Oscar-Winning Designer Arnold Schwartzman to be Feted at Career Retrospective

His new exhibit opens Thursday.

Twenty years ago, when designer Arnold Schwartzman was asked to work on the Oscar poster and other promotional items for the Academy, he didn’t need a sample to draw from. He already had a statuette for his 1981 Best Documentary winner, Genocide sitting on his shelf at home. The 71 year old considers himself an erstwhile filmmaker in a career that includes titles like Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Royal Designer, Director of Design for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, author and photographer. He also happens to be a scintillating raconteur, which he will demonstrate when he sits down with British author and lecturer, Michael Webb at an invitation only opening night party for a new retrospective on his career at designer Christopher Guy’s West Hollywood showroom Feb. 19 thru 26.

On hand will be items from throughout his career, including posters he designed for the Olympics and the Academy, as well as photos of the Beatles from his early days in London, and of course his Oscar.

“One of the nominated films about El Salvador, which was a hot subject at the time, I was convinced that was going to win,” Schwartzmen tells The Hollywood Reporter about unexpectedly taking home the award. “What was amazing was looking down at the audience. As a child I remember all those people like Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck and Danny Kaye. There they all were looking up at me!”

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A moving portrait of a Jewish community’s dissolution under Nazi rule, Genocide features music by Elmer Bernstein with narration by Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles. Deep into the Mondavi wine phase of his career, Welles was notoriously difficult to work with, which Schwartzman discovered on his way to the legendary director’s Venice studio each day. Half way there, he would inevitably get a call saying Orson is not in today, he’s at the dentist or he’s still in his pajamas. “And this went on for six months,” sighs Schwartzman. “One day they called and said, he’s here!” Schwartzman and his team went directly to the studio and were warmly greeted by Welles, only to have him explode in a fit moments later over the air conditioning.

Schwartzman’s other film work consists of only two more documentaries for the Simon Weisenthal Center, which is fine with him since his first love is design. With a pair of art deco murals painted on board the Queen Elizabeth II, and two books on art deco to his name, including his latest on the Griffith Observatory, Schwartzman has become somewhat of an expert on the angular evocative style that typified the decades between World Wars. “A lot of my look has its roots in the 1930s and 1920s,” explains Guy about what drew him to Schwartzman’s oeuvre. “We share a common interest there. It’s timeless beauty.”

Designer for a long list of luxury hotels as well as movies like The Hangover, Casino Royale and The Devil Wears Prada, Guy became intrigued by Schwartzman at last year’s BritWeek, an annual Los Angeles event celebrating British art and culture. “Nobody knew what he really did,” says Guy. “So I thought it’d be a nice thing to show off what he’s done.”

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