Saturday, September 26, 2009

Magazine Illustrator Bernie Fuchs and TV Producer Arnold Laven

Bernie Fuchs

Illustrator Bernie Fuchs, whose art has adorned everything from advertisements to magazines to postage stamps, passed at the age of 76 on September 17. The cause was oesophageal cancer.

Bernie Fuchs was born in 1932 in O'Fallon, Illinois. As a child he enjoyed drawing, but his passion was music. Until he was 18 his goal  in life was not to be an artist, but rather to be a jazz trumpeter. Working in a machine shop while in high school, an accident cost him three fingers on his right hand and hence any career he might have had as a jazz musician. He then enrolled in the art school at Washington University in St. Louis. He graduated from Washington University in 1954.

Bernie Fuchs was an admirer of the finer examples of illustration in advertisements. He had been particularly impressed by one particular illustration of a beer bottle with condensation dripping from it. His goal was to be good enough to simulate drops of water as the artist in that illustration had. He entered advertising illustration not long after his graduation from Washington University, first working for commercial studios which created art for the automotive industry. Bernie Fuchs approached illustrating automotive ads differently from any artist before him. Rather than simply featuring a car in an automotive showroom or on a city street, Fuchs placed his vehicles in more natural situations. His illustrations centred on Americans enjoying their car while on a picnic or at the beach. His illustrations were much more detailed than those of other artists when it came to  the individuals and surroundings in the ad.

While Bernie Fuchs' originally used the realist style common in advertising illustration in the Fifties, he eventually developed an impressionistic style all his own. His art was dominated by fluidity and a strong use of light. Becoming very much in demand in Detroit, it was not long before he was illustrating much more than automotive ads. He was soon handling ad campaigns for companies such as Coca-Cola and Seagram's. He also expanded into magazine illustration. He rendered art for magazines ranging from Look to TV Guide to Ladies Home Journal. He even created illustrations for the covers of many paperback books of the time.

By the mid-Seventies Bernie Fuchs was hired to provide illustrations for both postage stamps and children's books. By the Nineties his style of illustration had become passée, although Fuchs continued to create art. His works became very much in demand in art galleries.

There can be little doubt that Bernie Fuchs shaped the way the United States saw itself in the Fifties and Sixties. During the period he was the dominant illustrator in advertising, his work found in everything from magazines to the covers of paperback books. In fact, he might well be the most famous American illustrator short of Norman Rockwell. It was not simply that Fuchs was a great artist. He was also an innovator. In his car ads he focused as much, if not more so, on the people and the surroundings in the illustration as the car. What is more, he broke with the realistic style which had dominated American advertising for years. Fuchs broke new ground and did very well doing it. We probably won't see his like for some time to come.

Arnold Laven 

Arnold Laven, one of the founders of American television and film production company Levy-Gardner-Laven, passed on September 17, 2009 at the age of 87. The cause was complications from pneumonia. Levy-Gardner-Laven produced such shows as The Rifleman, Law of the Plainsman, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, and Big Valley.

Arnold Laven was born on February 13, 1922 in Chicago. His family moved to Los Angeles in the Thirties. It was there that he received his first job in the entertainment industry, as a mail room messenger at Warner Brothers. During World War II he served as part of the United States Air Force's First Motion Picture Unit, based out of Hal Roach Studios in Culver City. It was there that he met Jules V. Levy and Arthur Gardner, the co-founders of Levy-Gardner-Laven.

Following the war Arnold Leven worked as a script supervisor on films ranging from The Adventures of Gallant Bess to D.O.A. It was in 1951 that Laven, Levy, and Gardner formed Allart Productions, later to be renamed Levy-Gardner-Laven. The company's first production was the film Without Warning.  It was also the first film which Arnold Laven ever directed. Over the  next few years Levy-Gardner-Laven produced films such as Vice Squad, Down Three Dark Streets, The Monster That Challenged the World (all three films were directed by Laven), and The Vampire. In 1958 Levy-Gardner-Laven entered television production with an episode of Zane Grey Theatre.

It was in 1958 that Levy-Gardner-Laven produced the television series The Rifleman for Four Star Productions. The series centred on homesteader and widower Lucas McCain, well known for his skill with a rifle, and his son Mark. It had been Arnold Laven who suggested to writer Sam Peckinpah that the series focus on a father/son relationship. It was perhaps because of that relationship that the series would be a success. It ran for five years and 168 episodes. It produced a spinoff in the form of Law of the Plainsman, which debuted in 1959. It was also produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven for Four Star Productions. It would prove less successful than The Rifleman, lasting only one season. It was in 1959 that The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor would also debut. It was another series which would be produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven. The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor ran for three full seasons.

Although Levy-Gardner-Laven had entered television production, it did not mean that they had ceased producing films nor did it mean that Arnold Laven stopped directing movies. In 1962 Levy-Gardner-Laven produced the film Geronimo, directed by Laven. It was in 1965 that the company produced The Glory Guys, also directed by Laven. A film which Laven did not direct, but which Levy-Gardner-Laven produced, was the Elvis Presley vehicle Clambake.

It was in 1965 that Levy-Gardner-Laven produced another television series, again in conjunction with Four Star Productions. The Big Valley centred on a widower and her family on a ranch in California in the 1870's. The show proved successful, running four seasons before going onto a strong syndication run. The Big Valley would be the last show produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven. Thereafter the company produced movies, including Underground, The McKenzie Break, Kansas City Bomber, Brannigan, and Gator. Their last film was Safari 3000 in 1982, although Levy-Gardner-Lavne maintains an office in Hollywood to this day.

Arnold Laven directed his last film, Sam Whiskey, in 1969. He would continue to direct TV shows, including Dan August, Marcus Welby M.D., The Magician, Mannix, Ironside, Rafferty, The Rockford Files, Planet of the Apes, Hill Street Blues, and The A-Team. His last work as a director was on the short lived show Lady Blue.

As a producer Arnold Laven was involved in two classic television series, The Rifleman and The Big Valley. He several hours of television shows and even motion pictures. He had a talent for working with a limited budget as a director, often producing surprisingly good results on a shoestring budget.  As both a producer and a director he was very talented.

1 comment:

Holte Ender said...

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