Monday, August 20, 2012

Motorola (1958-ish)

Good morning!

When the name "Motorola" comes up, it's hard for me not to think of my dinosaur aged, circa 2005 Motorola Razr cell phone. That's right, folks-- I may be the last person on the planet to have a phone that can neither access the internet nor take halfway decent photos-on-the-go (I rely on Bab's iPhone for a good deal of the content you see on this blog). The high point in features, as far as I'm concerned, is a ringtone of the Rockford Files theme song, which almost makes up for any other shortcomings (thanks, Sus and Matt, for making me a to-specifications Rockford Files ringtone). However! In spite of its twenty-first century name, it seems the Motorola company has been around since the late twenties', and specialized in high fidelity stereo consoles, radios, and television sets in the mid 1950's. Who knew?

Also, Motorola made ads in that phase of their company's history that look like a direct lift from some movie about cosmopolitan, bohemian, artist living in the 1950's. I want! To live! In any! Of these houses!

What do we look at first? In the above illustation, a honey-blonde woman in pink capris and a goldenrod turtleneck sits on a mixed-rock step leading to her sunken living room. She examines a new canvas that her husband, man-with-back-to-the-viewer, has just finished. Scattered on the floor seem to be other, smaller pieces, but there's little to wonder about with regard to their subject as LOOK AT THE WALL MURAL OF SOUTHWESTERN INDIAN ART. Wow! Eight feet tall and eight feet wide! Skylights cast shadows across the design, which to me at first looks like something you would see etched on the hilt of a Klingon war blade or something. Couldn't we be a little more pedestrian and do an eagle, or a wolf, or something that doesn't look like terror? See the bamboo shades that are rolled up all along the windows that also serve as exterior walls, the two low slung, Eames-y couches (can you spot the one hiding in the far background?), and the cowhide side table (or ottoman) that appears to be a cousin to Le Corbusier's cowhide sling chair. Oh, and there happens to be a Motorola console record player under the mural. HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO NOTICE THIS ITEM WITH ALL THE OTHER ITEMS? Shouldn't it be more of a focal point in the advertisement?

The next ad does a little better on focusing the reader's attention towards the product....but not much. I'm more concerned about how the people in the illustration might live in one of the book covers for Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Yes, trees turn orange in fall, but not that orange. On first glance, I liked the full-sized parrot in a cage, the bar cart, the molded plastic egg chairs, and the lagoon/lily pad pong going on in the foreground of the illustration. It was then that I realized the man is sitting on the only carpeting in the room, which happens to be a WITH-HEAD polar bear rug. Poor polar bear. My grandma used to have a full-sized brown bear rug like this in one of the rooms of her disused farm house out in Hartsville, TN...did I tell you about that before? When we would go up there to pick blackberries, I remember inching towards the room to see if I could look at it without getting scared. Guess what? Not so much. Like the fox stoles and little chinchilla pieces with the heads still attached, I just can't get behind it! Too creepy. Now, if you wanted to offer me a full on, eight foot high, taxidermied polar bear, that is a different story. Something about it missing its skeleton is weird (-er than my baseline comfort zone of weird!) to me.

More bayou action here...see how the house is perched in a ledge-like, all-glass way towards the pool and the shade of the overhanging foliage. The blue-green-gray palette of this illustration reminds me of some southern Gothic plantation, but then juxtaposed against this happy, dancing couple inside the house! I just don't know what to think. Again, the stereo itself is minute in scale compared to the rest of the picture. Maybe that's why they discontinued these ads in the early 60's! Out of the three houses, this one one I would like to live in the least for fear of the marauding, cannibal hill people or whatever the southern version of a Wendingo is, hiding just over that misty cobalt background.

Some simpler interiors (much more my speed!) in the closeups of some of these ads:

Mr. Como himself (not, really...not really) demonstrates the practicality of the build in, detachable speaker winds. I like his wall unit, the orange and yellow color scheme, and the general cut of his jib.  Below, a tv is revealed behind wood panels! Ah, convenience furniture. It's a tv/record player  when you want it and sideboard when you don't.

Last but not least, here's a photo from the competition, RCA Victor, and as cute a living room as ever I have seen. Pink! Blue! Gray! You never looked so good! The Isabella Rossellini gal in the capris is so chic yet casual!

Which crazy fever dream Motorola advertisement home would you like to live in? Do you have any vintage Motorola items (say, more vintage than my phone?) in your house? Do tell, do tell.

See you guys tomorrow!


  1. I don't think I have any Motorola electronics (our vintage stereo system is Pioneer). I did, once upon a time, have a Razr. I had it because the Samsung I had previously wouldn't work in France and I needed a cell phone I could use there. I had the Razr for a little while and switched back to a newer version of the Samsung phone I had before. I had that phone until this year when we got iPhones. I think it's so awesome that you have the Rockford Files theme as your ringtone. I LOVE that show. Even when it's kind of a silly episode it's still better than most of what's on TV.

    That top illustration almost makes me want to move out to New Mexico or somewhere, except that I know I would never be happy living in a desert. I really like the ultra-slick mostly-glass architecture but I'd have to replace all of my furniture...

  2. My college friend married a girl whose British ex-pat father and mother worked for Motorola for many years during its heyday. He was an engineer and she a secretary in the typing pool. They came to America after the war torn London for an education and employment. I listened to him while he conversed about their good ole days, long lost to foreign competition and economics. When the design and production of their products were all done in the U.S. He spoke with sheer devotion to his company and the co workers, ex-pat or not. Every employee felt connected to the company, and not through an electrical outlet. I also detected the sadness in his voice and in his gaze as he spoke. Imagine all the employees that worked to make that company one we can now only try to imagine through vintage magazine ads, and you, Pretty Bird.



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