Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cecil B. De Mille And The Bathroom

De Mille discovered the bathroom as a device for exploring domestic life. To a generation brought up never to mention personal sanitation, he introduced the depiction of bathing and the attendant disrobing. In ornate new temples of cleanliness, undressing and partial nudity were so obvious a necessity that even the most pious of audiences could hardly object. De Mille's bathrooms and boudoirs eventually became something of a joke, but to the moviegoers of World War I, of cold-water flats and restrictions, they were riveting images of luxury and beauty.

Lingering scenes in which the heroine and, sometimes, the hero washed and anointed themselves in preparation for revels of a magnitude and splendor that surprised even true aristocrats were a prolonged rapture. For the price of a ticket, shopgirls were awakened to dreams of fashion and style. For the males in the audience, the director made Sylvia Ashton, Kathlyn William, Florence Vidor, and Mildred Harris look fetching in a variety of bed and bathroom scenes, or in shipwrecks that managed to show the leading lady as a castoff clutching wet and torn garments on deserted islands.

No comments:

Pinecone Stew