Wilfred Buckland - Writer





Art Director. Nationality: American. Born: 1866. Family: Married; one son. Career: Stage director; 1914—joined Famous Players-Lasky as first credited art director; worked on many early films of Cecil B. DeMille. Died: (Suicide) 18 July 1946.


Films as Art Director for DeMille and/or Apfel:

1914

The Squaw Man ; The Ghost Breaker ; Brewster's Millions ; The Man on the Box ; The Virginian ; The Call of the North ; What's His Name ; The Man from Home ; Rose of the Ranch ; The Girl of the Golden West

1915

The Unafraid ; The Captive ; The Warrens of Virginia ; Carmen ; The Cheat ; The Wild Goose Chase ; The Arab ; Chimmie Fadden ; Kindling ; Maria Rosa ; Chimmie Fadden Out West ; Temptation

1916

The Golden Chance ; The Trail of the Lonesome Pine ; The Heart of Nora Flynn ; The Dream Girl ; Joan the Woman

1917

A Romance of the Redwoods ; The Little American ; The Woman God Forgot ; The Devil-Stone

1918

The Whispering Chorus ; Old Wives for New ; We Can't Have Everything ; Till I Come Back to You ; The Squaw Man ; Don't Change Your Husband

1919

For Better, for Worse ; Male and Female

1923

Adam's Rib



Other Films as Art Director:

1918

Less than Kin (Crisp); Stella Maris (Neilan)

1919

The Grim Game (Willat)

1920

Conrad in Search of His Youth (W. De Mille)

1921

A Perfect Crime (Dwan)

1922

The Deuce of Spades (Ray); The Masquerader (Young); Omar the Tentmaker (Young); Robin Hood (Dwan) (co)

1924

Icebound (W. De Mille)

1927

The Forbidden Woman (Stein) (co); Almost Human (Urson)



Publications

By BUCKLAND: articles—

"Getting Belasco Atmosphere," in Moving Picture World (New York), 30 May 1914.

"When the Leaves Begin to Fall," in Theatre , October 1918.


On BUCKLAND: article—

In The Art of Hollywood , edited by John Hambley, London, 1979.

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In his autobiography, I Blow My Own Horn , Jesse L. Lasky wrote, "As the first bona fide art director in the industry, and the first to build architectural settings for films, Buckland widened the scope of pictures tremendously by throwing off the scenic limitations of the stage."

Lasky's comments are at the same time correct and inaccurate. Wilfred Buckland did, quite obviously, understand the difference between stage and screen settings. Through the use of klieg lights, he introduced artificial lighting, which helped develop the early film industry. In the countless films on which he was art director, usually without screen credit, produced by Lasky and later Famous Players-Lasky in the 1910s, Buckland demonstrates an ability to create any type of set, ancient or modern. Unquestionably, he helped to expand the relationship between the director and the art director; he proved that the art director as much as the director is responsible for the look of the film—something which has come to be taken for granted. The best proof of this is Cecil B. DeMille's Male and Female , which is best remembered for its bathroom sequence with Gloria Swanson. That bathroom owes as much to the imagination of Buckland as to DeMille's obsession with vulgarity.

At the same time, Buckland had been a stage director (notably for David Belasco) prior to entering films, and many of his interior sets for the 1910s dramas, starring Blanche Sweet, Geraldine Farrar, or Wallace Reid, have a Victorian stuffiness to them which is inexorably linked to the theatre. Even the outrageous DeMille sets are so far divorced from reality as to have their origins in Victorian and Edwardian theatre rather than screen reality.

Buckland's last major contribution to art direction was the creation of the castle setting for Douglas Fairbanks's Robin Hood . His was an extraordinary architectural achievement, and a fitting climax to a career which paved the way for Cedric Gibbons, William Cameron Menzies, and others. Buckland had established the importance of the art director, but, quite obviously, he lacked the youth—he was almost 60 when he worked on Robin Hood —and vitality to continue in a major position within the industry.

Sadly, the tragedy of Wilfred Buckland's death overshadows the importance of his career. He shot and killed his mentally ill son, fearing what might happen to the boy after his death, and then killed himself.

—Anthony Slide

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