Harold snd Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story| a Curtainup Streaming Feature
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Harold snd Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

Lillian and Harold Michelson in Daniel Raim’s film about their behind-the-scenes careers in Hollywood.
This documentary is a rare beautifully merged double story: First, it's an insightful look at the way some behind the scenes work provides depth and shape to a movie; secondly, it's the moving personal story of Harold Michelson (b. 1920 d.2017) and his wife Lillian (b. 1928) who spent a lifetime shaping and enriching films, one as an artist, the other as a researcher. While their contribution to some of Hollywood's most legendary films was ultimately recognized, the way they were long treated was as reprehensible as the industry's racist and homophobic policies. It took a long time for Harold to even meet with the director of the films for which he created his invaluable sequential drawings or storyboards for the narrative being filmed.

Director and script writer Daniel Raim smartly opted to make the Michelsons his stars. Instead of expensive set changes he brings their professional and personal stories to vivid and engaging life with love letters, film clips, sketches Harold made for legendary films like The Ten Commandments and The Graduate . There are also conversations with his stars ( mostly Lillian who's still very much alive and a charmer); as with actors and directors who knew them well — for example, (Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola.

The interlinked career and marital stories span many decades, starting with their World War II romance to his applying his experience as a fighter pilot to his remaarkably detailed storyboards, and eventually rising up the hard to climb career ladder to become an art director and production designer. As for Lillian's becoming an influential presence in Hollywood, true to wives of the period she started out as a help-meet and stay-at-home mother. But before long she expanded her digging out facts for Harold to integrate into hiss art to a volunteer gig in a studio library. This led to her becoming a much sought after researcher and eventually the proprietor of an invaluable film library. Lillian may not be a seasoned actress but she sure knows how to convey her joy in tracking down facts that will find their way into a film's look and impact. There's a special warmth and intimacy in this setup with its focus on two likable "just folks like us" kind of people managing to become part of a tough world and be friends with people whose names were at the top of a film's credit listings.

The way the scenes depicting how Harold and Lillian became part of Hollywood history is interspersed with bits and pieces of their personal lives makes this a refreshingly different La La Land story. Their grappling with a son whose autism didn't even have a name yet add some particularly touching subtext.

While the film was well received when it was aired two years ago, its success has been more modest than the new Tinseltown docudrama. With it marquee names, glitzy production values and extensive marketing hype Hollywood jumped right to the top of Netflix's most viewed hit list. Yet, Harold and Lillian's story makes up for its absence of big name stars, scandals and sex, with its genuine authenticity and warmth. What's more it's a relevant and hopeful example of how producing full-bodied entertainment will be possible once halted productions resume but without the bells and whilstles of the "old normal\."

For now stay-at-home audiences can still divert themselves with the full of flash Hollywood at Netflix, but that are also still allowing you to savor the charming Harold and Lillian.

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Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story|
Written, directed and co-edited by: Daniel Raim
Stars: Lillian Michelson, Harold Michelson, Bill Krohn
Music by David Lebolt
Cinematography by Battiste Fenwick and Daniel Raim
Running Time: 1 hour and 34 minutes
Released in 2018, available Netflix and available for rent or purchase at other outlets.

©Copyright 2020, Elyse Sommer.
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