MovieChat Forums > The Scarlet EmpressĀ (1934) Discussion > Anyone know about the art director for t...

Anyone know about the art director for this movie?


I would love to know who the art director is for this movie. It has very authentic-looking historical elements in the icons and costumes, but the grotesque sculptures and the strange moving clocks are incredibly fantastic and original. Bizarre and completely over the top.

Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression

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I was just about to ask the same thing. The art direction in this picture is breathtaking.

Hap--pppppppppppppppy New Year!

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Hans Dreier was the art director and set designer. Peter Ballbush did the sculpture, Richard Kollorsz did the painting and the icons while Travis Banton designed those marvelous costumes.

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Thanks diva! I realized I did not click on the right link to find this stuff. I think those fantastic weird clocks were my favorite thing. Ballbush did the montage scenes for "Singin' in the Rain" and Spencer Tracy's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." What an incredibly talented man!

Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression

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Hi nettwench,

I watched most of the film with my jaw dropped to the floor. The visuals were so stunning and I loved Ballbush's fabulous work in The Scarlet Empress along with Singin' in the Rain and Dr. J and Mr. H. It was truly an experience.

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You had to pick your jaw up off the floor, I had to pop my eyes back into my head! Can you imagine how much time it took to create some of these images that were only onscreen for seconds? The montage at the beginning was also excellent - scenes of cruelty and torture that could only have been done pre-code. Remember when a life-size russian doll opens and they pull the woman out of it? That got my attention.

Have you seen Andrei Rublev - another gorgeous movie set in Russia? It's awesome.

Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression

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Hi nettwench,

I read the book, Sin In Soft Focus, and for some reason the censors didn't touch one frame of The Scarlet Empress. It failed at the box office which was too bad and von Sternberg was so difficult to work with that eventually it destroyed his career.

Interesting that John Lodge whom I found very sexy as Count Alexei was originally handpicked by Mae West to co-star opposite her in She Done Him Wrong - He turned it down because he was afraid that the material was too sexual..the role went on to start Cary Grant's career.

I haven't seen Andre Rublev and will look for it. I've seen Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible which is eye-popping too.

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Just to point out, the artwork, far from looking authentic, presents a rather grotesque caricature of Russian iconography. I don't think you could say the filmmakers were very interested in authenticity. Agreed, though, striking & over the top! My wife & I were cracking up over the clocks & the sculptures.

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