A few months ago, I watched Harold and Maude (1971) for the first time. I thought it was a nice enough movie, not really all that fantastic, but…good. However what really struck me about the movie was the sheer overpowering amounts of brown and beige in the film. Harold’s clothes all tend to be shades of brown, Maude drives a beige car, Harold’s mother’s house has an immense amount of wooden furnishings. Brown, brown, beige and BROWN! At the time, I assumed this was a deliberate stylistic choice - a way of visually representing how drab and boring Harold’s life was, and how Maude brought color and vivacity into it.
Last night however, I watched the Abominable Dr. Phibes (also 1971), and again there was an unusual amount of brown - clothing, props, background and backdrops tended to be overwhelmingly brown or beige.
On a hunch, I began to randomly check out youtube clips from other 1971 era films - Straw Dogs, the Hospital, Countess Dracula and The French Connection. Is it just me, or does it just jump out at you? The massive amount of brown / beige in everything - even down to the predominance in hair color (lots of actors with brownish auburn/brunette hair coloring.) And I noticed that location scenes (such as in H & M and TFC) had the least amount of the coloring, which kind of suggests to me that it wasn’t society at large liking browns, but the scenic designers and costumers of the films that made a point of featuring shades of brown everywhere.
Am I imagining this? Was there some kind of reason for this? Perhaps it’s just my own personal taste but as I mentioned above, that much of the same coloring just looks drab and just ugly. Why in the world was it popular in that specific time?