2000 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Production design has always been a key part of the Hollywood filmmaking process, but until recently the field received very little critical attention. But thanks to Daniel Raim’s lucid and concise Oscar nominated documentary about Robert Boyle, one of Hollywood’s best art directors, a general audience now has a chance to savor what these masters of their craft have contributed.
Boyle tells stories about working on everything from Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” “The Birds” and “Marnie” to “Fiddler on the Roof.” Boyle is quite eloquent and witty in explaining his craft, and others, including fellow art director Henry Bumstead, are also interviewed.
Raim has done an imaginative job of editing production storyboards and sketches with photographs and film segments so that we ‘get’ what the production designer actually does. The detailed segment on constructing Mt. Rushmore in the studio (thus the film’s title!) is fascinating, as we learn more about how actual photos of a location can be skillfully blended with a constructed set.
A special highlight is Raim’s coverage of “The Birds,” in which Raim has Boyle revisit the actual location as film footage from Hitchcock’s memorable film is intercut with continuity sketches drawn for Boyle by his draftsman, Harold Michelson. We see a black-and-white line drawing of Tippi Hedren with a bird attacking her, which then becomes that actual shot in the film.
Raim’s film is a welcome gift to everyone anywhere who wants to know more about what has and continues to make Hollywood Hollywood.
– Andrew Horton, Cineaste Magazine, June 22, 2001
I first met production designer Robert ‘Bob’ Boyle at the AFI Conservatory in 1997. Bob was 90 years young and passed on his knowledge and life experiences to a small group of budding production design fellows. We all revered him; he was a like a shaman; a Grandmaster of cinema and production design. Bob designed over 100 Hollywood studio features, including five Hitchcock classics: Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest, The Birds, and Marnie.
In addition to Bob’s insights into the art and craft of filmmaking, what really struck a chord with me was his personality, his wit, and his deeply felt human approach to filmmaking.
During my first year at AFI, Bob Boyle’s pal, renowned production designer Henry ‘Bummy’ Bumstead (To Kill A Mockingbird, Vertigo, Unforgiven), was a guest lecturer. Bummy told us: “Listen, Bob Boyle is the best in the business! And we’re not going to be around much longer. I suggest you pick Bob’s brain while he’s still around!”
That was a light bulb moment for me. I spent the next two years, after classes, picking Bob’s brain, and rolling a tape recorder and a digital 8mm video camera. I was determined to capture Bob’s unique personality and creative philosophies for posterity (and learn about cinema in the process).
Another factor that helped bring The Man on Lincoln’s Nose to fruition was the discovery of over a dozen, never-before-seen black & white photos (circa 1958) of Bob Boyle rappelling down Mount Rushmore and snapping photos of the monument. As the production designer of North by Northwest, Bob had worked out with Hitchcock how the sequence would be shot; Bob knew exactly what angles he needed. Back in Hollywood, Bob’s photos were blown up to life-size photographic backdrops used in the climax of the film.
Furthermore, we had physical copies of the actual photos that Bob took; the plates that were created from those photos; the original painted backing of Mount Rushmore at an MGM soundstage; the storyboards that were designed by Bob himself to realize the visualization and montage of that sequence, and, of course, the film itself. Our editor, Stephen Mark, A.C.E., helped create a riveting sequence from all that material.
The Man on Lincoln’s Nose was the original title of North by Northwest, and Bob Boyle was the real “Man on Lincoln’s Nose”.
Another highlight and turning point for making The Man on Lincoln’s Nose took place during Christmas of 1998. As a present for Bob, I found a book of Edward Hopper paintings (an artist he greatly admired). Bob thumbed through the book and shared his interpretations of the paintings–what he said was both profound and moving. We looked at a painting (“Early Sunday Morning”) of shops in New York City shortly after sunrise, and another painting (“Morning Sun”) of a women sitting alone on a bed, bathed in light. Bob said: “Like all great artists, Hopper is interested in the penultimate moment; the moment before or after something actually happens. It’s the moment of contemplation.”
During an on-camera interview, I asked Bob to exemplify how he applied that idea to one of his own films. Bob chose to talk about the crop-dusting sequence from North by Northwest. In The Man on Lincoln’s Nose, Bob pulls back the curtain to reveal what makes that sequence so powerful, followed by the assertion that, “One of the problems with a lot of films now is that we’re dealing with too many climaxes, rather than the penultimate moments, which are more interesting!’”
-Daniel Raim, Los Angeles, 2010
Robert Boyle – Production Designer
James D. Bissell – Production Designer
Henry Bumstead – Production Designer
Norman Jewison – Director/Producer
Harold Michelson – Storyboard Artist/Production Designer
Walter Mirisch – Producer
Albert Nozaki – Production Designer
Produced and Directed by
Patricia Hitchcock O’Conell
Lawrence A. Mirisch
Stephen Mark, A.C.E.
Haskell Wexler, A.S.C.
Art Direction by
Sound Design and Mix
Scott Joplin Piano Performances