Tag Archives: British Cinema

Art & Design in The British Film #29 – Alex Vetchinsky

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Alex Vetchinsky ( 1904- 1980 )

He is an artist of the cinema and does not pretend to be a painter of pictures. His work is never self-conscious and he has that carefree approach which allows him to sketch on any piece of paper that is handy and failing that on the back of a studio ‘flat’.

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Pencil sketch for “October Man“. Two Cities Films.
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Pencil sketch for “Hungry Hill“. Two Cities Films.

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Pencil sketch for “Hungry Hill“. Two Cities Films.

ALEC VETCHINSKY is generally known as ‘Vetch’— he is one of those genial unpretentious beings with twinkling eyes, very much liked by all who come in contact with him.

He is an artist of the cinema and does not pretend to be a painter of pictures. His work is never self-conscious and he has that carefree approach which allows him to sketch on any piece of paper that is handy and failing that on the back of a studio ‘flat’.

He does not keep his sketches but the few one comes across here and there possess qualities that often far excel the more conscious ‘masterpieces ‘ that others put into frames.

Vetch studied to be an architect at the Architectural Association, where he was awarded the ‘A.A. Diploma’ in 1928. After 18 months in an architect’s office, he went to Gainsborough Pictures and worked as an assistant.

The picture on which his work as an Art Director first drew attention was ‘Tudor Rose’, made at Gaumont Studios by Robert Stevenson. This was followed by a number of other successes such as `Sunshine Susie’, ‘Love on Wheels’, ‘Owd Bob’, ‘Michael and Mary’ and in 1936 ‘Bank Holiday’, an ambitious film for studios with such limited stage space, in which. the backgrounds were most successfully carried out. Then in 1938 came Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes'; 1939, ‘Night Train to Munich’ ; 1940, `Kipps'; 1941, `The Young Mr Pitt’.

After the war he worked on a number of more ambitious films like ‘Hungry Hill’ in which some very fine work by Vetch was made unconvincing by the action that went on in front of it, a common occurrence in films, which require the united effort of a number of artists to achieve the best results.

Sometimes the designer is the only person on the picture who can appreciate the fundamental principles that govern the making of any work of art. The result is then patchy, to say the least.

Vetchinsky has more recently designed the sets for ‘Escape’ and `October Man’.

He has always been keen on making the fullest use of all the tricks of the trade in order to help create dramatic effects, and on these last two pictures he has done so most successfully.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )

During his long career in British studios, Vetchinsky worked alongside many other artists and technicians, and two of them are included in this series: See John Howell, and Maurice Carter. (You can also find them in the list below.)

Link to article at filmreference.com
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Art & Design in The British Film #28 – Duncan Sutherland

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Duncan Sutherland. (Born 1905 – )

Sutherland is another of those robust and jovial artists; like Vetchinsky, he bothers little about his drawings as such and depends for so much of his effect on the way he dresses his sets which, after all, is the only visible part of a character’s personality.

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Production sketch from “Thunder Rock” Charter Films, 1942. Pencil & wash.
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Production sketch from Bedelia John Corfield Productions, 1946. Pencil & wash.

DUNCAN MACDONALD SUTHERLAND was trained at the Glasgow School of Architecture and became assistant to G. P. K.Young, then President of the Scottish Institute of Architects.

Giving up architecture, he took to the stage and then to films as an actor.

Coming to London he worked for six years in the Art Department of the British International Pictures at Elstree, one of the first pictures he worked on being ‘Cape Forlorn’ under Alfred Junge.

Following this he did various films which he hopes ‘will always be shrouded in the mist of time'; all the same he established a reputation that brought him right to the forefront when he art directed Thorold Dickinson’s ‘Gaslight’ in 1940 and through his decor and set dressing built up an authentic Victorian atmosphere that could not have been bettered.

Then came ‘Pimpernel Smith’ and `Thunder Rock’, in which he built a lighthouse interior and a scene in one of the sheds in the Potteries during the industrial revolution that again came to life.

`San Demetrio London’ did not give him much scope, but on his new picture with Thorold Dickinson, ‘Then and Now’, it sounds as though he will again have an opportunity to make the past come to life.

Sutherland is another of those robust and jovial artists; like Vetchinsky, he bothers little about his drawings as such and depends for so much of his effect on the way he dresses his sets which, after all, is the only visible part of a character’s personality.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )
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Art & Design in The British Film #27 – Wilfrid Shingleton

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Wilfrid Shingleton (1914 – 1983)

He is essentially a practical artist and there are few problems in art direction that he would not overcome.

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Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1948. Conté, London Films.
(Click the image to show it in Vistavision!)

WILFRID SHINGLETON wanted to get into films at a very early age (18 yrs old!). Living with his family at Ealing he got the opportunity in 1932 and started as a junior assistant in the art department at Ealing Studios under Edward Carrick and Clifford Pember.

He was very studious and took his responsibilities very seriously.

When Carrick left Ealing Studios, Shingleton took over the art direction and in 1938 was designer for ‘Four Just Men’, followed by `Proud Valley’, ‘Saloon Bar’, and ‘Convoy’.

Returning from a very interesting wartime experience on naval camouflage, he joined Cineguild as Art Director on ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Take My Life’, on which films John Bryan was Production Designer.

He recently left this set-up to join Andrejew as associate on ‘Anna Karenina’ thus renewing a friendship made when as a draughtsman he had worked on ‘The Dictator’, Andrejew’s first picture in England.

Shingleton spends quite a lot of time lecturing on art direction to schools and youth clubs and writes about films from the technical viewpoint.

He is essentially a practical artist and there are few problems in art direction that he would not overcome.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )

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If you look at Shingleton’s profile in IMDB, you’ll find that during his long career he was the art director or production designer on some seminal films, including Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires, The Blue Max, The African Queen, and the wonderful Pure Hell of St Trinians.

I also find it wonderful that Shingleton spent time “lecturing on art direction to schools and youth clubs”. I’d love to see a modern day art director anywhere near a school or youth club.
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Art & Design in The British Film #26 – Paul Sherriff

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Paul Sherriff (1903 – 1960).

It was in 1943 that Sheriff made his most memorable contribution to film decor when as Art Director for Laurence Olivier’s `Henry V’ he experimented with an entirely new kind of background, taking the illuminated chronicles of the period and using their naive perspective and delicate colouring as the basis for his designs.

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(Please click the thumbnail pictures to enlarge them. I thank you.)
Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

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Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

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Vice Versa Two Cities Films 1948 1

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Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

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Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. Director: Peter Ustinov. []
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Art & Design in The British Film #25 – Michael Relph

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Michael Relph. (1915 – 2004)

His designs are made in crayon and wash, and as designs show a distinct theatrical influence but when built in the studio become essentially cinematic. In ‘Dead of Night’ his work had an exceptionally emotional quality which made the backgrounds unusually important and an essential part of the dramatic content of the film.

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They Came To A City – Ealing Studios 1945
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Champagne Charlie. Ealing Studios 1944
Starring Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway.

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Champagne Charlie. Ealing Studios 1944

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Saraband For Dead Lovers Ealing Studios 1948 (Credited as Associate Producer)

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Saraband For Dead Lovers Ealing Studios 1948

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Art & Design in The British Film #24 David Rawnsley

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with David Rawnsley (1909 – 1977) 1

One of those luxurious bohemians whom one usually associates with that period in history when Casanova and Carlo Gozzi flourished. He always works on a large scale and all his schemes are big schemes, into which he throws himself heart and soul.

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A Film Set A project.
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Rake’s Progress. Individual Pictures, 1945.

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Rake’s Progress. Individual Pictures, 1945.

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Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. Thanks to Susan Day for affirming his dates. []
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Art & Design in The British Film #19 Tom Morahan

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Tom Morahan (1906 – 1969)

Tom Morahan is a very true artist and a great fighter for the recognition of the film as a medium separate from other art forms. To some his nature appears at times to be rather rugged. But among those that know him he is recognized as a most genial character with undying energy and honesty of purpose.

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Jamaica Inn. Continuity sketches, Ink wash. Mayflower Productions.

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Men of Two Worlds – Water Colour. Two Cities Films.

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Perrin and Trail – Pen & Wash. Two Cities Films.

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St Martin’s Lane (AKA The Sidewalks of London) Charcoal & Wash. Mayflower Productions.

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Jamaica Inn. Charcoal & wash. Mayflower Productions.

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Art & Design in The British Film # 18 Oliver Messel

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Oliver Messel (1904 – 1978)

Messel was a Costume Designer and Art Director. He sometimes worked in the Art Department as well as being Production Designer for films. A large part of his life was occupied by his work in costume design for stage shows.

Messel was released from the Army to design the film of ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ for Gabriel Pascal. Co-operating on this gigantic production were John Bryan, who acted as Art Director translating Messel’s ideas on to the floor–Heckroth helping with the costumes and Bellan working out camera set-ups and working on continuity sketches-perhaps there were too many good cooks . . .

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All images from Caesar & Cleopatra – 1945.

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Art & Design in The British Film # 17 Vincent Korda

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Vincent Korda. (1897 – 1979)

(Korda was responsible for the art direction of many UK made films, as well as international productions, and among his many credits are The Four Feathers, The Thief of Bagdad, The Third Man, The Longest Day, and The Yellow Rolls-Royce.)

Vincent Korda has always been in the enviable position of being able to build lavishly, but his ideas have also been on a scale worthy of lavish treatment.

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Don Juan. Dry point. London Films, 1934
This was to be Douglas Fairbanks’ last film performance.

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Marius, Watercolour 1931
Directed by Korda’s brother Alexander and Marcel Pagnol.

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The Shape Of Things To Come. Pen and wash. London Films 1936

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I, Claudius Pen and watercolour. An unfinished film by London Films. 1937

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The Four Feathers. Conté and Gouache. London Films 1939 (Directed by Vincent’s brother, Zoltan)

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The Lost Illusion AKA The Fallen Idol. Pen and wash. London Films 1948

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