I've been hacking away at this at Art City.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neelin/...6365/lightbox/

John Alton's "Painting with Light" (orig. 1949, but avail. in 1995 version) is somewhat illuminating on classic Hollywood technique.
I've been using a lot of Agfa Scopix Cineradiography 35mm film to shoot these. It's a) orthochromatic b) I've got lots of it c) extremely contrasty.

As far as technical details of those old photos related to modern recreation, my great epiphanies were:

-orthochromatic film is just fine.
-old Hollywood negs often had extensive pencil/blade retouching...bigtime!
-the concept of "normal" lenses and using another film format i.e. 50mm/135 film 450mm/8x10 film, forget about it. You need the lens to subject distance to match the old 8x10 setup or your perspective is going to be off (i.e. fairly flat). It's pretty obvious after looking at a couple of shots. The example above with crop is probably and effective 100mm on 135 film, and it's still now where near as flat as the orig. Buster Keaton shot.
-interesting sidenote. A lot of the poses while they look natural almost require duct tape & ropes to keep body parts in position! Well with fidgety kids anyways

Robert