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Henry Bumstead reminiscences

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Reminiscences of BummyClint EastwoodDirector/actor/producer who did 12 movies with Bumstead:“Bummy’s an amazing guy. We started working in the early 1970s and then I couldn’t get him for a while when he was working pretty steadily with George Roy Hill. It was only with Unforgiven in 1992 that I got him back for good. And he was as lucid and robust as he was in the early days, and to this day still is. I think we also kind of think alike. It’s just something I’ve noticed time and again over the years.“Bummy may be 90 but he modernizes with the times and he is easily able to use whatever new tools he needs. What really makes him invaluable is that he has a reservoir of memory and technique of working with everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder. Of that era he’s the last man standing. He brings all that history with him.”Jack G. Taylor Jr.Long-time art director for Bumstead“How can one summarize the prolific career of Henry Bumstead? The word Gentleman with a capital G is perhaps the best place to begin. Bummy, as friends calls him, is what many aspire to, but are unable to achieve because that kind of talent, insight, and values are missing in today’s world of motion picture making.“He began his career in an era when men wore suits and ties and women wore dresses to work in the studios. There was a gentle sense of the hard work being done in studios and the positive leadership being provided by the studio art departments. Drafting rooms were filled with architectural plans for soundstage sets and towering European and Western backlot sets. Alas, that’s now a bygone era that only few can remember. To work in this realm, you were part of a special family. Henry still brings that special family sense to his craft, treating everyone with the human respect and dignity they deserve.“I have had the pleasure of working beside this gentle man for over 15 years. Bummy always made the work at hand look so easy. I would like to attribute it to talent, experience, knowledge… but it is his gentlemanly approach and simple outlook that makes it all so easy. The world can learn from Henry. I know that I have and will always carry with me.“Thanks Henry for letting me see the world through your eyes and for all the wonderful stories and memories. Happy Birthday!”Jerry LewisActor:“Writing about Henry Bumstead is like describing the sun. You see it, you feel it, and know it’s a powerful force. At the same time, Bummy’s also cool—in every sense of the word. He made working with him nothing but a joy. His intelligence, his demeanor, his confidence, and his care for his work was contagious. We all caught the energy and spirit. And with all that, Bummy maintained his exquisite dignity and integrity.“I still remember a dinner I was attending with Kirk Douglas and Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch said to me, ‘I hear you’ve signed Bummy for your film.’ ‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘I got lucky!’ Hitch said, ‘And you’ve got great taste.’ He was so right. Bummy has brought class to everything he’s worked on and we’ve been the fortunate recipients.“Bravo Bummy! Happy 90th. And here’s to 11 more so you can beat George Burns.”Robert BoyleArt director, 96; now teaches at the American Film Institute:“We both graduated from USC, both got our training at Paramount under Hans Dreier, and we were always close friends. I was also instrumental in telling Bummy to leave Paramount and go to Universal if he wanted to get anywhere, which he did. The first film he was asked to art-direct not long after he got there was To Kill a Mockingbird. He did such a good job that it made his reputation.“But he always did a good job; so good that his contribution was sometimes overlooked. Bummy manages to maintain a real presence with his art direction. He doesn’t get too fancy. He delivers the truth. That’s one thing that has endeared him to Clint Eastwood.”Phyllis HuffmanCasting director, Malpaso:“Bummy is an inspiration. Besides his remarkable talent he is so kind, so friendly, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. We have worked together for many years as part of the Malpaso family and on every movie he has gone out of his way to painstakingly show me his drawings and walk me through his set. He always makes time to chat. Happy Birthday, Bummy.”Morgan FreemanActor“Mr. Authenticity—that’s the only way to accurately sum up Henry Bumstead. People often ask what does it take to get into character. I always say, reading the script and finding the costume. With Bummy there is the addition of his sets. He has the most incredibly accurate eye and feel for what makes a set work for the director and the actor. I have had two wonderful experiences with Bummy and I’m thrilled to be able to say to this wonderful giant of creativity: Happy Birthday, Bummy.”Buddy Van HornStuntman and actor on numerous Clint Eastwood films“Not only is he a tremendous talent; there’s never anything jaded about his work. Also, when Bummy’s on the set, he brightens everyone’s day. And when the ladies are on the set, you notice that twinkle in his eye. I’ve been privileged to know him and work with him. All the best and a happy number 90, Bummy.”Marion DoughertyCasting director“Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book called God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Eliot Rosewater was a wonderfully sweet character from that book who later reappeared in a small part in Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The film version of Slaughterhouse-Five was directed by George Roy Hill and cast by me. When it was time to cast the Eliot Rosewater part, I told George that there was only one person I knew who fit that role: his art director, Henry Bumstead. For Bummy is that dear, jolly, sweet man whom we all love. Bummy is also one great art director who I am privileged to call my friend.”Robert MulliganDirector, To Kill a Mockingbird:“Bummy is simply the best, and making movies with him was a pleasure. He created the worlds you dreamt of in order to tell the story on film. But his work was always far better than your dreams. And he’s still doing it. He’s amazing. He’s an old friend. I wish him a Happy Birthday!”Rick SharpLocal 706 makeup artist:“I first met Henry in 1965 when I started my apprenticeship at Universal Studios in the makeup department. Our department had its own kitchen, and Henry would stop by to have coffee with Bud Westmore and Nick Marcellino. It was great as a young guy to sit and listen to the three guys tell stories of ‘the good old days’ in the film business.“Between 1965 and 1980 I only worked for Universal Studios and had the pleasure of working on nine projects that Henry was the art director or production designer on. Two of the most memorable are The Sting and Slap Shot because of the relationship he had with George Roy Hill and Paul Newman. “Henry always had time for a question if you had one, or to hear a story. I would bump into Henry somewhere on the lot, even if we were working on different projects and there would be that characteristic big smile and rosy cheeks. Happy, Happy Birthday.”James KeachDirector, Stars Fell on Henrietta“Of all the production designers I have ever worked with, Henry Bumstead has been the most influential, informative and inspirational. He never made directors feel that he knew more than they did (though he often did) about the period or the most efficient way to shoot something. Above all Henry is a gentleman and a man of true class. He would always use the words ‘I suggest’ as opposed to ‘You should do it this way.’ He was always asking questions in order to discover your vision, and the picture always came first. You could always tell the best angle to shoot the scene from not from what he told you but from where he wo
uld stand in the room and explain the set design and its possibilities.“I love the man and what he represents and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.”Ray GosnellAssistant director, Bumstead’s agent for 20 years:“I first worked with Henry Bumstead when I was assistant director to George Roy Hill when he was directing Slaughterhouse-Five in Prague. What made our initial contact memorable was when we were the only two people on the shoot left in Prague over the Christmas holiday. So we rented a car and drove to stay at a hotel in Karlsbad. It was beautiful but the room was very cold, and the food was very bad. Bummy called it the Hotel Poop. And over the years, we’ve had many a laugh about our stay there.“As for his work, Henry remains a brilliant production designer and it doesn’t look like he’s going away any time soon.”Kokayi Ampah,Location manager for Clint Eastwood“One thing really strikes me when working with Henry Bumstead that’s different than some of the newer production designers: He always asks, ‘What do you think?’ Those four words coming from a man of his stature says it all.”Joel Cox, A.C.ELong-time film editor for Clint Eastwood “Henry Bumstead has more knowledge about what he does in his little finger than other art directors have in their whole body. He’s worked for some incredible directors, and when you think of films he’s done like Vertigo and To Kill a Mockingbird and Unforgiven, every person in the industry would like to have a résumé like he’s had. “I’ve been fortunate to watch him at work. It’s amazing how he quietly sits and gets an idea and draws it, and that becomes the set. ‘Don’t you want to see this?’ he’ll say to Clint, after he comes up with something. ‘No Henry, I know it’ll be great,’ Clint will reply. He not only totally trusts Bummy, he also likes to go to the set and be surprised. Clint doesn’t want to pre-formulate in his mind where he’s going to shoot on those sets, so their working relationship is perfect.”Andrew HortonAuthor of Henry Bumstead and the World of Hollywood Art Direction; professor of film at the University of Oklahoma “Bummy is not just a great production designer, but a memorable person. When I met him during the making of The World According to Garp, he recounted he had been moved to tears when they shot Robin Williams’ helicopter death scene, and had told that to George Roy Hill. The director turned to the production crew and said, ‘Don’t listen to Bummy, he’d cry at the opening of a supermarket!’“As I finished writing my book on Bummy, I asked him how this current generation of production designers differed from those of his generation. ‘They don’t know how to DRAW,’ he responded. ‘They just play with computers!’ And he has a point!”Tom CopelandDirector, Texas Film Commission“Henry can be quite funny and to the point. When we were scouting locations for A Perfect World, I took him to this little period Texas town of Martindale, where most of the shooting wound up being done. Clint noticed there was a somewhat more modern structure, and asked if it needed to be covered up. ‘We could do that but it wouldn’t sell any more seats,’ he replied. End of conversation. When Bummy talks, people listen. Even Clint. “On a more personal level, Bummy sends me birthday cards and Christmas cards every year, and they’re so great to receive because he’s drawn them himself. It’s not just me, but waiters and hotel clerks whom he’s met that get them. You can’t imagine how many people’s lives he’s touched. Anyone who’s ever worked with him that I run into always comes up and asks, ‘Have you heard from Bummy?’ And I’m glad to say I have.”David ValdesIndependent producer; worked with Bumstead on Unforgiven and other Eastwood films“I love the man. He’s one of those rare people in Hollywood who’s always even-tempered and always has a smile on his face. The beauty of Henry is he still has that childlike curiosity, that sparkle in his eye, like kids have when they’re discovering something new. “In a town that’s obsessed with youth and where oftentimes people don’t respect their elders as much as they should, Bummy and Clint are living testaments to the possibility that the older you get the better you get. To have 90 years behind you and to still be doing great work is nothing short of phenomenal. I want to be Bummy when I grow up.”

Written by Jack Egan

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