Spring 2011

Micky Moore

From Silents to Spielberg


If there were an Ironman award for production professionals, Micky Moore would win hands down. His career began in 1916 as a child actor alongside D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Tom Mix. The first feature film ever made in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille's The Squaw Man (1914), was shot in a rented barn on Vine Street just a few doors up from the Moore's family home.

DeMille (as Moore notes in his 2009 autobiography, My Magic Carpet of Films) was his greatest mentor. When the 1929 stock market crash ended Moore's work as a child star, DeMille got him a job in the prop department on Cleopatra (1934), and for the next 15 years Moore worked as a prop master on six more DeMille features, as well as movies directed by Lewis Milestone, King Vidor, and Preston Sturges. Among his adventures, Moore escorted Claudette Colbert down from a peak on a sled in Sun Valley, Idaho, on I Met Him in Paris (1937).

In 1949 (at the urging of Paramount head of production Frank Caffey), Moore became a 2nd assistant director. He worked on DeMille's Samson and Delilah, and after the director wrote him a letter of recommendation, Moore became a member of the Screen Directors Guild. Two years later he moved up to 1st AD on the Oscar-winning effects film When Worlds Collide. When DeMille asked Moore to be one of the ADs on the remake of The Ten Commandments in 1956, the director rewarded him (and 50 other longtime colleagues) with a share of the film's grosses.

In the '60s, Moore worked with Norman Taurog on three Elvis Presley vehicles before finding his career niche as a second unit director on another Elvis film, Fun in Acapulco. Although Moore directed a number of films, including Presley in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), he opted to return to second unit work. "Most people with my experience might have seen it as a step backwards," he said, "but I didn't." Especially when he got to work with directors such as George Roy Hill on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), John Huston on The Man Who Would Be King (1975), and Arthur Penn on The Missouri Breaks (1976).

According to Moore, directing second unit on Franklin J. Schaffner's Patton (1970) was his favorite assignment, despite a scary moment. On one scene, "We had two of our four cameras dug into the ground shooting toward the oncoming tanks and soldiers." When one of the German soldiers (played by Spanish Army personnel) fell and was hit by a tank, Moore's assistant alertly fired off a pistol to halt the action. "Thanks to good planning," Moore continues, "[the actor] lived."

Patton may have been Moore's toughest film, but it was working on the first three of Steven Spielberg's hugely popular Indiana Jones pictures that secured Moore's legacy in modern filmmaking, and provided him with second unit directing jobs until he retired at the age of 85. In fact, Moore was partially responsible for the staging of one of the series' most famous sequences—the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The scene was initially slated for an isolated mountaintop road, until Moore suggested a more populated spot, with trees and objects as visual reference points to create the feeling of high speed that Spielberg wanted. While filming that scene in England, the stunt car Moore was riding in hit a sandbank and he ended up in a London hospital. But such mishaps were hardly enough to slow him down. When asked how he managed to stay in the industry so long, Moore replied, "They kept calling and I kept saying yes."

On the Job With

Short profiles of Guild members in all categories sharing their experiences "on the job."

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