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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

The Man Who Made Gone with the Wind Glorious: William Cameron Menzies and Art of Production Design

In collaboration with AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center

Weekend Program with Film Screening

Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 1:30 p.m.
Code: 1B0161
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in "Gone With the Wind", 1939

Please note that the talk is from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the film screening is from 2:30 to 7:00 p.m. with an intermission.

No one wants to watch Gone with the Wind on an iPad. The 1939 movie spectacle is best seen on the big screen, where its scope and beauty can be truly appreciated. But why is Gone with the Wind so gorgeous? That’s the work of William Cameron Menzies, a man Orson Welles called “impossible to overpraise”. Menzies’ art direction on GWTW was so inventive and striking that the film’s producer David O. Selznick created the term “production designer” to recognize his crucial role. Menzies, who won the first Academy Award for art direction in 1929, added another in 1940 when he received an honorary Oscar that recognized his use of color in the Civil War epic.

Menzies’ biographer James Curtis, author of William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come delves into the artistic and dramatic contribution that Menzies made to the classic film. Its indelible images—the burning of Atlanta, that sweeping staircase, the blood-red sunset against which Scarlett makes her defiant vow never to be hungry again—are part of the production designer’s magic and moviegoers’ memories the world over.

Then watch GWTW in all its glory in AFI Silver’s beautifully restored art deco theater. The movie runs four full hours, so take a break and enjoy some Civil War era-punch in AFI Silver’s historic lobby during intermission.

Other Connections

James Curtis talks about William Cameron Menzies’ use of “symphonic” color on Gone With the Wind.


AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
8633 Colesville Rd
Silver Spring, MD