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Arthur's Celluloid Dream

Posted on: 27th October 2014 By: Adam Ditchburn

‘Arthur’s Celluloid Dream’  Blog by Sam Mackenzie (YOUth in Residence 2013 - 2014)
 
When I was approached about making a piece of art for St Albans Museums, I decided I wanted to make something with a focus on a person or event significant to the town.

Whilst doing some research, I came across Arthur Melbourne Cooper and his work for the British film industry. I found it quite interesting that someone so profoundly important in the development of film has been largely overlooked in his own home town. Maybe that’s because of Stanley Kubrick being a more famous filmmaker who took up residence here, I don’t know, but still it seemed strange that we’ve all but forgotten someone that really should be appreciated a lot more.

So, looking at the two filmmakers, I wanted to do something to bring Melbourne Cooper back into the modern day and also relate him to Kubrick in some way. I had a look at some of the posters for Stanley Kubrick’s films and found that the notable designer Saul Bass had worked with Kubrick. Bass was one of the most notable designers of Hollywood’s golden age, designing posters for Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers Vertigo and North By Northwest. His work can also be seen on the posters for West Side Story and The Man with the Golden Arm. Bass designed the opening titles and the poster for Kubrick’s Spartacus. Saul Bass’ art style is very iconic and has been used for many films during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. I felt that basing my work around his style would be an ideal way to bring a sadly overlooked local film maker into the modern era.

I set about watching some of Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s films, particularly A Dream of Toyland, which is on display in the Hatfield Road museum. As there are quite a few characters in Toyland and many of Saul Bass’ posters featured several characters, I chose this film as the subject of my work. Looking closely at the film, I picked out the main characters (or at least the most prominent ones); the bear, the monkey, the doll and also the bus as this is where most of the action takes place. I also paid attention to the colours used in Bass’ posters, which are mostly character silhouettes on primary coloured backgrounds. The borders of the boxes on his posters are also a little rough around the edges rather than neat squares and rectangles. This gives them a different feeling to other posters, making them more about art than just another piece of advertising.  I looked at several posters that Bass produced and experimented with a similar layout and similar colours. I carefully selected paints that would work best and were in keeping with the tones that Bass tended to use.

I’m very pleased with how the final piece has turned out. I hope that my work will bring Arthur Melbourne Cooper into the public eye once again.  It would be nice to see an underappreciated local pioneer of cinema finally getting the recognition he deserves.

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