Thursday, May 23, 2013

Palatial Kitsch

"I call it 'palatial kitsch,' I just love it," a caftan-clad  Liberace (Michael Douglas) describes his Las Vegas manse on HBO's upcoming Behind the Candleabra. Premiering this Sunday, May 26th at 9/8 central, the made for cable film tells the story of the eccentric entertainer and his love affair with Scott Thorson who eventually sued him for palimony.

Production designer Howard Cummings and set decorator Barbara Munch Cameron created three of Liberace's homes that included an over the top Las Vegas mansion, a Chinese influenced penthouse in Los Angeles and a Spanish 20s style house known as Casa de Liberace/The Cloisters in Palm Springs. The designers decorated 30 glitz and glam sets in a record five weeks and gilt, pianos and naked David statues were the order of the day. While many of the sets were created on a soundstage, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor's Bel Air home doubled as several of the Las Vegas interiors.

Douglas and Damon 
Perhaps the show-stopper was Lee's (as his friends called him) master bedroom/bath in his Las Vegas home. Complete with a homage to the Sistine Chapel, Liberace had his face painted among the cherubs and piano keys above the Grecian style bathtub. Cummings used archival photographs and reproduced the original designs. In a stroke of luck, he and Cameron located the son of the original tub fabricator (who just happened to have the molds) and even found the original brass bell in an antique shop(seen at the base of the tub) that was most likely used to summon the servants for champagne. For a tour of Liberace's lavish world,  see Architectural Digest here.

An ode to the Sistene Chapel

The real Liberace in his marble tub

Photo Credits: HBO


  1. Am so looking forward to this film, they seem to have captured the superficial opulence so it promises to be a real visual feast!

  2. I know that BEHIND THE CANDLEABRA is one film that I will be paying more attention to the production design and costumes than to the plot.

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