Revisiting Hollywood’s Most Memorable Landscapes, Before the Age of CGI

THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Julie Andrews, 1965. TM & Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights
Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Photo: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

The creation of a Hollywood backdrop, or “backings,” as they’re known in the industry, presents a paradoxical challenge: to craft a painting so artful that the viewer doesn’t notice it at all. Yet, of course, some of our most vivid cultural vistas — from The Wizard of Oz to North by Northwest to The Sound of Music (pictured) — were conjured on canvas from scratch. Their creators are paradoxes as well: artists whose best work you know at a glance but whose names you couldn’t possibly list. A few of the greats  —  George Gibson, Ben Carré, Duncan Alanson Spencer — have been collected, and honored, in a new volume, The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop. The book is a welcome reminder of how the movies managed to summon their most magical worlds from pigments and brush­strokes, long before the advent of CGI.

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop will be published November 1.

*A version of this article appears in the October 31, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.

Hollywood’s Landscapes, Before the Age of CGI