Library’s Happy Ending

Few people outside the movie industry had heard of Harold and Lillian Michelson before Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. The highly entertaining 2015 documentary tells the story of their 60-year marriage intertwined with their work, as illustrator and researcher respectively, on countless films — including The Right Stuff, Rosemary’s Baby, Scarface, Fiddler on the Roof, Full Metal Jacket, The Graduate and The Birds.

One highlight of Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is seeing Lillian amid the huge library of research materials bearing her name, first housed at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in 1969.

Tomorrow, January 27, at 7 pm ET, you can see a free screening of Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story to commemorate 92-year-old Lillian’s donation of her Michelson Cinema Research Library to the Internet Archive. The film will be accompanied by a panel discussion with her. You can register for the event at Eventbrite.

During the event, Lillian will unveil the first phase of her collection to be digitized by Internet Archive and housed at archive.org/details/Michelson. Altogether, the collection includes 5,000 books, 30,000 photos, and more than 1 million clippings, scrapbooks and ephemera.

Lillian Michelson, Cinema Research Library, Internet Archive
(Lillian Michelson at work in her research library, courtesy Michelson Cinema Research Library/ Internet Archive)

“I hope millions of people will use it [to research] space, architecture, costumes, towns, cities, administration, foreign countries… the crime business! Westerns!,” said Michelson in a prepared statement. ”That’s what is amazing to me, that it will be open to everybody.”

The library had been dormant since Lillian’s retirement a decade ago. It had previously moved from Goldwyn to the American Film Institute to Paramount Studios to Zoetrope Studios to DreamWorks. Before Lillian acquired it, the library had already existed for 50 years, with roots going back to the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio in 1919.

“At a time when the rich and deep research libraries created and maintained by the motion picture studios were being ‘given away’ or otherwise destroyed, Lillian was a beacon of light guiding us to consider them as treasure,” said Zoetrope’s Oscar-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola.

Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive, Michelson Cinema Research Library
( Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive founder & digital librarian, amid 1,600 boxes of books, photos, clippings, and memorabilia from the Michelson Cinema Research Library.Courtesy Michelson Cinema Research Library/ Internet Archive)

Harold Michelson passed away in 2007.

If you miss tomorrow’s screening and would like to stream Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, you can see it free if your library is part of the Kanopy service, or rent it from $3.99 at various providers.

(Top photo: Lillian Michelson in her research library. Source: Internet Archive)

About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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