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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 29 July 1896New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Date of Death 5 March 1957Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Nickname Billy
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

William Cameron Menzies was educated at Yale University, the University of Edinburgh and at the Art Students League in New York. He entered the film industry in 1919, after serving with the U.S. Expeditionary Forces in World War I. His initial assignments were in film design and special effects, as assistant to Anton Grot at Famous Players-Lasky. Menzies drew inspiration from German Expressionism and from the work of D.W. Griffith. His sense of visual style was quickly recognised and he was promoted to full art director after only three years. At United Artists (1923-30, 1935-40) and Fox (1931-33), he eventually designed for stars like Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. He worked for all three of the major independent producers: Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick and Walter Wanger. Menzies also had the singular distinction of receiving the first-ever Oscar for art direction (for The Dove (1927)).

His flamboyant and exotic fairy-tale sets for The Thief of Bagdad (1924) are regarded to this day as a work of pure genius. From the beginning of the sound era, Menzies also got involved in directing and producing. During the 1940's, he worked frequently with the director Sam Wood, whose films he improved dramatically through his designs. Over time, Menzies acquired a well-earned reputation for his larger-then-life personality, his visual flair and love of adventure and fantasy in films. He defined and solidified the role of the art director as having overall control over the look of the finished motion picture. He was a tireless innovator, who meticulously pre-planned the color and design of each film through a series of continuity sketches that outlined camera angles, lighting and the position of actors in each scene. For Gone with the Wind (1939), he and J. McMillan Johnson drew some 2000 detailed watercolor sketches. An historian, Wilbur G. Kurtz, was employed on the project to provide additional accuracy of period detail. Menzies himself directed the famous burning of Atlanta sequence and hospital sequence, including the famous long shot of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers, taken from a 90-foot crane.

A consummate designer of film architecture on a grand scale, Menzies was rather less effective as a director, consistently displaying an inability to draw strong performances from his cast. As a result, others were often brought in as co-directors, forcing Menzies to share the credit. In the 1950's, he helmed several low-budget films, which stand out purely for their characteristically good visuals, as, for example, Invaders from Mars (1953).

Menzies was inducted into the Art Directors Guild Hall of Fame in 2005.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Mignon Toby (? - ?)

Trivia (2)

Children: Jean Mignon (c. 1921) and Suzanne (c. 1927)
Is portrayed by Warren Munson in The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980)

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