TCM Prime-Time Host Ben Mankiewicz Dazzles Fans at the Stunning “Art of the Hollywood Backdrop”

Blockbuster Museum Show Breaks Attendance Records . . .

Ben Mankiewicz, the prime-time host of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), greeted hundreds of fans and kicked off a series of Holiday events at the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s nationally acclaimed exhibition “Art of the Hollywood Backdrop,” now in its final five weeks of a spectacular run (on view through Jan. 22).

“I am honored to have been invited by the Boca Raton Museum of Art to be part of the Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, before this stellar museum experience concludes its successful debut,” says Mankiewicz. “There are so many avid film lovers and TCM fans in South Florida who loved seeing this exhibition, a testament to the power of classic Hollywood films.”

Joining Mankiewicz at the Museum event was one of the exhibition’s co-curators, Thomas A. Walsh, the Emmy Award-winning Art Director from Hollywood who served as President of the Art Directors Guild of America for three consecutive terms (the union representing Hollywood’s art directors, set designers and illustrators).

The Boca Raton Museum of Art presents the world premiere of this larger-than-life show, the first dedicated museum exhibition of its kind honoring the unsung heroes of Hollywood’s artistic DNA, going back through time almost 100 years.

“Through this singular exhibition, art lovers and film fans of all ages are embracing this collection of Hollywood backdrops almost lost forever,” says Irvin Lippman, the Museum’s Executive Director. “The world premiere of Art of the Hollywood Backdrop has shined the global spotlight on South Florida. We have seen a significant increase in visitors from throughout the U.S. and abroad.”

Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: Cinema’s Creative Legacy is on view through January 22, 2023 and honors the unsung heroes who created these monumental canvases for the camera, going back almost 100 years.

These are literally some of the largest paintings ever created in the world, similar to cyclorama paintings. Aside from the original cast and crew working in the sound stages when these Hollywood classics were made, no one else has set eyes upon this collection.

The exhibition was originated by the Boca Raton Museum of Art and is co-curated by Thomas A. Walsh and Karen L. Maness, who played pivotal roles among a group of passionate Hollywood insiders to salvage these American treasures.

The result in the Museum’s galleries is a magical portal that takes the terms “large-scale,” “immersive,” and “virtual reality” to a whole new level.

Mankiewicz, an award-winning television personality, film critic, writer and producer, made his TCM debut in 2003 becoming only the second host hired in the network’s history.

During his career at TCM, Mankiewicz has introduced thousands of movies on the air and has become one of the most renowned interviewers in the business, leading thoughtful and entertaining conversations with more than two hundred of the movie industry’s top talents, including Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Sophia Loren, Martin Scorsese, Warren Beatty, Ava DuVernay, Annette Bening, Robert Redford, Quentin Tarantino, Jodie Foster, Brad Bird, Faye Dunaway, Lou Gossett, Jr., and Michael Douglas.

The Museum has created a series of events for film lovers throughout December and January, more details at bocamuseum.org/visit/events. This exhibition of 22 scenic backdrops, made for the movies between 1938 and 1968, celebrates an art form nearly forgotten.

This is a well-deserved moment in the spotlight for the dozens of unidentified studio artists. Their uncredited craftsmanship made scenes of Mount Rushmore, Ben Hur’s Rome, the Von Trapp Family’s Austrian Alps, and Gene Kelly’s Paris street dance possible.

Art Directors’ Guild Archive Backdrop Recovery Project

Twenty of these backdrops, including the famous Mount Rushmore, are being loaned by the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection at the University of Texas.

In addition, a 1952 backdrop for Singin’ in the Rain and the tapestry backdrop for Marie Antoinette (1938) are on loan from the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles.

These creations were painted for the camera lens itself, not for the human eye. It is a very impressionistic style of painting ― not really photo-realism, but it snaps together as photo-realistic when viewed from a distance.

Up close they look totally different. When visitors to the Museum take selfies with their phone cameras, the resulting image will look very different from what they see in person in the gallery.

This unique concept of “photo-realism for the camera” was spearheaded by George Gibson, he took scenic art to an entirely new level of artistry. In the hey-day of MGM, they had three shifts of scenic artists working day and night, non-stop.

Some of these artists who created the Hollywood Backdrops came from a family tradition of the craft, with lineages spanning three generations of painters through several decades. The craft stayed within the family.

Most were trained as professional artists, yet they remained uncredited, sometimes because of union agreements, and mainly because the studios wanted to keep a firm grip on the secret techniques that were handed down from master to apprentice on the backlots.

The show’s immersive components include interactive video reels created in Hollywood specifically for this exhibition, telling the stories behind each backdrop.

Soundscapes have been engineered to surround visitors in the museum, including atmospheric sound effects related to the original movies, and to the scenic vistas.

About the Museum

Founded by artistsBoca Raton Museum of Art was established in 1950 as the Art Guild of Boca Raton. The organization has grown, now in its eighth decade, to encompass a Museum, Art School, and Sculpture Garden. As one of South Florida’s leading cultural landmarks, the Museum provides educational programs and a robust exhibition schedule to the community, and to visitors from around the world.

Support for #BocaMuseumatHome and #KeepKidsSmartwithArt virtual programming is provided by Art Bridges Foundation and PNC Grow Up Great.

St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

This November, the St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are hosting  SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival is an annual celebration of authors, books, and ideas during early November, with additional author events year-round. The range of author topics is vast: business, cooking, economics, family, fiction, history, music, religion, sports, and more.

Now in its 44th year, the Festival is nationally recognized for both its excellence and its size – it is one of the largest in the country with more than 10,000 audience members annually. People from all backgrounds and religions come to Festival events to hear premier speakers, share their thoughts, and ask questions.

Bookend Event: Saturday, November 5

7:30pm: Phil Rosenthal, Somebody Feed Phil the Book

Keynote Author: Sunday, November 6

7pm: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Lessons from the Edge

Monday, November 7

1pm: Historical Fiction Panel: Lisa Barr & Rachel Barenbaum

7pm: Charles Bosworth & Joel Schwartz, Bone Deep: Untangling the Betsy Faria Murder Case

Tuesday, November 8

10:30am: Julian E. Zelizer, Abraham Joshua Heschel

1pm: Jen Maxfield, More After the Break

7pm: Cookbook Panel: Cathy Barrow & Molly Yeh

Wednesday, November 9

10:30am: Romance Fiction Panel: Amanda Elliot & Lynda Cohen Loigman

7pm: Kristallnacht Program: Scott Lenga, The Watchmakers

Thursday, November 10

10:30am: Wellness Panel: Rina Raphael & Jason Levin

1pm: Gregory Zuckerman, A Shot to Save the World

7pm: Women’s Night with Julia Haart, Brazen (Boutique Bazaar opens at 5pm)

Friday, November 11

10:30am: Andy Dunn, Burn Rate

1pm: Barry Nalebuff, Split the Pie

Saturday, November 12

7pm: Paul Ford, Lord Knows, at Least I was There, Working with Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, November 13

1pm: Rabbi Benjamin Spratt, Awakenings

7pm: Sports Night: Dan Grunfeld & Barry Weinberg

Bookend Event: Wednesday, November 16

7pm: Missouri’s Own Authors


SLCL Authors @ The J

St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are pleased to announce SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival thanks the Novel Neighbor for providing books by our presenting authors. The festival receives a percentage of sales for every book sold. Please support the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival and the Novel Neighbor by purchasing your books at the festival.

How to Purchase Books at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

  1. In-person during the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. Call 314-442-3299 for more info.
  2. In-person or online at the Novel Neighbor.

Chicago Interior Designer Kimberly Whitman “A Loving Table” sets the table on entertaining.


Now that summer has finally arrived and we’re eager to host friends and family once again, lifestyle and entertaining expert, Kimberly Whitman, has partnered with prominent Chicago-based interior designer (and close friend,) Shelley Johnstone Paschke, on seasonal entertaining for their new book, A Loving Table: Creating Memorable Gatherings, released this spring. 

Beautiful tablescapes and entertaining styles is the focus of A Lovely Table.

The book showcases inspiring tablescapes and the entertaining styles of 34 trend-setting women from around the world, who also share tips and lessons from the important women in their lives. Built on authenticity, many of the tablescapes captured in A Loving Table are from real dinners and events with tastemakers’ families. 

Traditions and Heritage Passed On

“These style-setting women pay tribute to how their mothers and grandmothers have influenced their own styles of entertaining at home,” writes Whitman on her website. “Whether they proudly incorporate recipes passed down from a grandmother’s collection or follow a mother’s lessons for making guests feel comfortable, it is clear that family role models have had a strong influence. Blending inherited dinnerware or decorative pieces in their modern tables is also big in the way women embrace their heritage for entertaining. From formal to casual occasions, city to country, and grand to intimate, indoor and outdoor tables beautifully designed tell a story about how these women host guests at their tables. Each style maker shares tips and lessons in entertaining that she learned from the women in her life.”

A Lovely Table shares advice from tastemakers like

A Loving Table offers inspiration for events ranging from grand to intimate, city to country, and even indoor to outdoor. Some notable moments in the book include a Vietnamese Christmas Eve, a Royal Luncheon in Portugal, a Mardis Gras brunch, and even a 100th Birthday for your Grandfather.

Be sure to intertwine the generations of advice passed down to these tastemakers into your next family-oriented celebration.

Interior designer Kimberly Whitman creates perfect tablescapes.

About Kimberly

With a talent for making the ordinary extraordinary Kimberly Schlegel Whitman has taken her original and clever take on parties and created business ventures to help you celebrate in style. While planning her own Idlewild Debutante Ball in Dallas, Texas, Kimberly found an undiscovered opportunity—a lack of quality goods for party rentals.

In 1998, a quick-thinking Kimberly launched her own event company, RSVP Soiree Luxury Event Rentals, and, after building up a wonderful business, sold it in 2006. She also took the century-old RSVP Social Calendar online in 1999 and created an online resource with a comprehensive list of Dallas’ finest charitable events at http://www.RSVPcalendar.comKimberly’s success in this field led to the publication of nine books on entertaining, countless television appearances, a daily radio segment on CBS’s 103.7 KVIL, Dallas’ number one morning radio show, and a spot as co-host of KTXD’s live daily television talk show, Texas Living.  In 2011, she became the Editor-at-Large of Southern Living Magazine, the seventh-largest monthly paid consumer magazine in the nation.

In 2015 Kimberly joined forces with sorority sister and calligraphy artist Jen O’Neal to create a line of table linens that brings classic designs to the modern hostess.  Halo Home by KSW’s monogrammable linens and popular emoji cocktail napkins are found in over 200 stores across the country.  In 2018, the pair sold Halo Home to Mariana Barran de Goodall, the founder of Hibiscus Linens.  In 2020, Kimberly founded and continues to operate ShopKSW.com, a website that features and sells tabletop treasures curated by tablescape, brand and style. Her popular Summer 2021 fashion collaboration with Antonio Melani, exclusively at Dillards, is celebrating another successful collection with the Summer 2022 selection of twelve dresses perfect for any celebration.