEN MADE. AND CERTAINLY NOT
IN THAT PERIOD. AND CERTAINLY NOT
BY SOBER PEOPLE. OKAY. LET’S DO IT AGAIN.
LET’S DO IT AGAIN. Carradine: IN THE MOONLIGHT, THERE’S SOMETHING THAT LOOKS
LIKE LOVE THAT ISN’T QUITE IT. I’M REPLACING DIALOGUE
THAT WAS HEAVILY CENSORED THAT IS FOREVER LOST. I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT
THAT WE PRESERVE EVERY PIECE OF FILM
THAT WE HAVE. Hinkle: THERE’S SOMETHING
REALLY AMAZING ABOUT PUTTING YOUR VOICE
INTO SOMEBODY ELSE’S BODY. AND WHAT I FOUND TODAY WAS I WAS ACTUALLY
NOT WANTING IT TO STOP. SHE’S, LIKE, DELICIOUSLY
SEDUCTIVE AT THAT POINT. YEAH. YEAH. Blanc:
THERE’S A WONDERFUL NAIVETY AND INNOCENCE ABOUT IT AND A SORT OF SPRING
IN THE STEP OF THE PERFORMANCES. PART OF THE CHALLENGE
IS THE QUALITY OF THE FILM, IN TERMS OF SEEING
THE LIP FLAP — THAT’S HARD FOR THE ENGINEER
AND FOR THE ACTOR PERFORMING. BUT ALSO JUST THE PACE. I WISH I’D BEEN
AN ACTOR BACK THEN. THIS IS SO EASY.
IT’S SO MUCH EASIER. Polito: RECORDING THESE VOICES IS DIFFERENT FROM
A TRADITIONAL A.D.R. SESSION BECAUSE THE ACTORS
DON’T HAVE A REFERENCE OF HOW THEY ORIGINALLY
PERFORMED. AND THEY’RE PERFORMING
SOMEONE ELSE’S VOICE. Blanc: YOU’RE ALWAYS LOOKING
FOR PHYSICAL SIGNALS FROM THE CHARACTER ON SCREEN TO SEE IF YOU CAN MATCH THAT
AND MERGE THEM TOGETHER. SO, YOU TRY TO MAKE IT
AS SEAMLESS AS POSSIBLE. Carradine: I’VE ONLY STEPPED
IN AND REPLACED MY OWN DIALOGUE, WHICH IS MUCH EASIER. Linklater: WHAT’S REALLY
HARD ABOUT THIS IS THAT USUALLY YOU HAVE THE PRODUCTION VERSION
OF YOUR PERFORMANCE, SO YOU CAN SORT OF FOLLOW
THAT INTONATION. Roger: YOU SEE, IT ENCOURAGES
FOREIGN RELATIONS. Lilli: YOU LIVE ALONE? Roger: OFFICIALLY. Polito: YOU ALSO HAVE
THE ADDED DIFFICULTY OF TRYING TO MATCH OLD SOUND. OLD FILMS TEND TO
HAVE OPTICAL NOISE, WHICH IS JUST
A BED OF WHITE NOISE. AND THEN WE PLAYED AROUND
WITH THE COLOR OF THE VOICES. WE HAVE TO ELIMINATE
SOME OF THE LOW FREQUENCIES AND HIGH FREQUENCIES
TO MAKE IT MATCH THE OLD FILM. AND WE ADD IN A LITTLE
BIT OF DISTORTION TO TRY TO MATCH IT IN, AS WELL. THE MUSIC WAS
ESPECIALLY DIFFICULT, BECAUSE THE SCENES WERE CUT OUT. WE DIDN’T HAVE THE MUSIC,
SO WE HAD TO RECREATE IT. AND I DECIDED, “HEY, I’LL TAKE ON A CHALLENGE,
AND I’LL RECORD IT.” Lilli: ♪ WAS SEEKING ♪ ♪ A DIFFERENT KIND ♪ ♪ WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO ♪ ♪ WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? ♪ Roger: I WOULD. Linville: IT WAS
SO EXCITING FOR ME TO FINALLY HEAR THESE LINES
FOR THE FIRST TIME. Blanc: IT’S JUST A GREAT
LOOK BACK TO A BYGONE TIME THAT WAS A LITTLE
MORE JOYFUL, PERHAPS. Linville: I WOULD HOPE
THAT THE FILMMAKERS, IF THEY SAW THIS RECREATION, WOULD BE HAPPY WITH IT. JUST LOOKING THROUGH
THE PRODUCTION CODE FILES AND SEEING HOW HARD
HOWARD HUGHES FOUGHT TO KEEP THE UNCENSORED VERSION
OUT THERE AND THEN, ULTIMATELY,
HAD TO RELENT AND TAKE OUT
A LOT OF MATERIAL, I WOULD HOPE THAT HE WOULD
BE PLEASED THAT AUDIENCES ARE SEEING THE VERSION
OF “COCK OF THE AIR” THAT HE INTENDED
AUDIENCES TO SEE. TO SEE IT NOW IN ITS FULL GLORY,
IT’S VERY EXCITING. AND I CAN’T WAIT FOR AUDIENCES
TO ENJOY IT, AS WELL.

9 thoughts on “Academy Close-Up: The Restoration of “Cock of the Air””

  1. Thank you for restore and recreates classic movie..

    Awesome video behind the scenes,,
    Make more video like this Academy Originals,,
    Thumbs up..

  2. It always kills me when I see professional film archivists/restorers handling 80-90 year old film with their BARE HANDS. "Oh, I'll try to only touch the edges"….nope, doesn't work that way.

  3. They'll be showing this film at the National Gallery of Art in DC on September 23. I live in the suburbs of DC – I put on my calendar to go in and see the film.

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