"Let the Dance Floor Feel Your Leather": Set Design, Dance, and the Articulation of Audiences in RKO Radio's Astaire-Rogers Series

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  This study revisits a classic film series from the high point of Modernism's influence on Hollywood art direction: RKO Radio's Astaire-Rogers society film musicals from 1933 to 1938. The study makes use of primary evidence, contemporary reviews, and critical writings from the 1930s to illustrate the corporate, social, and production contexts of a film series that made effective use of the networks of social relations extending from studio personnel to theater patrons. The study adopts the principle of articulation, drawn from Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, to explain how discourses surrounding the films were used by necessity to ensure success for each film and offer the possibility of continued financial return. In the Astaire-Rogers series, various elements of the film text, such as dance routines and modernist furnishings, were articulated to audiences through extratextual material, and the visual landscape of aspirational modernism connected with real domestic and social spaces. The study proposes that the series offered more than an escapist fantasy for the passive audience-it engaged audiences physically and discursively to develop an intimate connection between screen aesthetics and financial success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Popular Film & Television
Issue number1
Early online date5 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • Modernism
  • Dance
  • Aesthetics
  • Motion Pictures
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Theater

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