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Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood (Architecture and Film, No. 3) Paperback – April 26, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mandelbaum and Myers take the reader on an entertaining tour of the Hollywood of the 1920s through the '40s, examining the glamour of movie sets, where Art Deco flourished. Opulence in the celluloid fantasy world, they note, was popular with audiences because films created a refuge from the drudgery of their lives and the poverty of the Depression. Cedric Gibbons was the first Hollywood designer "to fully exploit the new Modernist decor" in Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and the trend continued through Busby Berkeley's extravaganzas, reaching its height in the Fred AstaireGinger Rogers collaborations of the '30s. The role of the art director is examined briefly, and mention is made of the influence of the Hollywood-style on society (many stars and directors, acting out public yearnings, lived in mansions modelled after their film dwellings). Mandelbaum is co-author of Flesh and Fantasy; Myers is a motion picture publicist. Photos. Nostalgia Book Club and Movie/Entertainment Book Club selections. December 9
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Hennessey & Ingalls (April 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940512270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940512276
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,748,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on May 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been waiting for a book to come out like this for a long time. It's about time that they recognize that the art deco on the screen is worth looking at. Sure it is outlandish and over done. That is deco though. Yes,if you are wondering, they do touch on the Astaire/Rogers movies. This is also a good thing to buy because you will be able to see which movies have the great deco sets. If thats what you buy movies for, like me.
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Format: Paperback
Screen Deco is a wonderful reference towards the Hollywood films of the late 1920's and into the late 1930's, that richly employed the art deco styles of decoration and design. The most useful part of this book was its rich collection of pictures, accompanied with bibliographies of corresponding films, that will allow any reader to further study art deco in film by watching the referenced movies.

One point that I found to be extremely interesting was the idea that art deco was used to show the ultimate of luxury, within design and decoration. Despite not being rich themselves, audiences devoured films that showed off luxuries that could rarely be afforded, or even imagined, by anyone. In turn, art deco helped to make film an even more visual art, in that, sets could now be designed that exceeded the past expectations or imaginations of the common audiences. Technically, a reckless showing of luxury should alienate audiences, but in this case, it attracted them.

I hate to criticize the art deco movement, because I am very impressed by the contributions it gave us within film and design; however, there are some shortcomings. In fairness, I have not seen the entirety of many of the films that are discussed and referenced within this book - so my judgements are being made based upon film clips and pictures. With that in mind, I feel that the art deco movement did little to change cinematography within films. Because of the sweeping opulence that deco gave to an entire set, it has seemed to have caused most cinematographers to capture all of the opulence in one set frame, instead of dividing it into sets of close-up shots, that could better capture the details within the decoration and acting.

In that way, art deco lent itself to a `wide-angle' sort of existence.
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During the Great Depression, American movie studios embraced the new Art Deco Movement. In a country suffering great economic hardship, Art Deco became symbolic of a modern and more sophisticated way of living. Glamorous Art Deco movie sets gave viewers an inside look into an elegant world they would never experience.

"Screen Deco" is primarily a photobook. It is a collection of beautifully shot photos taken by the movie studios. Most of the images are of movie sets and scenes from films shot during the Great Depression. The authors are essentially photo compilers. There is some analysis but none of it is especially deep. If someone wants to learn something more substantial about the era, I would recommend Donald Albrecht's "Designing Dreams." Albrecht's book does a great job in explaining Hollywood's role in spreading Modernism around the World. In the final analysis, "Screen Deco" is a pleasant book and for those of us who love the Art Deco period. Who can resist yet another photo book?
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When I read a book on set design I expect lots of photos plus an informative narrative and this book delivers all that and more. The photos are dazzling and the text is compelling. All of this at an affordable price for your film library.
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The stars are enough.
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