HAROLD AND LILLIAN and a Romance that Feels Straight Outta the Movies

A must for film buffs and hopeless romantics alike.

Recently, David E. Kelley and Michelle Pfeiffer were cited as being one of Hollywood’s power couples. Her filmography featuring Batman Returns, What Lies Beneath, and Hairspray and his producing resume which counts L.A. Law, Boston Legal, and Big Little Lies, combined with nearly 25 years of marriage, has more than made the label true. However, this year another Hollywood power couple is being celebrated thanks to the release of Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. Executive Produced by Danny DeVito, the documentary offers up both a tender and moving love story while also paying tribute to the art of story-boarding and film research as vital parts of moviemaking. But it’s the film’s spotlighting the kind of marriage most dream of having, complete truth, authenticity, and reality within the fantasy that makes Harold and Lillian a worthwhile story.

Harold and Lillian shines a spotlight on the life and love of Harold and Lillian Michelson, who met in the late 1940s and whose move to Los Angeles resulted in not only a long-lasting marriage, but fascinating careers as a storyboard artist and a film researcher, respectively. The documentary thoughtfully shows how the pair left an imprint on the movie industry which is still being felt today.

From a movie lover’s perspective, Harold and Lillian is an appreciation of two of the key figures who helped shape so many beloved titles. The doc takes every opportunity to showcase the genius of their talents, his for story-boarding and hers for research. Through archival footage, Harold talks about his collaborations with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, whom he considered a mentor. The master of suspense was so taken by Harold’s story-boarding of The Birds that the drawings were replicated almost exactly for the film. Hearing Harold speak, not only does the audience recognize the importance of story-boarding to the art of filmmaking, but they also see his vast understanding of them and how he approached it with the same thought process as a movie camera. At the same time, across the way lay Lillian and her research library, which she saw as a continuous education that included learning about everything from the occult for Rosemary’s Baby to Russian intelligence for The Hunt for Red October, amassing a vast and diverse list of film credits. Lillian giggles with delight as she recalls the time she got photos from inside the CIA as well as the memory of having a sit down meeting with a drug lord who was off the grid and a DEA agent, with neither knowing who the other was, during her research for Scarface. Meanwhile, moments such as her explaining her unorthodox filing system, with space and religion being grouped together because they both belonged in the heavens, shows her true lovable essence.

But Harold and Lillian is, above all, a love story. It is a tale of a romance born out of the ‘40s and fueled by both fire and stubbornness. Hearing how Harold and Lillian created an existence as man and wife that was full of traditional customs and progressive ideas is as inspiring as it is touching. There are plenty of small touches, such as Harold making jokes out of tough situations and creating various poems and drawings to chronicle many of the couple’s milestones, that say so much. More than anything, however, Harold and Lillian’s marriage is shown to be a true union as evidenced by the fact that he helped start her career at a time when most men expected their wives to remain at home. There is the idea that any real tension in the marriage came from Harold’s small doubt that Lillian never really loved him since their initial romance came about in an unconventional way. It’s a sentiment slightly echoed by Lillian’s feeling like she wasn’t ever deserving of his love due to her own past. Regardless, this was a pair who truly loved and looked out for each other and were able to enjoy a marriage in Hollywood which lasted for the sheer fact that it was decidedly un-Hollywood.

As a documentary, Harold and Lillian gives equal time to both subjects as it charts their careers and the essence of their marriage. The film manages to separate itself from other life story docs by telling certain events and milestones through cartoon drawings in a style similar to Harold’s, adding to the charm of the whole experience. By the time the film ends, the love they shared and their influence on the industry are both unmistakably felt. Harold and Lillian’s tale may not have been truly out of the movies, but it was a real Hollywood love story.

The Package

Harold and Lillian includes a number of extras, including some great deleted scenes in which Lillian shares more enthralling stories and a showcasing of Harold’s work.

The Lowdown

An ode to romance and classic Hollywood alike, Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is a pitch perfect journey in every way.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

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