Winner 2011

American Masters: Eames—The Architect and the Painter

Quest Productions, Bread and Butter Films, in association with Thirteen's American Masters for WNET

Watching this documentary about Charles and Ray Eames, the first couple of American design, is like shaking a kaleidoscope. The viewer is treated to a dazzling tumble of images and interviews. They entertain, instruct and do perfect justice to the Eameses’ boundless, playful creativity. The couple is best known for their affordable, functional mid-century furniture, which transformed how middle class families furnished their homes. Even Americans who don‘t know their names have likely sat in a contoured “Eames chair” of molded plywood or fiberglass. Filmmakers Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey show and contextualize these and other examples of the amazing breadth of the couple‘s work, from textiles to experimental films. They have a bounty of archival material as well, from 1950s TV appearance clips to photos and home movies shot in their seaside California workshop, which is part Picasso studio, part Pee-wee Herman playhouse. Still, as giddy as their enthusiasm for their subjects often is, the filmmakers don‘t shy away from the difficulties of a marriage of prolifically creative workaholics. For celebrating two of the most influential designers of the 20th century and reminding us of the flesh and blood behind the plywood and plastic, American Masters: Eames – The Architect and the Painter receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producers: Shirley Kessler, Susan Lacy for American Masters. Producers: Jason Cohn, Bill Jersey. Writer: Jason Cohn (narration). Narrator: James Franco. Editor: Don Bernier