The wonderful thing about watching noir films back to back at Noir City is that you spot associations you might otherwise not make. Armor Marlowe—set decorator for the opening night feature Repeat Performance (and a noirish name if ever I've heard one)—and Jacques Mapes—set decorator for the following night's feature The Prowler—both used Diego Rivera's painting "Cargador de Flores (1935)" as a set dressing. This struck me only because I recall seeing it in one of the Val Lewton films I recently reviewed for the Lewton blogathon. Now I have to go back and find out which Lewton film and somehow satisfy my curiosity concerning how many times Rivera's painting has been used as a set decoration and why? Aware that Hollywood was crucial in introducing Mexican art to the American public (Edgar G. Robinson was one of the first to buy Frida Kahlo's paintings, for example), I'm wondering if the usage of modern Mexican art in the 40s and 50s isn't comparable to the role of "Japanese taste" in films of the silent era; as a barometer of cultural sophistication? Discussing this with Alan Rode, he cautioned that I might never be able to secure clear answers. But I toss it out as a trivia question: have any of you seen this painting in a movie?
Coincidentally enough, this painting is part of the collection in San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art and on their website Chicano artist Rupert Garcia—comparing "Cargador de Flores" to the Kahlo hung beside it—comments that in Rivera's painting "the people are insignificant; they're just like props." (Emphasis added.) The painting's formal attributes, he concludes, makes the painting "monumental."
Cross-published on Twitch.