The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

In The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness pay tribute to scenic artists, the craftspeople who hand-painted the backdrops (or backings), for Hollywood films. They may have started as immense white expanses of cotton muslin, but by the time the artists were done with them, the fabrics depicted clouds above The Petrified Forest, the faces on Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest or translucent botanical gardens in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Amid reminiscences and stories of the profession's dangers--one artist fell from an elevated platform and died while working on 2001's Planet of the Apes--the authors celebrate a craft that digital technology is slowly supplanting and showcase the achievements of industry pioneers. This handsome volume includes hundreds of movie stills and many insider tidbits that film obsessives will love. Among the latter: the scene of Rome behind George Clooney in the 2016 movie Hail, Caesar! is the original backdrop from 1959's Ben-Hur. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

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