Cover to Vogue Magazine by George Plank
Art Deco and Film
"...although modernistic set designs and architecture had featured in avante-garde European films throughout the 1920s, it was not until towards the end of the decade that Art Deco began to enter the stylistic vocabulary of American film-makers. The Art Deco idiom in film, however, tended to carry negative associations, as in the use of Modernist or modernistic surroundings as a sign for the sinister (this was an inheritance from European cinema, from such films as Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine and Fritz Lang's Metropolis). Robert Mallet-Stevens was one of the keenest European Modernists to promote visual modernity in the cinema, but in his 1928 book Le Decor moderne au cinema, he lamented that the style was used 'exclusively for places of debaucher: night-clubs or boudoirs of the demi-monde, which would allow one to suppose that the admirable efforts and researches of painters, decorators, and architects are good to surround drunkards or those of ill-repute."
In American cinema, Art Deco kept its disturbing edge. It was used to display the decadence of independent women (Greta Garbo in The Single Standard, Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight) or exotic bathrooms (Dynamite, 1929) and bedrooms (The Easiest Way, 1931), while Paul Fejos used stylistic sunbursts and a giant skyscraper mural to create a zig-zag Art Deco interior to the night-club in his 1929 film Broadway. In addition to suggesting hedonistic luxury, the style was used in industrial or big-business settings to symbolize financial power, the male world of work, and often the perceived unsuitability of women in such an environment (Big Business Girl, 1931 and Female, 1933).
Nevertheless, the use of the style as material expression of luxury , even though a decadent one, would have helped establish Art Deco in the hearts and minds of the vast movie-going American public. Women's magazines regularly provided patterns enabling readers to copy the fashionable dress of their favorite film stars, suggesting that cinema was an important taste-maker, providing inspirational role models for its audience. But it was the environment in which these movies were shown which, as much as the films themselves, enhanced the exotic allure of the luxury and decadence of Art Deco. It was inside these buildings that architects of the period could indulge themselves and their public in an orgy of decorative excess. In many theatres, the audience were required to suspend their sense of reality and belief for the building as well as for the film."
From the Book Art Deco Style, by Bevis Hillier and Stephen Escriptt, pages 72-73. Published by Phaidon Press, 1997.
Art Deco Architecture
The Bacardi Building in Havana, Cuba
The architects were Esteban Rodriguez Castell, Rafael Fernandez Ruenes, and Jose Menendez Menendez. Built 1930.
From photo 36 of the book.
By Hans Engel
Published 1999 by Prestel
This is a beautiful book, chock full of photographs of aged (and often decrepit) buildings from the heyday of Art Deco. Havana is like a showplace museum of 20th century architecture that shuddered to a stop after the Castro dictatorship got started in 1959. The architectural construction that has happened since then (that I have seen in photographs) seems to be big Soviet style concrete buildings, excepting the hotels that have been built since Cuba opened up (slightly) in the 1990s for tourism. Neither of these latter two styles make any showing in this book of photography, instead it is a catalog of history and atmosphere captured by Hans Engel's lens.
Amazon.com link for the book here.
Suitable for any library or two-story home
Art Deco Staircase from a 1930s Hollywood Musical
Deco design of 1930 by Oliver Bernard
[Above] The foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel in London, deco design of 1930 by Oliver Bernard. From the book Decorative Thirties by Martin Battersby, published by Walker and Company, New York, 1971, page 46.
Friday, June 29, 2007
ART DECO ON FRIDAY
[Below] A 1925 poster by F. C. Ferrick.
HOLLYWOOD DECO GOTHIC
[Above] Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff from the 1934 movie "Black Cat." The movie is a time capsule of early thirties deco excess, though with the emphasis all on the dark side of the style.
Larger image at comicbookbrain.com
The laboratory from the 1935 Universal Film Bride of Frankenstein
Art Deco Style
by Bevis Hillier and Stephen Escritt,
[Above] Boutique in the deco style from the book Art Deco Style by Bevis Hillier and Stephen Escritt, Phaidon Books 1997.
[Above] A bathroom at the Claridge Hotel, London around 1930. From the book Art Deco Style by Bevis Hillier and Stephen Escritt, Phaidon Books 1997.
The stylization of deco is still with us, as it has influenced so many art and fashion design trends since the original heyday of the 1920s and 30s. The best deco combines function with the deco emphasis on line. The worst aspects of deco - - while still pretty to the eye in many cases - - is where the deco linework or shape contradicts the function of the object. In the two photos above, certainly the boutique is jammed so tightly with the main point (advertising the store physcially, and physically advertising a certain design sense of what probably lay within) that it is a complete success. The bathroom is less so, though it still functions quite well as a place for human rest and an opportunity to admire the surroundings, and hopefully relax as needed.
ART DECO THURSDAY
Sculpture by Lee Lawrie at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. The complex of art deco themed buildings was begun around 1930, and completed in 1939.
ART DECO THURSDAY
Original Page Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | Updated July 2013
Cover to Vogue Magazine by George Plank