Frank Lloyd Wright: Myth & Murder

DATELINE: Einstein of Architecture

With 400 buildings to his fifty year career, the self-styled genius of American architecture makes for a compelling hour streaming biography, entitled Wright: Murder, Myth, and Modernism.

His own foibles, constant and steady bad choices when it came to women companions, Wright’s life nearly was derailed by his scandal and the penance. He liked the wives of clients as lovers.

A servant murdered his common law wife, other servants, children, and burned down his Taliesin in Wisconsin.  Instead of being destroyed, he girded his powers and re-built. 

The prairie houses of Oak Park must have looked like spaceships landing in the suburbs. His organic houses were stunning, warm, and you better like living in the designer’s mind. Wright designed furniture and also the grounds.

After the murders, he found his professional life drying up. He became more inward and reclusive. It’s not a good style for a man who depends on social connections to have projects.

By 1930 he was broke and without clients. So, he created a mythology in an autobiography that became a best-seller. Yet, the Depression did not ease up—and he dropped another bipolar wife and found a woman 30 years younger. She urged him to use self-promotion.

His idiosyncratic dress and demeanor helped build his own architecture school—and students were slave labor, and slavish devotees.

It was not until he built a house over a waterfall that he returned to public acclaim. Falling Water was recreation in a nutshell.

The rest of his life, until his 90s, turned him into a celebrity like Einstein.  No matter that his houses seemed to have flaws because technology for construction did not match his visions.

Wright was unique and irritating and brilliant. His life-story here in a nutshell is organic and modernistic.

Art Deco Icons: Short Brit Series

DATELINE: Casa de Orient Express

casa del rio Casa!

A man named David Heathcote is billed as a design historian of all things Art Deco, and he hosts this four-episode series. Each program is about half an hour, and the selected areas of study are not the best examples, but they will serve as a teaching tool.

Heathcote visits Claridge’s, the swank Art Deco hotel in Mayfair, London, as well as the London Transport building. He also takes in Casa del Rio, and the juiciest of all, the Orient Express train.

With long and flowing silver hair, Heathcote has a tendency not to look into the camera, which leads us to think he is talking to someone other than his TV audience.

We always want to explore other areas or spend more time in a certain place the host shows us, but we are at his peripatetic mercy. He always moves on, blithely climbing staircase after staircase. Perhaps he just wants to show us the decorative elements in hallways, but we of lazy bones yearn for an elevator.

In the first episode, Heathcote seems befuddled by a butler in his hotel suite, unpacking. And, he calls having breakfast in his hotel room a bit too much, when that is what we always prefer. We generally rise from bed when it is delivered.

Heathcote notes that the Art Deco Transport of London is quite modern and American. Indeed, some of the stations look like flying saucers, not train depots. They hold up their modernity quite well.

Not until the final two episodes does the show hit its stride magnificently.

Heathcote clearly is more comfortable with the camera and the presentation. He visits two major art deco sites: Casa del Rio and the Orient Express train.

The hacienda in England is as out of place as you might expect: it is Pickfair on the Devon, a Hollywood version of a Spanish mansion in Olde California. Of course, there were old haciendas in California, but seldom in England. It is stunning in silver, black & white tiles, verandas, and wrought iron.

The Orient Express, restored in the 1980s, used actual cars from the original train—and used in the Agatha Christie movie version. It is romantic, exciting, and delightful to observe the detailed carvings and colors.

If you want to cherry-pick your episodes, opt for the final two.

 

 

 

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.