Synopses & Reviews
The heyday of Silent Film, so beloved by film buffs, was an era that became instantly quaint with the arrival of "Talkies." As early as 1929, critics and film historians were writing of the period as though of the distant past. Since then, a torrent of books has been released, many of which mention art--in the main, asking whether film could be art--others discussing the splendor of the sets, the persuasion of the ambiance, or the psychological depth of the scenario. What these authors seem to have overlooked is the work of the costume and set designers to provide the background which profoundly affects all of the above. Most especially, they failed to examine the source of the inspiration on those who created that background. To fill this apparent gap, the premise of this volume--costume and set design in the silent film--concentrates on what is arguably the most prevailing influence on both, the presumed nobility of the Middle Ages. Largely owing to the psychological upset of World War I, although beginning earlier, society was in a state of flux. Women, who had been so active during the war, refused to return exclusively to home and kitchen. Veterans, who had experienced the worst, could no longer accept the prewar class restrictions and artificial manners. It was only natural that a longing for what seemed a nobler and purer period would be created. Designers, if only partly consciously, turned to that period like flowers to the sun, creating an ambiance which they felt reflected those higher ideals. Ironically, although the influence is more than obvious in both sets and wardrobes, the period devolves into one of freedom bordering on license, and an almost complete overthrow of those old-fashioned ideals.]
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.