Currey and Company vignette midcentury details

A Midcentury Cougar on the Prowl

Anne Bancroft in the Graduate, a midcentury cougar
An acclaimed cougar lounging in her den beneath a tiger-striped throw: brilliant staging for the ultimate femme fatale.

The nickname cougar, signifying women who have “a thing” for younger men, hasn’t been around for as long as they’ve been cropping up in popular culture. Before she had an epithet, she was a moody manipulator whose wardrobe was as chic as it was sexy, her story the perfect narrative for a midcentury cougar. Her interiors were equally cosmopolitan, her milieu a long unfolding of style statements as she prowled through a 1967 Mike Nichols film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Directing. It was one of the most popular movies of its era.

A Midcentury Cougar with Sensual Prowess

A now famous Simon and Garfunkel song introduced us to her—the cigarette smoke flowing from her ample lips brought to mind each time I hear, “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…”

Anne Bancroft in Black Fur, a midcentury cougar
Wrapped in black fur, she is the quintessential feline on the prowl.

Deviousness has never looked more alluring than it did on Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, and her sensual prowess supplied modernity with a shocking but classy take on “the forbidden.”

I have been making my way through Nichols’ oeuvre lately—from beginning to end—revisiting her world in his second effort decades after being introduced to it. One of the surprises I had not anticipated was watching a fresh-faced Ben Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman at the launch of his career. His star has risen so high since then that seeing him was like experiencing a completely new character than the one I witnessed the first time around—the known leading man infiltrating the unknown neophyte with a strange familiarity that couldn’t have existed when the film debuted. The melodies also plucked at a poignant place in me given the distance of time, proving that nostalgia gleans its power only from afar.

Anne Bancroft in the Graduate
Her sultry machinations were running through her mind…

The interiors created by production designer Richard Sylbert were smart enough to stand up to today’s highest standards of what it meant to be stylishly midcentury—only Mrs. Robinson’s bedroom feeling a bit dated because it was more fashion forward at the time. Though it would be easy to judge Sylbert for this, he at least managed a cosmopolitan presentation of 70s style before it raced America full-tilt into garishness—the shag carpeting, pops of overly bright purple and oversized movie-star-lit mirror in her lair hinting at the future she will have to face.

Anne Bancroft's bedroom a hint of the styles to come.
The bedroom a hint of the styles to come, the 70s decor a departure from the rest of the home.

And Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson

Looking back at the film in an article for Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner reports the furs Bancroft wore, which included a Somalian leopard-skin wrap, were worth $25,000, the value today adding up to around $180,000. Kashner quotes Nichols as saying he kept thinking about the beast in the jungle so animal skins seemed a natural extension of Bancroft’s character.

Anne Bancroft in a Leopard coat in The Graduate
Leopard print serves as the subtext for Bancroft on the prowl.

She is certainly feline as she tiptoes through the confines of her cage behind its mission-style façade, her acting out proving it is more a prison than a fortress. Slatted wood doors in a glacial white in the bedroom and lattice panels painted a provocative black in the den hint that someone could be there, peering from the other side as the seduction unfolds. These were simply midcentury era design moves, of course, but it is constructed storytelling at its most powerful because it lends the director an emotional edge.

Ben Braddock is about to be ensnared in Mrs. Robinson’s lair in The Graduate
Ben Braddock is about to be ensnared in Mrs. Robinson’s lair.

The tailored pairing of black and white was ubiquitous—in the harlequin lozenges covering the floor of the hotel bar, in striped wallpaper and in the awnings just beyond the den’s sliding-glass doors. Then there’s Bancroft, rocking a black and white cheetah-patterned skirt so willfully I was determined to find newly released modern furnishings to surround her were she making her moves today. I spotted them in the spring introductions by Currey & Company, which will be on view at the Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market from June 22 through the 28, the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market from July 12 through 19, and the Las Vegas Market from July 31 through August 4.

Currey and Company vignette midcentury details
A moody vignette showcasing Currey & Company’s Daystar table lamp made of composite granite and metal with a black shantung shade. Photo by Erica George Dines; styling by Thea Beasley.

This post celebrates the company’s ability to continually release timeless products with a thoroughly contemporary feel. It also pays homage to Mrs. Robinson, whose character was born on the big screen 49 years ago this coming December 22nd. The fact that she has remained a complex and compelling character speaks to Bancroft’s abilities as an actress. The film also proves that Nichols was one of the film industry’s greatest auteurs.

Currey & Company Continually Defines New Classics

Let me know if you agree that these Currey & Company spring releases would have been right at home in Mrs. Robinson’s cosmos. You can find them here: the Canto chandelier, the Gilda vanity and mirror, the Leandre chandelier, the Octave table lamp, the Monarch three-drawer chest, the Solene chandelier, the Longleaf wall sconce, the Briallen Demi-lune, and the Jubilee chandelier.

Currey and Company Canto chandelier
Currey & Company’s 6-light Canto chandelier made of wrought iron with a dark antique gold-leaf finish, shown with optional black shantung shades.
Gilda vanity and mirror Currey and Company
The Gilda vanity and vanity mirror have been treated to Granello silver-leaf and antiqued mirror finishes.
Currey and Company Leandre chandelier
The Leandre 12-light chandelier is made of metal with an antique brass finish and crystal accents.
Currey and Company Octave table lamp
The Octave table lamp is made of glass and optic crystal with dark smoke, black and clear finishes, fitted here with an off-white shantung shade.
Monarch chest Currey and Company
The Monarch three-drawer chest, made of wood and mirror, has been treated to a light antique finish.
Currey and Company Solene chandelier
The Solene chandelier adjusts from 36” to 75” high and is made of wrought iron with a silver-leaf finish. The shade shown is off-white linen.
Longleaf wall sconce Currey and Company
The Longleaf wall sconce is finished in a dark contemporary gold leaf and made of wrought iron.
Detail of Briallen deminlune
A detail of the handle on the Briallen Demi-lune, which is made of solid antiqued brass.
Jubilee chandelier Currey and Company
The Jubilee chandelier is made of wrought iron and mirror, and has been treated to a painted silver Granello finish.

Anne Bancroft’s Moody Beauty

I highly recommend taking the time to read Kashner’s Vanity Fair article because it’s an excellent piece of reportage that tells the story of the evolution of the film. In the article, he notes, “Though playing mother and daughter, Bancroft and Ross never actually have a scene together. The closest they come is when Benjamin bursts into Elaine’s bedroom to confess his affair with her mother, and Mrs. Robinson, rain-drenched and desperate, stands outside the door, too late to stop him. Her elegant face is framed just above Elaine’s own.”

Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson
A rain-drenched Mrs. Robinson, realizing what’s been done.

Quoting Ross, he writes, “You see Mrs. Robinson, disillusioned and bitter. It’s one of those very subtle moments that only a great actress can pull off. In that moment you see the story of her life.” It truly was a snapshot that embodied The Sound of Silence, one of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs that serve as lyrical characters in the film.

I also recommend reading the novel by Charles Webb that inspired the entire effort if you are compiling a summer reading list, as the dialogue is direct and snappy. Buck Henry did such an excellent job with the screenplay, you’ll be able to see the scenes unfolding as you read exchanges such as this in the novel if you remember the movie well:

“Haven’t you ever seen anybody in a slip before?” she said, letting the dress fall down around her and onto the floor.

“Yes I have,” Benjamin said, glancing away from her and at the portrait of Elaine. “But I just—“

“You still think I’m trying to seduce you, don’t you?”

“No I do not!” He threw his hands down to his sides. “Now I told you I feel terrible about saying that. But I don’t feel right up here.”

And the rest, as they say, is cinematic history!

A vignette of Currey and Company products
This lovely vignette includes the Aubade chandelier, Clifford table lamp, Belden desk, Brockworth table lamp, Nefret chair and Sahara rug. Photo by Erica George Dines; styling by Thea Beasley.

The Currey & Company showroom in Dallas is in the World Trade Center at 2050 Stemmons Freeway, Suite 10000. If you go and you see other products you feel would fit Mrs. Robinson to a tee, Instagram them and call us out, okay? Also on the company’s summer event list is the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market from July 12 through 19, and the Las Vegas Market from July 31 through August 4.

A Now Classic Scene from The Graduate
A now classic scene from “The Graduate.”

The Modern Salonnière and this entry, A Midcentury Cougar on the Prowl, © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and SEO strategist. Her books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns.

2 Replies to “A Midcentury Cougar on the Prowl”

  1. To revisit the whole visual of The Graduate was so amazing…..the hint of the
    sexual tension everywhere you look…..I just loved how you re-created that
    tension & relationship between even the furnishings….I could not help fixating on the
    ‘over the bed’ swags, so s & m……so wild! The mirrors…..W O W
    Loved the post!

  2. I had the same visceral feeling that you did about the swags, Zina! I thought that was so freaking brilliant! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Given your talent, this is high praise indeed!

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