This morning the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles will have a special dedication of the Great Film Directors First-Class Forever stamps honoring John Ford, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, and John Houston. And while the selection of directors is no surprise, you might be amazed to learn the artwork was created right here in little ole Cedar Falls, Iowa by artist Gary Kelley.
Kelley’s studio is just two blocks from mine and he’s been a creative lifeline to me ever since I moved from Florida to Iowa in 2003. And I was actually able to be on the ground floor of watching him sketch the initial drawings of the directors. I remember discussing various scenes from the movies represented as he searched for iconic images that would feature each director’s work. Of course, there were copyright and estate issues to consider and the final decisions are the above scenes from The Searchers (Ford), The Maltese Falcon (Huston), It Happened One Night (Capra), and Some Like it Hot (Wilder).
Kelley told me the only real glitch in the project was he originally painted the boat from Huston’s The African Queen, which was rejected because of rights. He felt the boat worked better not only because it was a horizontal image, but because it’s a more recognizable icon. The final artwork was done with pastel on paper and each image is approximately 8” X10″.
I asked Kelley if he had a favorite movie from the stamps and he said, “The Searchers, I saw that with my dad, and it was in Technicolor—that was pretty cool stuff. But I also remember getting pretty excited when Marilyn Monroe came on the screen in Some Like it Hot.”
So today, DGA President Taylor Hackford, AFI President Emeritus Jean Picker Firstenberg, film critic Richard Schickel, Anjelica Houston, Allegra Houston, Frank Capra III and representatives from the U.S. Postal Service will be on hand to honor these four great directors.
One person who won’t be there is the artist Gary Kelley. I asked him why he wasn’t going and he said, “My invitation must have gotten lost in cyberspace.” Now you know that painters and screenwriters have something in common.
You can buy the stamps at your local post office or at USPS online.
P.S. Kelley, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, is perhaps best known for his large murals found in Barnes & Nobel Bookstores across the country. He is also one of the most medaled artists in the Society of Illustrators. Gary and I had a meeting yesterday with artistic director/conductor Jason Weinberger for a multi-media project we will all be doing with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony in 2013, much like the Kelley’s Blues concert that we did back in 2010.