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The Golden Bed

Bing Theater
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

Part of our series The Perfect Match: Hollywood Costume Collaborations, in December we screened three double features spotlighting great partnerships from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Clare West was one of the earliest Hollywood costume designers, her film career beginning and ending in the silent era though she lived until 1980. Having spent two years working on D.W. Griffith’s century-spanning epic Intolerance, she was a natural collaborator for epic filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, and we will be screening two of the many silent films they worked on together – the Roaring Twenties melodrama The Golden Bed, and Male and Female, the film version of James M. Barrie’s classic play The Admirable Crichton, starring Gloria Swanson.

SATURDAY, december 6 | 6:00 P.M.

Cecil B. DeMille – a master of screen spectacles whom Georges Sadoul once hailed as “Hollywood personified” – directed this lavish pre-Code gem about “the morals and marriages of today.” Tradition and modernity, the upper crust and working stiffs, are sharply contrasted as DeMille tracks the fates of Southern heiress Flora Lee and candy magnate Admah. One will stop at nothing for glamour and fortune; the other will do anything for his beloved. Clare West’s elaborate Roaring Twenties costumes (with uncredited help from a young Edith Head) befit the film’s outlandish production design and salacious thrills, all of which combine in the climactic “Candy Ball,” in which every conceivable item on screen, including several costumes, is made of the sugary confection... and then devoured.  Featuring live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

Restored by the George Eastman House with support from The Film Foundation. Print courtesy of The Film Foundation Conservation Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

1925, 90 minutes, black and white, silent, 35mm | Directed by Cecil B. DeMille; scenario by Jeanie Macpherson, based on the short story “Tomorrow’s Bread” by Wallace Irwin; with Lillian Rich, Vera Reynolds, Henry Walthall, Rod La Rocque, Theodore Kosloff, Warner Baxter, Robert Cain.

Male and female

When the yacht of an aristocratic family is wrecked on a South Seas island, their butler turns from servant to master. Cecil B. DeMille’s delirious film version of  James M. Barrie’s popular play The Admirable Crichton turned a stage comedy into a scintillating melodrama, complete with a Biblical fantasy sequence. Thomas Meighan plays Crichton, the dutiful manservant who pines for the eldest daughter (Gloria Swanson) of his employer (Theodore Roberts). Clare West had been hired by DeMille the year before Male and Female to oversee costumes for Famous Players-Lasky. Her dazzling costumes for the film include Swanson’s decadent upper-class wear as well as the equally eccentric clothes for the ancient Babylon sequence, which foreshadows the filmmaker’s classic religious spectacles like Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments.  The N.Y. Times, in 1919, raved: "lavishly staged, skillfully directed... it is a remarkable movie."  Featuring live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.

1919, 116 minutes, black and white, silent, 35mm | Directed by Cecil B. DeMille; scenario by Jeanie Macpherson, based on the play The Admirable Crichton by James M. Barrie; with Thomas Meighan, Theodore Roberts, Raymond Hatton, Robert Cain, Gloria Swanson, Lila Lee, Bebe Daniels.

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Male and Female - Highlight 2