Saturday, 10 May 2008

Kissing

Being paid to kiss. This requires two actors to have read the script and agreed to the job, often before they have met each other and sometimes before they know who has been cast. Since the actors are in character when they kiss, it could be said that they are not actually kissing each other. However, in the Real World, where one pair of lips is engaged with another, they are. The possible exchange of bodily fluids may be negotiated by the actors with one another but is only verified by highly trained crew members in what is known as the 'tongue' bet. There is no closed set for kissing scenes.
Kissing on film is rarely choreographed or even rehearsed. Etiquette maintains that actors will rehearse the scene right up to the kiss and then mime contact. The use of breath fresheners is a bit of a minefield, if used too obviously by another actor they might indicate either a) too much enthusiasm a la John Van Horn in 'Tootsie' or b) that your own breath is less than fresh.
There is an element of chance in the performance of a kiss that is unusual in what will be an important close-up. The chemistry between the actors and the atmosphere on set will influence the kiss as much as the writing and directing. Not that writers or directors are exactly shy when it comes to describing physical contact, even if they are they will overcome their hesitance when approaching more explicit scenes. It is more that everyone falls under the spell of the 'Hollywood' kiss, and wants to give that mythical creature a chance to happen of its own accord. Actors cannot help but be aware of this unspoken pressure and the vulnerability and expectation can be a lethal combination when added to the levels of neurosis, paranoia, ego and adrenalin already circulating through the actor's system. If a great kiss emerges from the debris then it is either the result of natural talent on the part of the actors, the camera operator and, most particularly, the focus puller, or the actors aren't acting.
Once the kiss has been established, if it is not a miracle of cinematic magic, the director will step in and start to fine tune the action. At this point, everyone will be aware that the kiss has to be staged and the crew ennui resumes.
After thirty years of professional kissing, I have a few notches on my perspective designed, artificially aged, hollow bed posts. It has never been very difficult, in the sense of unpleasant, kissing my co-stars as I am nearly always in temporary love with them. I start my crush when I read the script and it develops rapidly from that point. Actually meeting and working with the actor rarely interrupts my rosy view of their qualities. The scales don't begin to fall from my eyes until, roughly, the night of the wrap party. With my own rings back on my fingers, and the set packed for storage, it can be hard to see the man/woman/dinosaur who so captured my heart, across the tequila sodden dance floor. We all look the same with our own clothes on.
Yes, every kiss has been splendid. And if some were a little less than magnificent, I would never kiss-and-tell. We were only acting, after all.

15 comments:

  1. I think the idea of the ultimate Hollywood kiss has stemmed from the scene of Clark Gable kissing Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, it really doesn’t get more romantic than that. I guess in real life it doesn’t work as well without the soundtrack.

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  2. Wow,
    Guess I never thought of kissing in such a technical sense. It's very interesting to get the kissing angle from the perspective of the actor. Who knew it took so much work and choreography. My hat off to the wonderful souls who make it look more like play than work.

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  3. A kiss is just a kiss,
    you must remember this.
    Then as time goes by,
    when you relax and relieve the tension,
    and our hearts are full of passion,
    it's a case of do or die,
    that no one can deny ;-)

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  4. "What's in a kiss
    Have you ever wondered just what it is
    More perhaps than just a moment of bliss
    Tell me what`s in a kiss..."
    (Gilbert O' Sullivan)

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  5. Someone wrote: "There's a way to work the sensuality more than the kiss... It's an excercise where you`re conscious of the space between you and the other actor as it gets smaller... You play in that area...Most important is the approach, because if you just go to the kiss, we don`t care. You want to see the tension build up... till we`re eager to see them kiss".

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  6. My respect to you for not 'kissing-and-telling' ... ;o)

    It’s amazing how many factors have to be just right - and in some cases perhaps even form a synthesis of action, timing, chemistry, atmosphere, etc. for a movie kiss to look 'real'. And how many people would be involved, apart from the two actors.

    There is a short article from the 1940s called ”This High Cost of a Hollywood Kiss” on Maureen O'Hara's official website http://www.users.qwest.net/~aknot/Tyrone.htm . Somehow the information about the 67 crew members can be rather distracting for me as a moviegoer. I know very well that’s how movies are made, but I want to forget about it when I try to play along and enjoy the magic of a movie, and in this case a movie kiss. For me one of the most legendary movie kisses is the one with Sean and Mary Kate in the thunderstorm at the graveyard in 'The Quiet Man'. According to Ms. O'Hara's autobiography this scene was only shot once. I dare not think of how long it would have taken and how many people it would have involved to dry their clothes and fix their hair and makeup for another take. Professional kissers indeed.

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  7. Love all the kissing quotes and stories :-x

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  8. I had some fragments of these quotes and with the help of wikiquote managed to come up with most of the people who uttered these words. They are not all about movie kisses, though. I'll have to agree with Einstein. As embarrasing and pathetic as it may be, we men just don't know how to multitask!

    ‘I appreciate subtlety. I have never enjoyed a kiss in front of the camera. There's nothing to it except not getting your lipstick smeared’. (Hedy Lamarr)

    ‘I'd luv to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair’. (Bette Davis)

    ‘I have found men who didn't know how to kiss. I've always found time to teach them.’ (Mae West)

    ‘In Westerns you were permitted to kiss your horse but never your girl.’ (Gary Cooper)

    ‘Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.’ (Marilyn Monroe)

    ‘A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous’. (Ingrid Bergman)

    ‘It takes a lot of experience for a girl to kiss like a beginner.’ (Jeanne Moreau)

    ‘To find a prince, you gotta kiss some toads.’ (Foxy Brown)

    ‘I'd kiss a frog even if there was no promise of a Prince Charming popping out of it. I love frogs.’ (Cameron Diaz)

    ‘If you are ever in doubt as to whether or not you should kiss a pretty girl, always give her the benefit of a doubt.’ (Thomas Carlyle)

    ‘Her kisses left something to be desired... the rest of her.’ (Unknown)

    ‘The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.’ (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Professor at the Breakfast-Table)

    ‘A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. That's basic spelling that every woman ought to know.’ (Mistinguett (Jeanne Bourgeois), Theatre Arts, December 1955)

    ‘Why does a man take it for granted that a girl who flirts with him wants him to kiss her—when, nine times out of ten, she only wants him to want to kiss her?’ (Helen Rowland)

    ‘A man snatches the first kiss, pleads for the second, demands the third, takes the fourth, accepts the fifth--and endures all the rest.’ (Helen Rowland)

    ‘Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can't see anything wrong with each other.’ (Rene Yasenek)

    ‘Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you.’ (Joey Adams)

    ‘A child's kiss is magic. Why else would they be so stingy with them?’ (Harvey Fierstein)

    ‘Kissing is like eating soup with a fork: you can never really get enough.’ (Swedish)

    ‘Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.’ (Albert Einstein)

    (Sorry for the very long post - you can of course axe it if it TOO long)
    www.myspace.com/cinemapaul.

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  9. To Niki:

    You are so right about the space between the actors!

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  10. What I quoted is part of a song from the 1980's called: "What's in a Kiss", by Gilbert O' Sullivan. I used to listen to that song when I was a kid.
    I liked Joey Adams quote ;-)

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  11. In the Hays Code of the 1930s and 1940s among many other things they banned 'excessive and lustful kissing'. They later made an addition with the exact specification that no kiss could last more than 39 seconds. How on earth they got to that exact time remains unknown to me. (Evil tongues suggested that 40 seconds might be the time it took the censor to get excited!) They also specified that 'deliberate seduction' was not allowed. To this day I don’t know what that means. I guess 'unintentional seduction' would be OK in the movies, then?

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  12. As Louis Armstrong croons, "Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss." Beautiful song.
    In real life, kissing the one you love is wonderful. Of course in film it's not at all easy to have to kiss a person one may not know for a scene, especially with take after take...

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  13. Oh, Pia. There lies the problem. It is all too easy to 'fall in love' when all your actions and thoughts mimic that feeling. Especially with take after take...

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  14. What was it like getting to kiss Nicholas Rowe?

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  15. Ha! Fantastic. He's the nicest man in the world. And funny.

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