Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reel Connections: Art Allusion in "Green Acres" Theme Song

Green Acres is the place to be. Especially if you want some innocent art allusions in a classic television sitcom. For me, I just felt like mentioning my love of classic sitcoms, and Green Acres: which told the hysterically funny story of two city slickers (Eddie Alberts and Eva Gabor) experiencing life in the country town of "Hooterville" from 1965-1971. As a kid, I used to love the re-runs of this show which ran on TV Land. It was one of my early introductions to the fact that good, clean, and really funny fun could exist in that far-off entity of the past, which of course allowed me to "discover" my love of classic cinema. The rest, as they say, is history, or rather, the history of art in movies and television.
Anyhow...if you remember anything, even something small, from Green Acres, you'll probably remember that fantastic theme song (written by the king of TV theme songs, Vic Mizzy). The theme song conveniently explains the whole premise of the show, with wildly catchy music. A recent re-watching led me to a few, perhaps intentional art allusions that appear in the theme song. We'll go from most to least obvious.

1. Douglas and Lisa as American Gothic

American Gothic (1930)
by Grant Wood (American)
The most obvious art parody occurs at the very end of the theme song, when the couple triumphantly sings the final lyrics "Green Acres, we are there!" Douglas stands, clutching a pitchfork, in a dapper three piece suit, while Lisa stands next to him, also striking a pose. This is very obviously, a reference to the famous Grant Wood painting America Gothic (1930) which currently sits in the famed Art Institute of Chicago. American Gothic is one of the most famous American paintings of the last century, with its memorable, seemingly cold, subjects staring blankly in front of their farmhouse. American Gothic is a painting that very simply suggests America's heritage of agriculture, which fits pretty clearly in with Green Acre's romanticizing of the "rural life." It's also one of the most parodied pieces of art and Green Acres stands in front as one of the most prominent parodies of the piece.

2. Mondrian and Suggestions of Modernity

"Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue"
Moving past the obvious American Gothic allusion, I noticed another painting that I found very interesting in the piece. In the theme song, Lisa sings her parts in front of the backdrop of her glamorous New York apartment, decked out with the most modern furniture and art. One painting I initially noticed was this pseudo-Mondrian that appears behind her in a couple of clips. 
A typical Mondrian "composition"
I'm sure that you probably noticed it as well. Of course, Green Acres didn't acquire a real Piet Mondrian for a few second inclusion in their theme song (and a few consecutive episodes), but they obviously wanted the look of sleek modernism that Mondrian's work suggests. Nothing could be in greater opposition to the ramshackle house Douglass picks than Lisa's (fake) modern art collection. 
Season 1: Episode 16
Lisa thinks she finds a new house for her furniture and paintings

3. Grant Wood: Returns (Maybe)!

Birthplace of Herbert Hoover (1931)
by Grant Wood
So, initially, I just wanted a nice little post about Green Acres and all the good clean fun I enjoyed with it was a kid. But, as I re watched the theme song, I noticed another aspect, probably an unintentional art allusion, that I feel like noting. Maybe it was just because I was a Grant Wood state of mind, but I feel like, you might enjoy my "discovery." 

The theme song begins with these panning scenes of the countryside (setting the stage, if you will), as the stars' names show up. And as I was watching these mixed aerial and ground views glorifying the American countryside, I thought of some of Grant Wood's other paintings. If you're familiar with his Regionalism style, he has a lot of paintings of farmland with an elevated look to it. I included The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover (1931) above and I've included his painting, Fall Plowing (also from 1931) below. 
Fall Plowing (1931)
Grant Wood
 Admit it, I make a pretty valid point. No, I don't think when they were filming the title sequence, they were thinking "Oh, let's make some very subtle parodies of Grant Wood's extensive volume of work that only some kid with too much time with figure out." No, but I don't think it's out of the question, that a TV show that mocks the glorification of country life would think of modern American images associated with farming and rural areas- namely Grant Wood's paintings. Obviously, they were familiar at least with his most famous painting, American Gothic. It's interesting how, if you try hard enough, you can connect TV and movies with the visual arts thematically and subject-wise. It's just a matter of some determination. 


  1. Love, love, love Green Acres, and love, love, love your post!
    Thanks for another great read...
    Green Acres, I am there!
    --best regards,

  2. I also noticed what looks like a Clifford Still painting

  3. I also noticed what looks like a Clifford Still painting

  4. There's something by the farmhouse front door which appears to be Franz Marc

  5. My mother has an original red and gold chair from the set, it's in your picture for episode 16. It now decorates my parents' vacation home in Brazil. :-)


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