The bachelor apartment is the real star of this film, not William Powell or Ginger Rogers. It’s interesting that stripes and plaids (refer to my past posts here and here) were generously used to decorate masculine quarters in many films from this era. Today’s male seems to prefer a more cavelike atmosphere populated with massive furniture upholstered exclusively in dark leather.
Shall We Dance from 1937 has some very stylized sets. Several scenes feature custom designed hotel rooms for each sex, which is common in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. I’m pretty sure that in reality, this never happened. Here’s a list of common design trends used for contemporary film interiors during the 1930s and 40s: padded and/or studded walls, curving walls, lots of built-ins, wall murals, bare-bulb sconces, heavy usage of fluorescent wall and overhead light fixtures. The following photos will show you what I’m referring to.
This film is a 1933 RKO musical noted for the first screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. For some reason I remembered seeing a lot more cool sets while watching it on Turner Classic Movies, but when I rented the DVD from Netflix, the above photo was the only interesting still showing 1930’s interior design. This set does look staged, but some of the details are interesting. Built-in window seating was big in those days, and this one takes that theme to another level. Then there’s the circular rug with its fluffy edging details and the satin upholstered chaise. I think we all know how popular satin upholstery was in films those days — especially in feminine bedrooms.