Editor’s Note: Olley Edwards, autism campaigner, film director, writer, recently went to Cannes film festival to promote her and Livelywood pictures documentary “Epidemic of knowledge” and in doing so was lucky enough to meet Oscar Nominated Director, Daniel Raim and his wife Jennifer Raim, who invited her to the world premiere of “Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story.” Olley wanted to share this documentary with us…
When we think of the term “power couple” who comes to mind? Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt? Beyonce and Jay Z? Well, after watching this documentary, the term is in no doubt best suited to Harold and Lillian.
Harold Michelson and Lillian Michelson were quite literally the King and Queen of the golden age of Hollywood. Next time you watch Shrek with your family, be sure to notice how the King and Queen are named after them as a nod to immortalise the union between a couple, and indeed a family that touched the community of Hollywood’s hearts, like no other.
You may expect this story to one filled with glamour, glitz and rewards, it is however a story of determination, unconditional love, family and mostly uncredited talent and endurance…until now, with Daniel Raim’s loving and genuine insight into this remarkable love story.
Harold passed away in 2007, Lillian now a 86 year old lady, living in a residential home for Hollywood veterans, has a wish to leave the tale for her children. Lillian opens a family photo album and talks about how she met Harold in Florida after the Second World War. Harold adored Lillian, yet she confesses that she never felt worthy of him, having grown up as an orphan. However the union was clear for all to see, Danny Devito describes them with a smile as “two peas in a pod.”
Harold worked hard to support Lillian and, as a talented artist gained work drawing the story boards, his work was the talent behind many iconic films such as The Birds, Ben Hur and Star Trek, to name but a few. Lillian whilst raising her family of three sons started as a volunteer in the film research library. Lillian’s talent to discover the most intricate details of other cultures and eras is the pool of knowledge that backbones endless Hollywood creations, such as Fiddler on the Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Scarface.
All of this is quite remarkable, but what makes Harold and Lillian even more so is the fact that they were also raising an Autistic son. Many of us reading this article are ourselves in the Autistic community and more so Autism parents. Our experiences, in their vast variety are in no way measurable to the challenges of Autistic families in this era, were Lilian, like the other handful of mothers she knew on a similar path, were labelled “refrigerator mothers” and signed up to 10 years of Freudian based therapy.
Lilian, being a dutiful loving mother went along with this, but after 10 years, was seeing no improvement to her son or family as a whole, and was the first brave mother to decline to continue. The next day the other mothers started to decline too. Lillian talks about this with a polite smile, but it is obvious the distress this must have caused her. Lillian is rightly guarded when discussing her family, later in her researcher’s role, she was requested to open her home to help Dustin Hoffman in his research for the now iconic “Rain Man.” Lillian declined out of respect for her son’s privacy, but passed her contacts on to ensure that Rain Man could be well researched.
It is clear that this power couple were indeed a power family, a super team built on respect, love and with Harold’s humour and Lillian’s determination and strength, who’s story documented by Daniel Raim and his own wife Jennifer Raim is now a timeless joy for us all. I often wonder why people write fictional scripts when there are so many wonderful unheard lives waiting to be documented, like Harold and Lillian’s.
Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story Facebook page can be found here https://www.facebook.com/HaroldandLillianAHollywoodLoveStory
Olley is a British film maker, model and actress who was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. She has three girls, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. She is a relentless campaigner and spokeswoman on the subject of autism and girls.