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12 February 2009

The Del Rio - Gibbons House: Made for black and white?


In Hollywood, if what you're doing is not in front of the camera, what's the point?

No one knew better how to design for the screen than MGM Art Director Cedric Gibbons and the house he built for himself and movie star wife Dolores Del Rio was custom-made for a cinematic life. (Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for real life as they divorced in 1941.)

This 1930s masterpiece of Deco has all the high style flourishes we would hope for: mirrors everywhere, shiny surfaces gratis of a polished black rubber floor, and mysterious zig-zag walls and staircases that hint at glamorous intrigues. I firmly believe that this house was made to be seen in black and white - which was how everything was photographed in the 1930s. (Click here and here for a fascinating post from Mrs. Blandings about seeing rooms in b&w vs. color.)

Compare these period photographs when CG and DDR lived here to the house in the 1980s when owned by Adelle and Ira Yellin to now as decorated by Michael Smith for movie producer Joe Roth. What do you think?





In 1980.... photographed by the genius Derry Moore for the book The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles (which I just rushed out and bought after reading Nick Harvill's book list for The Peak of Chic)


Derry also captured some of the rooms in b&w:




In the hands of Michael Smith, courtesy of Scott Frances for Architectural Digest....



Some may think Smith an unlikely choice for this Deco time capsule, but I think he acquitted himself well. However, I might have not as put as much furniture in the room above....

7 comments:

J. Shearron said...

In the 80's when the Yelliin's owned the house they would rent it out for "shoots". I was working for Mirabella magazine then and we rented it. It was an absolute blast to spend a few days getting to know the place!! It is as you say a remarkable and fantastically sculptural place...a fantasy of B/W style just like the movies. Every thing was intact... the hot and cold water for bathroom sinks was operated by foot pedals. That great pivoting front door (that we see so often now) is like the first tip off that big ideas await within. The living room is a really, really beautiful space- kind of perfect. And the property with its Tennis Pavilion and sunken court was all appropriately detailed in the same high style manner. I forgot all about it until your lecture last night. Oh, and one of the models/ young star on our shoot was
Gregory Peck’s son, which seemed so fitting- what ever happened to him?

Mrs. Blandings said...

It's a great house - but black and white really makes it a star.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

James, You and your amazing experiences! Thank you for sharing this - it's one thing to look at these spaces in a two-dimensional image but to actually be in the house and inhabit the rooms - witnessing the scale, proportions, and progression - that is something else entirely! Now I must google Gregory Peck's son - he must be gorgeous! EEE

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Patricia, I couldn't agree more - it really pops and dazzles in b&w. EEE

vicki archer said...

You can never better a black and white image - in either portraits or interiors. Such an interesting poston this fabulous house, xv.

Christian Esquevin said...

The black and white photos make the Gibbons-Del Rio house sublime. I have a photo of them on the couch in the living room with the big picture window letting in this diffused light. Wonderful. Gibbons' brother Eliot was married to the costume and fashion designer Irene, about which I'm currently writing. Their house must have had its interior designed by Cedric as it had the same deco style and feel.

Marilyn FRiedman said...

I would like to know how to obtain the black and white images of the house in the 1930s. Is there a company that owns these?

Marilyn Friedman