Journal: This Film Is A Glossy Tribute To The Space Age Design Of 1958

This Film Is A Glossy Tribute To The Space Age Design Of 1958

By Michael Banovsky
January 7, 2016

This is what 1958 looked like.

At least that was the premise that The American Look tried to illustrate. It’s a softly sold documentary that General Motors produced in 1958, to educate American consumers on how the country’s design language was created and evolves—with the motor car as a product to rule them all.

This film sure is pretty, thanks to all of the sweet Populuxe footage within, and its intro that praises the work of stylists is a huge departure from how General Motors used to treat its styling team.

It takes about 17 minutes for the car footage to begin, but those 17 minutes are filled with countertop game roasters, bakelite can openers, and the most artistically-filmed linoleum floor you’ve ever seen.

Many of the products featured are, today, pretty funny, and have been revealed as a lot of sizzle without much merit. Put a baby in a circular crib? Why not! Clear row boat? Sure!

But once the car stuff starts, it shows an unprecedented (for the time) look at a major company’s design studio, showing the process from initial sketch to full-sized scale models—approval from pipe-smoking GM executives on the car they’re shown is swift.

A handshake—no, two handshakes are made—and the 1959 Impala is born.

Even though we can’t travel back in time to bask in the glow of Populuxe design, this 28-minute film is probably the next best thing—just don’t miss the cameo of a certain gas turbine-powered wondercar at the end…

Hemmings recently noted that there’s an art exhibition featuring original car studio design work and retired designers at the Scarab Club in Detroit, called AMERICAN DREAMING: Car Style Detroit. It’s on until February 14, 2016 with a special Gallery Talk event featuring designers set for January 21.

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Jon Bogdanove
Jon Bogdanove
4 years ago

The photo of the girl in the miniskirt sitting in front of the scooter looks more like 1968. No one was wearing a miniskirt in 1958. The word wasn’t even invented yet.

Michael Hainey
Michael Hainey
8 years ago

Ford GT40 and Lamborghini Miura matchbox

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