Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated)

Sept. 28, 2015, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mystery lad.




Yesterday, I received a couple of responses to the mystery photo that gave me pause.

It’s true, I have never said anything explicitly against using Google image search, but it seems to go against the spirit of the mystery photos. This is supposed to be an amusing feature that begins with a fairly challenging photo on Monday and becomes simpler as the week progresses so that by Friday pretty much everyone can guess the answer. My idea in doing the mystery photos is to have a variety of genres:  silents, foreign films, noir, Westerns, pre-code, etc., so that everyone has a bit more of an advantage, based on their knowledge and interests.

This week’s movie was a short subject – which I have never done before – the 1946 “A Boy and His Dog,” which won an Academy Award. The film that isn’t on DVD or on YouTube as far as I can determine, but airs occasionally on TCM. Our mystery lad, Billy Sheffield, made exactly eight films in his life. So it should have been fairly challenging. And yet several people submitted the correct/incorrect response as found in a Google image search:  “Billy Sheffield in ‘The Boy With Green Hair.’ ”  (Sheffield also appears in that 1948 film).

There are some people in the Brain Trust who do these from memory. There are others who examine comparison images to refine their guesses. And that seems to be OK to me. But this is supposed to be an entertaining test of movie knowledge, not a test to see how well people can use Google.

It is far too labor intensive for me to check every mystery image in a Google search to see if it’s going to turn up. People need to be on the honor system.

What should I do? I am going to suspend this week’s mystery movie and open this thread for comments on what the ground rules should be on the mystery movies and general thoughts on the mystery photos.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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26 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated)

  1. Anne Papineau says:

    Tommy Kelly?


  2. I’ll say Junior Durkin as Huckleberry Finn.


  3. Mary Mallory says:

    That’s cheating, it’s like copying someone else’s test without doing the work, which is dishonest. They can consult books that have head shots of people and memorize faces, but otherwise, if computers are now going to give the answers, the fun should stop now.


  4. beachgal says:

    Not like you can police folks who read your blog – folks will do what they will with the technology available – guess I am behind the times; I have no idea how to search Google for an image match! Sorry to see you pulled this week’s quiz – I would have liked to have played a long.


  5. Benito says:

    I don’t use Google Image search for the same reasons, and enjoy meeting new characters each week. PS Hey kids, steer clear of those VERY buggy Russian websites. And get off my lawn.


  6. Chrisbo says:

    Agreed. I can’t understand how using this method could be satisfying in any way. All of a sudden, I’m not so ashamed of the haphazard nature of my guesses.


  7. Sheila says:

    It’s much more satisfying to figure these out on my own. If I don’t know the answer, I just don’t know it, that’s all. I love the way the challenge is set up!


  8. Gary Martin says:

    I have always considered this a learning process. There are few of these films that I have ever seen but I do recognize some of the character actors and if I can identify two of them by Thursday I can use my research skills to identify a film they made together and then identify the other actors. I have also considered this a lot of fun so I am sorry that it has become less than fun for you. By the way, Billy Sheffield was Johnny Sheffield’s brother. I did note the family resemblance.


  9. Earl Boebert says:

    First, I confess to doing manual searches on the net for clues/confirmation of nagging memories (I’m of an age where my memory doesn’t do much more than nag). For this possible transgression I throw myself on the mercy of the court 🙂

    As an exercise I ran 30 mystery photos through Google reverse image search — a fairly quick process when the image is up and you can extract the URL. There were four hits: Dead of Night (Valk and Rennie) Small Town Girl (Gaynor and Taylor in car) and the Perry Mason (Coburn’s mug on the front page.) Three of these were Friday pictures, which are pretty much giveaways. So out of this totally unscientific, anecdotal exercise we get 1 out of 30. Not a very significant percentage, IMHO.

    Studying the “Visually Similar Images” thrown up by Google provided some hints as to how to minimize the problem. The more cluttered the background the more trouble the robot has in making a match. Prompted by this, I pasted the Daily Mirror logo on the bottom of Monday’s picture and the combination of photo and lettering defeated the robot utterly. Might be worth trying, at least for the crucial Monday picture.


  10. Karen in Austin says:

    Sophocles said it best: “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”


  11. DeweyWebb says:

    I too was unaware of Google photo search (and still don’t understand how it operates) but long ago worried that if something like this existed your challenging quiz was dead in the water.

    About fifteen years ago, I used to participate in a movie-oriented trivia quiz that, in part, was eventually discontinued because the quiz master realized that unless the question was so arcane as to be ridiculous, with rise of Internet his game was no longer it was in any way a real test of participants’ movie knowledge but in some cases just a test of players’ Internet research skills. No idea how to keep everyone honest (can’t be done) or what satisfaction anyone would possibly derive from simply plugging a photo into a search engine.

    Sure fun while it lasted though.


  12. E. Yarber says:

    I peek in weekly and rarely venture a guess, though sometimes I kick myself for missing a Friday when the answer seems obvious. (By the way, when “Dead of Night” was adapted for radio on CBS’s show “Escape,” Art Carney played the dummy).

    For me the quiz has been fun to play, but I’ve never taken it so seriously that I felt compelled to “win” at any cost. Even when I’m totally in the dark about the title in question, the clues serve as teasers for your weekend spotlight on a generally obscure movie. I hope you can continue the feature, because it’s a nice method of focusing on film history when approached in the right spirit.


  13. Patrick says:

    So, the people who answered, “Billy Sheffield in ‘The Boy With Green Hair’ ” gave themselves away. I must confess that I used Google image search one time when I first started participating and almost immediately felt guilty about it. Anybody who hadn’t seen a film made prior to Top Gun could identify the most obscure pre-code potboiler using image search. Sorry we didn’t get to continue with A Boy and His Dog; a short subject, now there’s a twist. I think you made the right call, Larry. I guess I can stop wracking my brain trying to think of the name of every kid who ever played Huckleberry Finn on film.


  14. ValleyDave says:

    Although I am very computer literate for an old guy, I have never used any
    image comparison software for these puzzles and never will. If others want to
    use such, ….OK…that’s their business. What difference does it make ? Since you
    don’t reveal the correct guesses until the end of the week, it doesn’t spoil the
    fun/anxiety for those who do it from memory. Or am I missing something ?


  15. Rogét-L.A. says:

    I’ll sometimes type in the name of an actor/actress, only to verify or discount my preconceived hunches. I wasn’t even aware you could use an image as a search criterion. As another poster put it, the abusers of the system will give themselves away. But, that doesn’t mean they have to spoil it for the rest of us, just themselves.


  16. LC says:

    Well, I never knew about the Google reverse image search and I’m not going to try it now. It would take all the fun out of the mystery, like reading the end of a book to find out who did it! FYI there are so many times that you have made me pull out my hair trying to figure out each photo. I do hope you continue. Thank you!


  17. DeweyWebb says:

    Well, lots of good and different points of view here. For the majority of participants, still a really enjoyable game that all of of us look forward to. And, as someone pointed out, if someone cheats, so what?

    Although, and maybe this is just me, quizzes seem to be a lot more difficult than they used to be, and, as a Larry “lifer”, still miss the the early days when players “simply” (Ha!) had to ID specific performers at various points of career. (Not that I miss the “back of head” guy era.)!

    The cheaters? Well, as they used to say in grade school, you’re only cheating yoursellf.

    Only suggestion now? Abolish “congratulate” pat-on back sign off. Yes, some folks do deserve that accolade. Others, and maybe we’re just talking about a handfyul, obviously not.


  18. Bob Hansen says:

    I didn’t know about the Google image search either, but that would take the fun out of it anyway! I like to test my memory and put all of my thousands of hours of movie-watching to good use. Please keep doing it the way you have been – it brightens up my Mondays.


  19. Lee Ann, Thom and Megan says:

    Where’s the fun in just using an image search? The entire point of it is to test your knowledge.


  20. Don Danard says:

    That should be “you are absolutely correct” Bob.


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