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Wanted: Mitchell NC Matte Box Bracket Holder / Lens

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:40 pm
by milletfilms

Like most new/old Mitchell camera owners, I'd like to complete a Mitchell NC 35mm camera package serial #199 with matching parts numbers. New to this forum, I'm a bit ashamed to say that this fine camera will initially be used as prop in a documentary film on how John Wayne and Happy Shahan made "The Alamo" movie in 1958-1959 at Shahan's ranch in South Texas (now called Alamo Village, the world's largest outdoor movie set where Wayne's The Alamo movie was shot with Mitchell and modified Mitchell cameras - Todd AOs). From all available photos taken during production, it appears that Mitchell BNCR cameras were used, modified by Todd AO. Seven of these beasts were used to film the final battle of The Alamo scenes..! However, for some of the B-Unit scenes, production photos indicate that Wayne and cinematographer Bill Clothier utilized Mitchell NC 35mm cameras, again modified by Todd AO, as the Todd AO name was stenciled in white lettering on the outside of the motor, which like the NC #199 I just acquired, was not utilizing a peanut motor, but a larger rounded, blimp styled motor made by Mitchell. Data I got with the camera indicates it was an "S" motor and that camera NC #199 was an NCS 35mm camera..? Any info on that would be much appreciated. We are not filming yet another version of The Alamo movie though, just the backstory on how the movie was made with participation/approval from the Shahan family and production at Alamo Village and locations in San Antonio. This will allow us to also feature closeups of the Mitchell NC #199 35mm camera "in action" in the documentary film, with Wayne directing and Clothier shooting B-Unit scenes.

So back to the present state of the NC #199 camera: The rackover camera body, motor, etc. all appear to be working although it is currently wired for 208v. So not able to test the motor at the moment. It has 400' and 1000' Mitchell film magazines, the Matte Box and Bellows, and the original equipment trunk/case and misc. parts. It's currently mounted on a vintage Miller wooden tripod with Miller fluid head. Paint and coating patina all appear 100% original and there seems to be US Navy markings on the trunk. This has the vibe of a WWII camera, although the seller said it was later used in Hollywood productions. Mechanics look good too.

So here are the current needs for the Mitchell NC 35mm camera serial #199 in scenes to be filmed October 2017:

- Lens (or lenses): obviously Baltar or older Cooke etc with Mitchell NC mount(s) and housing. However, as indicated on this forum many times, these are very hard to find and the few listed on the Bay are all north of 1k. COULD SOMEONE PLEASE INDICATE IF THERE IS A METHOD TO ADAPT OTHER TYPES OF OLDER MANUAL FOCUS LENSES TO A MITCHELL NC 35MM CAMERA? OR AN ADAPTER, ETC? This info would be very much appreciated.

- Mitchell Matte Box Bracket Holder (the bracket that attaches to the camera body with rail rod holes) I have the Matte Box, Bracket and Bellows.

- Sidefinder for the Mitchell NC 35mm camera

Please contact me if anyone has these pieces for sale.

FYI ... I have already contacted the usual retailers for the above listed accessories (Bennett, Stone, etc.).

We are shooting the John Wayne / Happy Shahan Doc Film on Canon Cinema and Canon DSLR cameras with Canon Prime lenses.

As a final note, the definite intention is to get Mitchell NC #199 up and running and to actually shoot on it for the Wayne/Shahan Doc and other projects in the future.

Thank you.

William E. Millet
Millet Films LLC

Re: Wanted: Mitchell NC Matte Box Bracket Holder / Lens

Posted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:45 am
by lilybettina1
Hello Sir, you mustn't be 'ashamed' of using your Mitchell as a movie prop. This is why I have mine, so that others can see it in it's natural environment. In fact my Standard #146 was used recently in a scene recreating 'Way Our West with 'Laurel and Hardy' in a movie 'Stan & Ollie' to be released next year. I acted the part of 'cameraman' in the scene (being the only provision,' no me no camera'). Pictures of the actors posing against my Mitchell are not available yet but as soon as, I'll post. Also, I have no spare matte box stuff, side finder or lenses. These will be expensive if found. However, Ebay is a wonderful source and I've found several bits there (including my Mitchell #146!)

Re: Wanted: Mitchell NC Matte Box Bracket Holder / Lens

Posted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:04 am
by mediaed
Apparently William did find all the parts for NC199 as per picture sent.ED.

Re: Wanted: Mitchell NC Matte Box Bracket Holder / Lens

Posted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 2:33 pm
by milletfilms
Ya... wasn't easy al ya'll know. Thanks to Richard Bennett ( who kindly helped get the sidefinder and matte box assembly together. Richard also identified the odd matte box - that came with the NC199 purchase - as a Todd-AO made of sheet metal (evidently back in vogue in the 50s). With a great deal of trepidation, the Todd-AO mattebox was repainted in hammered black, matching the finish on the NC camera body, etc. It was just too beat up and we had to film with it in scenes. Also, we did some lucky bidding on the Bay for a couple of B&L Baltars (152mm and 50mm) that came out of Russia, which fortunately were the real deal and reasonably priced.

It was very cool to film at the original movie set designed by Oscar winner Alfred Ybarra, where John Wayne, director John Ford, cinematographer Bill Clothier, rancher Happy Shahan and a collection of actors (including Chill Wills, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Linda Cristal, etc.) filmed The Alamo movie in the fall of 1959 in Bracketville, Texas. Yes, John Ford did direct some B-unit scenes for several weeks, even though Wayne was the official Director of the motion picture. (See some attached photos the Oct. 15th shoot at The Alamo movie set.)

It has been discovered through legal documents of the law firm Jenkins & Gilchrist in Dallas, Texas that Wayne raised an additional $1 million from Texas oilmen Clint Murchison Jr. and his brother John Dabney to get construction of The Alamo movie set back on track. Clint Jr. was the creator and original owner of the Dallas Cowboys, a Texas playboy who Wayne had known from the Del Mar racetrack and Del Charro club in San Diego, CA. Wonder how many starletts Wayne had to line up for ole' Clint in order to make that deal happen..? None-the-less, the Murchisons and their lawyers were insistent that Wayne be the "star" (Davy Crockett) of The Alamo movie (Wayne had wanted to play the small role of Sam Houston instead). The Texas oilmen also demanded that another Director film the movie, not Wayne. There is evidence that Wayne "stretched the truth to get the construction loan" telling the Murchison brothers that "Pappy Ford would direct the movie". So in a way, Ford did ... some. But he is not listed as Director in the Film credits. We filmed the Wayne/Texas oilmen scene at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, along with a meeting Wayne and Alfred Ybarra had with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who were going to block The Alamo movie from theaters in Texas if Wayne continued to produce The Alamo movie in Mexico. True events.

The oddest occurrence during filming with the Mitchel NC199, was at a battle reenactment in Kirby, Texas (Mexican soldiers vs. Texians). Very authentic costuming, with real Brown Besses, cannon, Bowie knives, shooting, etc. We were waiting to see some Gringos being killed... During production, Univision Television Network (now one of the largest and highest rated in the US) filmed a 2-minute newscast segment of what we were doing (the backstory of how Wayne filmed The Alamo movie). The segment was broadcast in Spanish on Sunday, October 15th to 2.3 million people in South Texas and northern Mexico. And an additional 2 million in the greater Chicago market. The Mitchell NC 199 got 30-seconds of air time (Univision loved the classic camera). And of all things, JOHN WAYNE (played by actor Jake Thorne) got another 30-seconds of air time! Don't let anyone tell you Hispanics in the US and Mexico don't love John Wayne ... just the opposite. I will post a link to the video of the Univision newscast later on this forum, as it was very cool to see a Mitchell NC promoted to million of folks in this manner. More to come.

BTW ... does anyone know of or have contact with the John Ford Symposium in Dublin, Ireland, part of the Irish Film and Television Academy?

William E. Millet