Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Right, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready For My Closeup: Spring Fling 2013

Hollywood, California, 1956.

Lydia Lang, a luminous, curvy brunette, is finally a star. This is a peek into her private sanctuary, which I call "The Starlet Bungalow".

"Hollywood" and "bungalows" go together like "California" and "sunshine". Bungalows have been used on studio backlots for decades - mostly as offices and dressing rooms (although Warner Brothers' former animation building, known as Termite Terrace, was basically a bungalow the size of an airplane hangar). Some are in use to this day (Disney Studios famously preserve and use their fabled "Hyperion Bungalow", moved to its current home from the studio's original location).

Although trailers were certainly in use by 1956, it wasn't unusual for big stars to have their own bungalows (an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour even shows an actress taking refuge in the privacy of her backlot bungalow). Lydia finally got her own.

I watched Sunset Boulevard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (R.K. Maroon had THE coolest office), and - my favorite - The Artist for visual inspiration. The porch railings are based on the porch railings outside George Valentin's dressing room. I made them out of 1/4" basswood strips and love the way they turned out.

There is a topiary hedge on one side of the bungalow, inspired by the whimsical topiaries seen to this day at Fox Studios. I didn't have the skill to do anything too fussy here, so I drew inspiration from a hedge that has neatly trimmed comedy-and-tragedy masks. Rather than copy Fox's hedge directly, this is meant to be a Walk of Fame star.

Rumored to be the secret daughter of Greta Garbo and Leopold Stokowski (she is actually the daughter of a USC professor and a research assistant), Lydia has played priestesses, queens, spies, revolutionaries - she thrives in roles that add to her otherworldly air. Last night, she took home an Oscar for her starring role as Queen Christina of Sweden. Flowers from the studio's top brass have begun to arrive.

I also took inspiration from Cecil B. DeMille's re-created office at the Hollywood Heritage Museum - it has a door with a window (and green pull-down shades), so I took the door off of my 2012 Spring Fling and swapped it for the kit door (a plain slab door is better suited to the previous Fling anyway). Really, a star should be able to see who's at her door before opening it!

This vanity was the first thing I made for the Fling, and I'm glad it was - it's the trickiest thing I've ever done in miniature! The bulbs are real and do light up, although I couldn't get a picture of it without serious glare. Vanity tray is by Patsy-Mac, brush/comb/mirror are from Dolls House Emporium.

Of COURSE Lydia has a chair (from Minimum World) with her name on it! (Such a chair would actually be used on-set, so please humor me by pretending she's re-using a chair from her first big picture.)

The dressing screen is from a McQueenie Miniatures kit. The costume is for Lydia's current project, an as-yet-untitled drama set in 1830s California.

The bookcase is a modified House of Miniatures open-top cabinet, filled with film canisters (actually miniature "biscuit tins" from SP Miniatures with my own labels), scripts and books, a rotary phone (originally a pin), and the fixings for a mid-afternoon cocktail (hey, it's 1956, and even Mr. DeMille kept booze in his office) - gin and tonics by Caroline McVicker, tray by Pete Acquisto, syphon by Glasscraft. The "gin decanter" was originally a tiny perfume-bottle pendant.

Four pictures of "Lydia". The young woman in the pictures wasn't famous, but she reminded many of her friends and relatives of old-school movie stars - polished, sharp, and always dressed to the hilt.

Close-up of Lydia's coffee table (another House of Miniatures kit), with a tiny Academy Award (made by Treefeathers), copies of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, a stack of autographed glossy pictures (I signed them all with a .005 tip pen!), and an open script. (I may have gone a little detail-mad here: even though the text is WAY too small to be readable, I shrank down and printed out a script page from Sunset Boulevard. The two-column format seen here, not standard for screenplays, was used in this case because the film is narrated from beginning to end.)

If you are unfamiliar with Variety (which you probably are), I recommend the Warner siblings' witty take on the trade paper.

Overall view of the seating area. I hope someone takes the time to notice that the window shades have pull cords with covered rings on the ends (I used quilting thread for the cords because it's heavier and tends to hang straighter than all-purpose thread). The sofa is yet another House of Miniatures kit.

Overall interior view. Do note the ceiling beams (and the poster for Queen Christina on the far right).

Loaned tiara (actually a ring) with a Screen Actor's Guild card (Marilyn Monroe's - I couldn't find a blank one) and a set of keys for a room at the fabled Chateau Marmont - where Hollywood goes to misbehave. (What? Lydia's house is being painted...really...)

Another angle.

If you were wondering how I got the background to look so realistic...that's because it's real. I wasn't sure I could paint a realistic backdrop (but if I had, the Hollywood sign would have been on it).

I don't expect to place in the contest, but I am very happy with how this build turned out!

(Disclaimer: Lydia Lang didn't really exist, and the 1956 Best Actress Oscar actually went to the late, great Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo - another classic movie worth watching.)


  1. Fabulous! And so original! Plus, you added some very interest facts and history
    Well done!!

    1. Thank you, Diane! I've wanted to make a miniature movie star's dressing room for years, but figured it would just be a room box, or Greenleaf/Corona's mini trailer. When I saw the Spring Fling kit, I knew the project had to be a bungalow.

  2. Hi Anna,

    Such a well-conceived, unusual and fascinating concept! The detail is just brilliant. Your 'research' into the period really paid off --there is an overall air of authenticity that is difficult to achieve in miniature. Good for you for making so much of the furniture. I especially like your dressing table. That particular shade of green is so nostalgic and evocative of the period. I'd say you're a definite contender and will keep my fingers crossed!


    1. Thank you, John! I'm from Los Angeles, so quite a few of my family's friends and neighbors worked in the film industry. Although I'm not a part of that world myself, I've always been aware of it (and, to be honest, a part of me wanted to capture old-school Hollywood glamour in miniature before it's completely forgotten).

      Getting the green right drove me crazy - it had to be a vintage-ish "greenroom" green that would work for 1956, but would also work for the early 1920s (when many, if not most, of the studio bungalows were built). I spent an entire afternoon mixing three different shades of Martha Stewart craft paint together until it finally looked right. (If you watched the "Hitchcock" biopic that came out last year, you may recall Janet Leigh's blah beige dressing room, circa 1959. I wanted Lydia's bungalow to have more color...although I did initially toy with doing the whole thing in greyscale like a black-and-white movie!)

  3. Your choice of green was spot-on. I remember my parents bought a summer house that came with vintage 1920's wicker --a lot of it painted that same hue. 'Hitchcock' was on the other night and I watched it for the first time, but I don't remember the dressing room --maybe because it was so 'blah!?' I think you should definitely photograph your bungalow in B&W!

    1. The dressing room scenes weren't very long, either, but yes - it was very, very beige (you can see a shot in this Retro Renovation post: Oooh, good idea! I'll play around with some filters and see how it goes.

  4. I love it..the only thing missing is a wet bar (like the one in the bad seed) *give Lydia a drinking problem and watch her rocket all the way to the top..remember the public loves F*% ed up Diva's..look at Brit and Beyonce*

    1. Modern-day Hollywood loves a walking disaster, but in 1956, the studio system was very much in effect, and a star's drinking problem would have been kept quiet. (No one ever talked about Spencer Tracy's severe alcoholism, or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton supposedly going through FIVE BOTTLES of vodka PER DAY at a certain high-class hotel!)

      That said, nearly everyone in Hollywood has a secret - and since it's often assumed that attractive women are less intelligent, I thought it would be funnier to have Lydia's secret be an off-the-charts IQ, like Hedy Lamarr. (Not all of the books in the bookcase are scripts. I gave some of them titles like "Advanced Theoretical Physics.")

  5. I've missed all of this - although I'm following you I'm not getting post notifications :( I'm glad you came by my blog (thanks for your birthday wishes by the way, and yes I agree, of hourse, that little Miss HB-P is cute as a button) to remind me to visit.

    1. That happens to me sometimes, too, actually. Thanks for stopping by my little backlot hideaway :)