Medieval Art and the Look of Silent Film

The Influence on Costume and Set Design


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About the Book

The heyday of silent film soon became quaint with the arrival of “talkies.” As early as 1929, critics and historians were writing of the period as though it were the distant past. Much of the literature on the silent era focuses on its filmic art—ambiance and psychological depth, the splendor of the sets and costumes—yet overlooks the inspiration behind these.
This book explores the Middle Ages as the prevailing influence on costume and set design in silent film and a force in fashion and architecture of the era. In the wake of World War I, designers overthrew the artifice of prewar style and manners and drew upon what seemed a nobler, purer age to create an ambiance that reflected higher ideals.

About the Author(s)

Lora Ann Sigler is a professor emerita of art history at California State University. She is a portrait/landscape artist and designer living in San Pedro, California.

Bibliographic Details

Lora Ann Sigler
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 235
Bibliographic Info: 104 photos, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7352-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3441-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
Introduction 5
One—Setting the Stage 7
Two—Staging the Set 43
Three—The Web We Wove 65
Four—The Weave We Wore 103
Five—Taking It to the Seats 122
Six—Living It Up: In the Hills 136
Seven—Keep the Home Buyers Turning 143
Eight—More Play for Less Pay: Women
in Film Production 156
Epilogue: That’s About the Sum of It 173
Appendix A. Mechanization and the Aftereffects of World War I 181
Appendix B. Audrey Munson: The “Girl of Dreams” 184
Appendix C. Purveyors of Fantasy: Erté and Georges Barbier 186
Appendix D. Critical Wit: James Laver 192
Appendix E. Siegfried Kracauer, Lotte Eisner
and the Rise of the Nazis Hypothesis 194
Glossary 197
Chapter Notes 201
Bibliography 215
Index 221

Book Reviews & Awards

• “The book is filled with troves of facts and narratives about early film and peppered with sumptuous fashion plates, photos of architectural masterpieces, and wonderful film stills.”—The Journal of Dress History

• “If instructors want a textbook about the ‘medieval ambience’ in early film, they will be primarily interested in the first half of this book. Others who chiefly wish to know more about the influence of medieval art on fashion and architecture, especially in Hollywood, during this period will connect better with the second half.”—SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

• “Vivid… Persuasive… This is an accessible, informative and engaging study of the continuing allure of medievalism in silent cinema and beyond.”—The European Legacy