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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach

The characteristic curve of the Chateau Tower.

Agent Triple P was recently in Miami Beach, where he had to stay for a day whilst waiting for a flight back to London.


The Fontainebleau in the opening of Goldfinger


We were impressed by the city and had always wanted to stay there ever since we first saw the opening titles of Goldfinger. This featured a wonderful tracking aerial shot (in the days when aerial shots weren't that common) of the hotels along the beach which then zoomed around the hotel Fontainebleau to the pool area, perfectly synchronised to a man diving off a high board, where the key scene with Goldfinger would be played out. And all to John Barry's swaggering Into Miami theme: a perfect piece of cinema!



The Fontainebleau Pool from Goldfinger

Actually, of course, only Cec Linder, playing Felix Leiter, actually went to the Fontainebleau; Connery and Gert Frobe shot their scenes on a recreation of the pool area at Pinewood, hence some very dodgy back projection. Sadly, the original pool is no longer there having been replaced by Hilton when they owned the hotel a few years ago.

The Chateau Tower today


The Fontainebleau hotel James Bond stayed in in the film had a distinctive, curved main building, the Chateau Tower. Opened in 1954 the hotel was designed by Morris Lapidus (1902-2001) it rapidly became the must stay at place in Florida for the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Dwight D Eisenhower and helped regenerate the whole area.


The hotel in the fifties.


The 22 acre site today

Lapidus had already designed five major hotels along the beach and designed several more, essentially establishing the character of Miami Beach. He wasn't always appreciated at the time as the architectural world was in the throws of brutal modernism and his more cursive style, which would later be called post-modern, was considered rather idiosyncratic. His reputation, particularly in Europe, has increased in the last ten years or so.

Lapidus wrote, of the Fontainebleau, that, "American taste was being influenced by the greatest mass media of entertainment of that time, the movies.... So I designed a movie set!" Indeed the hotel has featured in many other films including The Bell Boy, The Bodyguard and The Specialist (one of Agent DVD's all time un-favourites!) but is now closed (except for one tower which is not part of Lapidus' original design) whilst it undergoes a $1 billion renovation. This will see a nod back to it's fifties origins; nearly all the original interiors having disappeared, like the pool, in subsequent renovations.

Lapidus' interiors were what he was really renowned for and the current owners of the hotel are restoring key features like his famous bow-tie pattern lobby.



Designs for the new lobby


The original lobby


This is the reason Agent Triple P did not stay there on his brief (22 hour) visit to Miami Beach. It re-opens next year and so we will just have to ensure that our return is timed properly! The website for the resort has animations of the new hotel but it suffers from crass Americanisation which pronounces the name of the place as "Fountain Blue". Ghastly!

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