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Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction Hardcover – November 30, 2010


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Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction + Filmcraft: Production Design + The Art Direction Handbook for Film
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; First Edition edition (November 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060881224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060881221
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 10.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Designs on Film] traces the art of building pretend worlds. Starting back in the pre-talkie years, and moving through Hollywood’s golden age and the epic-crazy ‘60s, right up to contemporary Hollywood, the book is packed with insider tidbits about the wildly inventive—and improvisational—business of movie-making.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Whitlock makes a major contribution to movie literature by saluting undersung production designers, set decorators and art directors.” (Los Angeles Times)

“An amazing glimpse into art direction.” (The New Yorker)

“This lush book of pictures and drawings showcases big-screen glamour over the decades, from the opulence of Cleopatra to the more modern majesty of Batman. (Entertainment Weekly)

“A compendium of images celebrating iconic interiors and architecture….[Whitlock] sifted through decades of archival photographs to assemble this rare glimpse into the world of Hollywood art direction and set design. ” (Dwell)

From the Back Cover

Who can forget the over-the-top, white-on-white, high-gloss interiors through which Fred Astaire danced in Top Hat? The modernist high-rise architecture, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead? The lavish, opulent drawing rooms of Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence? Through the use of film design—called both art direction and production design in the film industry—movies can transport us to new worlds of luxury, highlight the ornament of the everyday, offer a vision of the future, or evoke the realities of a distant era. In Designs on Film, journalist and interior designer Cathy Whitlock illuminates the often undercelebrated role of the production designer in the creation of the most memorable moments in film history. Through a lush collection of rare archival photographs, Whitlock narrates the evolving story of art direction over the course of a century—from the massive Roman architecture of Ben-Hur to the infamous Dakota apartment in Rosemary's Baby to the digital CGI wonders of Avatar's Pandora.

Drawing on insights from the most prominent Hollywood production designers and the historical knowledge of the venerable Art Directors Guild, Whitlock delves into the detailed process of how sets are imagined, drawn, built, and decorated. Designs on Film is the must-have look book for film lovers, movie buffs, and anyone looking to draw interior design inspiration from the constructions and confections of Hollywood. Whitlock lifts the curtain on movie magic and celebrates the many ways in which art direction and set design allow us to lose ourselves in the diverse worlds showcased on the big screen.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Snort on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The product copy above does not do justice to this splendid and sumptuous doorstopper on Hollywood art direction. The photographs are the payoff here, literally hundreds of production stills detailing on-the-set constructions and activity. My eye tells me that I have not seen most of these photos before in other Hollywood books. I think the book would serve better if it cut off after the 1970s and included more on the silent era and 1930s when the concept of art direction in film was nurtured and flourished. The 80s are focused on special effects and much of the new millennium material look like nothing more than Town & Country layouts. Nonetheless, the bulk of the book will take the Golden Era Hollywood fan to another place and time in American history, creative and socially.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lnda Berry /Bella Linea on December 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The introduction "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" (from "The Wizard of Oz"), is the first inkling the reader has that a magical journey is in store. Besides archiving a treasure-trove of movie history spanning the last 100 years, this book is also a stunning tribute to interior design and set decoration. As breath-taking as these photo's are, and no doubt valuable because they're rare and/or never-before-published originals, the stories behind the stories are equally riveting, and a salute to Hollywood. Especially - as the author notes - "to its unsung hero's and heroines": the people behind the curtain who brought their talents to the silver screen for all of us to revel in. Following the yellow brick road in this must-own book will delight, enchant, and surprise reader's from all walks of life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cowboy Hank on May 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fitting tribute to one of the most vital - and, too often, unexamined - elements of a film's community: production design and set decoration. Spanning all major genres and every decade since film's inception, Designs on Film reflects the author's obvious love of set design and a profound understanding of the craft's evolution. And the photos are stunning.

I was delighted to see the inclusion of William Cameron Menzies's and Vincent Korda's sets for Things to Come (1936), the long and accomplished careers of Robert Boyle and John DeCuir and the emergence of art deco as a major influence on the look of 1920s and 1930s cinema. (An added treat is a rather revealing photo of Bruce, the troublesome shark from Jaws, 1975.)

As with many chronicles of this sort, there are always things one would like to see that aren't included: the futuristic world for Just Imagine! (1930) springs to mind (though it is a godawful movie). But who cares when what is here tells the story beautifully, with each film's atmosphere freshly rendered and nicely documented.

Designs on Film is a great reference for the film buff and a terrific primer for the neophyte.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By NYdirector on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Save your money. The idea of this book is good but it just doesn't deliver. Most of the pictures have been published in other books and many of the pictures don't have much to do with film production design...they're just pretty pictures from the movie or a publicity still photo. There's not enough information about the artists or production designers and the small amount of actual written material is bland, not very informative and full of factual errors. This book needed a lot more research, better photo choices and missed the chance to publish unusual, interesting drawings from art directors and production designers. A new book about film production design would be great, but this book isn't it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcia Sherrill on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was transported by this well-reserached and edited history of the innermost workings of the Artistic and Creative members of the Hollywood Movie Industry, Being a major cinephile (does watching a movie every nite qualify me?). I had little to no knowledge of the "craft" of the design process. I was transfixed by the drawings of The Birds and the fact that even in those early days of Hitchcock-paintings were merged with film. I had no idea of the scope of the work of Cecil B DeMille and the author explains with authority and detail how interwoven the set designers/art directors etc are with the screenwriting. From the black and white era to todays technical wizardry, all that lurks behind Oz's curtain is revealed. now I feel that I am a better educated film buff and I watch movies YES nitely with a scrupulous eye on the Design.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip A. Dynia on August 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book's illustrations are sometimes splendid and sometimes mediocre. Cathy Whitlock's prose would be laughed out of a sophomore English class in high school,and her factual errors are legion. Not a page goes by that one does not encounter bad writing and misinformation. A sad sad commentary on the intelligence of editors and publishers, not to mention "authors" like Whitlock. The blurb on the back of the book says she lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Where else?
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