Friday, September 16, 2016

"The Prestige"

Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (Touchstone/Warner Bros, 2006) with Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine is set in Edwardian London. Also in the film are Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johanssen, David Bowie and Ricky Jay. In this tale of  two magicians trying to top each other with the ultimate illusion we get many theatre shots, spending lots of time in four Los Angeles theatres: the Los Angeles, Palace, Tower and Belasco. 

Our initial theatre shot is at the Los Angeles, 615 S. Broadway, subbing for a London theatre called The Grand Scala. Robert Angier aka The Great Danton (Hugh Jackman) is onstage doing his version of the Transported Man trick. Things go wrong and Angier dies. His rival Alfred Borden aka The Professor (Christian Bale) is convicted of the murder. But things aren't simple. We spend the rest of the film seeing how we got to this point. 

We see lots of the Palace Theatre, 630 S. Broadway. First as a London theatre they're calling the Orpheum with Milton (Ricky Jay) performing with the assistance of Angier, Borden, Julia (Piper Perabo) and, as stage manager and illusion engineer, Cutter (Michael Caine).

Our first scene inside the Tower Theatre, 802 S. Broadway, come as Cutter asks Borden and Angier to check out an appearing goldfish bowl trick performed by Chung Ling Soo at the Tenley Theatre. We're in the balcony -- which is good as the theatre has no main floor seats. Later we're back at the Tower when Borden is assisting The Great Virgil. This time we're on the main floor, then seen as a flat-floored music hall kind of place. 

When Angier starts performing as The Great Danton following the loss of his wife in a mishap during a Milton performance, we're back at the Palace again as the London Orpheum. His new assistant: Scarlett Johanssen. Then inside the Tower we see Borden as The Professor (Bale) do his initial version of the Transported Man trick. Here film identifies the Tower as the Strand Theatre.

We're at the Los Angeles for this view with theatregoers heading up the stairs in the grand lobby. It's the performance of the Transported Man trick done by Angier (Hugh Jackman). He's seen Borden's act and has tried to one up him by making it showier.

A look toward the stage at the Los Angeles. Angier goes in one door and vanishes. Then a moment later the door across the stage opens and he reappears. Backstage at the Los Angeles Angier tells Cutter (who now works for him) that "Borden is performing right across the street." And the interior scenes of Borden's latest show at the London Pantages were indeed shot right across the street --  at the Palace Theatre.

For the exterior of the London Pantages Nolan uses the Tower Theatre. London, of course, never had a Pantages Theatre, but perhaps it should have. Most of the exterior shots in "The Prestige" were done on the Universal backlot. 

This Tower shot is the only exterior view we get in the film of a real theatre. The Tower, at 802 S. Broadway, is a 1927 film house designed by S. Charles Lee. See the many Tower Theatre pages on the Los Angeles Theatres site for more about the building.

When we go inside the Pantages for the new version of the Transported Man trick that Borden is performing we find ourselves back at the Palace -- the same theatre seen earlier as the Orpheum.  He's had some help from Nicola Tesla (David Bowie) for the improvements.

The Palace, a 1911 vintage two-balcony vaudeville house, still hosts legit shows, concerts and an occasional film screening. See the Palace Theatre pages on the Los Angeles Theatres site for more about the theatre. 

After being embarrassed by a stunt pulled onstage by Borden during a one of Angier's performances, Angier goes to Colorado to see Tesla for something new to try to top Borden (again).  When he comes back with the gear, he holes up in a cluttered workshop to work on the final trick. We're at the Balasco Theatre, 1050 S. Hill St. Here we're on the Belasco's main floor looking back at the front of the balcony. 

Another shot on the Belasco's main floor, this time giving a look at the theatre's unique ceiling. They've draped the front of the projection booth. See the pages on the Belasco Theatre for a history of this 1926 legit house as well as many photos. Its location on Hill St. is right next to the Mayan Theatre.

Cutter (Michael Caine) is taking a peek in from one of the balcony exits to try to figure out what Angier is up to in his workshop.  Angier has him book a theatre for a final engagement of 100 performances but tells him this time he doesn't want him backstage.

We're back at the Los Angeles for Angier's final performances. A handbill seen in the film tells us this 100 performance engagement (that we saw some of at the beginning of the film) is at a theatre called The Grand Scala. Here we see the cabinet for an underwater escape, the trick before the Tesla-improved Transported Man. Note the unique act curtain of the Los Angeles Theatre behind.  Earlier we've seen several fine drops painted for the movie onstage at both the Palace and the Los Angeles. But this is actually part of the theatre's 1931 decor.

Angier onstage announcing the final version of the Transported Man, his next trick. He tells the audience it's not magic -- this is science.

Angier (Jackman) reappearing on the edge of the 1st balcony at the Los Angeles after vanishing from the stage. It goes well this performance but not so on the final time when Borden (disguised) is called up from the audience to assist onstage. Watch the film to unravel the mysteries.

See the many pages about the Los Angeles Theatre on the Los Angeles Theatres site for photos and a history of this amazing movie palace. It's a design by S. Charles Lee, opened in 1931.

The website has a page on shooting locations for the film.

On IMDb: "The Prestige"

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