Oscar-winning director's royal commission

Multi-talented film director gets royal commission to make mural for new ship

By Jenni Frazer, October 7, 2010
Schwartzman’s work includes New York’s Chrysler building and (centre) Mercury, god of commerce and speed

Schwartzman’s work includes New York’s Chrysler building and (centre) Mercury, god of commerce and speed

As Arnold Schwartzman acknowledges, it has taken more than half a century for his career to come full circle.

Appointed OBE in 2002 in recognition of his design and film work, Mr Schwartzman, 73, an Oscar-winning documentary film director, has now achieved the ultimate royal commission.

He has designed two enormous murals for the new ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth, which will be officially named by the Queen on October 11.

Mr Schwartzman, who now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and creative partner Isolde, is the son of kosher hoteliers who once ran the Hotel Majestic in Cliftonville.

Born in London's docklands, the young Arnold Schwartzman did his National Service with the Royal Sussex Regiment in Korea, when he was asked to paint a mural for the walls of his company's mess hall. He was also responsible there for the design of the monument to the "Glorious Glosters".

He began his career as a graphic designer for Southern Television in Southampton, joining Associated-Rediffusion TV in London.

Then he moved into advertising, working on tv commercials, and in 1968 he joined the board of the Conran Design Group as its graphics director. He was also a regular illustrator for the Sunday Times.

But in 1978 he was wooed by designer and film-maker Saul Bass to move to Los Angeles and became the Bass company's design director.

Four years later Mr Schwartzman was appointed the director of design for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and since 1996 the distinctive Schwartzman touch has been applied to many different aspects of the annual Academy Awards ceremonies, from posters to billboards and cinema trailers.

In 1982 Mr Schwartzman won his own Oscar for producing and directing the feature documentary, Genocide, made in conjunction with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

He has also made several other Jewish-related documentaries, including Anna and the King of Lampedusa, Liberation, and Echoes That Remain.

A governor of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Los Angeles, he has created a number of short video exhibits for the Museum of Tolerance, as well as a permanent eight-screen video exhibit on the achievements of American Jewry, and a "Time Line" mural on American Jewish history, for the Skirball Cultural Centre in Los Angeles.

The commission, says Mr Schwartzman, is quite different from his usual work.

Because the ship has an Art Deco theme he has designed the two huge murals to echo the Art Deco influence. Mr Schwartzman has written three books on the subject.

At left is the mural which will hang over the tour desk, The Golden Age of Transportation. It shows the former Ocean Terminal at Southampton, the RMS Queen Elizabeth the Hindenburg airship, New York's former Airlines Terminal, and the Chrysler Building.

The other mural - like the first, assembled from 113 separate 9 by 12in sheets - will hang above the Grand Lobby's reception desk.

Named Greenwich Mean Time, it shows London's iconic Art Deco clocks, including those on the Shell Mex Building, the Daily Telegraph, BBC Broadcasting House, and Selfridges in Oxford Street.

He joked: "I seem to recall the JC had an interesting clock on its facade. If only I had thought of it I could have included it in the clocks mural."

Last updated: 3:19pm, January 28 2011