Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story full movie review - Beautiful story about two true under-appreciated cinema legends
This is the story of Harold and Lillian Michelson who were a showbiz couple who enjoyed a 60 year marriage. These guys weren't your typical showbiz people, however, as they worked the whole time under the radar and behind the scenes.
Harold was a Hollywood storyboard artist and Lillian a film researcher. This may not sound like a lot but this film makes it very clear indeed that it in fact was rather a lot. If you need one individual piece of proof, look no further than the iconic shot of Dustin Hoffman framed by Anne Bancroft's leg in The Graduate (1967). An image that not only encapsulated so much of the dynamics of the film itself but more than that is generally considered to be one of the most iconic images in movie history. This was not the idea of the man who won an Oscar for directing the film, Mike Nichols, nor Robert Surtees who was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography. It was the idea of Harold Michelson, the man who story-boarded the film. He didn't win an Oscar. He wasn't even credited.
This is but one example of the sorts of ideas Harold regularly brought to the table that were then used in a large array of films from the classic era like The Ten Commandments (1956), West Side Story (1961) and The Birds (1963), up to special effects bonanzas such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and beyond. Harold's work once again shows if proof is needed, that film-making is a collaborative effort where the director tends to get the credit for everything in spite of this fact. Throughout the film we see examples of Harold's beautiful drawings, which were so invaluable for directors trying to work out how to visualise the screenplays they had to work with.
His wife Lillian was a film researcher who set up a library that became an invaluable resource for many of the greatest film-makers in Hollywood. Circumstance led her to move it from place to place including Paramount Studios, Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Studios and ultimately at Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks. This library supplied the information on everything from the type of pants worn by Jewish girls in the late 19th century to the ins and outs of the hard drug trade. Of the latter, Lillian was even offered to go on a trip to Bolivia with a drug lord to see the operation at first hand! So these two individuals have made an immeasurable impact on the films coming out of Hollywood over a period of decades. And this film celebrates not only them as individuals but also as a loving couple whose marriage lasted for decades in an environment which is notoriously volatile for relationships. Charmingly, the movie is story-boarded throughout with cute drawings illustrating the narrative. There are also many film insiders on hand to offer their recollections of this fine couple, including Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks and Francis Ford Coppola. Its overall a very rich and rewarding bit of work about people who fully deserve the recognition it affords them.