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William Cameron Menzies

Director

“If it heightened the drama to shoot a tree from the viewpoint of an astigmatic worm sitting on a leaf of that tree, or even from that of the tree looking at itself, we did in so far as the new 28mm lens and our imagination would permit.”

 

Biography

William Cameron Menzies was born in New Haven, Connecticut on 29 July 1896 to Scots immigrant parents. He studied at Yale and the University of Edinburgh, and after serving in the US Army during World War I he attended the New York Art Student League, then joined Famous Players-Lasky (later to evolve into Paramount) working in special effects and design. He went independent in 1923 to work with prominent directors of the period such as Allan Dwan, Raoul Walsh and Fred Niblo, and soon made a name for himself as one of the most individual and gifted of cinematic designers. His status was confirmed at the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, when he won Best Art Direction Oscar for The Dove (d. Roland West, 1927) and Tempest (d. Sam Taylor, 1928).

In 1931 Menzies took up direction, and made half-a-dozen pictures – but always as co-director. The art director Lyle Wheeler, who worked with him later at Fox, felt that Menzies was “no damn good as a director… He wanted to photograph ceilings… read more

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