Hollie Price presents ‘Disillusion and the Armchair: Furnishing the Living Room in Film Noir’


Wednesday 21st October 2015, 5.15pm, Arts One G34

Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Campus


Please join us for the first session of PostProduction this academic year, in which Hollie Price will discuss her recent chapter published in Spaces of the Cinematic Home: Behind the Screen Door (Routledge 2015), followed by wine, snacks and socializing.

The paper explores the mise-en-scène of the living room in Hollywood film noir, in a period of transition from war to peace in the 1940s. Following the US declaration of war in 1941, icons of domestic comfort, including the hearth, the mantelpiece and the armchair, had inalterably shifted from their familial compositions and meanings. Fathers and husbands vacated their traditional positions in fireside armchairs to participate in the conflict, while women relinquished their roles catering for the family and arranging domestic furnishings in order to replace the male workforce. However, advertisements continued to feature living rooms, and particularly armchairs, as reassuringly recognizable symbols of comfortable dwelling and family stability. The home, these advertisements seemed to declare, could remain unchanged even in a changing world, and so could be readily reoccupied once the war was over. By the mid-1940s, Hollywood film noir highlighted the anxieties linked with the doomed domestic space for a generation of returning veterans and women workers, and its failure to live up to the promises of such wartime advertising. Focusing on Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944) and The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946), this paper analyzes living rooms in 1940s films noir as symbolic of disillusion with previously advertised domestic ideals.

Disillusion and the Armchair

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