Archive for Ben Hur

Empty Movies, not moving

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2022 by dcairns

Apologies for the poor scanning.

I love photographs of empty sets. They exist to document the set for continuity purposes, but have an atmospheric value of their own.

Above is Henry Bumstead’s set for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, from the book claiming to be called Production Design & Art Direction Screencraft (a series with lots of great content but layout problems). Written by Peter Ettedgui.

The convincing milieu patiently awaits the expensive footsteps of Gregory Peck to give it animation. Some hope!

The next ones are from Setting the Scene: The Great Hollywood Art Directors by Robert S. Sennett.

Three images from CASABLANCA, designed by Carl Jules Weyl. The top image is a panorama produced by three perfectly matched photos. Whoever made up the clapperboard had evidently decided the film was to be called CASA BLANCA, and these chalky interiors seem to support his decision.

No Bogart, no Bergman, no Claude Rains, just temporary architecture straining its flats to will them into being.

The road to lepers’ valley in BEN HUR, a film designed by William A. Horning and Edward Carfagno.

The distant landscape is a Lilliput, the sky only a blue strip, like in a small child’s drawing.

What, no clapperboard? But this is very recognizably Charles D. Hall’s European village set from FRANKENSTEIN (and many subsequent Universal horror films). The Germanic slant of the rooftop summons characters misproportioned and mentally off-kilter.

Two from AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, designed by Preston Ames, showing the different levels of stylisation. On the right, an image that could be photojournalism on location in France, the extra standing in as mere set dressing; on the left, something that could only be MGM Paris, could only be brought to its true life by the entrance of Leslie Caron.