'Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair' and other cool things: Charles & Ray Eames on film

January 26, 2012

Husband and wife designers Charles and Ray Eames are best-known for the endless line of cool furnishings they created in the postwar years--or for their California home that has famously caught the eye of actor/rapper Ice Cube recently.

But the Eameses were also skilled filmmakers. Some of their films marketed their own stuff; others they did out of curiosity or for corporate clients like General Motors and IBM. Charles died in 1978 and Ray passed away a decade later, but with the Eameses all the rage now, it's also a good time to examine their films.

The above clip is an excerpt from one of my favorite Eames films, Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair, a seven-minute short from 1960. It was filmed in their Venice Beach studio and Charles and Ray themselves make an appearance with the endlessly shifting and bopped-out chairs they designed. The late Dick Marx--Chicago's own--did the swinging, yet martini-dry jazz score. (Marx would later go on to score movies such as A League of Their Own in 1992. In the 1970s, he created a theme for WBBM TV news that, to this day, still sounds good.)

Here's the Eames' famed 1977 film Powers of Ten, made for IBM and filmed here in Chicago. (By the way, Mr. Narrator, it's Soldier Field, not Soldiers' Field.)

We close with a film that's perfect for a photoblog like mine: The Eameses' 1972 presentation film on the then-revolutionary Polaroid SX-70 folding, SLR instant camera: