Depopulated Deco


A set built for the Greta Garbo vehicle THE SINGLE STANDARD.

As previously noted, films without people exert a strange fascination. These pictures, taken to record sets for continuity purposes, acquire an eerie power. They resemble cinematic crime scenes, only here they’re snapped before the crime has taken place. Clairvoyance must be involved. One thinks of Michael Redgrave’s collection of “felicitous rooms” in SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR, rooms where something was destined to happen.


From HONOLULU, 1939, credited to Cedric Gibbons, with art direction by Edwin B. Willis.

One might say that these rooms are awaiting the arrival of stars to give them meaning. Yet some of them are so lovely, they’re perfect as they are. Placing George Brent in any of them would result in no great increase of interest, but maybe that’s just George Brent for you.


ENCHANTMENT, a 1929 Marion Davies movie designed by Joseph Urban.

All images are from Screen Deco by Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers, which my friend Travis Reeves reminded me of. Taking photos of empty sets is a job I’d like. I have no particular skills to bring to the task, but I’d discipline myself.

decosinglestandard1THE SINGLE STANDARD again. Cedric Gibbons, of course, is the man chiefly responsible.

3 Responses to “Depopulated Deco”

  1. I can understand the desire to live in rooms like this. Being that my house was built in 1938, it has some Deco and Moderne architectural touches and fixtures, and the original flooring in the kitchen was so Deco I was sad it couldn’t be saved or replicated.

  2. There are quite a few deco buildings scattered about Scotland, and Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh had some influence on the style. But as I look around the debris of my home, I realize that I might, when I become a millionaire, have to consider a style more suited to clutter.

  3. I see a McMansion in your future, then.

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