Movie Blanks


#1

I recently acquired three boxes of movie blanks from Gerald Morris on the B/S/T area of this Forum. I was delighted because they were a Movie Blank Company that I did know about before, Independent Studio Services Inc in Sunland CA (previously in Sun Vally CA). Below are the three boxes and close ups of the blanks:

I have a few movie blanks already. Of course the Stembridge and Joe Swanson, both in CA, and RFB in the UK. There are some other US companies that make blanks only like Ellis and Manufacturing Research, but I have never seen any indication they were movie blanks.

Talking with the ISS guys was eye-opening. Their blanks are loaded by High Desert Theatricals which ISS bought about three years ago. Boland Production in FL also makes movie blanks and Tom Felcon (spelling) in Vancouver Canada also makes movie. I have never heard of any of these guys.

I have visit a few of their websites and was surprised. There looks like a whole area of collecting that doesn’t get much attention.

Most of these guys also supply blank firing weapons to the movies. ISS for example only sells blanks in conjunction with their movie rentals.

Does anyone know of other makers of movie blanks???

Cheers,
Lew


#2

Lew - I think it may be a mistake to call these “Movie” blanks and thereby limit the field to a point where it is impossible to know if the specific blanks at hand were for the movies or other uses. There does seem to be a fairly clear distinction between blanks used in the cinema and training blanks such as used by Police, Military and other Armed organizations. I would suggest a more accuracte, and emcompassing designation might be “Theatrical Blanks.”

That said, according to Ellis Mercantile Company’s cartridge boxes, which bears the slogan “Everything for the Movies,” their blanks are what you call “Movie Blanks.” I am not sure if they made their own or not, or simply sold them. There boxes are labeled in red and white with blank and white print, and are quite different, for the most part, from those used by Stembridge. One of my Ellis boxes is simply the interesting box for the basic cases, and orange and green box with Ellis overlabel, for the 9 mm Extra Long empy cases, by Remington.

There is also The Hand Prop Room, Inc., probably out of business and I have seen nothing new from them in 20 years or more, but who were at 5700 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, Ca. 90019. I have two different boxes from them in 9 mm - I did not check other calibers as am busy as h…
today (this weekend is our Christmas with my Son and his family) - one for Type EE Flash Powder Blanks and one for type FF Flash Powder Blanks. The cases, at least, are nato-marked cases from IVI. The Type EE blanks look about like a factory IVI blank. The type FF has a nickel primer and some of the cases have signs of being reloads.

I will send you a scan of the boxes with their rounds, both Ellis and HPR, and you can post it or not as you please on this thread.


#3

John–Concerning wither or not Ellis Mercantile makes/made their own blanks, varies by caliber. I had the chance to tour Ellis Mercantile back in 1986. George Kass and I spent one whole afternoon there. They were making .45 ACP blanks by cutting down .30-06 cartridges and adding a rose crimp the day we were there. In fact, I got to shoot a couple hundred of those in a Thompson M.G. They also had boxes of 5.56 blanks made for them by Remington with headstamp REM-UMC BLANK.

Besides blanks Ellis also made dummy rounds of any caliber needed. I was turned loose in their Armory and told to help myself to any rounds I wanted. I got over 200 dummies before my pockets would not hold anymore. I got dummies of calibers that you just never see such as .405 W.C.F. These were made for a movie about Teddy Roosevelt on safari in Africa. One of his favorite guns was the .405 W.C.F.


#4

John was kind enough to send me the following photo to match his post above.

[quote]The top two boxes are from The Hand Prop Room, of Venice, California.
Probably from from 1970s or early 1980s. The bottom two, and the one off to one side, are from Ellis Mercantile Co. I am not sure where they were located offhand.

The box to the left and turned sidewise to fit the scanner was received empty.

Photo and collection John Moss[/quote]

After a bit more research on the internet, I found that Ellis was the biggest Prop House in Hollywood for a long time. It originated as Ellis Mercantile (a pawn shop) in 1908. It began providing things to the movies and became Ellis Props and Graphics Partners. It went out of business and it’s assets were auctioned in 2000. I have some of their 9mm blanks made from 5.56 cases, but did not realize they were movie blanks. I also have Ellis blanks with RP headstamps. Thanks John! I did not know these were Movie/Theatrical Blanks.

The Hand Prop Room is still in business at the same location, and still renting weapons according to the internet. I got to say that the Hand Prop boxes sure look like Stembridge boxes. My guess is they were buying their blanks from Stenbridge. The guy I spoke to at ISS said that High Desert Theatricals made blanks for people all over including sales in Canada and in the UK. He also said those blanks probably had labels for whoever he was selling to. Stembridge probably did the same.

I was also reminded that SFM made gold colored plastic blanks in a number of calibers for the move “The Longest Day”, but that is the only movie they made ammo for that I know of. I have seen (and have) French wood bullet blanks, often with black bullets in German steel cases that are reputed to be made for the movies but I have no idea who made them.

Stembridge was incorporated in 1919 or 1920 as a result of a friendship/arrangement between James Stembridge and Cecil B. DeMille. They met and DeMille hired Stembridge to teach the extras how to behave like soldiers in a War movie made before WWI. Subsequently, they realized that the movies would need access to guns in some quantity, and Stembridge set up an Armory on the Paramont lot in an old warehouse where the business remained until 1979. I was told by the ISS guy that Stembridge is still making and selling blanks, but the massive collection of weapons was auctioned off in 2006. I can’t find any evidence on the internet that they are still in business.

John, Thanks for the info.

Cheers,
Lew


#5

Ron - since you were there, perhaps you can tell us where Ellis Mercantile was? Most address possible, please, but even city and state would be appreciated. Thanks.


#6

John–Ellis Merchantile was in Culver City, CA, a suburb of Los Angles. Some place I have the business card for the chief armorer which will have the street address. I’ll try to find it.


#7

Lew - I have an assortment of French theatrical blanks, made from 9 mm Para cases, but also from 9 x 25 mm Mauser cases. I don’t know who made them. I don’t have any with a black wood bullet that I am aware of - all mine have rosebud type mouth crimps. The ones made from 9 x 19 mm Para cases are very short. It is a wonder they would work in anything. The crimping appears to be very professional, though, and they are all the same crimping.

Of course, “The Longest Day” blanks have always been interesting, and with a little controversey being gold, since the movie was in black and white, not color. Personally, I don’t see any particular mystery in that - they had to be some color, so why not gold.

I am told that many of the Russian Tokarev blanks were actually made for theatrical purposes, and not for the military as training blanks despite their military headstamps. Certainly the Soviets made plenty of blanks, as they were very big on war movies, and made some impressive ones.

While I can’t identify them, I have always felt that a goodly number of the auto pistol caliber blanks in my collection were probably made for the cinema or other theatrical purposes (stage plays, out-door live performances, re-enactments (yes - they are really theatrical productions which is why they are advertised to and open for the public). While there are many modern adaptions available for Police training that simulate semi-auto or full-auto fire, considering the age of many of the blanks, I have always doubted the militarys would bother to do the conversions then necessary just to supply training versions of their pistols and submachine guns.
Many had blank firing attachments for full, rifle-caliber machine guns. We had them for our Browning .30s. I know some were made for the M1 rifle too, but I never saw one in service. The rifle was simply hand operated like a bolt action. To make most SMGs and SAPs function fully with blanks takes major and permanent alterations to the weapon. There have been some exceptions, of course. A blank firing attachment is known for the MP 28s and for the MP-40, although they are both so rare I don’t know a collector who has seen one (I am not saying none have - I am saying there are none in my wide circle of collector friends with interest in those weapons). Au contraire, the blank firing barrel (also without muzzle adaptor used for short range rounds) for the Carl Gustav Swedish Kulsprutepistol 45 is very well known and was widely used by the Swedish military in both short-range and blank-fire modes.

Well, I guess the point is that not all blanks are probably what we think they are, or better siad, what we think they were intended for, and probably considering the amount of filming done in foreign countries there are probably dozens of theatrical-blank makers around the world that we don’t know of. Our own Forum “Doc Av” is one, of course.

Ron - thanks for the ID of the location of Ellis. A great gun shop was in Culver City also, Martin B. Retting. I wish I had known about Ellis and Stembridge in those days. Now, the entire LA basin is simply a by-pass for me. I avoid stopping there. As much as I dislike the city of my birth, San Francisco, I dislike Los Angeles more. You can get killed down there just for taking the wrong turn off and having the wrong color car or the wrong color shirt on! That wasn’t true in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I used to make an occasional pilgrimage to Martin B. Rettings and other shops, or to the Rose Bowl game.