Who didn’t love Regency Hollywood when it was a delightfully decadent dream-factory.  Everyone loved Hollywood, even those who did not.  We all gazed upon the stars sparkling high upon Sunset Strip, gaped in awe before the moderning palaces, envied the beauty, the hot cool, the licentious pleasures of the Hollywood gods … in the days before the stars fell from heaven to show themselves dull rock, tedious and preachy.  This month, The Beautiful Home visits Hollywood of the Regency, that age of Hollywood royalty, of pageantry, of glamour in the extreme.

We shall visit the Prince Regent, George Augustus Frederick (the future George IV), an aesthete, a builder of palaces, a man of insatiable appetite in flesh and plate, a royal almost Roman, a dandy most alike Nero, from him the name that means fashion and glamour, “Regency”.  Regency, a period of eclectic enthusiasms born of English victory over France, of world domination and superabundant wealth.  And we shall visit Hollywood, a 480-acre speculative development rising from the San Fernando Valley, site of the mighty movie studios, Warner Brothers, Fox, MGM, Paramount, RKO, whose clickity moving pictures became the great art of the old Twentieth Century, a screen through which all the world lived into fabulous stories.


Regency Hollywood, Gene Harlow

Jean Harlow, Regency Hollywood. color by Tom Mourodas


The “Hollywood Regency” style was born of theatrical fantasy on tall, wide, thin plywood panels that might become anything, a pasha’s harem, an emperor’s bath, a king’s court, a cowboy saloon, the elegant ballroom where handsome Fred Astaire would lightly step in refined glamour.  To set the scene, designers would grab from storage a column motif, a stamped molding, a draping drape, and stick the motif on plywood with a spot of glue, slap dash, roll on a splash of color, brush in some bold design, wash the thing with Rembrandt light and “Voila!”, a harem or bath or court or saloon or elegant dancing ballroom thin as paper, rickety as a Rube Goldberg machine, loud as a holler … and you got the picture smack in the eye: Hollywood Regency.

Soon, the Hollywood Regency eclectic aesthetic was wafted into the houses of actors on the light loafers of merry designers who decorated Hollywood sets, and this is why the Hollywood Regency is a loud bit of pink, a bold bit of Georgian, a big bit of Roman, a thick bit of Greek in pasha purple, and a fast bit of Zebra in potentate.  The style is gayly overdone, a bit too much, glamorous and fun.  Grant, Hope, Hepburn & Tracy, Cukor and Griffith will each be on show in The Hollywood Regency Beautiful Home.


Jean Harlow, colorizrd

Jean Harlow at vanity, Regency Hollywood stage set.


I came to my humble bit of Hollywood Regency honestly, through my aunt Helen, beauty, starlet, decorator.  Aunt Helen did not so much dress as costume, she would get-up a place in this style or that, or another, then move along, and when in regal regency she moved, the quiet people would whisper, “Who is that.  She looks like somebody.  Should be.” and that she was, a Regency Royalty alike Auntie Mame, modern, twisting in Rococo, a swelling baroque pearl straight as a Corinthian column, and as florid.  And that’s the defining thing of Hollywood Regency, the best of the most glamorous everything, gilded, lacquered, enlarged.


Regency Hollywood stage set

The Great Ziegfeld, Regency Hollywood stage set.


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Featured image: Margaret Alexis Fitzsimmons-Smith.


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