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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Brooks Wilson Strikes Back!

Friday, November 18, 2011

By guest author, Ken Steacy

Amazingly, a feature film based upon Brooks Wilson Ltd. was made in 1970. Titled ‘Loving’ (for no apparent reason!), it starred George Segal in the title role with support from Eva Marie Saint as his long-suffering wife, Keenan Wynn as his bullying agent, Sterling Hayden as the impossible client Mr. Lepridon, and Roy Scheider as the harried agency flack. The director was Irving Kershner, who George Lucas tapped a decade later to direct 'The Empire Strikes Back'!

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It’s a condensed version of the same sad story: Brooks the hapless freelancer is torn between his artsy girlfriend in Manhattan and his family back home in (where else?) Westport Connecticut. A drunken tryst with a randy neighbour, televised by CCTV at a suburban Xmas party from hell, finally sinks him, and the film peters out as Brooks attempts to placate both the GF and his wife with news that he finally got the Lepridon account.

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Early in the film Brooks discovers his agent has yet again locked himself in the bathroom, being too cheap to fix the doorknob. In the background we see plenty of tearsheets and stacks of originals, and it appears that the boxer illo bears the signature Brooks Wilson.

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Back home, he hires a shapely model, who he poses in the livingroom - Brooks’ young daughter sits and reads a book during the session, his wife’s way of ensuring there’s no hanky-panky!

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His agent’s smarmy underling arrives with a stack of illos, all of which require inane revisions ASAP. Brooks refuses, but this show of spine is more to impress the model, who he eyes with other than professional interest.

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While in the city, Brooks gets bombed and makes a spectacle of himself at the ‘Artist’s Club’ which was actually shot at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. You can just make out their 60‘s-era logo on the coffee cups, as Brooks makes new friends (and enemies) over a multi-martini lunch.

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Tomorrow: we bid farewell to the feckless Brooks Wilson, but not before he ably demonstrates his journeyman skills as an illustrator!

* We'd love to have your best guess at which artists where actually responsible for the prop artwork attributed to Brooks Wilson in the film. I'll get the ball rolling by ID'ing the "Bear Attack" illo, which I recognize as being by John McDermott, from a 1960 issue of Outdoor Life. ~ Leif

12 comments

  1. Leif, part of that movie (which was awful) was filmed in Bernie Fuchs' house. If you are willing to suffer through the movie, you can get some good views of "Brooks Wilson" working in Bernie's studio.

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  2. Wow, David - how cool! So perhaps you can provide some insight into who did the various illustrations we see featured in these screen grabs?

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  3. Correction: Leif, I am reminded by a member of the Fuchs family that Bernie's studio appears in the film as the studio Brooks would LIKE to move into, not the studio that Brooks actually works in. He sees it in a house that is for sale, but they never end up buying the house.

    My bad.

    I do have some thoughts on who did a couple of those illustrations, but I want to look at them up close. I'm at the office right now, but I'll be back to you.

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  4. Ken, Leif, David, this is great! So much of the book and it seems film takes chunks from the reality of illustration in that era. It would be nice to know what's real and whats not and who did what artwork. This is better than the book, Ken!!

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  5. Ken Steacy8:45 PM

    Thanx for the great feedback, guys - LOVING is available on Netflix, and while it's categorically not Oscar material, it's certainly worth five bux and ninety minutes of yr life! B^)

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  6. The race car looks like a Peter Helck painting.

    The "Bowling Cartoonists" group of Westport went to the audition and drew lots of funny pictures thereby scoring parts as extras in the restaurant scene. Jerry Marcus, Orlando Buscino and some others can be seen in the background.

    I was an instructor at Famous Artists School at the time and the film didn't seem that much different than work!

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  7. The plot thickens...a little anyway... Movies about cartoonists or illustrators are rare. Isn't Tom Ewell a "dirty" paperback illustrator in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH? There's also THAT CERTAIN FEELING (with Bob Hope and Al Capp)... I can't think about very many others...

    i dimly recall LOVING being advertised when i was a kid, but have not seen it. It's worth checking out on NETFLIX so thanks for the tip...

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  8. @Will: Richard Widmark's character was a cartoonist in THE TUNNEL OF LOVE, with Doris Day in 1958; Jack Lemmon's character was a cartoonist in HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE, in 1965. The swedish comedian Povel Ramel starred in HOPPSAN!, 1955, as a superhero comic strip artist, when the concerned citizens in Sweden had heard of Frederic Wertham and were condemning the comics as the road to damnation.

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  9. Irving Kershner, Hans Hoffman's best student. (or is that Robert de Niro, Sr.?)

    Lionel @Will

    Errol Flynn plays an illustrator in 'Never Say Goodbye' (1946). His art is done by Zoe Mozert.

    There is a funny scene of a pulp artist at work in 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (1947).

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  10. Brooks meets his client (Sterling Hayden) atop the World Trade Center, then under construction.

    One of the more authentic portrayal of cartoonists is in the French film "César and Rosalie" (1972), praised by Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael. During dialogue the cartoonists hardly look up; they just keep drawing. The comic strips were drawn by Jean-Marc Laureau and Claude Poppe.

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  11. I have an apparently false memory of a Tony Randall film, this must be it. The lucy described clinches it.

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  12. There was also The Hand (1981) starring Michael Caine as a comic book artist who loses his hand (temporarily). The comic art, as I recall, was done by Barry Windsor Smith and was Conanesque.

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