“Let the dance floor feel your leather”: set design, dance, and the articulation of audiences in RKO Radio’s Astaire-Rogers series

Sutton, Damian (2015) “Let the dance floor feel your leather”: set design, dance, and the articulation of audiences in RKO Radio’s Astaire-Rogers series. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 43 (1) . pp. 2-13. ISSN 0195-6051 [Article] (doi:10.1080/01956051.2014.961997)

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This study revisits a classic film series from the high-point of Modernism’s influence on Hollywood art direction: RKO Radio’s Astaire-Rogers society film musicals from 1933-1938. The study makes use of primary evidence, contemporary reviews and critical writings from the 1930s to illustrate the corporate, social and production contexts of a film series that made effective use of the networks of social relations extending from studio personnel to theater patrons. The study adopts the principle of articulation, drawn from Laclau and Mouffe, in order to explain how discourses surrounding the films were employed by necessity to ensure success for each film and offer the possibility of continued financial return. In the Astaire-Rogers series, various elements of the film text, such as dance routines and modernist furnishings, were articulated to audiences through extra textual material, and the visual landscape of aspirational modernism connected with real domestic and social spaces. The study proposes that the series offered more than an escapist fantasy for the passive audience, but engaged audiences physically and discursively in order to develop an intimate connection between screen aesthetics and financial success.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Astaire, Rogers, RKO, design, Modernism, dance, articulation, Laclau, Mouffe
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Visual Culture and Curating cluster
Item ID: 15727
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Popular Film and Television on 05 May 2015, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/01956051.2014.961997
Depositing User: Damian Sutton
Date Deposited: 05 May 2015 10:18
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 22:51
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/15727

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