Florida’s Boca Raton Museum has huge backdrops of iconic movies

It’s a celebration of cinematic forgery.

A new display of vintage Florida film backgrounds has cinephiles clambering up Mount Rushmore with Cary Grant and looking out at Ancient Rome with Charlton Heston – all in one afternoon.

The Boca Raton Museum’s “Art of the Hollwood Backdrop” presents 22 immense canvases of classics such as “North by Northwest”, “The Sound of Music” and “Ben Hur” that were rescued from a musty basement of MGM Studios.

“The exhibit celebrates Hollywood’s masters of illusion and perspective, who have thus far received little recognition for their talent or applause for their vital role in making movie magic,” the museum said on its site.

The wallpapers, which are on loan from the University of Texas at Austin, were used in films from 1938 to 1968, while some are not linked to specific films.

Curators Karen Maness and Thomas Walsh also searched for the forgotten artists behind each piece.

At the museum, guests can clamber up Mount Rushmore with Cary Grant and gaze out over ancient Rome with Charlton Heston.
Boca Raton Art Museum
A film still from The Sound of Music was presented as one of 22 immense canvases in the Boca Raton Museum.
A movie still off The sound of music was presented as one of 22 immense canvases in the Boca Raton Museum.
Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library
Originally painted for Ben-Hur in 1959, this background was reused in this 2016 scene for the movie Hail, Caesar!
Originally painted for Ben-Hur in 1959, this background was reused in this 2016 scene for the movie Hail, Caesar!
Boca Raton Art Museum

The duo spent hours sifting through oral histories and other records and were able to identify about a dozen of the canvas makers.

Maness, a professor at the University of Texas, wrote a book on the history of film backgrounds in 2016 and hosted a similar exhibit at the college.

That exhibit regularly sold out, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with attendees marveling at the giant canvas of Mount Rushmore featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic thriller.

The original backdrop from the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain is on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
The original background from the 1952 film Singing in the rain is on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
Boca Raton Art Museum
The Boca Raton Museum celebrates Hollywood's masters of illusion and perspective, the museum said on its site.
The Boca Raton Museum celebrates Hollywood’s masters of illusion and perspective, the museum said on its site.
Melinda Sue Gordon. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, gift from the Art Directors Guild Archives.
A backdrop of the beginning of the end in the Pentagon foyer can be seen at the Boca Raton Museum.
A backdrop of the beginning of the end in the Pentagon foyer can be seen at the Boca Raton Museum.
Courtesy of JC Backings, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, gift from JC Backings

“I wear it with love for painting, but also as an advocate for these artists to help them be seen in history. They deserve to be recognized and honored,” Maness told the Palm Beach Post.

Irvin Lippmann, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, reached out to Maness to take the pieces to South Florida.

Irvin Lippmann, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, reached out to Maness to take the pieces to South Florida.
Irvin Lippmann, head of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, reached out to Maness to take the pieces to South Florida.
Boca Raton Art Museum
Lippmann said the backdrop makers of yesteryear had to master optical magic without the aid of technology.
Lippmann said the backdrop makers of yesteryear had to master optical magic without the aid of technology.
Boca Raton Art Museum

While modern filmmakers often rely on CGI to immerse viewers, Lippmann said the backdrop makers of yesteryear had to master optical magic without the help of technology.

“These are artists who understand the art of illusion,” he told the outlet.

An exterior portrait of the NYC skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge has been spotted at MGM Studios.
An exterior portrait of the NYC skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge has been spotted at the Boca Raton Museum.
Boca Raton Art Museum

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