Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A Little Halloween Knitting: Emily Fitzroy in The Bat (1926), Origins for "Batman"*
Vogue Knitting didn't exist in 1926. Nor did Knit1 or Interweave Knits. But if any one of these knitting publication had been around then, you know they would have made a beeline to interview Emily Fitzroy, who knits nearly non-stop in the Bat, the silent film that led to the Batman movies you see today. Here's they no doubt would have heard Ms. Fitzroy say (you can see her in action in the above clip.)
Reporter (R): Miss Fitzroy, you're quite the knitter. We were quite impressed that you didn't drop a stitch in any of the scenes for The Bat. How did you do it?
Fitzroy (F): How do you know I didn't drop any stitches, young lady? I know how to make my marks. I'll have you know I've been knitting nearly my entire life. I learned how to knit and purl when I was five.
R: That's quite young.
F: You mean you didn't learn how to knit at at that age? All my friends and relatives did. If our mothers and grandmothers didn't teach us, we learned in school. How will you ever get married if you can't knit?
R: I learned when I was eight. I was a late bloomer. All of my girlfriends made fun of me and poked me with their pins. Yes, I'll be an old maid already at 20, don't remind me!
F: That'll teach you. Learn to knit properly and you'll get married in no time.
R: Yes, ma'am. Tell me what pattern were you knitting? What yarn did you use?
F: A Minerva pattern for a man's golf sweater. Fingering weight yarn.
R: How did you remember the pattern? Especially in those tense scenes with the Bat!
F: Listen, young lady. I'm a professional actress. I know how to work under duress. This was nothing. I used to knit in the dark when I worked in vaudeville. I'd poke those players with my pins to get them out on the stage on time. More than half of the time they were so stone-drunk they didn't know what end was up. If the poke didn't work, I'd get a lit cigarette. That usually worked like a charm and cut through the alcohol.
R: My. I had no idea. That was before my time.
F: You can only imagine the motion-picture industry was a piece of German chocolate cake in comparison. I didn't have to rely on my knitting skills to make it through the night.
R: Did Roland West know that you knit?
F: Absolutely. He saw me working up a pair of socks on an earlier picture, and he thought knitting would be a great prop in The Bat. It became part of my character, Miss Cornelia Van Gorder. I was so good I was typecast as the knitting grandmother in nearly every role after. I hated Joan Crawford. She got all the best roles - before and after the talkies.
R: You captured your character's nervous energy and confidence. She didn't let The Bat shake her up.
F: Of course not. Miss Cornelia didn't believe in ghosts or spirits. She was ahead of her time in that respect.
R: You mean everyone else on the set was superstitious?
F: Wouldn't you be if you saw a bat, even a make-believe one, everywhere you walked? My co-stars were skittish to even open a door.
R: I see a mouse and I make for the hills. I love that last scene where you-
F: Don't say it! Don't spoil the plot for anyone who might want to see The Bat! Didn't you read what Mr. West said in the beginning of the picture? He said don't ruin it for the others, you silly reporter. Now you can quote me on that.
* I saw The Bat at the Portage Park Theater last week. Excellent! I give it four stars out of five.