Lillian and Harold Michelson

Queen Lillian and King Harold in Shrek

There’s a heart-warming and affirming documentary on Netflix called Harold and Lillian that will inspire movie fans as well as creatives who love what they do. Its subtitle, A Hollywood Love Story, tells you about the unusual marriage of two major contributors to the cinematic scene–a storyboard artist and a film researcher–who have minimal name recognition outside the industry. They were so well-loved and respected in Tinseltown that when the characters of the King and Queen in Shrek were being designed, they were named and modeled after this beloved couple.

What thrilled me about this film, and you can see it in the theme of my last three posts, is the focus on people who absolutely love their work and the amazing results achieved by staying with one’s passion. Lillian (now 91 but then in her 60’s) was called by Steven Spielberg in the early days of DreamWorks. She had earned a highly respected reputation as a research librarian in the film business and had her own library where she presided. Spielberg invited her to bring her research center ‘in house’ with his newly forming studio.

Her good friend in the biz, Danny Devito, called at nearly the same time and was incredulous that Spielberg was seeking out Lillian when everybody else in the industry was sending resumés in hopes of getting Spielberg’s attention. “Don’t sign anything,” Devito warned. “I’m going to send my lawyer over there to talk to you.”

Lillian described the lawyer who came to see her as wearing an expensive Italian suit and looking around the library with ‘distaste.’ In the documentary, she’s kneeling on the floor completely surrounded by books with dog-eared pages and slips of paper sticking out in every direction. Not understanding her absolute passion for research, nor all that she contributed to the movies being made, he recommended that she sell her library to Dreamworks, take the money, and go lie on a beach somewhere.

Her response? “I don’t want to do that.”
Lawyer: Do you want to do this for the rest of your life?
Lillian: Yeah!
Lawyer: What do you want out of life?
Lillian: I want three things. My husband to be well. My children to be happy. And I want to buy pantyhose that don’t run.

When you get right down to it, what do YOU really want out of life? My guess is that your first two answers are very similar – that those you love be well and happy. After that, what else is most important?

Doing work that I love with people I respect and admire is on my Top 3 List. How about you?

 

 

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