RUPERT PARATROOPER PROP FROM 'THE LONGEST DAY'
This is a latex 'Rupert' paradummy prop from the 1962 'The Longest Day' film. It came to me for restoration from a private collector who had bought and rescued it as a box of 58 year old latex pieces. With a real passion for film and memorabilia he really wanted to restore this piece of film history. With only a few existing across the world it is a very special item.
When Tony approached me to restore this I was dubious about the success of restoration due to the age of the latex and the condition it was in. The pieces were rock solid and very fragile. The whole dummy was completely deflated as it had not had any structure made to keep it in it's 3D form. We discussed it and Tony left it with me to examine and have a think. Once i had pieced the parts together loosely and made a plan of materials I could use I felt more confident to approach this project. It really was a huge undertaking and there were many parts that I just couldn't inflate without risking further damage to the piece. I had to use a bit of artistic license where areas had deflated distorted and would no longer match up. I was so pleased to be able to get the legs to inflate and the chest somewhat. I had to stabilise everything as I went along and reinforce all of the latex internally and create ways of attaching the parts together. They wouldn't just stick back together nicely.
The pieces were very heavy and needed support. I built metal armatures and covered them before inserting them and attaching them inside the piece. It was very hard to get access due to the stiff nature of the pieces and fragility. It took months to work on, step by step due to the condition and not being able to use direct heat on it (which causes deterioration.) Often parts had to be sculpted before other parts could be worked on and it had to rest flat due to the weakness of the arms and legs so this meant turning it over once everything was dry enough to work on the other side. Several layers of sculpting filler in was involved!
His gun was hanging off so needed to be reattached properly and strengthened with wire throughout. The butt of the gun then protruded past the shoulder of the body so I had to make him a bespoke cushion to rest on and take the weight off from that area. I also made him a base to lie on. The aim was to restore it sympathetically retaining as much of the original paintwork as possible and painting in new areas to match the old. I also left some of the original small cracks. The client wanted the piece to show its age and represent the history of the film where it had been thrown out of an aeroplane with an explosive on its foot! Ideally we would have had him displayed parachuting but unfortunately he was just too fragile despite reinforcements. Nonetheless both myself and Tony were very happy with the result! He has now returned home to have a bespoke display case made for him and his parachute.