Films without people
GENTLEMEN OF THE PRESS (Millard Webb, 1929) Designed by William Saulter.
When the 1930s movie studio closes for the night, what do the empty sets dream of?
Designing Dreams, Modern Architecture in the Movies by Donald Albrecht reproduces some fantastic stills showing just the sets, actors long fled or not yet arrived. And when Albrecht says “modern,” you can be sure the silent “e” on the end is at least implied. These dreams are deco through and through.
The offices of McGloin Enterprises Inc, from RACKETY RAX, directed by Alfred Werker in 1932 and designed by Gordon Wiles.
One thing that’s great about the book is that it uses not only famous examples like METROPOLIS, or obscure but deserving ones like Marcel L’Herbier’s dazzling LE VERTIGE (giddy modernist decor being very much a favourite L’Herbier trope), but truly unknown Hollywood entries like these, on which spectacular elegance has been lavished even though the movies were destined for the dustbin of film history. Though who knows, they may yet be rediscovered and appreciated anew.
This is from MEN MUST FIGHT, which I previously wrote about here. Directed by Edgar Selwyn in 1933, with Cedric Gibbons as the credited supervisory art director.
Why don’t we live in these films? Or at least in these rooms? Life would be so much more… elegant.