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Art Deco films

Related: Art Deco - silent films

Art Deco films: Aelita (1924) - Metropolis (1927) - The Black Cat (1934) - Things to Come (1936)

Grauman's Egyptian Theatre (openened in 1922)
image sourced here.

Egyptian revival style which was very popular during the Art Deco era. The Art Deco era was the era of silent films.


Art Deco was the leading stylistic trend of the 1920s and 1930s which is also the golden age of cinema. Art deco was not only celebrated on the screen but also in movie theatres. Most of the purposely built cinemas of that era included art deco elements. [Feb 2006]

Designing Women (2003) - Lucy Fischer

In search of art deco in cinema

Designing Women (2003) - Lucy Fischer [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"Lucy Fischer's book is fueled by love... and enlivened by her zest for finding and analyzing the presence of Art Deco in unlikely places. Her research is meticulous.... This book is a very entertaining investigation of a style still much loved today." -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Friendly to the general reader...It's hard not to be charmed...It's an extremely stimulating red." -- The Sophisticate

"A beautiful, and beautifully illustrated, book that is a real pleasure to read. Indeed, rarely has a feminist-inspired study of film exhibited so much pure pleasure. The chapter on Art Deco and the Movie Musical is a sheer delight." -- Linda Williams, University of California, Berkeley

"From the pages of women's magazines to the salons and counters of department stores to the set design of Hollywood films, the Art Deco style moderne was used to market modernity and elegance. In Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco, and the Female Form, Lucy Fischer uses her personal attraction to the Deco style -- a collecting urge that fuels her scholarship -- to revisit the pages and films of the past with an analytic ardor. Fischer examines the figuration of a female body in Deco-infused cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, housewares, furniture, graphic design, fashion shows, and architecture. Designing Women offers a vivid contribution to the study of American material culture -- its surfaces and effects -- and the female consumers who fell under its spell." -- Anne Friedberg, associate professor of film and visual studies, University of California, Irvine

Grand, sensational, and exotic, Art Deco design was above all modern, exemplifying the majesty and boundless potential of a newly industrialized world. From department store window dressings to the illustrations in the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs to the glamorous pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazar, Lucy Fischer documents the ubiquity of Art Deco in mainstream consumerism and its connection to the emergence of the "New Woman" in American society. Fischer argues that Art Deco functioned as a trademark for popular notions of femininity during a time when women were widely considered to be the primary consumers in the average household, and as the tactics of advertisers as well as the content of new magazines such as Good Housekeeping and the Woman's Home Companion increasingly catered to female buyers. While reflecting the growing prestige of the modern woman, Art Deco-inspired consumerism helped shape the image of femininity that would dominate the American imagination for decades to come.

In films of the middle and late 1920s, the Art Deco aesthetic was at its most radical. Female stars such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Myrna Loy donned sumptuous Art Deco fashions, while the directors Cecil B. DeMille, Busby Berkeley, Jacques Feyder, and Fritz Lang created cinematic worlds that were veritable Deco extravaganzas. But the style soon fell into decline, and Fischer examines the attendant taming of the female role throughout the 1930s as a growing conservatism challenged the feminist advances of an earlier generation. Progressively muted in films, the Art Deco woman—once an object of intense desire—gradually regressed toward demeaning caricatures and pantomimes of unbridled sexuality. Exploring the vision of American womanhood as it was portrayed in a large body of films and a variety of genres, from the fashionable musicals of Josephine Baker, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to the fantastic settings of Metropolis, The Wizard of Oz, and Lost Horizon, Fischer reveals America's long standing fascination with Art Deco, the movement's iconic influence on cinematic expression, and how its familiar style left an indelible mark on American culture.

Contents Introduction: A Method to My Madness
1.The Art Deco Style: Modernity and the Feminine
2.Counter Culture: Art Deco, Consumerism, and the Department Store
3.Design for Living: Marketing Art Deco to Women
4.Film Melodrama: Greta Garbo as Art Deco Icon
5.Art Deco and the Movie Musical
6.Strangers in Paradise: South Seas Films of the Art Deco Era
7.Architectural Exoticism and the Art Deco Picture Palace
8.Madame Satan: Fantasy, Art Deco, and the Femme Fatale

About the Author
Lucy Fischer is director of the film studies program and professor of English and film at the University of Pittsburgh, and a former president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. She is the author of Sunrise; Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre; and Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women's Cinema.

The image of woman is ubiquitous in Art Deco design - in sculptures, pottery, glassware, jewelry and lamps. Lucy Fischer argues that Art Deco style became a kind of "trademark" for the modern woman of the era. Moreover, the Art Deco woman, as screen protagonist, was at her most radical in the mid- to late-1920s, as embodied by actresses such as Greta Garbo or, notably, Brigitte Helm, who played both the authentic and the replicant (robot) Maria in Fritz Lang's 1926 German silent film classic "Metropolis", which Fischer calls a "Deco extravaganza". But throughout the 1930s, the female figure became progressively more muted and tamed in both the musical and the exotic adventure epic, while in the fantasy film, it became associated with perversity. Meanwhile, just as in the wider culture, a growing conservatism questioned the feminist advances of an earlier generation. Fischer situates the Art Deco movement within the dynamics of American consumerism, revealing how its appeal to women was used to sell cosmetics, clothing, home furnishings, jewellery and objets d'art. She also investigates its implications for the star system. The book examines a large body of film work, from a variety of genres, in terms of set and costume design as well as narrative structure, and extends its conception of the cinematic "text" beyond the screen to the realm of movie theatre design. --via Amazon.co.uk

Screen Deco () - Howard Mandelbaum, Eric Myers

  • Screen Deco () - Howard Mandelbaum, Eric Myers [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Mandelbaum and Myers take the reader on an entertaining tour of the Hollywood of the 1920s through the '40s, examining the glamour of movie sets, where Art Deco flourished. Opulence in the celluloid fantasy world, they note, was popular with audiences because films created a refuge from the drudgery of their lives and the poverty of the Depression. Cedric Gibbons was the first Hollywood designer "to fully exploit the new Modernist decor" in Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and the trend continued through Busby Berkeley's extravaganzas, reaching its height in the Fred AstaireGinger Rogers collaborations of the '30s. The role of the art director is examined briefly, and mention is made of the influence of the Hollywood-style on society (many stars and directors, acting out public yearnings, lived in mansions modelled after their film dwellings). Mandelbaum is co-author of Flesh and Fantasy; Myers is a motion picture publicist. December 9 Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc., amazon.com

    Long sought-after in the out-of-print market, SCREEN DECO is a witty and detailed look at the fabulous Art Deco designs in the films of the Twenties and Thirties. Lavishly illustrated with stills from movies famous and obscure, SCREEN DECO appeals to the film historian as well as anyone interested in the rise of High Style Deco. Chapters cover, among other topics, the design of musicals, ocean liners, and futurist cinematic epics. The final chapter presents portraits of the stars who personified the Deco "look." --Book Description

    Source: http://www.artdeconw.org/screendeco.htm

    Screen Deco

    Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers
    Hennessy and Ingalls: Santa Monica, CA

    Reviewed by: Walt Sonnenstuhl, ADSNW

    This book presents us with a great historical perspective of Art Deco films. The Black and white photos are dramatic, and reflect the sets and backgrounds of the movies of the Art Deco period. The best way to review this book is to touch on the main chapters, and highlight the text and major films of the time.

    When I first opened Screen Deco one of the 1st pictures to catch my eye was Paradise for Three (1938) showing Frank Morgan (later to become the wizard in The Wizard of Oz (1939)) tuning a magnificent Scott Radio. In the early ‘50s I had the pleasure of working on one just like it and it too was not in a cabinet.

    This Modern Age: Introduction

    The first Art Deco Film, from France, was Le Carnival Des Verites (1919). The country was slow to warm to Art Deco, but William Randolf Hearst’s Production Enchantment (1921) starring Marion Davis was the first American movie to utilize modern décor. Americans were slow to accent Deco in their homes, but welcomed it in the movies.

    The Rich are Always With Us: Parlor, Bedroom and Bath Cedric Gibbons, the supervising Art Director of MGM and married to actress Delores DelRio) attended the 1925 Exposition Des Artes Decoratifs Et Industriels Modernes in Paris, and shaped his Art Deco Style in movies. His landmark film Our Dancing Daughters (1928) depicted a dream world of the well-to-do as did many of the Deco films.

    Success and Any Price: Places of Business With the number of Art Deco skyscrapers being built in the ‘20s and ‘30s, quite a few movies used them for backdrops and interiors. Citizen Kane (1941) used the coldness of Deco.

    New York Nights: Nightclubs: By the early ‘30s some of the greatest Art Deco clubs appeared but most of the movie sets of clubs were had no real-life equivalent.

    Transatlantic Merry-Go-Rounds: Ocean Liners: Many of the French Ocean Liners’ interiors were decorated in Art Deco, but few were used in Deco films. Two notable French films using the Ocean Liner Normandie were Les Perles de la couronne and Paris-New York (1940). The authors suggest other Art Deco liners would have been ideal for motion pictures, but the closet these ships came to Hollywood was New York. They go on to say, “Hollywood chose to design its own ocean liner interiors within its studios, and exteriors could always be filmed at the harbor in nearby San Pedro.” Ocean liners were perceived by the general public as sleek symbols of the Machine Age, and Hollywood was more than willing to promote this image.

    Go Into Your Dance: Musicals and Extravaganzas: The best of the Deco musicals/extravaganzas would be the Astaire-Rogers series, such as Top Hat(1935) and the Busby Berekely’s Films, such as Gold Diggers of 1933, and 42nd Street (1933).

    Just Imagine: Fantasy and Futurism: The futuristic style of Art Deco fit well with Science Fiction type movies. Things to Come (1936) were one of the best as it goes into the far future. This is my personal favorite. I saw it many years before I was aware of the term Art Deco. I have always loved Science Fiction films. I am amazed there weren’t 100s of Deco Science Fiction movies being made.

    This book traces Deco movies from 1919 to 1941. Thanks to the movies of the ‘20s, ‘30s Art Deco became more familiar to the public. Hollywood helped propagate Art Deco. The book is filled with 100s of spectacular black and white pictures and I particularly liked the ‘Set Test Stills, which were pictures of the sets without actors. It would be interesting to see a follow-up book of the 2 color Technicolor movies made in the late ‘20s and ‘30s. The two colors used in this process were peach and turquoise, two very Art Deco color.

    Screen Deco and Forties Screen Style together provide us with a glimpse of Hollywood and also a feeling of what life was like, both in reality and fantasy. This remains true today in our films.

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