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

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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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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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: 10.6 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have nothing bad to say about this book at all and it's well worth the cost. This is everything old Hollywood and it presented in a great book. The photos are all excellent quality and there's plenty of pictures.....you're not paying for just text. The text has great information and explains everything you're seeing....or not seeing. If you love classic Hollywood, I'd highly recommend this book for a look back at the history of movies!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It`s beautifully printed glorious book on history of production design. Except it is only a photo book with VERY little of text for the latter to be of a ANY value. I`d rather have a book that is written by a movie professional than a journalist. Very decorative book but that`s its only value - there is no informational value at all or very little of it. I hoped to have an in depth discussion on production design and how it influences the audience perception of both the characters and the stroyline. But instead there is just a collection of the best examples of set designs over the 100 years. If you are looking for that - then it`s the book for you. If you are looking for something more informative the pass it on.
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Format: Hardcover
I have only flicked through this book and noticed a few annoying errors in the text. Ken Adam did not work on the Bond's from Dr No to Goldeneye he finished on Moonraker 16 years before, and he didn't work on all the Bond's in-between as the text implies. Also Peter Lamont did not design the sets for Ridley Scott's Alien but James Cameron's Aliens. This worries me because this was a cursory look. How many more mistakes are there? Also how many that I wouldn't have the knowledge to know were wrong? Great pictures though.
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