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How do you recreate an authentic 1940s Hollywood?

How do you recreate an authentic 1940s Hollywood?

Everyone likes to immerse themselves in a little Hollywood glamour from time to time. Production Designer Matthew Flood Ferguson and his team reimagined a series of iconic locations and buried themselves in research in order to take us on a journey to Hollywood’s Golden Age for Netflix miniseries Hollywood.

Set in Post-War Tinseltown, the series follows an ambitious group of aspiring actors and filmmakers who will do almost anything to make their showbiz dreams come true (and how those in positions of power often took advantage of that).

Recreating the authentic architecture and interior design of 1940s Hollywood presented a series of challenges for Ferguson in his first role as Production Designer (after working as a Set Decorator for film and TV for 15 years). Much of the filming took place in several different era-accurate locations but he often encountered modern day elements which needed to be hidden or augmented: “Even if we were shooting in old Deco buildings, they would have been retro-fitted or modified over the years so we had to work to stay pure to the period” says Ferguson in an interview for a Netflix special on the behind the scenes of the production design process.

The team had to be creative with their choice of locations and film sets to ensure that we, the viewers, would become completely immersed in the reality of the era when watching the show.

The Musso and Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles was one such location. This famous haunt opened in 1919 and is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. By the 1930s it was firmly established at the center of Hollywood’s cultural life. This same high end eatery also featured in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time on Hollywood.

hollywood-musso-and-franks-film-set-production-design-film-and-furniture
Musso and Frank Grill in Netflix Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Musso and Frank Grill, Los Angeles
The real Musso and Frank Grill, Los Angeles

The penthouse suite of The Oviatt Building, an Art Deco highrise in Downtown Los Angeles became the office of talent agent Henry Wilson (Jim Parsons).

Henry Wilson's office was filmed in the penthouse of The Oviatt Building, an Art Deco highrise in Downtown Los Angeles.
A young Rock Hudson enters actors agent Henry Wilson’s office which was filmed in the penthouse of The Oviatt Building. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

An early modernist Rudolph Schindler house of 1935 played the role of Henry Wilson’s house.

Henry Wilson's house in Hollywood
Henry Wilson’s house in Hollywood features a Wassily Lounge Chair and a Noguchi coffee table. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

In this house we find a tan leather Wassily lounge chair. Originally known as the B2 Chair, the Wassily Lounge Chair was designed when Marcel Breuer was an apprentice at the Bauhaus in 1925.

We also spotted the iconic Noguchi coffee table. This piece represents designer Isamu Noguchi’s belief that ‘everything is sculpture’. A true design classic.

You can find Art Deco sofas and club chairs similar to the stylish grey velvet set seen in Henry Wilson’s Hollywood house at Etsy.

Ace Studios was ‘played’ by the exterior of Paramount and the interiors of the Studios were built on a sound stage. 

Ace Studios was filmed at Paramount Studios
The exterior of Ace Studios in Hollywood was filmed at Paramount Studios

A long search ensued for the location for The Golden Tip Gas Station and eventually the team found an Art Deco station that is now a tyre shop/garage. 

The Gas Station in Hollywood
The Golden Tip Gas Station in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

This location was reworked to fit the the 1940s theme including extensive painting, re-asphalting, the creation of period-accurate gas pumps and a wonderful neon sign.

The Golden Tip Gas Station neon sign in Hollywood
The Golden Tip Gas Station neon sign in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

The apartment of Jack Castello (David Corenswet) was also a film set. The exterior however is a real apartment building on Whitley Heights, a neighbourhood in the Hollywood Hills which was well known in the 1920s and where a number of film stars lived such as Jean Harlow and Rudolph Valentino.

The exterior of Jack's apartment building was filmed at Whitley Heights
The exterior of Jack’s apartment building was filmed at Whitley Heights
The lobby/reception area of Jack's apartment in Hollywood
The lobby/reception area of Jack’s apartment in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Jack's apartment in Hollywood
Jack’s apartment in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Initial drawings by production designer Matthew Ferguson and photos of the final film set for Jack's apartment in Hollywood
Initial drawings by production designer Matthew Ferguson and photos of the final film set for Jack’s apartment in Hollywood. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Jacks bathroom in Hollywood. Check out that wallpaper!
Jacks bathroom in Hollywood. Check out that wallpaper! Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

The Beverly Hills Hotel has long been the spot for Hollywood’s brightest lights. For Hollywood, the exterior of the hotel was actually shot at The Langham Hotel, Pasadena where the production team added in the famous green and white striped ceiling. 

The entrance to The Beverly Hills Hotel with the famous green and white stripes
The entrance to The Beverly Hills Hotel in Hollywood with the famous green and white striped ceiling.
Beverly Hills Hotel interior
The real Beverly Hills Hotel entrance

The interiors of The Beverly Hills Hotel scenes are stunning and include one of the boldest wallpapers to ever grace a wall!

The Beverly Hills Hotel bedroom where Jack is taken by Avis Amberg features the Martinique banana palm wallpaper
The Beverly Hills Hotel bedroom where Jack is taken by Avis Amberg features the Martinique banana palm wallpaper. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

This wallpaper is the Martinique banana palm, designed originally in 1942 for the Beverly Hills Hotel by Don Loper. This wallpaper crops up in many films which make reference to Beverly Hills including The Aviator.

Martinique banana leaf wallpaper
Martinique banana leaf wallpaper. Find it via our store.
Vivian Velvet Cocktail Chair
Vivian Velvet Cocktail Chair in Rose, £149 from Dunelm

The Beverly Hills Hotel bedroom scene (where Jack is taken by Avis Amberg) is a melody in soft pink and green. The Martinique green bold wallpaper, the pink studded bed head, the bijou cream and beige silk cushions, the white-based retro bedside lamps and the white bedside tables with a nod to Deco are all high up on our bedroom goals here at Film and Furniture!

The Beverly Hills Hotel bedroom where Jack is taken by Avis Amberg features the Martinique banana palm wallpaper
The Beverly Hills Hotel bedroom where Jack is taken by Avis Amberg features the Martinique banana palm wallpaper. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Romare Super King size Bed, Heather Pink Velvet with Brass Legs from Made.com

Anna May Wong’s (Michelle Krusiec) apartment was filmed in a Spanish courtyard apartment complex that none other than Cecil B. DeMille commissioned to accommodate actors travelling into town to work for him.

Anna May Wong's apartment in Hollywood
Anna May Wong’s apartment in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

The rooms here were very small meaning Ferguson and his team had be particularly creative in how the scenes were dressed and filmed as space was so tight.

Anna May Wong's apartment in Hollywood
Anna May Wong’s apartment in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
Anna May Wong's apartment in Hollywood
Anna May Wong’s apartment in Hollywood. Production Design by Matthew Flood Ferguson. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.
The entrance to a group of apartments around a Spanish courtyard which was commissioned by Cecel B de mile
The entrance to a group of apartments situated around a Spanish courtyard which was commissioned by Cecil B. DeMille

The biggest challenge of all for the Production Designer, Art Director and Set Decorator of Hollywood was the recreation of Schwab’s Pharmacy. This location was a famous hang-out for out-of-work actors back in the day.

The original Schwab's Pharmacy was frequented by many actors
The original Schwab’s Pharmacy was frequented by many actors

The real Schwab’s was torn down in the 1980s but it is a well-known and well-loved building so the team spent a great deal of time researching exactly what it looked like inside and out – from the colour of the woodwork to the exact products that were once on sale.

Initial drawings and the final film set for Schwab's Pharmacy in Hollywood
Initial drawings by production designer Matthew Ferguson and photos of the final film set for Schwab’s Pharmacy in Hollywood. Set Decoration by Melissa Licht.

Discover more and see Matthew Flood Ferguson discussing the film sets below:-

We salute the team for making it possible for us to be transported back to the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood and congratulate them on their Emmy Award nomination for Production Design, alongside no less than 11 other Emmy nominations.

 

 

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