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 Lawrence Paul Williams (1905 – 1996)
he became the prime mover in a scheme to start a ‘ Society of British Film Art Directors and Designers’, similar to the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors in America, of which he is also a member. The English Society had as one of its main objects the cultivation and improvement of pictorial design and quality in British motion pictures.
Compressed charcoal sketch for “Brief Encounter” Cineguild 1945
Link to Art Director Lawrence Paul Williams’ IMDB page.
A visitor to the Stoll Studios in the silent picture days of 1928 might have found two young artists fighting a duel with prop swords which were eventually broken in the conflict and for which they had to pay out of their meagre salaries—one would have been Edward Carrick, the other, L. P. Williams, the young man who wanted to streamline motion picture production.
He has since gone a long way towards doing what he wanted and is now Technical Director to the Denham and Pinewood Studios and doing his best to introduce all the most up-to-date scientific ideas and machines into his studios, with the idea that the more you perfect the machine the easier it is to work and so allow for more freedom of expression on the part of the artists who are expected to use them.
`L. P. W.’ studied architecture at the Architectural Association between 1922 and 1927 and then joined the firm of Mark Henri and Loverdet, who, as well as being the best scenic artists of the time, were also undertaking a number of large contracts for interior decoration for which they needed architectural assistants.
Not far away in Temple Road, Cricklewood, were the Stoll Studios and Williams soon found himself there as Assistant to Clifford Pember, who was Art Director for Herbert Wilcox at the time.
Some months after he was given the chance to design the settings for a film entitled ‘On Approval’ and he never looked back—carrying on as Wilcox’s designer and artistic adviser on all his successes including ‘Nell Gwynn’, ‘Victoria the Great’, ‘Sixty Glorious Years’, and ‘Nurse Edith Cavell’.
When Wilcox went to America, L. P. W. went too, and established there a reputation as a No. 1 Art Director. He worked chiefly for R.K.O. and was Art Director on Hitchcock’s ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’.
War came and he joined the Royal Engineers and, on return to England in 1945, was David Lean’s Art Director on ‘Brief Encounter’, a fine piece of film making. R.K.O. then made a picture entitled ‘So Well Remembered‘ which L. P. W. was naturally called in to design.
About this time he became the prime mover in a scheme to start a ‘ Society of British Film Art Directors and Designers’, similar to the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors in America, of which he is also a member. The English Society had as one of its main objects the cultivation and improvement of pictorial design and quality in British motion pictures.
Because L. P. W. was educated to be an architect, he always found figure drawing difficult, but he has never tried to avoid it, having learnt that a background without figures is devoid of human interest.
Now his figures, which are sometimes very humorous, are often the most important elements in his designs. He draws with conte in a style all his own—very direct in approach, very simple in treatment—and always with a great sense of humour.
Lawrence Paul (aka Bill ) Williams retired from art direction in 1947.
(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )