In the golden age of Hollywood, Harold Michelson's work was instrumental to such films as The Ten Commandments and The Birds. Outside the industry, though, the late storyboard artist turned production designer and his film-librarian wife, Lillian, are both largely forgotten or uncredited talents.
Daniel Haim's documentary offers a tribute – to the marriage through lean years and illness, their mutual love of the medium and the industry's enduring affection for them.
The latter will be the most compelling material for film buffs, although the doc's tonal shifts jarringly mix sentimental family-scrapbook fare and Harold's saucy illustrated love notes with old interview clips and new conversations with Danny DeVito, Francis Ford Coppola and Mel Brooks.
The couple are the movie's saving grace – especially Lillian, now 87, who regales in every story, but especially the one about how she doggedly researched accurate drug-lord lifestyles for Scarface. No wonder industry insiders at DreamWorks paid the film royalty quiet homage onscreen, as the names and likenesses of Shrek 2's king and queen.
Harold & Lillian kicks off Doc Soup Sundays at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Jan. 24.