ADG Perspective

May-June 2017

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72 P E R S P E C T I V E | M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 7 reshoots The stunning sketch above by the young William Cameron Menzies probably portrays an early concept for the caravansary in the desert where three princes meet and plot to win the hand of the Caliph's daughter in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924). The style reflects Menzies' early training, drawing illustrations for children's books. Douglas Fairbanks, the film's star and producer, originally thought that Menzies was too young for the job—he was only 28—but Menzies worked day and night on these paintings before asking for a second interview and landing the job. The film is one of the most imaginative and influential films of the silent era, a rich, elaborate and highly stylized vision of Bagdad and the tales of the Arabian Nights. Many of the sets wed a moderne semi- abstractionism with richly detailed period ornamentation, often in the same shot. The closing title cards afford Menzies a huge credit, and the entire screen is devoted to the Art Department: Art Director William Cameron Menzies, Consulting Art Director Irvin J. Martin, Associate Artists: Anton Grot, H.R. Hopps, Park French, Paul Youngblood, Harold Grieve, William Utwich, Edward M. Langley. Film historian Michael Stephens says of Menzies: "The curse of realism and naturalism that dominate so much of the Art Direction of modern cinema was antithetical to his purely cinematic approach. For Menzies, movies were a kind of magic. And of its major Scenic Designers, Menzies was one of cinema's greatest magicians." Image courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, A.M.P. A.S. ® Image courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, A.M.P. A.S. ®

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