Category Archives: Film and Television

Films and television programs featuring Lautner buildings

Bette Cohen screens film, speaks in Chicago

Spirit in architecture videoThe Chicago Architecture Foundation screened Bette Cohen’s The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner, on January 27, 2009. Cohen was there to speak to the enthusiastic audience and to answer questions. Bette has given us permission to reprint her remarks here:

It is great to be here in Chicago. Thank you for inviting me to screen my film, “The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner”. John Lautner always loved Chicago. His grandmother lived here, so as a young man he visited often. He loved the buildings. He always wanted to see the newest structures being built. He loved the timeless nature and his home in Marquette, Michigan but he also got inspiration from cities. He worked in Los Angeles for over fifty years.

This film examines the life and work of John Lautner, one of our country’s most visionary and important architects of the 20th Century. Lautner is part of a century-long chain of American individualists. His work represents an aspect of organic design, the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the contributions of Southern California architecture that expands our understanding of the nature of modernism.

While making the film I was not only interested in John’s work but I was interested in John’s creative process as well. During the process of making the film I went through hours and hours of interview materials. He was great to interview. I loved talking to him about Intangibles: Integrity, Justice, Honor, Truth and Beauty. John lived by his philosophy and he had so much to share.

It has been over fourteen years since John Lautner’s death in 1994. As time passes John Lautner’s work becomes more and more important and mainstream. Lautner’s work is the subject of scholarly attention. Scholars, critics and historians have had time to put Lautner’s life and work into perspective. This film and my research materials not included in the film have formed part of the background for many scholarly works and exhibitions. It appears in virtually all the bibliographical notes as a major resource. This film and archival research material will help a new generation of scholars and architects study the work of John Lautner, his words, ideas and thoughts and the words ideas and thoughts of his contemporaries.

I started working on this film in 1988 while studying architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture. At the time I made the film no books were written on Lautner. There were several newspaper and magazine articles but there had not been a book published on his work. He had written a book on his work but he had not gotten it published. No one would publish it the way he wanted it. He wanted a big coffee table book.

I usually let the film speak for itself but a lot has happened since I completed the film in 1991.

In July 2008 the first large scale museum exhibition of John Lautner’s work opened at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; including over one hundred original drawings and models of John Lautner’s work. The exhibition will travel to the Lighthouse Center For Architecture in Glasgow, Scotland in March, The Wolfsonian-Museum in Miami, Florida in October, and the Palm Springs Art Museum in February 2010.

The Los Angeles Museum of Art has acquired the Goldstein Office (which was in jeopardy of being demolished.) It will be preserved and maintained and will be installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Michael Govan, the Museum director’s office and open to the public by appointment. The J Paul Getty Trust has acquired the Lautner archives and has begun work on its preservation. The archives are now being fumigated and the Getty has begun to catalogue all the materials.

The film premiered in 1991 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles celebrating Lautner’s 80th birthday. John and I screened the film together here in Chicago at the Graham Foundation Center For Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. I would like to thank the Graham Foundation for their support and belief in this project. Carter Manny who was at the Graham Foundation had been an apprentice at Taliesin with John and he knew John’s work had been under recognized. Wes Peters was also at Taliesin with John and opened up Taliesin to me. I am also very grateful to everyone who allowed me to film in their homes and allowed me to interview them. While developing the project I interviewed the late critic, historian Ester McCoy, David Gebhard, and Bruno Zevi. I also Interviewed and filmed architectural photographer Julius Shulman, architectural historian Lionel March, architectural historian Ken Breisch and author, architect, critic Alan Hess. I am glad I was able to actually make this film in John Lautner’s lifetime! The film was a true collaboration. John was very open to me and to my crew.

More background:
Before I started architecture school in 1988 I had a background in photography and filmmaking. I was a film editor on commercials, documentaries and feature films but I became more and more interested in architecture. I was telling a friend what I was really interested in architecture. He had asked me if I had seen the work of John Lautner? I started to research Lautner’s work and I stumbled on the Garcia House (The Rainbow House). The owner invited me in and said there was going to be a Los Angeles Conservancy Tour on Lautner and he asked if I would like to be his guest. I went inside the Carling House for the first time, the living room was on a hinge and the pool was inside and outside the living room. I saw the Silvertop House, Lautner’s own house and a few other houses, which were on the tour. The owner of the Garcia House said to me, “… you seem so interested in Lautner’s work you should go to Lautner’s office; it’s right on Hollywood Boulevard”. I went to John Lautner’s office and I collected a bibliography of his work. Lautner was not there at the time. On the bibliography I noticed Marlene Laskey had interviewed Lautner for UCLA’s Oral History Program, she wrote “Responsibility, Infinity and Nature”. I went to UCLA and listened to the 1/4-inch tapes of the interviews. It was during that time I was able to visualize the film. It became clear that there were many ideas that Lautner was talking about and he wished he could show them visually. I thought film would be a wonderful format to portray these ideas and complex flowing spaces and describe the creative forces behind them. I had so many questions or him.

I started to write a National Endowment for the Arts grant. I told another friend of mine about the project and he said to me, “You are making a film on a man who you have never met and has not given you his permission? What are you crazy?” I called Lautner’s office the next day to make an appointment with John Lautner. I went into Lautner’s office with my proposal and introduced myself. I had never made a film before but I had had experience on films. He said, “Well it seems like a worthwhile project and you seem tall enough to do it!” That is how we started working together.

I started working with Evelyn Wendel, my co-producer. Bernard Saltzman was the first cinematographer I worked with. I was looking for a director and Bernard said to me, “Why don’t you direct it?” So I did.

In 1989 we filmed John Lautner for the first time at the Chemosphere, Sturges and Sheats house. We thought if something should happen to John we would still have a film. We got Paramount Studios involved in the film after our first shoot.

A lot has changed technically since I made the film. One of the biggest changes is digital technology. I shot the Lautner film in 16 mm and 35mm film; the interviews were recorded on 1/4-inch tape and cassettes, which were transferred to 16 mm magnetic stock. I edited the film on a 16mm Steenbeck. Today I edit my material on a computer and I shoot digitally.

These rare interviews are part of my archive on John Lautner. I am now digitizing and preserving all the interviews. I am planning on including additional material on the remastering of the DVD.

Take a look at Bette’s work on a film on Albert Frey as well as additional information on her film on Lautner on her website: Purchase VHS or PAL copies of the film from the Foundation shop:

Spirit in Architecture to screen in Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation will screen Bette Cohen’s Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner on January 27, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, at the John Buck Company Lecture Hall Gallery, 224 South Michigan Avenue. Cohen produced and directed this first documentary on John Lautner, and it features, along with stunning photography and interviews, Lautner himself walking around his buildings as he talks about them. Bette Cohen will be there to speak and answer questions.

To get tickets visit the Chicago Architecture programs page – scroll down to the film listing.

Note that you can buy the VHS version of this film from the John Lautner Foundation shop.

Lautner documentary to premiere in Palm Springs

Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner, a new documentary by documentary filmmaker Murray Grigor, will have its official world premiere at the Palm Springs Film Festival on January 12, 2009. The Festival will announce the full film lineup on December 27. Murray Grigor will be at the festival to speak about the making of the film.

After its premiere, the film will move to Glasgow to be screened between February 12 and 22 (date not yet set), shortly before the opening of the Hammer exhibit at The Lighthouse in March. Following this screening, the film goes to the prestigious Montreal Festival International du Films sur L’Art (International festival of films on art), which runs from March 6 – 16 (screening not yet set).

It will not end there. When we learn of additional venues we will post them here.

Is Iron Man Tony Stark’s house a Lautner design??

Some people have asked about the house in the 2008 movie Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. The house does have features that look like they could have been by John Lautner. The resemblance to Lautner houses is not accidental; set designer J. Michael Riva has used Lautner homes or sets based on Lautner homes in three other films: Charlie’s Angels I and II (I -set based on chemosphere, II – Sheats-Goldstein house), and Lethal Weapon 2 (Garcia house – both real and full-size mockup).

The house in Iron Man is fictional, a great piece of movie magic. Sans Cosm, a person on Yahoo Answers, provided the definitive answer:

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

Jon Favreau actually explained that the exterior shots of the house were of Point Dume with a house digitally added over it:…

The interior shots were filmed in the Playa Vista Stages on the West Side of LA:…

So the house never actually existed.

Movies featuring Lautner buildings

The following list is offered without recommendation, either for or against. Thanks to Roger Reed and Martin Daoust in particular for their help in compiling this list. Please note that this list does not include commercials, as they are too numerous and change too quickly to keep track.

If you know of other films using Lautner buildings, please write.

Also see:

Music Videos:

Sheats-Goldstein) “We’ve Got Love”
2015, Def Jam Recordings
YouTube version (Thank you Cynthia Peoples for telling us about this one)

Snoop Dogg
(Sheats-Goldstein) “Let’s Get Blown” (preview clip)
shot Nov 04, released Feb 2005

To view the full video register (free!) and view it here:

Tracie Spencer
(Sheats-Goldstein) “It’s All About You (Not About Me)”, directed by Francis Lawrence in 1999.
See the youtube copy here:


Digilis (released 2015)

Short sci-fi adventure, written and directed by Peter Rox. (Sheats-Goldstein residence, Goldstein office)
Good views of Sheats-Goldstein bedroom, parts of living-pool area, entrance, James Turrell space, Goldstein office. See film and info on creators.

A Single Man (2009)

Colin Firth, directed by Tom Ford (Schaffer residence)
Excellent views of interior of residence. Minimal modifications to house. See info on film.

Happy Endings (2005)
Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold (Schaffer residence)

Charlie’s Angels part II: Full Throttle
Used Sheats-Goldstein residence.
Info on the filming:

Bandits (2001)
Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Slayton
A series of flashbacks intercut with an interview with a real-life crime show host (Bobby Slayton), conducted by bandits in the host’s home (Sheats-Goldstein residence).

Charlie’s Angels: first film
Not really a Lautner building, but the villain’s pad is modeled after the “chemosphere” (Malin residence). The filmmakers obtained permission from the Foundation to create a home based on Lautner buildings. The home in the film appears to be about twice, or more, the size of the original.

Information on the set:

The Big Lebowski
Sheats-Goldstein Residence
Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, star: Bridges as slacker mistaken for rich dude involved in big crime

Possessions (1997)
Directed by Andrew Blake
Sheats-Goldstein residence
ADULT film

Body Double
Malin house (“chemosphere”)
Murder viewed by a voyeur in the “spaceship” house

Diamonds are Forever
Starring Sean Connery as James Bond
Elrod House
Bambi and Thumper bounce on Bond in this house.

Less than Zero
starring Robert Downey jr
Silvertop (Reiner/Burchill residence)
Story of drug addiction among the youthful rich of Beverly Hills

Lethal Weapon 2
Starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover
” Rainbow house”
Gibson blows up a full-scale mockup of this house

Playing God
Starring David Duchovny
Sheats-Goldstein residence makes guest appearances

Starring James Garner, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon
Jacobsen house (Thanks, Martin Daoust, for discovering which house)
Senior citizen sleuth works to solve mystery; confronts his own life.

directed by Andrew Blake
Sheats/Goldstein residence
CAUTION: adult film

Outer Limits
Second season: The Duplicate Man
Starring Ron Randell as Henderson James
“Chemosphere” (Malin house) is residence of scientist who assists James in stealing alien creature, the “Megasoid”. We view the chemosphere from the outside and below, and see James ride up the lift, but a set is used for the inside that in no way resembles the actual interior.