Movies are pure artifice, but they still wouldn’t work if not for the people behind the scenes who strive to make that artifice as authentic as possible. Daniel Raim’s charming documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story celebrates the Michelsons, who also represent that rarest phenomenon: a marriage that lasts, in Hollywood or elsewhere. As a production designer and/or storyboard artist, Harold Michelson crafted the looks of dozens of classic movies both sublime (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and turgid (The Ten Commandments), receiving screen credit for maybe half, while Lillian did research work on hundreds of films and received credit for seven. (Someone should write a book about the history of screen credits.)
Notably, after three decades of stellar work, Harold’s Oscar first nomination was for 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, itself long overdue for a reappraisal. (That’s a book someone should write, too.) Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is told mostly from the still-alive Lillian’s POV, and she has no shortage of interesting stories from back when America was great — such as being constantly told she’s not worthy of marriage or even basic respect because she was an orphan, or getting fired from a menial phone-company job because her pregnancy was “an affront to the public’s eyes.” #MAGA!
Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.