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ANGUS MCBEAN AND THE 'FOURTH EMPIRE'
Angus McBean explains how his interiors for the Academy Cinema and the Pavilion Restaurant in Oxford Street came into being.
An editited version of Angus's article 'Lost Pavilion', The World Of Interiors, May 1988.
Why I was chosen, an entirely unknown and untrained decorator to revamp the bombed Academy Cinema in Oxford Street, for George and Anne Hoellering I shall never know.
I had worked for George as a photographer on his film of T S Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral' and they had seen my decorations in my Endell Street studio. But to entrust such an important job to me was another matter... I was helped in it by David Ball, my partner, who also starred in my photograph of the Pavilion Cafe (as it was then), which was flashed on the screen to advertise it.
The entrance hall with its paybox and the inner foyer, luckily with its grand marble staircase also surviving, I kept very gay, colourful with much mahogany and mirrors. It was my Regency-cum-Empire period.
David Mlinaric recalls being taken to some of the Academy's avant garde films as a boy, and afterwards to the Pavilion for tea and ice-cream: it was there, he says, that he first became aware of decoration.
When I had completed the cinema the Hoellerings decided to rebuild the area at the corner of Oxford and Poland Streets. The site is said to be that of the almost ledgendary Oxford Street Pantheon of the Regency period.
The ground floor became a jeweller's and the top floor Holly's office. The second floor, linked to the cinema's basement and it was decided that I should create a ballroom-concert hall - so was born the Marquee, and on my bandstand Mick Jagger first sang with the Rolling Stones.
The corner site turned out to have an ancient licensed victuallers royal appointment. So it was decided to make the still unused area into a teashop - with a licence - the first cinema in England to have one. Following the success of the Marquee, Anne plumped on the name of 'The Pavilion Restaurant' which in a way decided its decoration.
The sapce was high and hung on six huge concrete pillars which could not be removed. So I painted them brilliant green, sponged over with equally brilliant blue. They were clad in wrought-iron, complete with Ionic capitals. I devised two shallow square vaults, ribbed with wrought-iron and striped with a brilliant yellow silk wallpaper, made to my design by Coles.
Then I designed everything. I had simple wrought-iron Empire style chairs, painted black with yellow leather seats, and round glass-topped tables to match. I made the first chandelier myself out of twisted ormolued brass tubing and had a metal-working friend copy it and make cross-arrowed, lion-masked wall lights - making the glass drip pans myself out of Woolworth ashtrays that cost three pence. I even designed the china, now all smashed and gone. The carpet was made to my design by Templetons. Alas, the colourful wide blue-and-grenn striped velvet curtains did not survive.
And now the Pavilion too has gone. The Historic Buildings Council did first photograph it from all angles in colour. Someone tried to list it, of course unsuccessfully, as 'the one example of a Festival of Britain interior.'
I thought at the time I was designing an academic, classical First Empire interior. However, a flippant friend dubbed it the only example of Fourth Empire.