> > > Damian Sutton in Journal of Popular Film and Television

Damian Sutton on Fred and Ginger at RKO
Professor Damian Sutton's research on cinema, design and the 1930s, and the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, will be published in 2015 in the leading serial The Journal of Popular Film and Television. The research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, looks at design decisions in Hollywood production in their social context. Prof Sutton conducted archive and field research in Hollywood, where the former RKO studio (pictured) was based.

‘Let the dancefloor feel your leather’

Set design, dance and the articulation of audiences in RKO Radio’s Astaire-Rogers series

Research by Professor Damian Sutton on design decisions in Hollywood cinema in the 1930s will be published in the May 2015 edition of The Journal of Popular Film and Television

This research, which looks at set design decisions in their social and cultural context, was part of the AHRC-funded project  'Form Follows Fiction', which used the Astaire-Rogers musicals as a case study. 



This study revisits a classic film series from the high-point of Modernism’s influence on Hollywood art direction: RKO Radio’s Astaire-Rogers society film musicals from 1933-1938. The study makes use of primary evidence, contemporary reviews and critical writings from the 1930s to illustrate the corporate, social and production contexts of a film series that made effective use of the networks of social relations extending from studio personnel to theater patrons. The study adopts the principle of articulation, drawn from Laclau and Mouffe, in order to explain how discourses surrounding the films were employed by necessity to ensure success for each film and offer the possibility of continued financial return. In the Astaire-Rogers series, various elements of the film text, such as dance routines and modernist furnishings, were articulated to audiences through extra textual material, and the visual landscape of aspirational modernism connected with real domestic and social spaces. The study proposes that the series offered more than an escapist fantasy for the passive audience, but engaged audiences physically and discursively in order to develop an intimate connection between screen aesthetics and financial success. 

Prof. Sutton's article will be available as full text via Middlesex ePrints later in 2015.