Friday, 1 February 2013

Egypt in C20: Condom tins

Drugstore cabinet (with privacy doors) at Museum of Sex image and great article here

Ramses Condom tin, 1947 available at etsy

Julius Schmid started his career in a sausage casing factory in New York before, in 1882, starting up a firm selling "skins" made from surplus animal intestines.

Before the mid 1930s condoms could not be advertised openly but a decade before this Schmid had already built up his business and was one of the largest manufacturers in the US. 

He had two main Egyptian themed lines - Sphinx and Ramses but other designs also reflected an interest in the middle east. 

The idea of using middle eastern, specifically Egyptian, themes as imagery on products was obvious and reflected a fascination throughout this period with the exotic and far flung countries. I should imagine just the very thought of the Middle East would hurtle thoughts of harems, belly dancers and exotic women into the minds of most people - a world linked with eroticism and sexual sophistication.

What better imagery could there be?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Egyptian Influenced Tattoos

The Mummy Tattoo
Egyptian Ankh and Temple Tattoo
Anubis Tattoo

Egyptian Cat Tattoo
Rhianna Egyptian Tattoo
Rhianna Egyptian Tattoo
Egyptian Tattoo

Egyptian Tattoo with Cartouche

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Mummy (1932)

"My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods. No man has ever suffered as I did for you. But the rest you may not know. Not until you are about to pass through the great night of terror and triumph. Until you are ready to face moments of horror for an eternity of love..." 

Zita Johann, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon 
The Mummy was released  by Universal Studios and starred Boris Karloff as Imhotep/Ardath Bey and Zita Johann as Princess Ankh-es-en-amon/Helen Grosvenor.

Shot mainly in California the script was written by John L.Balderston, a journalist, who had covered the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb ten years previously for the New York World.

The attention to detail in this film is rich  and lavish- not only in the well known tales of how Karloff the Uncanny suffered for his art under make-up artist Jack Pierce - but also for how ancient Egypt is portrayed in a series of flashbacks.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Travellers to Egypt: Louis Armstrong

As part of a Goodwill Tour of Africa and the Middle East, arranged by the US State Department, Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, visited Cairo in January 1961. 

The visit to Cairo was part of a three month tour that saw Armstrong, as a skilled ambassador for his country, and his All Stars band performing in 27 cities in Africa and the Middle East

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Egyptian Revival Architecture: Grauman's Egyptian Theatre

1926, via LAPL
One of my promises to myself is that I am going to do many more posts on this blog and a series I want to focus on is Egyptian influences in buildings.

The grand daddy of these is Grauman's Egyptian theatre in Los Angeles. Built a full 5 years before its more famous neighbour, the Chinese Theatre, it is a magnificent example of the influence of Egypt in twentieth century architecture.

1922 mural in progress 

Originally conceived of as a Spanish style building the theatre was built in 18 months opening on October 18 1922 with Robin Hood starring the gorgeous Douglas Fairbanks. Interestingly for those interested in the beginnings of Hollywood this was also the first premier of a film featuring many of the things we associate with opening nights now - big stars in attendance, red carpet and glamour.

October 1922, Egyptian Theatre opening night 

The theatre itself was, in terms of our experience of cinemas these days, massive and had a capacity of 1,771 seats in its main auditorium.

1920s via LAPL

The screen was framed by a magnificent temple scene flanked with four pillars decorated like papyrus plants.

1920s via LAPL

The Egyptian influences are definitely not subtle and, as the theatre opened mere days before Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen's tomb, it slightly pre-dates the mania for Egypt that held sway in the 1920s.

Tinted postcard, own collection 

And it wasn't just the architecture that had an Egyptian theme - usherettes were dressed up in Egyptian costume, men walked the parapets dressed as Egyptian guards shouting the times of the next screening and exotic animals were housed in cages in the forecourt transporting the theatre goer to another world.

1922, via

A forward, penned by Sid Grauman, in a souvenir programme for the opening of the theatre draws some interesting parallels with America.

"Springing from the cradle of civilization in the Valley of the Nile, where romance first reared its head as a halo to mankind, the art of the Pharoahs has been transplanted to these alien shores, where it finds its kin in the hierogylphics of the Indians. The same picture writing that we discovered in Egypt, graven on the walls of the new Hollywood Theatre, finds its similarity in the records left on the rocks and walls by the aborigines of America." 

Although the 1920s saw many theatres in the US being built in this style (and I have seen reference to over 50 of these having being built) this wasn't the first time that Hollywood had been drawn to the mysteries of Egypt with 5 features about Cleopatra being filmed between 1908-1918 alone. The world of Egypt was perfect for the newly emerging industry giving them legends with long pedigrees, mysterious and exotic worlds to film and (perhaps) crucially helping to establish an impression of longevity, prestige and seriousness to this fledgling town. 

The history of the Egyptian theatre could have been similar to many of the other Egyptian themed theatres (hint: not a good ending) but after years of under funding and neglect it was given Cultural Monument designation but the City of Los Angeles and purchased by them in order to protect it. A year later it's ownership was transferred to American Cinematheque for the pricely sum of $1.00 on the basis that it would be restored and protected for the future. 

1994, via LAPL

In 1994 an earthquake caused significant damage to the fabric of the building but a multi-million dollar renovation meant that in 1998 it was reopened to the public - restored to its former glory. 

For more Egyptian influenced cinemas  Carlton Cinema,Essex Road UK