Saturday, May 1, 2021

Let Us Pray – That’s The Way It Never Was

The close up with the guitar (middle shot) is in fact taken from the "Rubberneckin'" scene earlier in the movie. The clothes and the guitar itself gives it away.

I thought I had it all figured out. This was going to be a great post. However, it didn’t turn out that way at all, despite some hard work behind the keyboard. Here is what happened.

It all began while watching a video clip on YouTube of Elvis singing “Let Us Pray” in Father Gibbons’ Church at the end of the movie Change Of Habit. Suddenly it hit me that there was something wrong with the close-ups that showed Elvis’ hand strumming his guitar. The clothes and the guitar itself were not the same as in the other shots. In fact, they were taken from the beginning of the film where Elvis is belting out “Rubberneckin’” in Dr. John Carpenter’s apartment above the clinic.

Now, why had I not noticed this before? I did a quick google search, typing, “elvis let us pray scene movie blooper” but found nothing. Was I really the first one to have spotted this? I googled a bit more, changing the words some, but the result was the same. Not a thing.

I then looked up the editor on Wikipedia. Douglas Stewart (March 29, 1919-March 3, 1995) was an American film and television editor who won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for the film The Right Stuff (1983) along with four co-editors. Could such a professional really have cheated while editing the ending of Change Of Habit, using close-ups from another scene? Or had he somehow mixed up the footage, not realizing his mistake?

Whatever the reason, I got the idea to write a blog post about how those close-ups ended up in the final scene, using a bit of fiction. To get some inspiration, I read a couple of passages in Jerry Schilling’s book Me and a Guy Named Elvis that dealt with him becoming a film editor during the late 60’ and early 70’s. 

I was then ready to start typing something like this:

Douglas Stewart’s editing room in the basement of one of the post-production buildings at Universal Pictures was full of various reels of dialogue, songs and sound effects. As an assistant editor, it was my job to allow Douglas Stewart to work uninterrupted and I took great pride in maintaining order and structure in the editing room.

My plan was to have the assistant editor make a blunder, handing over close-up footage from the “Rubberneckin’” scene to Douglas Stewart who was busy editing the final of the movie, neither of them noticing the mix up. The assistant editor would spot the mistake when Change Of Habit was about to hit the cinemas, but by then it would be too late. Or something like that.

As I attended the premiere on November 10 I felt a sense of pride, having played a minor part in the editing of the movie. But that feeling was replaced by a chill running down my spine as I realized that the close-ups of Elvis guitar didn’t match the rest of the footage in the "Let Us Pray" movie final. What had happened?

Getting comfortable in front of my laptop I decided to watch the clip on YouTube once more before starting to hammer away at the keyboard. As I watched the scene unfold it was painfully clear that Douglas Stewart wasn’t to blame. Neither was my fictional assistant editor. In fact, no one was, as the clip was clearly re-edited and remixed long after the actual movie was finished in 1969. 

No doubt the footage from "Rubberneckin'" had been used intentionally to create this version (which was released on a bootleg DVD called Born To Rock 3, something I would have known had I bothered to read the text under the video clip).  

Why hadn't I spotted this before? I found another clip, this time of  the real ending, and sure enough, the close-ups with the guitar were nowhere in sight. And of course the whole scene was edited completely different. I felt like a fool.

No comments: