Charles and Ray Eames Debut on PBS

The opening line in a new film by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey on Charles and Ray Eames pays the ultimate compliment to a designer.

“We weren’t sure what he was,” a contemporary solemnly intones about Charles Eames.  “Was he an architect? Was he a designer?  Was
he a filmmaker?  But what he was, obviously, was something we all wanted to be.”

Westinghouse, Boeing and Polaroid all sought out and trusted the couple with their product designs.  The coveted chairs and furniture they created are still being produced by Herman Miller today.

And “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” will take a bold look at their work on Monday, Dec. 19 on the PBS series “American Masters.”

“It’s a combination of footage they shot plus pieces from our archives and places like the Library of Congress,” says Mark Schurman, Herman Miller’s director of corporate communications.

Cohn and Jersey obviously hold the design team in great reverence, primarily because of the breadth of media in which the couple worked.  “It was incredibly varied,” says Schurman.  “They worked in film, photography, exhibitions and for the State Department.”

The common thread to all of their work, though, lay in communication.

“In some respects, even their furniture is about that,” he says.  “They emphasized the guest/host relationship of comfort, welcoming and shared time together, in the physical spaces they made.”

The filmmakers do not flinch when it comes to depicting the complex couple’s real and personal lives.  Toward the end of the film, Charles’ infidelities are addressed, to the point of interviewing one of his former love interests.

For more on “Eames: The Architect and the Painter,” go to

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