ADG Perspective

September-October 2023

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1 4 P E R S P E C T I V E | S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 2 3 Part Two: Fort Lee to Hollywood 1912–1919 Ben Carré has been called "the first true artist of American film." When Ben started in motion pictures, the industry was a struggling medium of low esteem. By the time he retired, it was the dominant art form of Western civilization. When Ben arrived in America in 1912, New Jersey was about to become the crucible of invention for the new and very young motion picture industry. There was a film colony starting up in Hollywood, but New York City and Fort Lee were the first epicenter for American film production. To promote Ben's arrival in America, the Éclair Film Company issued a press release seen in Moving Picture World for the New York trades. Though many have been lost, Ben Carré made hundreds of motion pictures over the next seven years in Fort Lee. It was here that Ben's training and experiences in Paris gave him a significant advantage. He often had to work with multiple directors, simultaneously designing, painting, decorating and supervising a full slate of pictures each month. To manage such a workload, Ben evolved an effective and personal approach to Art Direction for motion pictures. Ben was never an accomplished draughtsman, but he was a gifted painter and Illustrator and a master of mathematics and perspective. His illustrations were very precise and easily translatable by his construction departments into the necessary working drawings. Understanding the importance of composition and lighting, Ben respected and always collaborated closely with his cameramen. It was during this early period that Ben introduced his techniques for painting sets in color to American filmmakers. He also somehow found the time to fall in love with a recent French émigré artist and Illustrator, Jeanne Cottrel, who was a talented Illustrator and painter. There is reason to believe that they met when she was working in Ben's Art Department at Paragon-World Studio. Her decorative painting is prominently featured in B e n C a r r é : P a r i s i a n i n H o l l y w o o d M O T I O N P I C T U R E ' S P R E M I E R A R T D I R E C T O R B Y T H O M A S A . WA L S H , P R O D U C T I O N A N D S C E N I C D E S I G N E R A. BEN CARRÉ (AGE 29) ACCEPTS AN INVITATION FROM ETIENNE ARNAUD, HEAD OF ÉCLAIR FILMS, TO COME TO AMERICA, EARNING $50 A WEEK. B. MOTION PICTURE WORLD'S ANNOUNCEMENT HERALDING BEN CARRÉ'S ARRIVAL TO AMERICA (NOVEMBER, 1912). A B

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