Houses and Movies (Architecture and Architects on film)

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Houses and Movies (Architecture and Architects on film)

Postby SDR » Sat Apr 09, 2005 3:56 pm

Apropos of recent discussion of modern residences that have appeared in movies, old and new ("The Incredibles," "North by Northwest"), and without searching, initially, for any previous discission of the topic, I raise the question of how modern architecture -- especially but not exclusively, modern houses -- has been used in the movies, and what message if any was communicated by the choice of setting.

(I spent considerable time yesterday Googling "North by Northwest" in hopes of finding a still or a clip that would show villain Vandamm's South Dakota residence, without success (references, anyone?) -- though I did find some nifty shots of Cary Grant and two (refined) "heavies" in their nice, dark suits. I'll post the link over on Matt Decker's apparel thread.)

Here is a paragraph or two from Alan Hess's "John Lautner":

"This instantly accessible aspect of Lautner's work is exemplified by the repeated use of his keynote houses in popular films. . .Lautner's moody, mysterious and otherworldly houses haunt the movies and television, those mass dreams of popular culture; he may be the most famous unknown architect in America. The movies reflect a few broad ideas about his designs. In the James Bond movie "Diamonds are Forever" (1971), the Elrod house is the home of a billionaire recluse. The concrete walls project it as a fortress; its sybaritic modernity gives it a decadent edge, reflecting the danger of living at the edge. Its modern art and furniture, along with the go-go girl/guards Bambi and Thumper, mark it as the complete space-age bachelor pad. . .

"The Garcia house is used in "Lethal Weapon II" (1989) as the home of the villain. Sleek, ostentatious wealth is darkly represented in designs which step out of the norm, which evade the restrictions most of us live by. The same approach, though a less sinister tone, is taken in the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski" (1998), a film which takes Googie as a design theme; it exaggerates the decadence of modern design by turning the Sheats/Goldstein house into the home of a wealthy pornographer. Its lush landscaping, luxurious forms, and sumptuous simplicity flaunt the success of an individualistic, free-thinking entrepreneur. Using Lautner architecture as a moral lesson linking modernism to decadence echoes the real-life attack on modern design by polite Oak Park society when it stigmatized Frank Lloyd Wright for leaving his first wife and family for Mamah Cheney and Taliesin East [sic]. Other movies vary in their degree of approval of those living unconventional lifestyles in unconventional architecture. Silvertop appears in a minor role in "Less than Zero" (1987) as the home of a wealthy though stable family, the calm eye of a whirlwind society of drugs and fame. In "The Simpson's" television show (c 1994) a cartoon Chemosphere is the home of has-been movie actor Troy McClure, and in Brian de Palma's "Body Double" (1984) it is turned into another space-age bachelor pad with a rotating circular bed.The pleasure dome becomes a high-flying observation post for a murder; from its windows you can see all of Los Angeles, but even from this god's-eye viewpoint you can't trust what you see.

". . .Ironically the reality of the Malin house was far from the assumed swinging lifestyle of "Body Double"; it was designed for a family with growing children, who lived there happily for twelve years. . ."

Any thoughts, examples, recommendations, etc?

Bender

~ 05-04-08 futura added architecture to the title to make it easier to search for
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The...

Postby modfan » Sat Apr 09, 2005 7:14 pm

House in North By Northwest was made on a stage set, it never exists in reality-there was a discussion and link on here somewhere. I have been to Mt. Rushmore-the road winds behind the faces so the real estate is quite small no real room for a house and airstrip as presented in the movie, plus that area is fenced off and not publicly accessible (I guess for that very reason as presented at the near end of the movie) BTW the scene where Cary Grant was in the middle of a some corn fields and then gets buzzed by a plane that was filmed in the San Joaquin Valley around Hanford/Corcoran.

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Postby SDR » Sat Apr 09, 2005 7:28 pm

Right -- I assumed it was a combination of a matte painting (the long shot), an exterior set (of the portion where Grant climbs up a diagonal support), and an interior (?) which I don't recall at all. The other building of interest, also a set, I presume -- I found a couple of shots on one of the dozens (!) of sites out there -- namely, the Lodge at Mt Rushmore, with fake random ashlar stonework and large-scale wood window framing, without glass, in the background. Come to think of it, there were a couple of interiors with a more realistic, Wrightian stonework showing -- maybe those were the house interior set?

Another movie with a house -- which some claimed was a real Wright! -- that gets blown up, is "Zabriskie Point" (Antonioni). I saw this only once, when it was new. I'd love to see again what that house looked like. . .

Thanks -- SDR
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That house

Postby modfan » Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:35 am

Seemed more 'fake' than the Nbnw movie house

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Re: Houses and Movies

Postby moderns-r-us » Mon Apr 11, 2005 7:40 am

SDR wrote:Here is a paragraph or two from Alan Hess's "John Lautner":

"This instantly accessible aspect of Lautner's work is exemplified by the repeated use of his keynote houses in popular films. . .Lautner's moody, mysterious and otherworldly houses haunt the movies and television, those mass dreams of popular culture; he may be the most famous unknown architect in America. The movies reflect a few broad ideas about his designs. In the James Bond movie "Diamonds are Forever" (1971), the Elrod house is the home of a billionaire recluse. The concrete walls project it as a fortress; its sybaritic modernity gives it a decadent edge, reflecting the danger of living at the edge. Its modern art and furniture, along with the go-go girl/guards Bambi and Thumper, mark it as the complete space-age bachelor pad. . .


I just saw "Diamonds are Forever" this weekend on one of the HBOs. It was very cool seeing the Lautner designed house in the movie. Not the highest production values for a Bond movie, but fun to watch anyway.

There was another cool modern home in the movie where Bond and the female lead find a body in the pool. This occurs after the Circus Circus scene. Anybody know the story of that house?

Off topic a little here, but Ford must have paid dearly for the rights to place all the automobiles in the movie. Try to find any other make in the film. In one overhead shot of the Las Vegas casino parking lot the entire parking lot is full of Fords. Bond goes to the Hertz rental agency and rents a red-orange '71 Mustang.

As far as Modern homes in the movies, they almost always are the homes of the villains or some other alternative lifestyle.

One of the few recent exceptions that I can think of is the movie "One Hour Photo" in which the suburban family lives in a pretty cool modern home. The father was a designer or architect or something. Some might call that an "alternative lifestyle."

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Postby nichols » Mon Apr 11, 2005 10:02 am

A great discussion of the "North by Northwest" house with photos from our friends at Jetset Modern:

http://www.jetsetmodern.com/modatmovies.htm

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Postby SDR » Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:19 am

Thanks so much, Mssrs Nichols and Jestsetmodern!

While I'm not sure if the primary structural effect of the house qualifies as a "cantilever" -- it is, at least, a diagonally braced projection -- I can say it's a virtually unique visual image, among the many many mentally cataloged over the years. And it's a completely logical one, as well. . .

The diagonals are referred to as being of steel; I seem to remember wood in the close-ups of Thornhill climbing them to gain access to the house. But I've been mistaken many times before. . .

Anybody?

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Re: Houses and Movies

Postby MD² » Tue Jun 28, 2005 12:38 pm

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Postby SDR » Tue Jun 28, 2005 12:59 pm

Sounds good to me -- but others will have to propose the correct or appropriate location for such threads. My motto is: the more accessible information, the better. I over-inform consistenty (and correct when I or others have mis-informed, when possible) because decisions are based on information. Let others weed out what they can use!

By the way, I seem to be credited above with the words of Alan Hess (see further above), as a result of MD's "quoting a quote with quotes in it" ! No harm done -- as long as this correction is noted. Thanks for the links, too -- my other motto is "the more links, the merrier."

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Postby SDR » Tue Jun 28, 2005 7:51 pm

Cool details from the Elrod house -- there's no such thing as too many pictures; you always see something new. In this case, three views not to be found elsewhere.

I continue to be amazed and gratified at the daring of butt-glazing accomplished at a time when it was almost unheard of. Who knows what they were using for sealant before silicone came along. (What would Wright's boys have been using, in the thirties -- and earlier?)

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Postby MD² » Tue Jun 28, 2005 10:13 pm

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In the sequence of pics....

Postby modfan » Wed Jun 29, 2005 6:35 am

There's one of the views outside of the Elrod House-you can really tell how much Palm Springs has changed-it shows desert and a manufactured housing park in the views and now all that desert is urbanized.

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Postby moderns-r-us » Wed Jun 29, 2005 6:45 am

Watch the Bond movie and you will be even more amazed!

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Postby SDR » Wed Jun 29, 2005 10:24 am

Wow -- there's nothing like dozens of photos (movie stills?) to begin to address (undress?) a structure. Thanks, MD

While I'm a big proponent of minimalism, including the elimination of extraneous detail like handrails -- that exterior pool stair is (was?) a considerable hazard, no? I see you mention (and I can see?) an added stair rail. . .it's the wetness/slipperyness issue that raises the hair on my neck, I guess!

Anyway -- fantastic house, and a major kudo(s?) for the pics. Again, I would love to be apprised of new links as they appear. . .all "labors of love" should be encouraged, not to say exploited and enjoyed!

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Postby SDR » Tue Aug 09, 2005 4:48 pm

Having diligently searched the forum for references to the "Brady Bunch" house, I find only brief mentions -- and most would say "what did you expect?"

I had never seen the program, until a local station recently began showing re-runs -- and I've just seen a long shot of the exterior, to complete my impression of what they were trying for. The house appears to be a run-of-the-mill 'Like-ler' [?] -- but with a steeper roof and a two-story bulk, showing a couple of ordinary windows, a darkish body with lighter fascia and beams, and no evident garage, to the street.

In the back yard are seen a concrete-block wall and some wooden fencing. The interior is of most interest; here we have quite a bit of both red brick AND fieldstone [Architecture with a Vengeance?], a step-down from the entry, with its signature open-riser stair and heavy wood handrail on slender steel balusters -- the most-mentioned element, which I find curiously over-scaled, like something intended for a commercial building. And in the kitchen, there are dark olive wood panelling and cabinetry, with orange formica counters and splashes.

Have I left anything out? Who designed this, and when, exactly?

(It must have been heaven, having a nanny-maid forever handing around cups of coffee and cooing at the children, like we're at Denny's instead of at home. . .!)

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Postby Dirt Diva » Tue Aug 09, 2005 6:19 pm

Does anyone know anything about the neighborhood in the movie "Three Wishes"? I've watched the movie many times just to see the houses, although the cars and clothes the characters wear are pretty cool too!
I'm unable to tell if the houses are real or if the street is a set. Any information would be appreciated!
Thanks kids! :)

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Postby Tony » Tue Aug 09, 2005 7:27 pm

Another film worth seeing is The Black Cat, with Karloff & Lugosi. The primary set is great International Style house. Just fast forward to get to the house, you won't miss anything.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024894/

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Postby SDR » Tue Aug 09, 2005 8:10 pm

Thank you so much! I had portions of the dialog of that movie memorized when I was 16 or so; what wasn't to like: Karloff, Lugosi, modern architecture, and good music, including Bach (then and ever my favorite).

Some years later, it was shown at a private gathering; people howled at lines like ". . .Supernatural, perhaps. . .boloney, perhaps not. There are many things. . .under the sun!" But not me -- I was still hooked.

Ribbon windows lighted, a silhouette against a stormy night sky.

The sliding front door bounces open a little, after being closed by the silent servant. The water in the big clear glass hand basin reflects the light, shimmering. . .the stairs; the eggcrate wall, backlighted. Karloff's silk dressing gown, belted at the waist. The lever handles on the doors' brushed stainless bands.

David Manners, to his bride: "How could you do anything that wasn't entirely lovely. . .?"

"You did this to her! I followed the two of you, to Spain, to South America, and finally here! Where is she??"

"We will play a little game, Vitus, you and me. . .a game of death, if you like. . ."

"I'm sorry, sir, the car is out of commission. It will take some time to repair it. . ."

"The phone is dead, Vitus. . .even the phone. . .is dead."

"It's the red switch. . .isn't it, Hjalmar? The red switch. . .ignites. . . the dynamite. . .!"


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Postby SDR » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:07 pm

I'm not creeping you out, am I?


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Re: the 'Brady House' and '3 Wishes'

Postby modfan » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:46 pm

Do an image search on Google and you will find info. on it. (I think it may be on the 1147-The Bewitched website-or a link perhaps). It is a real house, and there is a fence around it as tourists still take pictures, I think they added a fake gable to it for the tv show. It's I think a 2 br, 2ba house at I think Dilling and Klump in Studio City, it's the last house on the street before the street dead ends at the LA River. I saw it once on some tv show about the stars of 'Married w/Children' the person who played Marcy used (and may still) live north up the street on Klump. A 'floor plan' is one of those featured in that book that someone wrote about floor plans of TV homes-don't remember the exact title or author but was able to browse thru it.

Do a search on '3 Wishes' on this bbs-there was some discussion on it, but seemed to me it was unresolved as to whether it was a real housing tract or not. I'll guess not as if it were real it would look less 'new' when it was being filmed unless the studio had the mega bucks to totally fix up and relandscape an entire housing tract to look 'late 1950's new'.

BTW as an aside in the movie 'Ray' I think they used one of the actual houses Ray Charles owned in View Park it's near 'Northridge and Southridge' streets, and has not been totally HD bastardized-it's still in pretty good modern condition.

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The Brady Bunch house

Postby modfanatic » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:53 pm

See the following for details:

http://www.bigwaste.com/photos/ca/brady_bunch/

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Postby SDR » Wed Aug 10, 2005 7:23 am

Thank you both -- and welcome, modfanatic !

That's a pretty hideous fence -- but I can see why they'd need it. . .

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another movie house

Postby modfan » Wed Aug 10, 2005 7:56 am

mentioned when I clicked on a link elsewhere on here about Venice.
The house Sandra Bullock lived in the 'The Net' isn't actually on a canal.
It's a rather non descript house that looks as tho it's been added onto.
It's almost in MDR (county terriotory) it' right next to one of the roads that goes to Washington Bl. but the name of the street escapes me at the moment.

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Postby Tony » Wed Aug 10, 2005 9:38 am

SDR,

Nice to see someone as obsessive as I about film & architecture!

I should also mention Jaques Tati's Mon Oncle. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050706/ The Villa Arpel is just a fantastic parody of Corbusier.

And who could forget Casa Morbius from Forbidden Planet? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050706/ Certainly the most "lautnerian" of any SF film set.

Tony

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Postby SDR » Wed Aug 10, 2005 10:36 am

I don't see much of Casa Morbius at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049223/ except for a shot into an office, past two walls adorned with starburst light fixtures (?) -- but I vaguely recall the qualities of the house -- including a desert-like (PB?) environment, and a shaded entry (breezeway? portico?) into the house. . .

The "Black Cat" site has someone claiming that the sets were built for $1500 (?) -- even then, that seems hard to believe; the steel stair (a "practical" feature) was a work of art and craft, surely. . .and not unlike one appearing later in "The Fountainhead" if I recall correctly. . .I suppose you have that book on architecture in the movies? I don't. A sketch for a set (or matte painting?) for Fountainhead -- a patterned drive leading to a dramatically cantilevered second-floor room -- has been published in various places.

Another book I've seen, with a page on "TBC," claims that Karloff hated playing the "heavy" in this movie (in any movie?) and would say, on the set, "Here comes the boogie-man. . ." I filled pages of a sketchbook with heavy ball-point drawings of Karloff's face as Poelzig, trying to get that ominous glare "down". . .the whole thing just entranced me.

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Postby nichols » Wed Aug 10, 2005 10:50 am


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Postby MD² » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:59 pm

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Postby Dirt Diva » Wed Aug 10, 2005 3:13 pm

Thank you Sir Nichols re Three Wishes link! :D

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Postby nichols » Wed Aug 10, 2005 5:44 pm

Did anyone see
THE ISLAND?

Far out CGI imagery of downtown Los Angeles in 2025. Lots of new hi-rises and every building has cell phone towers grafted on top and there are cable cars in the sky... Neato

Image

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Postby Dirt Diva » Wed Aug 10, 2005 5:52 pm

That picture is a couple of blocks from my office. I'll try to catch the movie to see the local sights circa 2025. Thanks!


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