Several weeks ago, we had a feature on Romany Spartan tile… which led to my question about, “Why all this Roman stuff?” It’s also come up before, with all the horse motifs with their greco-roman styling. And, the the mock-marble laminates – and faux-terrazzo flooring. All I have to do is hint, and Palm Springs Stephan has some wonderful thoughts!
Hey, I have a follow-up question, PSS: Do you think that the the phenomenon of airplane travel, which also really took off post war, excuse the bad pun, also led to increasing fascination with these other cultures, especially, as you say, in the European theater?
Thank you as usual, Professor! Here is Stephan’s discussion:
Since you asked, Pam…..
“Spartacus” came out in 1960.
And yes, the 1950s and early 1960s witnessed a real fascination with Roman, Greek, and Mediterranean cultural influences. I am not sure whether that was fueled by Hollywood or vice versa. But since Hollywood history is one of my passions….
Some of the hit films of the era with Roman, Greek, or Mediterranean subjects, both ancient and modern:
“Quo Vadis,” 1951, nominated for 8 Oscars
“David and Bathsheba,” 1951, 1 Oscar nomination
“The Robe,” 1953, won 2 Oscars
“Julius Caesar,” 1953, 5 Oscar nominations (1 win)
“Roman Holiday,” 1953, 10 Oscar nominations (3 wins)
“The Egyptian,” 1954, 1 Oscar nomination
“Three Coins in the Fountain,” 1954, 1 Oscar nomination, set in Rome
“The Ten Commandments,” 1956, 7 Oscar nominations
“An Affair to Remember,” 1957, 4 Oscar nominations, portions take place on the Italian Riviera
“Ben Hur,” 1959, won 11 Oscars
“La Dolce Vita,” 1960, 1 Oscar nomination
“Roman Spring of Mrs Stone,” 1961 Oscar nomination
“Divorce-Italian Style,” 1961, 3 Oscar nominations
“Cleopatra,” 1963, 9 Oscar nominations
“The Fall of the Roman Empire,” 1964, 1 Oscar nomination
“The Agony and the Ecstacy,” 1965, 5 Oscar nominations, set in Rome
Many of these films, such as “Cleopatra” and “Ben Hur,” were done in the epic style and utilized the newer Panavision and Todd AO filming techniques, and they received huge publicity even as they were being filmed, increasing their cultural influence. And these are only the films that received Oscar nominations. Recall too that the 1950s were the era of cheaply and rapidly made lesser films, such low-brow “classics” as the films of Steve Reeves, including the Hercules series (Hercules, Hercules Unchained), Last Days of Pompeii, Duel of the Titans (about the founding of Rome), and The Trojan Horse.
The late 1950s and early 1960s were also the heyday for Federico Fellini, Italy’s greatest film director, as well as for Sophia Loren. And it was the period in which Ingrid Bergman outraged Americans by having an openly adulterous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, bearing him two children.
I’m not sure that “everyone was traveling to Italy,” but there was certainly an upswing in the popularity of Mediterranean holidays in the two decades after World War II. This may have been in part the result (as with the tiki phenomenon discussed earlier) of soldiers who had served in the Mediterranean theater during the war who, once established and affluent, wanted to return to an area that they remembered with some degree of fondness.