Young Bess (MGM 1953), exterior high-angle view of Westminster Abbey in the 1550s
40’-0” x 22’-2”
Urie McCleary, Production Designer
Cedric Gibbons, Art Director
George Gibson, Scenic Art Supervisor
Scenic Art Attributed to: Ben Carré, Clark Provins, Harry Tepker, Bill Jekel, Wayne Hill, Bob Oberbeck, Jim Dobson
Our exhibition features two backdrops from MGM's Young Bess; the film follows young Elizabeth I's life to her accession to England's throne.
The backdrop of the famed Gothic Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, offers an exceptional example of the perspective mastery brought to MGM's Scenic Art Department by Ben Carré for forty years. Carré planned the architectural layout, shadow positions, and horizon line to correspond to the camera position. This backdrop also offers our audience's first glimpse onto the back of the painting, revealing how the scenic artists created a day and night effect through translucent painting.
Ben Carré spent the first half of his career as an art director for well-known films in Paris with Director Alice Guy Blaché at Gaumont Studios and in the United States in 1925 The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney, Poor Little Rich Girl, and The Jazz Singer. Carré spent the last half of his career as the perspective master of the MGM Scenic Art department, where he was lost to cinematic history when he became a "Below the Line" scenic artist. In the 1990s, Carré was "discovered" and credited as a pioneer of motion picture history for his early art direction work in Paris and the U.S. His final years were a bookend to a notable career that began at 13 years old as a scenic art apprentice at Atelier Amable, Paris.