Monday, June 9, 2014

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Color Art Direction, 1953

Another week, another peek -- at the 1953 Academy Award Nominees! Exactly one week ago, we started off by looking at the contenders for Black and White Art Direction; now, we're looking at their more colorful cousins!

While I wasn't exactly sure if these were the best representatives of this category, I will say this: all five of these films are a bit of terrific. Knights introduced me to the greatness of one Robert Taylor; Lili and Young Bess surprised me; The Story of Three Loves was at least 2/3 an interesting flick (anthologies -- why do people do those?); and The Robe is a Biblical epic.

Shall we have a look at their looks?


Alfred Junge/Hans Peters, art direction
John Jarvis, set decoration

I swear I didn't do this on purpose, but let's talk about these two sets: parallel councils reflecting changing times. One is clearly Stonehenge, right, grey and stone -- at the center, an altar and an anvil. The other is the Round Table, where no knight sits higher than the other, as white and pure as their intentions. What a film!


Cedric Gibbons/Paul Groesse, art direction
Arthur Krams/Edwin B. Willis, set decoration

Ah, the trappings of a circus, all candy cane stripes and flags. The little cafe area, sitting beneath a tent, with its chairs and tables ready to moved when necessary. And those colors! Fantasy made material!


Lyle R. Wheeler/George W. Davis, art direction
Walter M. Scott/Paul S. Fox, set decoration

Call me a sucker for Technicolor marble but I am so in love with the look of this film. Look at the wealth on display! It's big, it's unnecessary, it's the decadent Rome of Caligula! It's also a great difference from the modest intimacy of the Palestine village where the Christians live.


Cedric Gibbons/E. Preston Ames/Edward C. Carfagno/Gabriel Scognamillo, art direction
Edwin B. Willis/F. Keogh Gleason/Arthur Kram/Jack D. Moore, set decoration

Three stories, three settings, three different looks! From the dance-ready home of ballet master James Mason to the weedy witch garden of Ethel Barrymore to the high-flying danger circus of Kirk Douglas, each place has it sown look -- and also an odd artifice, that I'm not sure is completely intentional. But for every clear SET like in the Mason story, there's an outdoor garden like the one above.


Cedric Gibbons/Urie McCleary, art direction
Jack D. Moore/Edwin B. Willis, set decoration

Why do I feel like they had to keep reusing the same sets over and over? I mean, the details are there, but it does feel somewhat sparse -- and repetitive. Still -- those tapestries!


The Robe triumphed -- here and in the Color category of Costume Design. And gosh darn it, I agree. My vote goes to...


TOMORROW: The nominees for Story and Screenplay -- musical-comedy The Band Wagon, war drama The Desert Rats, western The Naked Spur, comedy-in-uniform Take the High Ground, and historical-disaster-romantic drama Titanic

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