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Monday, January 07, 2008

Harper Goff

This in from my old mentor Børge Ring:

Harper Goff played the banjo and not the harp in The Firehouse Five Plus Two.

He was a production designer on some of Walt Disney's live action features such as the demanding "20.000 Leagues under the Sea."
In 1956 Walt lent Harper's expert services to Kirk Douglas to storyboard and make a "leica" for a difficult sequence in Kirk Douglas's film about "The Vikings".
Goff was allotted twelve months to complete the job...

Based in a suite in the Palace Hotel in Copenhagen he drew a detailed action story board in pencil, helped by a young local artist who coloured the scetches.
Whenever a new locale came up (such as a viking hall) Harper would make a very large, well thought-out design in colour.
Once every week he flew up to Bergen in Norway to check on the building of three viking ships. All three of these has a well hidden small Diesel engine so that they could return quickly to the starting point of a scene in case of retake.

He scoured England to find a suitable historical castle with no neighbouring telephone poles in sight. At long last he found one in Normandy. During the film the castle is attacked by a horde of vikings carrying a huge tree trunk to smash the castle gate.
To know if the scene would function on camera Harper hired seven Normandy taxicabs and linked them up like a train. The train had the same length as the tree trunk the vikings would carry. The cabs rode slowly up the winding road to the castle gate and Harper shot a 16mm film of the scene to show to Richard Fleischer, the film's director who came to Copenhagen once a month for a meeting.

"It seems quite a burden on the budget to employ two expensive people for a whole year in advance?"
"On the contrary, it saves a colossal amount of money on the ultimate production," said Harper on his way to the restroom.

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