Anton Grot - Writer

Art Director. Nationality: Polish. Born: Antocz Frantiszek Groszewski in Kelbasin, 18 January 1884; emigrated to the United States, 1909. Education: Studied illustration and design, Krakow School of Art and Technical High School, Konigsberg, Germany. Career: 1913–17—set designer for Lubin, Philadelphia; 1917–18—designer for Blaché; 1918–21—worked for Pathé; 1922—set designer for Fairbanks-Pickford unit at United Artists, Hollywood; 1922–27—set designer for Cecil B. DeMille; 1927–48—set designer at Warner Bros.; after retirement, worked as painter. Award: Special Academy Award, 1940. Died: In Stanton, California, 21 March 1974.

Films as Art Director/Production Designer:


The Mouse and the Lion (Brooks)


Arms and the Woman (Fitzmaurice)


The Recoil (Fitzmaurice); The Iron Heart (Fitzmaurice); The Seven Pearls (Mackenzie—serial)


The Naulahka (Fitzmaurice); Sylvia of the Secret Service (Fitzmaurice)


Bound and Gagged (Seitz—serial)


Pirate Gold (Seitz—serial); Velvet Fingers (Seitz—serial)


Robin Hood (Dwan) (co); Tess of the Storm Country (Robertson)


Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (Neilan); The Thief of Bagdad (Walsh) (co); A Thief in Paradise (Fitzmaurice)


Don Q, Son of Zorro (Crisp) (co); The Road to Yesterday (DeMille) (co)


The Volga Boatman (DeMille) (co); Silence (Julian); Young April (Crisp)


White Gold (Howard); Vanity (Crisp); The Little Adventuress ( The Dover Road ) (W. De Mille); The Country Doctor (Julian); The King of Kings (DeMille) (co)


Stand and Deliver (Crisp); Hold 'em Yale ( At Yale ) (E. Griffith); The Blue Danube ( Honour above All ) (Sloane); Walking Back (Julian); A Ship Comes In ( His Country ) (Howard); The Godless Girl (DeMille) (co); The Barker (Fitzmaurice); Show Girl (Santell); Noah's Ark (Curtiz)


Why Be Good? (Seiter); Smiling Irish Eyes (Seiter); The Man and the Moment (Fitzmaurice); Her Private Life (A. Korda); Footlights and Fools (Seiter)


Lilies of the Field (A. Korda); Playing Around (LeRoy); No, No, Nanette (Badger); A Notorious Affair (Bacon); Song of the Flame (Crosland); Bright Lights (Curtiz); Top Speed (LeRoy); Outward Bound (Milton); Little Caesar (LeRoy)


Body and Soul (Santell); Svengali (Mayo); Heartbreak (Werker); Honor of the Family (Bacon); The Mad Genius (Curtiz); Surrender (Howard); One Way Passage (Garnett); Big City Blues (LeRoy)


The Hatchet Man ( The Honourable Mr. Wong ) (Wellman); Alias the Doctor (Curtiz); Two Seconds (LeRoy); Doctor X (Curtiz); The Match King (Bretherton and Keighley); Scarlet Dawn (Dieterle); Lawyer Man (Dieterle); 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (Curtiz)


Mystery of the Wax Museum (Curtiz); Grand Slam (Dieterle); The King's Vacation (Adolfi); Gold Diggers of 1933 (Le-Roy); Baby Face (Green); Ever in My Heart (Mayo); From Headquarters (Dieterle); Footlight Parade (Bacon) (co); Son of a Sailor (Bacon); Easy to Love (Keighley)


Mandalay (Curtiz); Gambling Lady (Mayo); Upperworld (Del Ruth); He Was Her Man (Bacon); Dr. Monica (Keighley); The Firebird (Dieterle); Side Streets ( Woman in Her Thirties ) (Green); British Agent (Curtiz); Six Day Bike Rider (Bacon); The Secret Bride ( Concealment ) (Dieterle); Gold Diggers of 1935 (Berkeley)


Red Hot Tires ( Racing Luck ) (Lederman) (co); The Florentine Dagger (Florey); Traveling Saleslady (Enright); The Case of the Curious Bride (Curtiz); Stranded (Borzage); Broadway Gondolier (Bacon); Bright Lights ( Funnyface ) (Berkeley); Dr. Socrates (Dieterle); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Reinhardt and Dieterle); Captain Blood (Curtiz)


The Golden Arrow (Green); The White Angel (Dieterle); Anthony Adverse (LeRoy); Stolen Holiday (Curtiz); Sing Me a Love Song ( Come Up Smiling ) (Enright)


The Life of Emile Zola (Dieterle); Tovarich (Litvak); Confession (May); The Great Garrick (Whale)


Fools for Scandal (LeRoy); Hard to Get (Enright)


They Made Me a Criminal (Berkeley); Juarez (Dieterle) (co); The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Curtiz)


The Sea Hawk (Curtiz); A Dispatch from Reuters ( This Man Reuter ) (Dieterle)


The Sea Wolf (Curtiz); Affectionately Yours (Bacon)


Thank Your Lucky Stars (Butler) (co)


The Conspirators (Negulesco)


Rhapsody in Blue (Rapper) (co); Mildred Pierce (Curtiz)


My Reputation (Bernhardt); One More Tomorrow (Godfrey); Never Say Goodbye (Kern); Deception (Rapper)


Nora Prentiss (V. Sherman); The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Godfrey); Possessed (Bernhardt); The Unsuspected (Curtiz)


Romance on the High Seas ( It's Magic ) (Curtiz); June Bride (Windust); One Sunday Afternoon (Walsh) (co); Backfire ( Somewhere in the City ) (V. Sherman)


On GROT: articles—

London Studio , December 1938.

Deschner, Donald, in The Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), Fall 1975.

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

Positif , vol. 377, June 1992.

Webb, Michael, "Designing Films: Anton Grot," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1996.

* * *

Anton Grot's special Academy Award in 1940 for his invention of a "ripple machine," which created weather and light effects on water, perhaps symbolizes his particular interest in the expressive qualities of light in motion pictures. Of all the major designers working in Hollywood in the 1930s, Grot was among those whose work was most strongly affected by European modernism in films and painting. The angular shadows and strong light-and-dark contrast found in Little Caesar , for example, help to establish the underworld context of the film. In the pressbook for Doctor X (a Technicolor film), Grot explained how he used heavy construction, low arches, dark colors, and shadows to create a mood of mystery and melodrama: "We design a set that imitates as closely as possible a bird of prey about to swoop down upon its victim, trying to incorporate in the whole thing a sense of impending calamity, of overwhelming danger." Similar expressive qualities are found, particularly in scenes of danger or terror, in the melodramatic swashbucklers Grot designed, such as Captain Blood , The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex , and The Sea Hawk . In his designs for "The Forgotten Man" production number in Gold Diggers of 1933 , Grot cast jagged shadows on the women who sing of their forgotten men, and in the finale of the song, he silhouetted unemployed veterans marching ceaselessly over a machine-like series of curved bridges. Using traditional and natural forms freely in A Midsummer Night's Dream , Grot created such memorable images as the entrance of Oberon, king of the fairies, crowned with a spiky headdress, and wearing a sparkling black cloak that sweeps for many yards behind the horse on which he is riding.

Grot's use of stylistic qualities of 20th-century European art no doubt derived in part form his Polish background, yet this interest parallels that of contemporary American painters such as John Marin, Charles Burchfield, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Just as the abstract qualities found in the paintings of these artists is crucial to the success of their works, so, too, Grot's film designs can be seen as combinations of realistic details built upon abstract formal qualities, particularly those of light and shadow.

—Floyd W. Martin

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