The Time Machine (1959)
While filming War of the Worlds, production was nearly shut down when it was realized that Paramount had only bought the rights to film a silent version of the novel. George Pal got on the phone and contacted Frank Wells, H.G. Wells' son, and negotiated for the talking rights and production was again moving forward. After the release of War of the Worlds, the Wells Estate eager to have other works filmed, contacted George Pal and asked if he were interested in any other of Wells' works. George looked over the various properties and concluded that The Time Machine would be best suited for a movie. George bought the option on it but Paramount wasn't interested in doing it. Irregardless of Paramount's lack of interest, George hired David Duncan to write a script. Initial discussions were to update the story to modern day as they were doing with War of the Worlds.
Years later while George was in England filming tom thumb, the head of the M.G.M. British studio,Matthew Raymond, asked George if he had any other projects under consideration, George replied with The Time Machine. George and Raymond worked up a budget of $850,000 to do the film. When George returned to Hollywood and screened the rough cut of tom thumb for the studio exec Sol Siegel, Siegel recognized the potential and asked what George wanted to do next.
George was considering Paul Scofield, Michael Rennie and James Mason for the role of the Time Traveler, it was a relative unknown though that was awarded the role, Rod Taylor. While viewing film tests and films to cast the remaining roles, Pal spotted his Weena in a test reel for another actor. As George was excited at the discovery the agent assumed George liked his client, George corrected him by saying something like, no not him, her! M.G.M. had already dropped the option on this young actress but George insisted and Yvette Mimieux was on her way to becoming a star actress.
H.G. Wells' description of the Time Machine was very sketchy at best, after all, Wells main concern was the telling of his story in the far future and the machine was merely a plot device to take us there. The design of the machine for the film came from William Ferrari, Mentor Huebner and George Pal himself.
M.G.M. had three Berninghaus 1895-1901 barber chairs in there prop department and one of these was taken to become the saddle of the Time Machine. William Ferrari's working drawing of the machine shows a more generic chair design with the notation "stock chair do not build. " The full size machine was built by the M.G.M. prop Department.
George approached Project Unlimited to handle the effects shots for the film and once the full size machine was finished, Project was assigned the job to build the miniature Time Machine as well. Once the film was finished the model machine was taken home by George Pal and in 1962 tragedy struck when Bel Aire was engulfed in fire and the Pal's home was completely destroyed and all it's contents including the miniature model and year of his personal film mementos from the Puppetoons and earlier films.
The effects in Time Machine utilized many different processes to accomplish the desired effects. Time lapse photography and in many cases stop-motion animation. David Pal's (George Pal's eldest son) first animation job was changing the dates on the Time Machine console. Some of the scenes using only stop -motion are the snail racing past in the work shop, the mannequin's clothes changing which was made more difficult by including a live person in the sequence, Don Sahlin and of course the model Time Machine running and disappearing on the table.
More complicated shots involved stop-motion and miniatures such as the buildings being built leading up to the 1960's sequence, and other shots combined stop-motion and paintings such as the apples growing which was done by Bill Brace by painting the new images one frame at a time over the previous ones. Matt paintings were used to show the futuristic Eloi Palace both exterior and interior. The final shot of the time traveler's home is actually a matt painting also. The real building was destroyed after the opening scenes were shot and Pal wanted to show it as the last shot of the film so a painting was done and the falling snow was Ivory soap flakes being dropped in front of the camera.
The special effects earned an Academy Award for Gene Warren and Tim Barr, due to a technical mistake Wah Chang was not included in the nomination although he most deservedly earned it.
William Tuttle, head of M.G.M.'s makeup department was responsible for translating George Pal's sketches of the Morlocks into screen reality. Foam appliances were used for the featured Morlocks and pull over rubber masks were used for the background characters. One of the Morlocks was played by George Pal's youngest son, Peter.
Pal had heard Fantastica, Music From Outer Space, a record album of music with a science fiction theme. George contacted the composer, Russell Garcia, and asked him if he could compose the music track for The Time Machine.
Russell's score is one of my all time favorites. A portion of it is the piece which plays when you first entire our web site. When Russell was asked how he makes such wonderful music he replied "I only use the pretty notes." Russell is still very active traveling all over the globe. When I last contacted him he was in Europe working on a project.
The film was finished at the cost of $827,000 under George's estimate of $850,000. George Pal made one dynamic change to Wells' original story. Where Wells' Time Traveler finds mankind a dyeing entity and further discovers man has become extinct, Pal shows that future mankind may be able to pull itself back together. As with many of Pal's projects we are given hope of a better life.
Indeed, many of the e-mails I receive are from those you saw The Time Machine in 1960 at an age of between 8-12 years old and their lives changed because of it. Some credit this film as an influence to becoming MD's, PhD's. Physicists and some entered the film industry and a few have earned their own Oscars for their efforts.
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