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The Camera Moves #1

The first entry in a series on camera movements. This tremendous, fluid sequence is taken from the 1934 film Upperworld.
We already know that transportation tycoon Alexander Stream (played by Warren Williams) is rich in Roy Del Ruth's Upperworld (1934) because he has an obese servant, a fancy car and you can't see the ceilings in his mansion. But it's not until this stunning shot that the film expresses Stream's wealth and power as a man of business.  After a false crane setting the scene as just one of many floors in the "Alexander Stream Building," our shot begins: the camera rushes backwards with the nervous energy of an office underling as it preceeds the silent, assured striding of Stream through his office abuzz with unanswered greetings, formal attire and remarkable foot traffic.  What's this? Stream's office seems so large and labyrinthine that by all appearances the man (and camera) walk in a complete circle—but before we can grasp the Borges-ian spatial layout of this office floor the camera pierces first one and then two walls before landing, with Stream, in the tycoon's office.  One tangential (or is it critical?) detail: though his personal chamber is shown twice more, the huge, lavish set we just saw never again appears in the film.
Holy cow. This was ‘34? Unbelievable. I’m aware of SUNRISE, but this is quite something. Reminded me of Kubrick’s tracking through WW1 trenches. Thanks for this Daniel. Looking forward to many more.
Terrific clip and description, Danny. Looking forward to more in this series!
That’s a dynamic shot. The beginning reminded me of Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. What else do we know about Roy Del Ruth? I’ve never heard of him.
I second everything that Girish said. Looking forward to watch Upperworld too!
I thought it was a real building until the camera started going through walls. Perhaps it was a set leftover from another film. Reminded me of the hallways in “Brazil”.
Thanks, ya’ll! Bobby: a WB regular; we have some capsules on him from films in that NYC-based pre-Code series (at which I saw this film). Bryan: I had that “leftover” or perhaps “re-used” thought too…seems far to opulent for such a production. One gets the feeling they were about to take that set down and the crew lept at the chance to do this unusually bravura sequence.
So that’s where they got the idea for the opening credits of A Different World! Can’t wait for more in this excellent series.
Haha! Oh man, haven’t thought about that tv show since I was a kid and it was airing.
Wow, that’s incredible. I was really sucked in by that shot.
Maybe A Different World leaned more on The Ladies Man? (starts at 07:00 [at 08:30 the real bonanza starts])
Very nice! Looking forward to many more such clips. Excellent work!
Once the pair walk in profile, I love the way their difference is accentuated: big dog and little dog. It’s the last upped ante until we get to his office. (And I never get tired of shots tracking through walls!)
Love this. My favorite touch isn’t the floating walls and the “Stream” of extras, but the fact that he painted “Alexander Stream Enterprises” on an exterior, sixth floor window. Perfect for this establishing sequence, but I doubt you would see that in real life. ;)
I think we may say that camera shot changes from a backward to a side movement, meaning the tycoon Alexander Stream is able to rush (backwoard movement ) and cross (side movement) very quickly all company layers.

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