William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come by James Curtis

By James Curtis

He used to be the consummate clothier of movie structure on a grand scale, encouraged by means of German expressionism and the paintings of the good ecu administrators. He was once identified for his visible aptitude and undying innovation, a guy who meticulously preplanned the colour and layout of every movie via a chain of continuity sketches that made transparent digital camera angles, lighting fixtures, and the actors’ positions for every scene, translating dramatic conventions of the degree to the recent functions of movie.
this is the long-awaited ebook on William Cameron Menzies, Hollywood’s first and maximum construction fashion designer, a task name David O. Selznick invented for Menzies’ impressive, all-encompassing, Academy Award–winning paintings on Gone With the Wind (which he successfully co-directed).

It was once Menzies—winner of the first-ever Academy Award for artwork course, together for The Dove (1927) and Tempest (1928), and who used to be in addition a director (fourteen photographs) and a manufacturer (twelve pictures)—who replaced the best way videos have been (and nonetheless are) made, in a occupation that spanned 4 a long time, from the Nineteen Twenties during the Nineteen Fifties. His greater than one hundred twenty movies comprise Rosita (1923), Things to Come (1936), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Kings Row (1942), Mr. Lucky (1943), The satisfaction of the Yankees (1943), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Address Unknown (1944), It’s a superb Life (1947), Invaders from Mars (1953), and Around the realm in eighty Days (1956).

Now, James Curtis, acclaimed movie historian and biographer, writes of Menzies’ existence and paintings because the such a lot influential fashion designer within the historical past of movie. His artistry encompassed the massive, scenic drawings of Douglas Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad (1924), which created a brand new typical for good looks at the display and whose unique fairy-tale units are nonetheless considered as natural genius. (“I observed The Thief of Bagdad while it first got here out,” stated Orson Welles—he was once, on the time, a nine-year-old boy. “I’ll always remember it.”) Curtis writes of Menzies’ layout and supervision of John Barrymore’s loved Rogue (1927), a movie that is still a masterpiece of craft and synthesis, probably the most specific photos to emerge from Hollywood’s waning days of silent movies, and of his impressive, opulent appointments for Gone With the Wind (1939).

It was once Menzies who outlined and solidified the function of artwork director as having total regulate of the glance of the movie, participating with manufacturers like David O. Selznick and Samuel Goldwyn; with administrators equivalent to D. W. Griffith, Raoul Walsh, Alfred Hitchcock, Lewis Milestone, and Frank Capra. And with actors as diversified as Ingrid Bergman, W. C. Fields, Cary supply, Clark Gable, John Barrymore, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, and David Niven.

Interviewing colleagues, actors, administrators, pals, and kinfolk, and with complete entry to the William Cameron Menzies kin number of unique art, correspondence, scrapbooks, and unpublished writing, Curtis brilliantly supplies us the path-finding paintings of the movies’ such a lot bold and dynamic construction fashion designer: his evolution as artist, paintings director, creation dressmaker, and director. here's a portrait of a guy in his time that makes transparent how the films have been ceaselessly remodeled by way of his startling, visionary work.

(With sixteen pages of colour illustrations, and black-and-white images throughout.)

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In other words, the prevailing industry conditions of economic crisis and the increasingly uneven and unpredictable success of films fostered unusual conditions. Together, these factors pushed the studios to invest in unprecedented levels of experimentation, with highly variable degrees of success, even while they continued to produce films within the standard mode. While plenty of films reveal countercultural interests and aesthetic innovations, many others cater to the mainstream in terms of style and story.

As I have documented, the end of the creative experiment arrived more or less by the middle of the decade, with occasional glimpses of its former glory appearing from time to time. With hindsight, this period, particularly until 1975, is something of an anomaly in Hollywood history, a wrinkle in time fashioned by a confluence of events that turned the world upside down and put the madmen—at least for a short time—in charge of the asylum. Yet, as Peter Biskind exclaims, it was “the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

Harry responds to the insistent harping on homosexual themes in Fitzgerald’s work by jumping on the seminar room table, spouting off-color limericks, and ultimately kissing the offending professor on the lips (a gesture of ambiguous impertinence that may inadvertently confirm the implications of the professor’s line of questioning) before going off to find his girlfriend. Mark (Mark Frechette), a central character in Zabriskie Point, is similarly poised between cynical alienation and engaged activism.

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