Sound effects make “It’s a Wonderful Life” radio crackle – Orange County Register


At The Globe, we are proud to announce that the newspaper will have a new purpose this month.

No, not at the bottom of a bird cage or in kitty litter.

Instead, the Globe will have a lead role (sort of) in the Old Pros’ live radio version of the classic 1940s holiday movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where it will be used as a stage prop, or more precisely a sound maker. Think about old-time radio shows and sound effects.

Sound guy Mark Rabinowitch – yes, that guy who takes pictures for the Globe – is going to punch a folded copy of the newspaper on a table to make the sound of someone typing a folded newspaper on a table. (Try it, you’ll hear what we mean.)

“It’s called for in the script,” Rabinowitch explained during a recent rehearsal for the radio play, just before throwing the paper on the table.

In fact, that sound will come to the room when George Bailey’s Uncle Billy annoyingly crushes the newspaper against the evil thief Baron Mr. Potter (thus losing $ 8,000).

(In case you’re wondering, Rabinowitch was using the October 21 issue of The Globe, with a story about the Laguna Playhouse on the cover.)

Next, Rabinowitch held up a plastic sandwich bag filled with colorful peanut M&M. Soon he would be putting those peanut M & Ms in a plastic pill bottle to make the sound of – you guessed it – pills falling into a plastic pill bottle.

That sound will come when the town pharmacist fills a prescription but accidentally puts poison pills in the bottle and, well, we don’t want to give the rest.

  • Mark Rabinowitch opens a small wooden door which is used to signal comings and goings during a rehearsal of the Old Pros’ live radio version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (Photo by Anita Gosch)

  • Mark Hochberg will provide the music for the Old Pros directing of a radio version of the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

  • Sharone Rosen creates a tinkle to indicate Angel Clarence’s descent to Earth during a rehearsal for the Old Pros’ live radio version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

The creation of these sound effects from everyday objects is called Foley art. The name comes from Jack Foley, who is said to have been the father of this art.

Foley worked with Universal Studios at the turn of the 20th century, when Hollywood studios played silent films on “talkies”. The filmmakers realized that the microphones had difficulty picking up some background sounds, so they had to be reproduced and added later.

Rabinowitch learned the art from the late Johnny Leveque, a villager, a sound editor who won two BAFTAs (these are the British Oscars) and was nominated for four Oscars for Best Sound Editing. The production of the Old Pros is dedicated to Leveque.

“We met at a rehearsal. Johnny was doing the Foley, ”Rabinowitch recalls. “He and I started talking, and he literally pointed his finger at me and said, ‘You, you’re going to work with me on the Foleys.’ And I didn’t even know what it was.

“After the rehearsal he dragged me over to Home Depot and we walked around for an hour, and he kept tapping things to see what noises different things would make.”

After that, Rabinowitch was sold on the art of Foley.

In the Old Pros radio play, Sharone Rosen (the famous Village singer) will help Rabinowitch create the sound effects.

Rosen arguably has the enviable job of creating the sound that announces Angel Clarence’s descent from heaven to Earth – that would be the otherworldly ringing of a steeple.

“I think it’s my favorite sound effect,” Rosen said. “It’s a series of little chimes, often heard in 1980s ballads. I think I use them about seven times.

During rehearsal, Rosen also showed off how she recreates the sound of footsteps by slapping two rubber sandals together. A loud clapping of the hands becomes the sound of an ear being drunk (poor George’s ear). The clamor of a large spaghetti pot with lid creates the sound of Uncle Billy knocking over the trash cans. And a small wooden door with bells opens and closes to signal the comings and goings.

“I also really like hitting a leather pillow to simulate the sound of someone getting slapped in the jaw,” Rosen said.

The rehearsal table was cluttered with other items: a baking dish that will be filled with corn flakes and trampled on to create the sound of footsteps in the snow, and a bucket of water into which a stone or two will fall when a figure falls through the ice on a pond.

There was also a real train whistle, an old corded phone, empty cream of chicken soup cans, a 1977 blue Christmas bell, stacked coins and an empty wine bottle and wine glass. (to make the sound of broken glass). A wind machine will create the sound of the howling wind.

All these sound effects will be created by Rabinowitch and Rosen on stage, from a table which will occupy a prominent place next to the actors interpreting the dialogues of the characters.

In fact, the playwright of the original manuscript of the radio play “It’s a Wonderful Life” states that sound effects should be created in full view of the public.

“The real visual drama for the audience on site is watching the sound effects team,” says playwright Philip Grecian’s manuscript. “Make sure they and their various devices are clearly visible. “

Carol Glenn conducts the Old Pros radio play.

“A big part of the enjoyment for the audience is watching the sound effects produced,” she noted.

A sound effect that will not be created by Rabinowitch and Rosen: the sound of audience applause.

They will be told precisely when to applaud: Diane Johanson will cross the stage with a large sign saying “Applause”.

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