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‘Titanic’ wins art directors film honor

Production designer thanked for brevity after marathon thank-yous

There are three kinds of awards winners — the modest types who have prepared no speech at all; the more hopeful ones who, having won, pull out a piece of paper with a few names on it; and, more rarely, the confident characters who, in excruciating detail, regale their restless audience with a mind-boggling litany of associates, confederates and relatives.

Randy Ser is one of the latter. At the annual banquet of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Art Directors on Saturday night, Ser took so long to thank everyone — and we mean everyone — for his award for production design on Disney’s “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” that the audience eventually resorted to clapping to see if he would stop.

But Ser blithely soldiered on, reading from a three-page epistle that espoused his philosophy on life and design. He was profuse in gratitude toward, among many others, his father-in-law, his children and his parents — who had flown in from Florida, we were told — for leading him down “life’s adventurous road.” And he asked them to stand so they could receive an accolade all their own.

When Ser finally yielded the microphone, relief swept the room at the Regency Biltmore Hotel. But his art director, Edward L. Rubin, was not to be undone.

“If you thought that was long, wait ’til you hear this,” Rubin said, launching into his own routine. There was a collective groan, and most in the audience went back to chatting among themselves.

“Cinderella” beat “Snowden on Ice,” “The 1996-1997 Emmy Awards,” “The 24th Annual American Music Awards” and “The 69th Annual Academy Awards” in the category of best production design for a variety or awards show, music special or documentary.

“Titanic” took the prize for features. Production designer Peter Lamont, no fool he, restricted his remarks to “What can I say but thank you?” He was applauded for his brevity.

Lamont accepted the award on behalf of his team of art directors — Charles Lee, Neil Lamont, Bob Laing, Martin Laing, Steve Lawrence and Hector Romero. The beyond-blockbuster movie sailed past nominees “Amistad,” “Gattaca,” “L.A. Confidential” and “Men in Black.”

“Brooklyn South” won for TV series, besting “Babylon 5,” “Frasier,” “Nothing Sacred” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” The winning show’s production designer, Paul Eads, thanked the art directors’ guild and said it was “particularly a sweet victory to be rewarded by your colleagues and peers.” Eads’ art director was Lee Mayman.

In the category of TV movie or miniseries, “George Wallace” took the honors against “Asteroid,” “Buffalo Soldiers,” “Deep Family Secrets” and “House of Frankenstein 1997.” The “Wallace” production designer, Michael Hanan, was not present. Art directors Charles Lagola and Jay Vetter picked up the award.

The event was emceed by Oscar nominee Robert Forster, who picked up the pace when he could. A lifetime achievement award went to Henry Bumstead, who designed such classics as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Sting” and “Vertigo.” Norman Jewison, director of “Moonstruck,” “And Justice For All” and “In the Heat of the Night,” won an award for outstanding contribution to cinematic imagery.