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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Florida museums feature expansive natural scenes from iconic movies

It is a celebration of cinematic imitation.

Cinematographers climb Mount Rushmore with Cary Grant and gaze at ancient Rome with Charlton Heston in a new exhibition of Vintage Movie Backdrops in Florida—all in a single afternoon.

The Boca Raton Museum’s “Art of the Hallwood Backdrop” features 22 giant canvases of classics like “North by Northwest,” “The Sound of Music” and “Ben Hur” that were salvaged from a sprawling MGM studio basement.

“The exhibit celebrates the masters of Hollywood illusion and perspective, who have so far received little recognition for their talents or for their essential role in creating film magic,” the museum said on its site.

The backgrounds, which are on loan from the University of Texas at Austin, were used in films from 1938 to 1968, while some have not been linked to specific films.

Curators Karen Maines and Thomas Walsh also sought to find and showcase the forgotten artists behind each piece.

The museum allows guests to climb Mount Rushmore with Cary Grant and look into ancient Rome with Charlton Heston.
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum
A film from The Sound of Music was presented as one of 22 giant canvases at the Boca Raton Museum.
still from a movie Sound of Music Presented as one of 22 giant canvases at the Boca Raton Museum.
Courtesy of Margaret Herrick Library
Originally painted for Ben-Hur in 1959, this background was used again in this scene in 2016 for the film Hell, Caesar!
Originally painted for Ben-Hur in 1959, this background was used again in this scene in 2016 for the film Hell, Caesar!
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum

The duo spent hours combing through oral histories and other archives and were able to identify about a dozen canvas creators.

Professor Manes, from the University of Texas, wrote a book on the history of film backgrounds in 2016 and organized a similar exhibition at the college.

The exhibition regularly sold out, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with attendees clad in a giant Mount Rushmore canvas featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic thriller.

The original background for the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain is on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
Original background of the 1952 film singing in the rain Exhibited at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum
The Boca Raton Museum celebrates Hollywood's masters of illusion and perspective, the museum said on its site.
The Boca Raton Museum celebrates Hollywood’s masters of illusion and perspective, the museum said on its site.
Melinda Sue Gordon. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Gift of the Art Directors Guild Archives.
A background depicting The Beginning of the End is seen in the Pentagon hallway at the Boca Raton Museum.
A background depicting The Beginning of the End is seen in the Pentagon hallway at the Boca Raton Museum.
Courtesy Jesse Backings, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Gift of Jesse Backings

“I continue this with both a love of painting, but also as an advocate of helping these artists see them through in history. They deserve to be recognized and respected,” Maynes told the Palm Beach Post Told.

Irwin Lippman, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, arrived in Manassas to bring the pieces to South Florida.

Irwin Lippman, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, arrived in Manassas to bring the pieces to South Florida.
Irwin Lippman, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, arrived in Manassas to bring the pieces to South Florida.
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum
Lippmann said that creators of the past had to master optical magic without the aid of technology.
Lippmann said that creators of the past had to master optical magic without the aid of technology.
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum

While modern filmmakers often rely on CGI to immerse audiences, Lippman said background creators of the past had to master optical magic without the aid of technology.

“These are artists who understand the art of illusion,” he told the outlet.

An outdoor photo of the NYC skyline showing the Brooklyn Bridge is seen at MGM Studios.
An outdoor photo of the NYC skyline showing the Brooklyn Bridge is seen at the Boca Raton Museum.
Arto’s Boca Raton Museum

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