Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

“Frequently, it is the evidence that the look of a film was the work of someone other than the director.”

It’s possible you’ve heard of a few of these little gems: Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Birds, Ben-Hur, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, Cape Fear, Spartacus, Cleopatra, The Graduate, Fiddler on the Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Chinatown, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Rocky, History of the World Part I, Cotton Club, Manhattan, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Spaceballs, The Fly, The Godfather Part III, The Last Emperor, Dick Tracy, Rosemary’s Baby, or the excellent Johnny Got His Gun.

I wanted to show this long, staggering list to emphasize the importance of Harold and Lillian Michelson, storyboard artist/production designer and film researcher, respectively. These two powerhouses helped create some of the greatest films of all times, but you’ve never heard of these two and won’t see their names in most post-credits. I know this because we learn in Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, they weren’t credited for a colossal amount of their extraordinary work.

“…they weren’t credited for a colossal amount of their extraordinary work.”

Remember all the times your boss or colleague took credit for your ideas or hard work? Harold and Lillian dealt with this bullshit their entire careers.

As a researcher, Lillian went to great depths for accuracy on films she worked on. For Rosemary’s Baby, she had to immerse deep into the occult, an uncomfortable situation for anyone not insane. To help aid her job, Lillian built a library (which she still fights to keep), where she could research any topic for films she was assigned on: from how to perform job — cop, priest, assassin, boxer, etc. — to why a chair placement is critical for a scene.

Harold was responsible for many of the most iconic moments in cinema history, one being pivotal: The Graduate, when Dustin Hoffman’s Ben Braddock is swimming, dives out of the pool and into bed with Mrs. Robinson. Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is stuffed like a turkey with quintessential scenes Harold created directors are known for. “Nobody knows about the little goodies that Harold Michelson could give you that make you look like a good filmmaker.” This quote came from a man who likes to be called Mel Brooks, responsible for greats Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Spaceballs, which he bravely credits Harold for coming up with this and that.

“…Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story paints a layered rags to riches story.”

Produced by Danny DeVito, who shows in the film how much he cares about Harold and Lillian and their hard work, Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story paints a layered rags to riches story; from building their careers from the ground up, to Harold’s persistence on getting Lillian’s love, which wasn’t easy. Persistence was key for Harold, and she made him work hard for her affection.

Want to watch and see how a real Hollywood romance blossoms and sticks together like glue while working in the same often revolting business? Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is the film you need to see. True love can work in Tinseltown.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2017) Directed by Daniel Raim. Starring: Lillian Michelson, Harold Michelson, Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola

Rating: B+

One response to “Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

  1. Really nice write-up. I’ve been lucky to share a few lunches with Lillian Michelson — a super-sharp and funny lady with great industry stories. Very happy for her (and filmmaker Daniel Raim) that this doc got made.

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