Recommended Reading by matthew c. hoffman

The Park Ridge Public Library’s 2012 Screen Deco program is primarily an architectural film series– with a lot of pre-Code sex thrown in. When I did the Forbidden Cinema series last year, one of the nicest comments I received was from a patron who said it was like attending a college lecture for free. If I were to make this a college course, these two books would be the assigned reading:

Screen Deco: A Celebration of High Style in Hollywood (1985) by Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers is the inspiration for this film series. The book contains outstanding film stills related to Art Deco in film. But it is also supported by text that gives an entertaining, very fun overview of that period in Hollywood. This is a must for any fan of cinema from the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve already read it twice, and it’s one of my favorite books about Hollywood.


Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies (1986) by Donald Albrecht is exactly the kind of book I would find in a college bookstore. Albrecht writes extensively about Modernism in European and American cinema. His text goes into more detail about the actual elements of Modernism in Hollywood set design. There is only minor overlap in text, which makes this a wonderful companion piece to Screen Deco. There is also a useful filmography that lists films containing elements of Modernism.


A very good overview of art direction in Hollywood is Designs On Film (2010), which includes sections on many of the art directors associated with Art Deco.


Though not a film book, I would also recommend the following to any enthusiast of Art Deco. Alastair Duncan’s Art Deco CompleteThe Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s (2009) is a pricey ($125) but worthy volume that is a must for anyone interested in Art Deco in all its manifestations.



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