Saturday, April 25, 2009

Los Angeles Homes in the 1920s

California History Magazine is a bit academic for my tastes (which means the articles are long and like most people in the 21st century, I have the attention span of a grasshopper), but here's an interesting tidbit I learned from a article in the December issue: Silent movies had a huge influence on residential homes built in Los Angeles during the 1920s.

Yup.By the 1920s, silent movies excelled in creating interesting backdrops. Their sets told the audience a ton about the stories. Filmmakers had learned to add props and shadows to give perspective. Since they couldn't work with color, they used textures and contrasts of dark and light to evoke moods.

The first picture, btw, is of an old adobe home--a real adobe home--in 1916, give or take a year. There's actually a smaller, second adobe home that has collapsed. The location was Boyle Avenue near 9th Street.

So. Now that you've seen a real, unromantic adobe, think of Ramona or Zorro--or any movie. Remember that in the 1920s, lots of homes were being built here. (L.A.'s population doubled between 1920 and 1925. )

This is a newish Hollywood house photographed in 1928. Like a good movie set, it's crowded with motifs that scream mission revival schmaltz. The woodwork and roof trim jut out to provide contrast and drama, the plants and pillars crowd each other, the stucco is thick and uneven, simulating adobe.

This is the new style. Like in the movies, stucco on new homes got laid on rough; the style was called Jazz Stucco. Elements like wrought iron railings, sconces, tiles, and foliage--used sparingly in the past--were crowded into the facades of new homes. And those facades jutted and retreated into nooks and alcoves. Often, design elements were shrunk down so that more could be crammed into a view. These were all tricks from the movies, to make scenes interesting.

These pictures are from the LA Library's photo collection. The article by Merry Ovnick is titled "The Mark of Zorro: Silent Film's Impact on 1920s Architecture in Los Angeles." It has tons of great pictures too, but it's not online. See if your library has a copy of California History for December 2008 if you want to read it.


Elizabeth said...

I love the architecure of the homes that were built in the 1920's in Hollywood, Beverly Hills,Santa Barbara/Montecito,San Francisco areas and would like to know where the majority or where else in California some of these homes may be available. Pictures required.

Vix said...

Thank you for checking in; perhaps another reader can help you. Since this article is specifically about how the movies influenced homes in LA, I have no idea how the San Francisco area was affected.
As for "pictures required"--not sure what that implies. If you want to post again here, maybe you could specify your purpose and what sort of houses you're looking for.

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