Beginning this Friday, a restored print of Joseph Losey’s film noir The Prowler plays for one week at the Film Forum in Manhattan. The film was co-scripted by blacklisted Hollywood Ten member Dalton Trumbo, photographed by three-time Oscar winner Arthur Miller, produced by Sam Spiegel (Lawrence of Arabia), and production designed by (get ready for this) John Hubley.
I asked a couple of the Hubley kids about this project recently and they told me that their dad actually worked on a number of live-action films and theatrical productions. John had earlier helped Losey with the design of an LA stage production of Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo starring Charles Laughton. When Losey directed Prowler, he called on Hubley to explore the cinematic staging possibilities and push it beyond his own sensibilities, which were rooted in theater. Hubley was not the only Golden Age animation artist who worked in live-action. Just to name a few other examples, Ray Aragon storyboarded Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night, Mary Blair did color design for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (directed by Disney animator David Swift), and Tyrus Wong worked for decades as a production designer at Warner Bros. It’s (yet another) area of animation history that is poorly documented and ripe for further research.