He was the consummate designer of film architecture on a grand scale, influenced by German expressionism and the work of the great European directors. He was known for his visual flair and timeless innovation, a man who meticulously preplanned the color and design of each film through a series of continuity sketches that made clear camera angles, lighting, and the actors’ positions for each scene, translating dramatic conventions of the stage to the new capabilities of film.
Here is the long-awaited book on William Cameron Menzies, Hollywood’s first and greatest production designer, a job title David O. Selznick invented for Menzies’ extraordinary, all-encompassing, Academy Award–winning work on Gone With the Wind (which he effectively co-directed).
It was Menzies who changed the way movies were (and still are) made, in a career that spanned four decades, from the 1920s through the 1950s. His more than 120 films include Rosita (1923), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Kings Row (1942), Mr. Lucky (1943), The Pride of the Yankees (1943), Address Unknown (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1947), Invaders from Mars (1953), and Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
Now, James Curtis, acclaimed film historian and biographer, writes of Menzies’ life and work as the most influential designer in the history of film. Interviewing colleagues, actors, directors, friends, and family, and with full access to the Menzies family collection of original artwork, correspondence, scrapbooks, and unpublished writing, Curtis brilliantly gives us the path-finding work of the movies’ most daring and dynamic production designer: his evolution as artist, art director, production designer, and director. Here is a portrait of a man in his time that makes clear how the movies were forever transformed by his startling, visionary work.