I think that for some (or maybe even many), there is a mystique to decorators. You might even say a certain glamour. Now, we all know that there are aspects to the job that are far from glamorous. And let's face it, it can be tough work. Still, if there wasn't a certain allure to the job and the persona of "the decorator", there wouldn't be photos like the one above, featured in the October issue of Town & Country. Aaron Spelling would never have shot a pilot back in the 1960s titled "The Decorator" with Bette Davis, nor would we have had our favorite 1980s TV sitcom about four Southern decorators with a proclivity for one liners, beauty pageants, and big shoulder pads. (That would be "Designing Women", by the way.)
Decorators oftentimes lead glamorous lives in the movies. Take, for example, "Goodbye Again" which just happened to be on TCM yesterday. In the 1961 movie (it was based on the Francoise Sagan novel), Ingrid Bergman plays a 40 year old Parisian decorator named Paula who is supremely stylish. She wears Christian Dior clothes and Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry, and she has a French maid named Gaby who draws her bath and gets Madame ready for nights out on the town. Never mind the fact that Paula is madly in love with her philandering boyfriend Roger, a cad who calls all of his other women "Maisie" so that he doesn't accidentally refer to them by the wrong name. OK, so Paula leads a rather sad life, but still, she lives in fabulous apartment and she has Gaby, so all is not lost. And, if I recall correctly, Paula has a great line in the movie, something like "The problem with being a decorator is that everyone thinks they know how to do your job"...or something along those lines. I'm sure many designers can relate.
Loyal Gaby putting away one of Paula's dresses. Note the dramatic headboard in the background, and the tiled kitchen to the right. A chic Paris apartment, non?
Paula at her dressing table.
And Paula out on the town.
My other favorite fictional decorator is Doris Day in "Pillow Talk". Once again, this designer wears really chic clothes, lives in a cool apartment, and has man trouble, only this time it's Rock Hudson rather than Yves Montand who is the culprit. Doris even has the maid who is the voice of reason, although Thelma Ritter, while funny in that wisecracking, New York kind of way, is not quite as chic as French Gaby. Doris works in a decorating shop surrounded by a sundry of antiques and bibelots- just like Paula- and she has men swooning for her. Could it be her profession that men find so captivating? Her sunny personality? Those clothes? And who can forget the hideous bachelor pad that Doris does up for Rock as punishment for his bad behavior? It's like a jungle-fied version of a Trader Vics.
Doris with her maid, played by Thelma Ritter.
Doris in front of her de rigueur dressing table.
Doris out on the town.
Doris and Rock making up in the notorious bachelor pad.
While researching this post, I came across a recent post about on-screen decorators on Apartment Therapy. See, someone else is intrigued by the decorator mystique as well.
(Image at top from Town & Country, October 2010; Marc Royce photographer)