Before They Were Films, They Were Sketches

Tom Walsh, President of the Art Directors Guild and I had the pleasure of being interviewed by
Susan Stamberg of NPR's Morning Edition this past week. The show focused on Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction and the NPR website did a wonderful accompanying piece on their website "Long Before Computers, How Movies Made Us Believe."

I love film art and thought you would enjoy a few renderings from the book. Above is production designer John De Cuir Sr.'s barge design for Cleopatra and below is the centerpiece set for Dr. Zhivago, the ice palace. Shot on set in Spain (and in the summer no doubt), production designer John Box literally placed wax on everything inside the dacha while a prop man dutifully followed him with a bucket of cold water and splashed the wax. Hence the look of ice cycles and one of the most memorable sets in Hollywood history.

Production designer Stephen Gooson's designs for the lamasery in Lost Horizons -- built and shot on the Columbia studio ranch. The film's version of Shangri La was built to scale in two months and the designers were strongly influenced by Buddhist buildings and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Production designer William Cameron Menzies designed over 2000 sketches for the storyboards for Gone With the Wind. The watercolor of Tara below is by artist Dorothea Holt Redmond. Tara cost $12,000 to build on the Selznick backlot and telephone poles were wrapped to resemble trees. Sorry to spoil the grandeur of Tara.

Chinatown restaurant scene with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway above and continuity sketch below. The period film was designed by Richard Sylbert.

If you are in the Los Angeles area this week, I will be signing books on Thursday, February 3rd at Barnes and Noble, 1800 Crans Avenue in Manhattan Beach from 11-3 PM and Book Soup on Friday, February 4th at 7:00 PM in West Hollywood. I will also be speaking at the Beverly Hills Women's Club with a book signing to follow on Thursday evening at 6:30. For more information see their website here.

Photo Credits: Columbia Pictures, Paramount, MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Art Directors Guild