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.