Monday, November 3, 2008

MGM studio, Culver City, CA

Stage 26 (center): the set containing the Ruhlmann dressing table is located on the first floor along the southern (back) wall of the building.

View of the interior showing the set and dressing table. The bed is placed along the eastern wall; the table is on the southern wall.

In 1937 Metro Goldwyn Mayer was one of the largest and most successful studios in Hollywood. However, the massive studio was actually located in Culver City, California, about seven miles southwest of Hollywood proper. Situated on the northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Overland Avenue, the studio encompassed over 40 acres of buildings and lots in its heyday. Stage 26 is the building illustrated here, in which Jean Harlow's last movie was being filmed until her untimely death ended production. The front of the building is a brick facade of a three story building with only a ground level inside; this allowed for different genres of films to be shot inside since it was somewhat of a generic shell of a structure. From 1935 to 1937 there was a surge of new construction and renovation occurring at MGM, and this was one of the only locations available to shoot in. The origins of the studio date back to 1915 when Triangle Pictures called it home. In 1924, MGM bought the company and proceeded to build one of the most powerful studios in Hollywood, renown for their bright Technicolor films complete with high priced sets, ornate fixtures, expensive wardrobes, and "more stars than the heavens". With such a boom in business, it is no wonder MGM hired a talented designer to dress the Art Deco set of Cafe Society. Authenticity was not an element to be disregarded, and therefore the sets were lavishly detailed down to placing the right textiles and furniture pieces within. The Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann dressing table was the perfect addition to the bedroom for Jean Harlow's enigmatic debutante character. In a film intended to exploit the riches and splendor of the wealthy during the Great Depression, it is apropos that such a fine piece of furniture be incorporated.


Author's note: this is entirely fictional, meant for illustrative purposes only.

Similar to: Prince Gong's mansion. Like the rambling hills, valleys, mountains, and caves of the Prince's estate, the studio is made of many components within a large tract of acreage. The studio has a variety of buildings, landscape sets, and storage facilities similar to the living quarters, gardens, and workplaces of the Prince's mansion.

Contrasts with: Farm House 1900-2000. The ancestral Farm House belonging to the Stanford family, handed down generation after generation, is a stark contrast to the quickly erected and as easily torn down movie set
for Cafe Society. While the house is intended to be a permanent, steadfast structure that will incur improvements and maintenance over many decades, the movie set is wholeheartedly temporary, with little thought about its ability to be sustained for more than a few months. The interiors are also polar opposites, with the simplistic style of the Farm house suggesting a comforting, family-style setting, while the film set is decidedly luxurious and heavily themed in the Art Deco style.

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