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LEAVES ON MY LAKE

It was was a small cottage (the trysting place for Dorothy Dandridge (Margot) and John Justin (Denis)). It overlooked the sea (this geography was created via editorial license as the cottage was nowhere near the sea) and a lovely lagoon, which did take up residence just outside the cottage balcony. The dilemma was that when the company arrived that morning, the small lagoon adjacent to the cottage was literally covered, inches deep, with fallen leaves.

When we had scouted the location (before the storm) the lagoon was crystal clear. You might think this could be perceived as a lovely forested and opportunistic moment, and you would be right unless there was a line in the script (which there was) where Denis says to Margot something to the effect, “Your eyes are as crystal clear as the lagoon”. This followed by his waving his hand across the leaf strewn water surface, which was not clear by a long shot. 

Robert Rossen, the director, was reticent to remove or change the scripted line and so the company moved inside the cottage and it became the mission of the art department to remove the leaves. The effects, grips and craft service boys immediately put on their high top boots and waded in with rakes in hand, with the assignment to simply rake out the leaves. 

Now if you have ever tried to rake leaves off the surface of your swimming pool you know it is a relatively impossible task. You rake in one direction the leaves wander off in another. The rake action failing the boys next pulled out their high pressure water hoses and hoped they would be able to “squirt” off the leaves. After all it works on one’s front lawn. This also failed miserably as the leaves, being much more elusive than the streams of water simply wandered off back into the center of lake, secure and safe as before.

Fortunately, there were several pages written for inside the cottage, so the company moved inside and shooting went on as scheduled, through the morning, while the art department squirted and raked away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh2CZUH1FUs

 
For my part I was sitting next to my father when the prop master, a man as we might say “long in the tooth”. Sat down and offered a solution. Specifically he stated, “I can get those leave off that lake”. My father was all ears. The Prop Master only demanded that all the leaf " rakers and netters" get out and stay out of the water. He needed to be left alone with no meddling in the water for at least three hours. Well lunch was about to break so we knew we had an hour at least and we would have to talk our through the second and third hour. 

The hands on my watch seem not to move at all. In what seemed like hours the minute hand approached the top of the third hour. On cue the and as promised the prop master looked at his watch, and rolled his multi drawer red wooden prop box down to the edge of the lake. As a footnote I should explain to my non-film making audience that a prop box is a wonderful Pandora's box of gimmicks and goodies maintained and belonging to the property master and is reported to have just about anything one could need at just about any time during the shooting of a film. That of course is an exaggeration but, as this story proves, not far from the truth. 


From this red property box and from one of its draws the prop master pulled out a small bottle capped with an eye dropper. He then asked that men and rakes be stationed around the lake and be prepared to rake out leaves at his signal. Reluctantly and with great doubt the men took their intended positions. The property master kneeled at the edge of the lake opened his slightly pinkish bottle of liquid and put one, two, yes only three drops of liquid into the water at he edge of the leaf covered lake. 

 
The crew scowled  in derision as if those three little drops of liquid could resolve a situation that 15 strapping grips and crafts service men and women had been struggling with all morning. Like the apostles who had been fishing all morning and caught nothing they had grave doubts as to just what those three drops of liquid could do.

Nothing happened at first, and then ever so slowly a very small hole of cleared water appeared where the drops of pink liquid had been placed. The hole began to widen with its center remaining clear and its edges pushing the leaves out in a ever expanding crystal clear circle. The background laughter and joking dropped into complete silence as all watched the clear spot in the lagoon get larger and larger and larger. Within 30 minutes the  hole in the leaves had increased to a diameter of at least 15 feet and it was evident that the clear area would eventually grow and clear the lagoon of all its leaves. Another 30 minutes passed and all but a very few leaves had been pushed in an ever widening circle to the edge of the lagoon. On cue the rakers set about raking up the leaves into piles along the waters grassy edge leaving a crystal clear lagoon.


About that moment Robert Rosen the director exploded through the foliage and announced in a booming voice, “its all right its all right, I have an even better line, the lagoon doesn’t have to be free of its G$# D#@* leaves. He then came to an abrupt halt and his mouth dropped open as he saw the crystal clear surface of the lagoon, completely free of leaves.


The property master was congratulated all around but kept his secret and would tell know one what was in that little pink bottle. Well, the crew was not about to let this go so that evening a small contingent of behind the camera folks were invited to drinks as was the prop master and after sever Johnny Walker Blacks the truth came out. For the physicists in the audience you will most like already have already guessed the answer, yes it was a simple issue of breaking the surface tension on the surface of the water with several drops of glycerin . Once done the viscous material that had built up on the surface expanded out carrying the leaves with it in an ever widening circle.

FOR PROBABLY MORE DETAIL THAN YOU NEED CLICK TO MORE LEAVES FOR ADDITIONAL NOTES DETAILS AND PRODUCTION RENDERINGS

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