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January 2016 Spotlight: William Cameron Menzies

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Menzies-400.jpg

William Cameron Menzies, who gave his profession the title of Production Designer, at work on sketches for GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). His work on that film would earn Menzies an Honorary Oscar "for outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood."

 

January 7

BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1929)...Art Director

CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (1932)...Director

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933)...Screenwriter

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924)...Art Director

HER NIGHT OF ROMANCE (1924)...Art Director

TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS (1927)...Art Director

 

January 8

SADIE THOMPSON (1928)...Art Director

COQUETTE (1929)...Art Director

 

January 14

GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)...Production Designer

THINGS TO COME (1936)...Director

OUR TOWN (1940)...Production Designer​

MADE FOR EACH OTHER (1939)...Production Designer

 

January 21

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)...Special Production Effects By

THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942)...Production Designer

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943)...Production Designer

ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944)...Director

KINGS ROW (1942)...Production Designer

 

January 28

IVY (1947)...Producer

THE BLACK BOOK (1949)...Producer

THE WHIP HAND (1951)...Director

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956)...Associate Producer

MR. LUCKY (1943)...Production Designer

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From an article (http://moviemorlocks.com/2015/12/03/movie-book-round-up-the-holiday-edition/) by TCM writer Kimberly Lindbergs:

 

"Anyone interested in production design should also pick up a copy of James Curtis' William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come. This is the first biography of Menzies, who was the original winner of the first-ever Academy Award for Art Direction in 1928 due to his joint work on THE DOVE (1927) and TEMPEST (1928). Today he's probably best remembered for his celebrated work on GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) but the book reminds us that Menzies labored on over 120 films as a production designer, director, producer and writer while collaborating with many notable talents including D. W. Griffith, Raoul Walsh, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, John Barrymore, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Ingrid Bergman. Relying on family papers, personal correspondence and extensive research, author James Curtis provides an extensive look at a talented, troubled and complex man who often toiled tirelessly in the shadow of his contemporaries.​"

 

Film historian James Curtis has also authored Spencer Tracy: A Biography, W.C. Fields: A Biography (winner of the 2004 Theatre Library Association Award, Special Jury Prize), James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters and Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges.

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I'm a huge fan of William Cameron Menzies' work...I am very heartened to see TCM doing this particular spotlight. 

 

Recently, Ian Patrick and I reviewed DRUMS IN THE DEEP SOUTH, which Menzies directed. It has that GWTW flavor.

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From director Sidney Lumet's book Making Movies:

 

"...[A]rt direction (the settings) and costume design are the most important elements in creating the style -- in other words, the look -- of the movie. In today's films, the title is production designer. That title came into being when William Cameron Menzies served as production designer on Gone With the Wind. He was in charge of every visual aspect of the movie: not just clothes and sets but camera, special effects (the burning of Atlanta), and, eventually, the laboratory work on the release prints. Today, production designer is a fancier title for art director."

 

TCM's Spotlight on William Cameron Menzies kicks off at 8:00PM ET on Thursday, January 7, 2016.

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I watched the set of 4 wrappers that Robert did with James Curtis this evening for the WCM Spotlight and thought they did a fabulous job.  Mr. Curtis seems extremely knowledgeable about the subject and interacted well with Robert to ask/answer many interesting questions about WCM's biographical background, career, and movies.  I also appreciated the extra details that were presented, such as showing some of the original artwork and special script materials prepared by WCM.

 

Thank you TCM, Robert, and Mr. Curtis for presenting this topic.  I am very much looking forward to the continuation of this series throughout the month.

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