PODCAST | Matt Micucci interviews James Curtis, author of William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Film to Come from the 35th Pordenone Silent Film Festival.
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Having written a number of must-read biographies on such classic Hollywood greats as James Whale, W.C. Fields and Preston Sturges, James Whale released his book on William Cameron Menzies, titled The Shape of Film to Come, last year (the title comes from the Menzies film Things to Come, 1936).
This year, the 35th Pordenone Silent Film Festival dedicated a section of its program to Menzies and some of the highlights from the silent period. But who was William Cameron Menzies?
In short, he was an innovator. The birth of the “production design,” the part of filmmaking dedicated to coming up with a visual concept of the film, can be traced back to him. He won the first Academy Award for Art Direction – for The Dove, released in 1923 and of which only five reels survive to this day – and worked on such productions as Gone With the Wind, The Eagle and The Thief of Baghdad to name but a very few.
The latter, starring Douglas Fairbanks, is screened at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto as the closing film, and will be accompanied by a full orchestra and a restored original score.
Curtis introduces Menzies to any of our listeners who may not be fami liar with him and the impact he had on film. He also talks about some of his works as a director, including Our Town, Things to Come and Invaders from Mars.