Art Director. Nationality: American. Born: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 9 May 1896; emigrated to the United States, 1918. Family: Married; six children. Career: Set decorator for Erich von Stroheim at MGM, Paramount, and United Artists during the 1920s; 1928–38—worked independently with Goldwyn and United Artists, then with 20th Century-Fox, 1939–43, and freelance. Awards: Academy Award for The Dark Angel , 1935; Dodsworth , 1936; How Green Was My Valley , 1941; This above All , 1942; My Gal Sal , 1942; A Streetcar Named Desire , 1951; On the Waterfront , 1954. Died: In Hollywood, 23 May 1972.
Blind Husbands (von Stroheim)
The Devil's Passkey (von Stroheim)
Foolish Wives (von Stroheim)
Merry-Go-Round (Julian and von Stroheim)
Greed (von Stroheim); The Merry Widow (von Stroheim); Bright Lights (Leonard); The Only Thing (Conway); His Secretary (Henley)
Beverley of Graustark (Franklin); Bardelys the Magnificent (K. Vidor)
The Show (Browning); Mr. Wu (Nigh); Tillie the Toiler (Henley); The Unknown (Browning); Adam and Evil (Leonard); After Midnight (Bell); The Road to Romance ( Romance ) (Robertson); Tea for Three (Leonard); The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (Franklin); The Enemy (Niblo)
The Divine Woman (Sjöström); Wickedness Preferred (Henley); Rose-Marie (Hubbard); The Big City (Browning); Circus Rookies (Sedgwick); Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Brenon); The Actress ( Trelawny of the Wells ) (Franklin); Forbidden Hours (Beaumont); Our Dancing Daughters (Beaumont); Excess Baggage (Cruze); While the City Sleeps (Conway); The Wedding March (von Stroheim); West of Zanzibar (Browning)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Brabin); The Idle Rich (W. De Mille); A Man's Man (Cruze); Wonder of Women (Brown); The Girl in the Show (Selwyn); The Unholy Night (L. Barrymore); The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Reisner); Wise Girls ( Kempy ) (Hopper); The Thirteenth Chair (Browning); The Kiss (Feyder); Their Own Desire (Hopper); Devil May Care (Franklin); Untamed (Conway); Gus Edwards' Song Revue (Edwards—short); Song Shop (Lee—short)
Anna Christie (Brown) (also German and French versions directed by Feyder); In Gay Madrid (Leonard); Whoopee! (Freeland); Sins of the Children ( The Richest Man in the World ) (Wood); Madame Satan (C. DeMille); Le Spectre vert (Feyder—French version of The Unholy Night ); The Devil to Pay (Fitzmaurice)
The Front Page (Milestone); Indiscreet (McCarey); Street Scene (K. Vidor); The Unholy Garden (Fitzmaurice); Palmy Days (Sutherland); Arrowsmith (Ford)
The Greeks Had a Word for Them (L. Sherman); Rain (Milestone); Cynara (K. Vidor); The Kid from Spain (McCarey)
Hallalujah I'm a Bum! ( Hallelujah I'm a Tramp ) (Milestone); Secrets (Borzage); The Bowery (Walsh); The Masquerader (Wallace); Roman Scandals (Tuttle); Gallant Lady (La Cava)
Moulin Rouge (Lanfield); Nana (Arzner); The Affairs of Cellini (La Cava); Born to Be Bad (L. Sherman); The House of Rothschild (Werker); The Last Gentleman (Lanfield); Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Del Ruth); Kid Millions (Del Ruth); Looking for Trouble (Wellman); We Live Again (Mamoulian); The Mighty Barnum (W. Lang)
Folies Bergere ( The Man from the Folies Bergere ) (Del Ruth); Clive of India (Boleslawsky); Cardinal Richelieu (Lee); The Call of the Wild (Wellman); The Dark Angel (Franklin); Barbary Coast (Hawks); Metropolitan (Boleslawsky); Splendor (Nugent)
Strike Me Pink (Taurog); These Three (Wyler); One Rainy Afternoon (Lee); Dodsworth (Wyler); The Gay Desperado (Mamoulian); Come and Get It (Hawks and Wyler); Beloved Enemy (Potter)
Woman Chases Man (Blystone); Stella Dallas (K. Vidor); Dead End (Wyler); The Hurricane (Ford)
The Goldwyn Follies (Marshall); The Cowboy and the Lady (Potter); The Adventures of Marco Polo (Mayo); Charlie Chan in Honolulu (Humberstone)
The Little Princess (W. Lang); The Gorilla (Dwan); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Lanfield); The Return of the Cisco Kid (Leeds); Rose of Washington Square (Ratoff); Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford); Frontier Marshal (Dwan); Quick Millions (St. Clair); The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Werker); Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (Foster); The Escape (Cortez); Hollywood Cavalcade (Cummings); Pack Up Your Troubles ( We're in the Army Now ) (Humberstone); Drums along the Mohawk (Ford); Day-Time Wife (Ratoff); City of Darkness (Leeds); Swanee River (Lanfield); The Honeymoon's Over (Forde); Everything Happens at Night (Cummings); City of Chance (Cortez)
Little Old New York (H. King); The Blue Bird (W. Lang); He Married His Wife (Del Ruth); The Grapes of Wrath (Ford); The Man Who Wouldn't Talk (Burton); Charlie Chan in Panama (Foster); Star Dust (W. Lang); Johnny Apollo (Hathaway); Shooting High (Green); I Was an Adventuress (Ratoff); Lilian Russell (Cummings); Girl in 313 (Cortez); Earthbound (Pichel); Four Sons (Mayo); Manhattan Heartbeat (Burton); Maryland (H. King); The Man I Married
For Beauty's Sake (Traube); Remember the Day (H. King); Romance of the Rio Grande (Leeds); Western Union (F. Lang); Tobacco Road (Ford); That Night in Rio (Cummings); The Great American Broadcast (Mayo); Blood and Sand (Mamoulian); The Cowboy and the Blonde (McCarey); Man Hunt (F. Lang); A Very Young Lady (Schuster); Moon over Miami (W. Lang); The Bride Wore Crutches (Traube); Accent on Love (McCarey); Dance Hall (Pichel); Dressed to Kill (Forde); Charley's Aunt ( Charley's American Aunt ) (Mayo); Wild Geese Calling (Brahm); Private Nurse (Burton); Sun Valley Serenade (Humberstone); Belle Starr (Cummings); Charlie Chan in Rio (Lachman); We Go Fast (McGann); The Last of the Duanes (Tinling); Man at Large (Forde); A Yank in the R.A.F. (H. King); Great Guns (Banks); Riders of the Purple Sage (Tinling); Weekend in Havana (W. Lang); Rise and Shine (Dwan); How Green Was My Valley (Ford); Swamp Water ( The Man Who Came Back ) (Renoir)
The Lone Star Ranger (Tinling); Son of Fury (Cromwell); Roxie Hart (Wellman); Song of the Islands (W. Lang); Rings on Her Fingers (Mamoulian); My Gal Sal (Cummings); The Man Who Wouldn't Die (Leeds); It Happened in Flatbush (McCarey); Whispering Ghosts (Werker); Moontide (Mayo); The Magnificent Dope (W. Lang); Through Different Eyes (Loring); The Postman Didn't Ring (Schuster); Ten Gentlemen from West Point (Hathaway); This above All (Litvak); Footlight Serenade (Ratoff); A-Haunting We Will Go (Werker); Little Tokyo, U.S.A. (Brower); Orchestra Wives (Mayo); The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (Lachman); Berlin Correspondent (Forde); Careful, Soft Shoulders (Garrett); Just Off Broadway (Leeds); Iceland ( Katina ) (Humberstone); Girl Trouble (Schuster); Manila Calling (Leeds); The Man in the Trunk (St. Clair); Tales of Manhattan (Duvivier); Springtime in the Rockies (Cummings); That Other Woman (McCarey); The Ox-Bow Incident ( Strange Incident ) (Wellman); Thunder Birds (Wellman); China Girl (Hathaway); The Undying Monster ( The Hammond Mystery ) (Brahm); Time to Kill (Leeds); The Black Swan (H. King); Dr. Renault's Secret (Lachman); Quiet, Please, Murder (Larkin); Life Begins at 8:30 ( The Light at Heart ) (Pichel)
The Meanest Man in the World (Lanfield); Dixie Dugan (Brower); Immortal Sergeant (Stahl); He Hired the Boss (Loring); Chetniks! ( Chetniks—the Fighting Guerillas ) (L. King); Margin for Error (Preminger); My Friend Flicka (Schuster); Tonight We Raid Calais (Brahm); Crash Dive (Mayo); Coney Island (W. Lang)
The Razor's Edge (Goulding); Anna and the King of Siam (Cromwell)
Boomerang (Kazan); Moss Rose (Ratoff); Miracle on 34th Street ( The Big Heart ) (Seaton); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz); Mother Wore Tights (W. Lang); I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (Bacon); Captain from Castile (H. King)
Joan of Arc (Fleming); Force of Evil (Polonsky)
My Foolish Heart (Robson)
Our Very Own (Miller); Edge of Doom ( Stronger than Fear ) (Robson)
Cry Danger (Parrish); I Want You (Robson); A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan)
Hans Christian Andersen (C. Vidor)
On the Waterfront (Kazan)
Solomon and Sheba (K. Vidor)
Something Wild (Garfein)
Goodbye Charlie (Minnelli); Cheyenne Autumn (Ford)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens); The Chase (Penn)
The Happening (Silverstein)
The Valley of the Dolls (Robson)
The Boston Strangler (Fleischer); The Sweet Ride (Hart)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (Fleischer); Tribes ( The Soldier Who Declared Peace ) (Sargeant)
Up in Arms (Nugent)
Fowler, Gene, foreword to The Mighty Barnum: A Screen Play , New York, 1934.
In The Art of Hollywood , edited by John Hambley, London, 1979.
* * *
Richard Day put on the screen some of the seediest sets in Hollywood history. The constructions for Dead End so appalled the producer Samuel Goldwyn that the mogul wondered why his money couldn't have been used to build a better slum! Despite his proclivity for suggesting human blight, Day was equally at ease designing for drawing-room dramas and musical extravaganzas. What unities can be found in such versatility?
Day's film career began with his apprenticeship to director Erich von Stroheim, who was possessed by a violent forcefulness akin to the German Expressionists. Attracted to fantasy and symbolism in spirit, he belonged with the German social realists such as George Grosz. Yet von Stroheim's meticulous attention to detail recalled the American realists (such as Thomas Eakins), with their fascination for everyday minutiae. Although Day absorbed these traditions, he equally shared the sensibilities of the American regionalist school. His classically balanced urban scenes recalled Edward Hopper's works, serene even in their turmoil. His humble, rural environments interpreted the countryside with the same poignancy found in paintings by Thomas Hart Benton.
Day's films were lush with details. His expressions of poverty included every crack in the wall, thick coats of dust, peeling paint, and the fading floral wallpaper of an out-of-date print. Stairways creaked, and laundry blocked the sky like a Piranesi prison. On the other hand, for the old-world wealthy, Day gilt grand staircases with elaborate ornamentation. His swags of velvet drapery regally dressed the richly veined marble colonnades. The "moderne chic" danced on floors of patent leather-black gleam. White multiplatform steps, kaleidoscopic mirrors, and Deco glass sculpture well served the slick set's "swells." Despite their apparent disparities, each style shared Day's love of the particular.
In the 1950s the "new breed" of actors and directors found Day's work well suited to their needs. Day could capture the brutal snap and underlying sensitivity dominating the works of such directors as Elia Kazan. As always, Day invested the commonplace with potent symbolism. His intensely ambient spaces suggested inner psychologies—a critical factor in artistic works of the time. However, despite Day's topicality, his modus operandi had barely changed since his collaborations with von Stroheim.
Day achieved richness through magnification of the specific. Amassing details, he combined visual intricacy with depth of content. As a result, his tragic visions spoke with the boldest tones. Day filled even his saddest images with a poetry that von Stroheim denied, thus giving his viewer a bittersweet sense of hope.
—Edith C. Lee