Monday, October 13, 2008

A space for Ruhlmann's dressing table

On the set of Cafe Society [1937]

Jean Harlow's last film,
Cafe Society, was left incomplete due to her untimely death at the age of 26. The footage that remains exhibits a beautiful Art Deco environment epitomizing the luxury of the age. The set for the bedroom in particular emphasized Art Deco's instantly recognizable features: sweeping curves, ornate wallpapers, and pools of shimmering fabrics. Most noticeable about this bedroom is the curvilinear form exaggerated by the stepped moulding on the ceiling. A floor-to-ceiling tufted satin panel creates an elegant divider between rooms. Lush carpet adds to the luxuriousness of the space that film goers during the Great Depression would associate with the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Art Deco style. Near the satin-draped bed is Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann's quintessentially Deco dressing table. In contrast to the silvery-blue color scheme of the room's textiles, the rich woods and ebony surface of the dressing table anchor the small niche between two windows. With an eye for detail, the designer included bedside tables with ebony inlaid surfaces flanking both sides of the bed to echo the ebony of the dressing table. Since the set only required a minimal amount of walls to convey a sense of being in a real room, only a few furniture pieces were used. It is apparent that quality and attention to detail were not overlooked even for a movie set. The style of Hollywood's Golden Age has been captured as an equally exquisite moment in Art Deco design that is forever preserved on film.

Similar to: The Peacock Sconce in a space. Also nestled between two windows, the peacock sconce hints at Art Nouveau styling. It is rich in detail, just like Ruhlmann's dressing table. The space in which the sconce was placed is similar to the movie set, as it does not have an overabundance of furniture. The two spaces seem to have just enough artifacts in them to let the objects become the focal points.

Contrasts with: National Gallery featuring Calder's sculptural mobile. The wide expanse of space required to house Calder's mobile is in stark contrast with the set design where the dressing table was placed. The rectilinear forms of the Gallery are quite dissimilar to the curving lines of the Art Deco style room; also the Gallery has multiple levels for viewing the mobile. The movie set is quite two-dimensional in feeling.

Jean Harlow filmography at:

dressing table found at:

bedroom inspiration found at:

author's note: Jean Harlow did not ever film or collaborate with a movie titled "Cafe Society". This article is a fictional story for illustrative purposes only.

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