A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Majolica in the Movies: A Flea in Her Ear

The 1968 British/American movie A Flea in Her Ear isn't a very well known film.

It is based on an extremely well known 1908 French farce by the same name written by Georges Feydeau that is considered a classic comedy of manners. The play has been adapted to the screen many times in many languages with this particular production rising from an extremely successful 1966 run at the Old Vic in England starring Albert Finney. The stage production was directed by Jacques Cheron. When the time came to adapt the play to the screen the job was given to Cheron because of his success in revitalizing this 1907 French play with a contemporary cast. Alas Cheron's inexperience with film resulted in a film that was beautiful to look at and wonderfully cast but poorly paced, probably the most crucial element in pulling off a comedy of this type. As a result the film was a heavy handed failure at the time and quickly became relegated to the dustbin of unsuccessful film translations of brilliant works of art.

I have to admit that I never even heard of it when I decided to watch it on TV the other day. It has a great cast: Rex Harrison; Rachel Roberts; Louis Jordan; and Rosemary Harris. The movie is set in Belle Epoque Paris with all the glitter and beauty that period has to offer.

The plot is a bit too convoluted to explain in a couple of sentences but let it suffice to say that the usual confusions and mistaken identities common to these kinds of stories all take place surrounding a Barrister (Harrison) and his wife (Harris).

At one point in the film the characters all find themselves in a hotel of ill repute which is represented in film as this colorful Art Nouveau confection so wildly over the top that the movie is worth watching for the art direction alone. I simply could not believe the interior of this building that the set designers had created!  There is French majolica, French bronzes, stained glass, country French florals and gorgeous Art Nouveau woodwork everywhere!
I tried to find out something about the production of the movie but could find virtually nothing. My guess is that the interior sets were based on the real interior of some wild Art Nouveau building in Europe, possibly the building used for the exterior shots of the hotel. Wherever the design comes from is is outrageous, wacky and gorgeous all in one! It is an explosion of color, probably meant to convey to the 1968 audience the vulgarity of the place. All I could think was how gorgeously exciting those sets were compared to the boring classic tastefulness of the Barrister's home, where the remaining story takes place.

I can't really recommend the rest of the movie because I eventually lost track of what was going on but as I said earlier the art direction is to die for!

The movie is running on the Fox Movie channel this month if you want to take a look for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your comments. I too LOVE the over the top Coq d'or hotel. What a place, or movie set. I was looking for something about it's set design as well. Just love looking at it!