Buckland, Wilfred

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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:


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


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


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


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


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


For Better, for Worse; Male and Female


Adam's Rib

Other Films as Art Director:


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


The Grim Game (Willat)


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


A Perfect Crime (Dwan)


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


Icebound (W. De Mille)


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


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.

* * *

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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