The Prodigal (MGM 1955), a view of a pagan idol inside a temple in Damascus in 70 BC
22' 2" x 16'-0”
Randall Duell, Production Designer
Cedric Gibbons, Art Director
George Gibson, Scenic Art Supervisor
Scenic Art Attributed to: Ben Carré, Clark Provins, Art Rider, Al Londraville, Bob Oberbeck, Clem Hall, John H. Coakley, Jim Dobson
Unique for their high chromatic saturation, these backdrops shaped MGM's settings for the biblical parable of the Prodigal's Son reimagined as a large-scale cinematic spectacle. Painted to be filmed in Technicolor, these backdrops demonstrate the rich, intense capacity of using dry color pigments. Eventually, scenic paint formulations would change to acrylic-based paints, reducing the scenic artist's range of darkness and color intensity.
Scenic artist John H. Coakley would become one of the most influential scenic artists in Hollywood. Coakley apprenticed George Gibson from the young age of sixteen and became the 20th Century Fox's scenic art department supervisor by thirty. Coakley formed J.C. Backings with his son John G. Coakley, a company and dynastic family with ties from the earliest days of Hollywood film, painting notable films such as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and Hello Dolly. J.C. Backings owns the most extensive collection of hand-painted film backings in the world. The Coakley family generously donated these backings as a part of the ADG Backdrop Recovery Project.