An MGM art department veteran goes before the camera

Veteran set decorator Henry Grace as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in The Longest Day

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

If you watch movies and TV shows either made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or filmed at the studio from the late 1950s through the 1960s, one name pops up frequently.

That would be set decorator Henry Grace (1907-1983). Set decorators take a set and add touches to customize them to a scene in a story.

Grace would receive more than 200 credits in films and TV shows. He received 13 Oscar nominations and won once, for Gigi (1958). His other film credits include North by Northwest, the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty, How the West was Won, The Americanization of Emily and A Patch of Blue. Grace also received an Emmy nomination for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

During this era, many TV shows leased stages at MGM. As a result, Grace received credits on series such as The Twilight Zone, Combat! and My Favorite Martian.

What makes Grace different from other Hollywood art department veterans was he got a chance to go before the camera.

Specifically, Grace was judged to resemble Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander in World War II, who was responsible for the D-Day invasion. As a result, he got the role of Ike in 1962’s The Longest Day. It was a small, but important, role in a big, sprawling film.

On one occasion, one of the behind-the-camera guys got a moment in the sun.

Henry Grace, along with others (including title designer Saul Bass) gets a title card in North by Northwest

3 Responses

  1. He was terrific as Eisenhower!

  2. Am fascinated by MFU, and Henry Grace equally so. Who along with the craft-talent of photography and lighting, created the look and feel of the entire series!! For the kind of show it was, merely in the ‘60’s, those sets were sleekly modern or elegantly rich, as the storyline required. In both cases effectively imaginative! There was incredible detail without making them self-consciously obvious. Just familiar enough to be comfortable (and fictiously) real. Considering the HQ sets had to be reused for 105 episodes, if something was tweaked, it was fun to spot, but not much ever was. Except in the last season when they upgraded HQ with new highly polished blue flooring and added more perspective to Waverly’s inner and outer offices and extending the lengthy corridors (which were hinted at in the TV movie).

    I loved the abstract picture in Waverly’s office, the wall sconces (outdoor lighting fixtures!), revolving conference table enabling those overhead “dolly” shots! The office furniture and electronics was understated enough to never be a distraction, given there were few examples on TV (tho maybe from movies). Then considering the international atmosphere all the other sets needed to establish. Imagine having that vision becoming part of your legacy for decades to follow! You couldn’t have the MFU without it. What a neat way to have your talent remembered!!

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Btw: I can never figure out from which episode we see the actors’ opening credits in seasons 1 thru 3, because I can’t match them up exactly. They must’ve been scenes cut from the from the episode itself, do you think?

  3. @Pacificsun: Here’s what I think:
    Robert Vaughn, season 1: Footage shot during The King of Knaves Affair. Compare footage from that episode with the title card.
    Robert Vaugh, season 2-3: Footage shot during The Deadly Games Affair. Angle, lighting, etc., similar to the briefing scene for Deadly Games.
    David McCallum, season 1: From the pilot.
    David McCallum, seasons 2-3: Footage shot during The Double Affair/The Spy With My Face. That footage was filmed in color originally.

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