Kismet: Hollywood, orientalism and the design language of Padraic Colum’s Mogu of the Desert
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The lure of the exotic ‘other’ was implicit from the early years of the Gate’s repertoire. In 1931 the Gate produced Padraic Colum’s Mogu of the Desert, designed by Micheál mac Liammóir and featuring a young Orson Welles. Exploring Mogu uncovers a broader engagement with ‘exotic’ or oriental narratives at the Gate generally. The history and subject matter of Mogu contextualizes mac Liammóir’s fascination with oriental and Middle-Eastern culture within contemporary film. Archival photos illustrate how production stills copied the iconographic styling of film publicity using ‘film-star’ portraiture to promote the Gate. Orientalist narratives require the display of the body through the eroticization of costume – legitimizing the costumed body as a to-be-looked-at space. The Gate’s fascination with oriental settings enables the visibility of ‘transgressive’ sexualities as well as understanding the tastes and appeal of popular culture.
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