Movie Sets of the Art Déco Years

The world Hollywood movies projected in the mid-to late 1920s and throughout the 1930s was of lavish, glamorous rooms with sharply defined geometric designs. These movies were inhabited by the likes of Jean Harlow in clinging white satin or Ginger Rogers shedding the fanciful feathers of a ball gown as she danced across a vast black-marble floor and came down what seemed like hundreds of spiraling steps on Fred Astaire’s tuxedoed arm.

Movie star homes of that period often reflected the images on the screen. Magazines published photographs of the grandest of them, among which was the mansion of Hollywood’s top art director, Cedric Gibbons, and his exotic actress wife, Dolores Del Rio. Handsome enough to have been a movie star, Gibbons was head of the art department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. No other art director so greatly imposed his own taste upon the films he designed. We now call it Art Déco, but it was known then as Art Moderne.

One cannot talk about the Art Déco years of the silver screen without including the masterful works of Richard Day (The Dark Angel), William Cameron Menzies (The Thief of Bagdad), Merrill Pye, Anton Grot, Ben Carré, Charles D. Hall and Hans Dreier (who won three Academy Awards—one for 1950’s Sunset Boulevard—in a career that spanned three decades).

When glorious Technicolor gained popularity in the late 1930s, the silver screen came to an end. With the advent of color, Art Déco style slowly went out of fashion, to be revived only in period films or pastiches of the era.

There are many explanations of how Americans survived the Depression—the prevailing one being that they were sustained by their great fortitude and their belief in government. But there is credence to the theory that the innovative art directors of the period are at least in some way responsible. Re-viewing those movies on a classic-movie channel can, in fact, still carry one away to a beautiful world of shimmering silver and clouds of white.

source: Architectural Digest

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3 Responses to “Movie Sets of the Art Déco Years”

  1. Alyssa says:

    So completely dreamy!

  2. Muir Hewitt says:

    Super sets here , I love the sets in Mae West’s best movie I’m No Angel , where she’s sashaying around in the various gowns , particularly spangly sequinned ” Is this a flash or is this a flash?” dress ,  the art deco furniture is fabulous!

  3. Glenn Russell says:

    I am new to your blog, and I am FAST adoring it

    I love old Hollywood films, and with that comes the love of the wonderful sets, production design, music, costumes, —and last but not least the stars. I’ve long admired the sets you included here. Two others that I am particularly fond are both coincidentally from Irene Dunne films.
    The fabulous bachelor apartment of Melvyn Douglas in “Theodora Goes Wild” and the home of Dunne’s character (fictional Broadway star Margaret Garrett) in “The Joy of Living.”

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