CURTAINS AT THE MOVIES
This page is just for fun because Curtains fans might be amused by how often scenery like the roll drops of a century ago turn up in the movies. Of course, the irony is that it was the rising popularity of movie houses that spelled the demise of so many stages! The page will contain short (very short) descriptions of movies in which curtains appear. There are lots of moments when you'll see them, once you become a curtain aficionado.
Peter Miller, scenic artist and author of "The Art of Scenic Art" chapter in our book, "Suspended Worlds" is a major contributor to this compendium. If anyone else has a movie to suggest, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was recently inspired by Meryl Streep's entrances in Florence Foster Jenkins, when she first soars in as the angel of music in front of an old-fashioned roll drop with a country scene, complete with painted wings. Then she reappears as a Roman (or perhaps, Greek) goddess and a different roll drop plops down just in time for her to arrive out of thin air! Hilarious.
Another recent sighting is in The Light Between Oceans when Michael Fassbender goes to a town meeting in way back-of-beyond Australia and gets up on a stage with a grand drape on it!
Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) in which Michael Keaton plays a director/actor/producer who tries to put on a Broadway show but is dogged by a variety of behind-the-scenes (literally - old scenery scenes) disasters. Much of the action takes place amid dusty scenery, ropes and pulleys.
Walk the Line (2005). The rise and rocky life of Johnny Cash. During his roadie phase, there is at least one performance where Cash waits for his entrance in the wings of a run-down theater where old scenery is propped up on the walls around him. Cash is played by Leaf Phoenix and Jane Carter by Reese Witherspoon. The two actors did all their own singing.
Amadeus (1984) There is a scene from Don Giovanni and great scenery toward the end of the movie when Mozart is conducting The Magic Flute and the the Queen of the Night appears from the heavens.
The Magic Flute (1975) - Ingmar Bergman's version uses some C18th-style scenery. The film was shot in Drottninghom, Sweden, where there is a theater within a palace built in 1764-66. The stage still has much of its original machinery, including "wave" machinery for storms at sea. The scenery used in the movie was created for it, not the original pieces!
The Age of Innocence (1993) - a Martin Scorsese costume piece with an important scene that takes place at the opera.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) in which James Cagney plays George M. Cohan, an important figure in the golden age of Broadway. It's a nostalgic view of the era of show business, song and dance.
An Awfully Big Adventure (1994). The story is set in a provincial theater in Liverpool. Hugh Grant, Georgina Cates and Alan Rickman are in it. The action revolves around a production of Peter Pan.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) a cult movie in which the Baron encounters such characters as the King of the Moon and Venus. There is an astonishing variety of stage sets, complete with sea monsters and a wave machine!
Revolutionary Road (2008) in which there is a scene with a painfully bad production of The Petrified Forest from 1948. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio are the stars. Peter Miller painted the scenery, badly on purpose!
Unfaithful (2002) with Richard Gere. A melodrama that includes a kids school production with scenery again painted by Peter Miller who was told to paint it "like soccer moms who went to art school.".
Gangs of New York (2002) a Martin Scorsese movie that takes place during the Civil War. Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day Lewis) attends a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Although the play is interrupted by an assasination attempt, you do see some nicely painted scenery designed by Dante Ferretti and painted in Rome by the Scenic Artists of Cinecitta Studios. Leonardo DiCaprio heads up the rival gang.