CBS (ended 1967)
From Jeff R.
Arlene and the Eames chair
The following is a review from the New York Times of a new retrospective at the Museum of Arts and Design on the Eames lounge chair. A highlight of the exhibit, according to the article, is a video of the chair being unveiled on national television in 1956 on Arlene Francis' "Home" show.
Eames Lounge Chair Exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design
By ROBERTA SMITH
Published: May 26, 2006
Sometimes a chair is just a chair. But sometimes it is more: a luxury item, a symbol of authority, a refuge for mind and body, a design landmark. The Eames lounge chair - the spacious black leather and molded rosewood chair, with ottoman, that the designers Charles Eames and his wife, Ray, unveiled on national television in 1956 - is all of the above. Its 50th anniversary is being honored by "The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design," a smart, thorough exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design.
A cross between a Mercedes-Benz and a Barcalounger, the Eames lounge chair was hailed as innovative from the start and also as a kind of alien. With its thick tufted cushions and slightly insectlike structure of three curved, laminated wood shells, it was a strange if not ungainly combination of forthright Modernist structure and unapologetic creature comfort. Charles Eames cited the English club chair as an inspiration and famously said he was after a chair with "the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt." He got that, although it also resembles a beetle flipped on its back.
The Eames lounge chair quickly became a postwar status symbol favored by elites, whether captains of industry, college deans, modern-art collectors or architects. For many, the chair remains a familiar sign of the psychoanalyst's office - even if you've never been in one - and has functioned as such in movies, plays and New Yorker cartoons. Fittingly, its 50th anniversary coincides with the 150th of Freud's birth.
The show is a successful design object in its own right. It was organized at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan by Sarah Holian, its assistant curator, and overseen in New York by Dorothy Twining Globus, the design museum's curator of exhibitions. While compact and focused, it branches out effectively. With a vintage example of the chair, rotating regally on a dais, at its center, it examines its subject in terms of design evolution, physical structure, production, assembly and advertising. It also functions (perhaps inadvertently) as something of a time capsule.
Almost worth the price of admission is the chance to watch NBC's "Home" show of March 14, 1956, when the host, Arlene Francis, interviewed the Eameses, and the chair was introduced amid parting curtains, a rising scrim and swelling violins. Even an anti-feminist might feel compelled to deconstruct Francis's mincing persona, the sudden appearance and disappearance of Ray Eames and the way both women play to the lanky, charming Charles, who could not be more at ease. The segment also contains a wonderful short film by the Eameses in which the chair is assembled, disassembled and packed for shipping.
An unforeseen morsel is the contrast between Francis's mid-Atlantic accent ("Chaarles") in the "Home" episode and the upper-Midwestern accents on the other side of the gallery wall, where a short but riveting documentary by the Eameses' grandson, Eames Demetrios, is projected. They belong to the employees at the Herman Miller factory in Zeeland, Mich., near Grand Rapids, where the chair and ottoman are known by their model numbers, 670/671, and have been in continuous production since 1956. As we watch the combination of assembly-line production and artisanship that produces the chair, the employees' observations fine-tune our appreciation of sundry details.
Added insights may come from watching a bit of this documentary while sitting in an actual Eames lounge chair. (A guard will shoo you out if you get too comfortable. You have to share.) Nearby an "exploded" presentation of an actual chair shows all the parts that are made and put together in the film, suspended from wires, in proper relation to one another. This reveals further details, like how the cushions are simply hooked onto the wood shells, a bit like pictures on a wall. Also here are examples of magazine ads for the chair that function as a mini-history of advertising wit and design, as well as brochures and posters and several beautiful drawings and sketches in which a series of biomorphic shapes evoke animals in ancient cave paintings.
The development of the chair could have been accounted for in greater detail, but there is still plenty here that is unfamiliar, including two molded plywood sculptures made by the Eameses in the early 1940's, one of which is a playfully biomorphic variation on the splint that they developed during the same period for use in World War II, which is also in the show. There are the lounge chair's antecedents, starting with two chairs that Charles Eames designed at the Cranbrook Academy with Eero Saarinen, whose womb chair and ottoman, designed in 1948, were a precedent. One of the two, a side chair from 1940 that Eames and Saarinen designed for a competition held by the Museum of Modern Art (which it won), represents Eames's first foray into molded plywood. Its simple curved form is familiar because it would eventually be translated, with some adjustments, into molded plastic and become one of the most widely used chairs in the world.
An excellent book published on the occasion of the show takes things even further. Its essays and interviews pinpoint sightings of the chair in popular culture, including the sitcom "Frasier," delve into its masculine persona and calmly let various people present their ideas about who deserves credit for the chair's design beyond Charles. The primary candidates are Ray Eames and Don Albinson, who, with instructions from Charles, built a series of molds and antecedents, including an unupholstered arm chair in three molded-wood sections on view here.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the extensive interview with Mr. Albinson, who details the collaborative nature of the design process in the Eames shop and his contributions to it, as well as Eames's careful, if hands-off, oversight and reluctance to give others credit. It takes very little away from Charles Eames's genius to understand that in some very basic way he did not act alone.
Date: 18 Jun 2006
Subject: Arlene at NY museum
I was recently at the Museum of Art and Design on 53rd St. in NY, right across the street from MOMA, and they have a video on loop showing an extended excerpt from Arlene's "Home" show from the 1950s in which she interviews Charles and Ray Eames about their furniture, and then unveils, with considerable drama, the famous Eames chair and ottoman. I had never seen the "Home" show before and it looked classier than I expected. Arlene is a good hostess and uses a "grand" version of her voice. To be honest, the Eameses were not very good interview subjects, but Arlene did the best she could. If you're in NY, you should check it out. - Rick
What makes us tired? Arlene Francis interviews an associate editor of Vogue magazine in 1967 about different types of fatigue and how tension and boredom play a role in causing chronic fatigue. The interview is for NBC's Monitor Radio, on which Miss Francis was a contributing reporter.
The download can be saved to your computer, but it will only be available until August 31st. Each new month brings a new featured recording from Monitor.
Click on the Bob Crandall 1967 show
To hear only Arlene's segment, drag the play bar on your system's player to the right until the time display reads "23:21". Her segment ends at "29:01".
Also available for download on the "Sounds of Monitor" page is "the Monitor Beacon". This series of telephone tones was the audio logo for Monitor Radio, and may bring back memories if you're of a certain age!
Some one mentioned that in the syndicated version, Arlene wore clothes that were provided by the sponsors. Did the DK and AF wear their own dresses for the original WML? or were those not choosen by them either?
Also several people have mentioned different "troubles" that Arlene had. What were they? From all of the biographies I have read, I can't find any reference to them. What were the different troubles that she had?
|...several people have mentioned different "troubles" that Arlene had. What were they? From all of the biographies I have read, I can't find any reference to them. What were the different troubles that she had?|
Once while Arlene and her family were away, the maid opened a window in the family's high-rise apartment to air out the rooms. A strong breeze made the window curtain flap around, so the maid placed a dumbbell weight belonging to Arlene's son on the bottom of the curtain to hold it down. The breeze pulled the end of the curtain and the dumbbell outside the window, and the dumbbell fell several stories until it fatally hit a man in the head. The man was just exiting a restaurant on the ground floor of the building, and was in New York City with his family to celebrate his birthday. Arlene paid a settlement to the man's family that I believe was over $100,000.
One rainy Sunday she was driving her car on a highway when she lost control and collided with another automobile. I think that she paid a settlement for the injuries that the driver of the other car sustained.
As for her 'troubles' those don't seem all that sinister as far Arlene being overly at fault. That is reassuring. Does anyone know how she injured her eye?
|Also several people have mentioned different "troubles" that Arlene had. What were they? From all of the biographies I have read, I can't find any reference to them. What were the different troubles that she had?|
The barbell incident and the car accident are discussed on the notes to EPISODE #519 of June 26, 1960
click on "all episode notes" to see the notes on the second page.
Look for "DIFFICULT AND TRYING TIMES FOR ARLENE"
|One rainy Sunday she was driving her car on a highway when she lost control and collided with another automobile. I think that she paid a settlement for the injuries that the driver of the other car sustained.|
The unfortunate auto accident claimed the life of a woman in the other car.
|Does anyone know how she injured her eye?|
Over the years, I've written about the eyepatch incidents.
Arlene's Eyepatch Incident #1 of 4:
is on the notes to EPISODE #119
Arlene's Eyepatch Incident #2 of 4:
is on the notes to EPISODE #140
Arlene's Eyepatch Incident #3 of 4:
is on the notes to EPISODE #391
Arlene's Eyepatch Incident #3 of 4:
is on the notes to EPISODE #515
It's amazing she had so many run-ins!
Meanwhile, poor Arlene. What luck she must have to have her right eye injured on four different occasions!
Nobody has mentioned that Arlene listed dozens of her friends in the index whom she declined to discuss in the text. She put asterisks next to these people's names. She and Fred Allen were the only panelists who were alive when their own life stories came out. The fact that Bennett was Jewish probably never was made public when he was alive, probably in accordance with his wishes. Dorothy might not have wanted people to know that she placed rosary beads outside a window of her townhouse whenever a friend or relative of hers flew in a plane. John Daly and Hal Block are lucky. Relatively little is known about their personal lives even though they didn't write books to put a spin on their personal lives.
Dorothy might not have wanted people to know that she placed rosary beads outside a window of her townhouse whenever a friend or relative of hers flew in a plane.