Great Furniture in Film
This morning I would like to introduce a new column by grad school chum, Benjamin Marcus. Benjamin has a terrific eye and has spied many great and notable aspects of design in his blog Architecture of Film.
In the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice famed art director Cedric Gibbons and set decorator Paul Groesse serve the beloved novel with all manner of opulent sets, even though the central characters of the Bennet family are not as well-to-do as the haughty Mr. Darcy, of the grander Pemberley Estate. To make the modest means of early 19th century country gentleman Mr. Bennet interesting to theater-goers, and leaven a plot that moves around a lot of talking about relationships, the interiors of the Bennet home are very well detailed. In a scene where the sardonic Mr. Bennet suffers through his badgering, blabbering wife, we are treated to his casual display of a fabulous, multi-purpose seat.
Called a “Metamorphic Library Chair”, this elegant armchair is an iteration of the “Trafalgar Chair”, and features a curved sabre-shaped leg and a concave “tablet” top-rail. But as a novelty to 19th century users, as well as probably, 20th century viewers, the chair unfolds to serve as a 4-step library ladder. Designed in the Regency style, the chair featured brass hinges and a spring-loaded catch, and was part of a nascent movement in manufactured mechanical furniture specific to this era. In fact, that the film takes place in 1835 rather than the book’s original 1813, was a change probably informed by the wish to incorporate such picturesque embellishments, as both fashion and furniture became more elaborate in those latter years. It was a smart move, as the movie’s sets, though shot in black & white, won the Oscar that year. We continue to be delighted even still.