ADG Perspective

September-October 2017

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72 P E R S P E C T I V E | S E P T E M B E R / O C TO B E R 2 0 1 7 reshoots The watercolor rendering above was painted by Wilfred Buckland (1866-1946) for the 1930 Cecil B. DeMille musical extravaganza MADAM SATAN, an unusual film for both the director and the designer. The story involves a man who is bewitched by the mysterious Madam Satan whom he meets at a lavish masquerade ball aboard a dirigible. Does this mean the end of his marriage to the demure spouse he left at home? Not likely, because the temptress is really his wife in disguise. Buckland had come to Hollywood from Broadway, where he had been both lighting and scenic designer for the great David Belasco. Famous Players-Lasky films (later Paramount) was being criticized for their painted backdrops, and he was recommended by DeMille's mother Beatrice; so in 1914, he made the trip west and created the title of Art Director for the job he was to do (previously, designers were often called technical directors). He instituted fully realized dimensional scenery, and also introduced the use of miniatures and forced perspective. He worked with DeMille for seven years, supervising nearly forty features, before he left to join Allan Dwan Productions. Buckland returned briefly to help the director with MADAM SATAN and UNCONQUERED (1947). He insisted on being involved in all aspects of the shooting of his films, and he met some resistance from several directors, including DeMille, who objected to his "interference." Nonetheless, DeMille wrote in his autobiography: "Set design today is one of the most important elements in motion picture production. If anyone is ever inclined to catalog contributions I have made to motion pictures, I hope that my bringing Wilfred Buckland to Hollywood will be put near the head of the list." Image courtesy of ®

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