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Zacapulco – Welles Done

25 Jan

Adapted from American Cinematographer, August 1948

For the boating scenes in tropical Mexico, Columbia Studios chartered Errol Flynn’s luxurious yacht, The Zaca, and Flynn himself served aboard as skipper. Scenes were filmed above and below decks, at anchorages in Acapulco Harbor, at Fort San Diego in Acapulco Bay,

In order to shoot the location sequences for Lady From Shanghai, a company of 50 Hollywood actors and technicians flew to Acapulco, along with 60 Mexican extra players and technicians from Mexico City. More than 15 tons of equipment were shipped from Hollywood, one order of six tons comprising the largest single air express shipment ever undertaken by a movie location company.

Shooting aboard the yacht was, from the space standpoint very difficult, and these scenes, as they appear in the picture, are necessarily cramped in composition — but this actually works in favor of the overall effect because it produces an authentic atmosphere of crowded life aboard a small yacht. During filming aboard The Zaca, a long line of native dugout canoes anchored astern formed a bridge from the barge holding the generator so that electrical cables could be stretched for the camera and sound equipment.

In filming sequences at sea, the camera crew discovered that they could not depend upon their usual light meter readings. Reflections from the surface of the water kicked up more intensity than the meter recorded, causing over-exposure of the scene. This effect was noted in the screening of the first rushes, and a series of experimental tests was made to arrive at some sort of rule-of-thumb that could be used to compensate for the additional amount of light

(Left) On location in Mexico, Welles briefs his crew prior to filming a sequence. At his side is Charles Lawton, ASC, whose outstanding photography adds greatly to the impact of the film. (Center) Errol Flynn’s yacht The Zaca is anchored in Acapulco Harbor. Astern are a line of barges over which electrical cable was stretched between the yacht and the generator boat. (Right) For a scene shot in the jungle streams of Mexico, the camera is mounted on a dugout canoe alongside the boat in which the principle players ride.

ascmag.com…

— Gentleman Tim

 

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