27 April 2010

Odeon chic

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very happy Saturday morning with a bunch of other film nerds on a bus tour of 1930s Odeon cinemas of Birmingham, organised by Flatpack Festival (Oscar Deutsch, who started up the Odeon chain of picture palaces, lived in Birmingham, and some of the earliest venues were built here). I found some wonderful images of Odeon staff fashion, architecture and interiors on the English Heritage photo archive website and thought you enjoy these examples of fantastic 1930s design.

Not unlike this gorgeous dress on Burda Style. 
Extra fashion points for pulling off the bow tie.
[Ushers, Leicester Square, 1937]

Loving the style of the lady seated on the right of the sofa.
The men in white coats are the projectionists.
[Staff, Colindale, 1935]

Fab white collar and buttons on the blonde lady.
Also check out the carpet - the fan motif was used in lots of Odeon sites, apparently.
[Staff, Isleworth, 1935]

Most of the Odeon buildings were designed by architect Harry Weedon, who created a distinctive house style. Odeon Kingstanding is a good example, with its deco curves and prominent fin leading eyes down to the advertising.
[Kingstanding, 1935]

The interiors, overseen by Oscar's wife Lili, were no less impressive. 
The walls and ceilings often lead the eye towards the screen.
[Leicester Square, 1937]

The seats at the flagship Leicester Square site were upholstered in synthetic leopard print. Snazzy! The plush furnishings distinguished Odeons from cinemas that came before, providing a sense of respectability for middle class audiences and offering a place of fantasy and escape for the working class or unemployed.
[Leicester Square, 1937]

[Barnet, 1935]

This looks like the foyer of a posh hotel.
[Barnet, 1935]

I love this pic in so many ways.
[Organist, cinema unknown]

While a few of these cinemas are still standing (albeit with new facades), many are now used for other purposes. For example, the tour took us to the Kingstanding site, which is now a bingo hall. This didn't prevent the group from marching in to admire the ceilings, much to the bemusement of the grandmas trying their luck on the early bird game (I've never felt more middle class in my life). Having been round Birmingham sites, I must take myself on a tour of the London suburbs to see how much of the original architecture has survived. And I may just have to stitch an usher homage outfit...

[Images reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR]