Friday, November 23, 2018

Edward Carfagno's Drawings for Ben-Hur

Edward Carfagno produced detailed drawings to help design the sets and plan the shots for William Wyler's Ben-Hur (1959). 


The studio printed copies of the drawings in a booklet that was 8 x 21 inches, laid out in the widescreen format to match the film.


The booklet was taken out to the sets and the locations where it could be studied by the production team.


The red rectangle shows the final position of the camera as it zooms into this scene of ancient Rome. 

Some of the sketches translated fairly closely to stills from the film. Edward Carfagno won an Academy Award for his art direction on Ben-Hur.
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Book: The Story of the Making of Ben-Hur
Online: The Wizard of MGM
NYT Obituary for Edward Carfagno
Auction record for booklet

2 comments:

Wilbert Plijnaar said...

Also look here: http://nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.com/2010/09/epics-ben-hur-matte-shots-part-five-in.html

GW Papalia said...

It's wonderful to see that these masterful drawings have not been relegated to some obscure place in movie history. To add a little background to these sketches, they were not actually done by Ed Carfagno. I knew both Ed and Mentor Hubenor and worked with them while on staff in the MGM Art Department. Mentor, a legendary illustrator in the film business, along with David Hall, was responsible for creating the illustrations pictured. As the Art Director on Ben Hur, these key frames were done under Ed Carfagno's direction. The originals were, for many years in storage in the Mgm Art Department, along with all the design drawings for the film.

As was common in that era, they were executed in charcoal on yellow tracing paper. Printed on a blueprint machine, mounted and presented to both the Director and Cinematographer. In those days it was the Art Director, in concert with the Illustrators who were responsible for designing the establishing shots and key frames for a given film. Not the Cinematographer as many think today.

Thanks so much for posting these masterful drawings!