Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries


Forget Mr. Selfridge. Have you seen Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries?

I recently discovered the Australian television show, which is based on Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mystery novels, and now I'm absolutely hooked. Set in Melbourne, Australia in 1928, the series follows lady detective Phryne Fisher as she solves murders on what seems like a weekly basis. Phryne is a modern woman of independent means who drives a Hispano-Suiza, drinks dark liquor, flies airplanes, speaks Mandarin Chinese, and has affairs with some very good-looking men. And her clothes! Phryne is always decked out in the latest fashions (for 1928, of course) that make our twenty-first-century wardrobes look like a hodgepodge of casual separates.

If you live in the U.S., you can watch the first season on Acorn Online or purchase the DVD online. (If you like the first episode, beware of binging on the rest of them as I have.) The show is stylish, fun, a little lighthearted, and well-written. I have two remaining episodes to watch, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do once I finish them. The second season is currently being filmed in Australia as I write this, so I'm sure that means American viewers will have to wait until next Spring to catch new episodes. 

Considering that I'm on this big Phryne Fisher kick, I looked through my old magazines to see if I have any from 1928. I do, so I'm featuring a few photos below to give you a taste of what was going on when the fictional Phryne Fisher was sleuthing and having an all-around swell time.




A dressing room in a Greenwich, Connecticut home that was decorated by Elsie de Wolfe.




Actress Gloria Swanson's New York apartment




A bar designed for the Autumn Salon in Paris by Magazin du Printemps





Another bar at the Autumn Salon. Called "Bar sous le Toit", it was designed by Charlotte Perriand.





A foyer in Florence, Italy with a mural painted by Robert Carrere




The Staten Island dining room of designer Robert Locher




A vignette designed by Mary Coggeshall and Jeannette Jukes.

20 comments:

  1. Oh Jennifer! I did not know about Phyrne and she sounds right up my alley and no doubt lots of your readers' alleys. Cannot wait to watch! Loved the 1928 photos too. Thanks as always for your eagle eye and enthusiasm.

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    1. Frances, I just love this show. It might not be for everybody, but it's super entertaining!

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  2. Thanks so much for the tip! How great is it that we can see these great shows from all over the world. I am hung up on recent Danish and French series. I am looking forward to watching Miss Phyme.

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  3. Swanson's apt. - looks like a wall fountain was inserted in an old flue wall of a former fireplace, very interesting.

    Dining room on Staten Island - looks like the window treatments are all trompe l'oeil. I would have said just the cords and tassels, were it not for the painted in pilaster molding between the windows, if they even are windows at all, given that there seems to be a real window to the extreme right, not in the bay, and treated very differently, i.e., not at all.

    Fun to see old pix like this. Sometimes we assume that everything was luxe and timeless back when, given the immutable impressions from old movies and magazines, which often featured the very best in the design trends of the times. Some of those bars, while fun, might look rather dated today and it was instructive to see that even the imperial Elsie de Wolfe, working in the exclusive and expensive purlieus of Greenwich, CT, had to contend with what looks to be rather low (8 foot?) ceilings. I like the reflective ceiling treatment (lacquer, gold leaf?)in that room. I did the same thing in my bathroom with Ralph Lauren Duchesse Satin paint so the room, with its lowered ceiling to hide pipes from the flat above, would not feel so claustrophobic...

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  4. Love that tip + how exciting! Thank you..xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  5. These are delightful examples of what was being done by persons of style in 1928---I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of Robert Locher's
    Staten Island dining area. I mean, those painted tassels on (presumably) painted ie trompe shutters! May we surmise that the whole illusion was created
    on roller blinds? Hmm...they might be flat shutters now that I look again.

    Oh, and regarding" Mr Selfridge"-- it was forgotten about after the first episode.

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  6. adding this to my netflix list!

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  7. Mitchell Owens12:03 PM

    Per photographs of the Locher house in my possession, it is indeed a real bay window. A son of a banker, Robert Evans "Bobby" Locher (1889-1956) shared the house with his wife, the former Beatrice Howard (born Merrimack, New Hampshire, 1886). (For a Man Ray photograph of Beatrice, see http://mudwerks.tumblr.com/post/45432749840/lauramcphee-beatrice-howard-mrs-robert.) The window treatments are actually roller blinds painted by Locher, a well-known decorator, painter, and set-and-costume designer who worked often with and for interior decorator Ruby Ross Wood; he also well-placed in the international bohemian set, being friends with Carl Van Vechten, Isamu Noguchi, Gertrude Stein, the Stettheimer sisters et al. The Locher house was located at Emerson Hill in Stapleton, Staten Island, and Wood, in 1922, described the dining area shown—a bay in a larger tromple-l'oeil'd dining room—as "very near perfection." The house, which built in the 1830s and had a reported 23 rooms, burned to the ground in 1925, when the Lochers were traveling in Europe. After the couple divorced in Reno, Nevada, in 1933, Bobby Locher spent the rest of his life in a relationship with Richard Weyand, with whom he operated an antiques shop. Some sources have suggested that Locher was the lover of painter Charles Demuth but not solid evidence of this has come to light, though the two were certainly close friends. N.B. When news of Locher's marriage to Beatrice Howard was revealed, and a mutual friend was asked if it came as a surprise, she replied, "Bobby was surprised, I think."

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  8. Mitchell Owens12:20 PM

    The dressing room decorated by Elsie de Wolfe was commissioned as part of the interiors of Rambleside, the residence of mattress millionaire Zalmon Simmons and his wife, Frances. Per Vanity Fair (2006), "Zalmon Simmons’s 164-acre estate was, from all accounts, exquisite. The interior of the mansion, designed by Elsie de Wolfe, featured hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper, black marble floors with inlaid copper, and a study paneled with pine that had been stripped from a venerable mansion in London. The main house had six maid’s rooms. Outbuildings included a stable for horses, two greenhouses, a six-car garage, and a guesthouse with its own courtyard; as well, Simmons built a pair of two-family cottages to house the butler, the chauffeur, the head gardener, and the estate superintendent. For their two sons, Zalmon junior and Grant, Zalmon and Frances Simmons built two more houses on the estate. Zalmon Simmons died in 1934, during the Great Depression. Within a few years, his widow sold off the estate, piece by piece. ... In 1938, George Skakel, a self-made millionaire and founder of the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation [and father of Ethel Kennedy], paid Frances Simmons $160,000, a sum equal to about $2 million today, for a parcel of her estate: it included 10 acres of land as well as the main house, with its exquisite chinoiserie wallpaper, marble-and-copper floors, and pine-paneled study." NOTE: The house still exists, though its address has changed from Clapboard Ridge Road to Simmons Lane.

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  9. Mitchell Owens12:29 PM

    Agreed, re the Swanson fountain ... definitely appears to have replaced a fireplace. Vogue described it as "a mirror panel outlined in steel and fitted with an electric fountain."

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    1. Mitch, I want to send you a very tardy "thank you" for your comments. A lot of great information to ponder and absorb. Was Locher's focus mainly on his antiques shop during his later years? His work was featured in magazines with some frequency during the 1920s and 30s, but I don't recall see much of it during the 1940s.

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  10. Oh my God! My two favorite things: murder mysteries and interior decorating! I must be dreaming. But just in case...thank you for the heads up, Jennifer! Yet another series to get hooked on.

    BTW, we were disappointed in the Selfridge series. Maybe Downton Abbey has set the bar so high, anything else will pale by comparison.

    Looking forward to the Fisher mystery series. (But, the only thing I'll have in common with Phyrne is that I, too, drink dark liquor.)

    April, Just Verte Style

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  11. I'm with April, except my favorite things are Golden Age mysteries, 1920s decorating & Mitchell Owens, so today must be my lucky day. I should buy a lottery ticket on the way home.

    OK, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries looks like something I'd like, but then I'll probably like Mr. Selfridge, too--if I ever get around to seeing it. I'd like to see it partly because he was a sort of hometown boy, but mostly because the set of his London store I saw online somewhere looked pretty impressive. But then how could it not, since it follows pretty closely the opulent Edwardian standard set at Marshall Field's here in Chicago when Selfridge was still a boy wonder. So there's the local connection, but aside from that, basically, I'll watch anything as long as it looks good. Plot, acting, witty dialogue--all that stuff's like the little sprigs of parsely stuck around the edge of the plate at the restaurants of my youth: they're not what I'm there for. Good sets are the main dish. Which explains why my favorite movie of all time is Barry Lyndon, in which absolutely nothing happens that might distract from the beautiful scenery.

    And thanks for the brief Decorating Highlights of 1928. The last time you talked about Robert Locher of the cool shades--I had to look it up to see how long ago it was: three years--you put me on the trail of his Modern Classic silver, which I've been tracking down piece-by-piece ever since, for which I owe you big time. I've always liked Locher's work but I had no idea until you mentioned it that that siver was his design. Anyway, Jennifer, so this is my public thank you.

    And leave it to Mitch to have actual photos of Locher's place in his possession--not pages torn out of old magazines, like the rest of us poor wretches. I just hope they're in preparation for a book.

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  12. Victoria6:19 PM

    Great post and wonderful extra info from Mr Owens. Thank you.

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  13. Thank you for recommending Miss Fisher, which I promptly purchased and in which I am delighting!

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    1. Peony, I'm thrilled that you are enjoying it! We need to get the word out so that perhaps PBS will carry season 2 later this year!

      Thanks for letting me know that you like it, too!

      Jennifer

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  14. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Thank you for putting me onto this show. I loved the sets straight off. After watching the first few frames, I felt a need to start writing about it: http://branchedesign.com/blog/2013/8/19/a-sink-to-die-for

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  15. I gobbled up the first season in a few days! (I stayed up way too late and ended up being a zombie for work, but it was worth it!) I'm SO DISAPPOINTED that we can't see season 2 till next Spring! UGH! I've looked everywhere on the internet hoping to find a way to stream it but haven't been successful yet. You're the first person to let me know it'll be available to us next Spring though, so thanks for that!

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  16. I'm so glad I happened upon your blog. I just discovered Miss Fisher's Mysteries and I'm in love with everything: the characters, the makeup, the sets, and the clothes! Divine. I was searching for clues to paint colors similar to that in the dining room set and found you. Can't wait to get your book.

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    1. Kathy, Miss Fisher is my very favorite show! I believe they just finished filming Season 3, so I hope we will get the opportunity to see it soon. I don't think I can wait much longer.

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