Best Production Design 1914
In the early years of film, movie making was very much a “physical” process. There was no way to create a landscape for an audience through computer trickery, you had to create it in at least two, and often three, dimensions, in order to convince the audience that it existed. While early film was often satisfied to simply work on indoor sets and small stages, by 1914 film producers and directors were starting to make elaborate environments for their actors to perform in, and sets were getting bigger and bigger.
Both “Judith of Bethulia” and “Cabiria” built cities from the ancient world as settings for their stories, with gargantuan features that at times dominate the human actors – the walls of the city in “Judith” and the Temple of Mammon for “Cabiria” being standout examples. “The Squaw Man” deserves special notice for the innovation of building an indoor set right next to a railroad track, so that the actual trains rushing by would become part of the action without camera trickery. “Magic Cloak of Oz” gave us not one, but two fairy castles, as well as the city of Noland with its fanciful architectural style. Finally, production-designer-turned-director Evgeni Bauer gave us a complex and believable bourgeois household, contrasting the beautifully decorated living quarters with the Spartan look of the servants’ domains in “Silent Witnesses.”
The nominees for best production design for 1914 are
- Judith of Bethulia
- Magic Cloak of Oz
- The Squaw Man (Wilfred Buckland)
- Silent Witnesses (Evgeni Bauer)
And the winner is…”Cabiria!”
Although the other contenders had some good work, noted above, there really was nothing to compete with the grand scale and imagination of “Cabiria.” D.W. Griffith himself was floored when he saw it, and would try building on that scale two years later when he made “Intolerance.” But until then, nothing could hope to touch it.