Send an e-mail to Katherine Orrison
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Katherine Orrison's letter to Scott Eyman,
Educated at Sacred Heart Convent in Cullman, Alabama (one of only two Protestants in her class), she graduated in 1966 and journeyed to California three weeks later to attend the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts (1966-1967). She was briefly married to actor Peter Coe (1918-1992; The Sands Of Iwo Jima, Rocky Mountain; The House Of Frankenstein), obtaining an annulment in 1969.
Orrison worked in animated films and commercials from 1969 to 1980 for Filmation, Hanna-Barbera and Disney, working on Superman, Star Trek, Batman, Tron, Human Highway and many others. With the outsourcing of hand-drawn animation overseas, she saw the handwriting on the wall and attended the American Film Institute in the years 1980-1982, producing some ten student films for the AFI and DGA grant programs.
From 1982 through 1992 she worked as an associate producer, production manager, art director, set decorator and costumer for independent features. While some of the movies were of the caliber of Miracle Mile (1988) or The Doors (1992), many were not. She grew increasingly frustrated with the quality of the scripts she had to work with and the subject matter of the stories.
As more and more of the film business “ran away” to Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia, Orrison again saw the handwriting on the wall (by now covered with graffiti). From 1988 through 1992 she alternated film work with restoring and decorating the Mayan Theater and nightclub in downtown Los Angeles, and writing her first book.
That first book was Lionheart in Hollywood, a biography of actor/producer Henry Wilcoxon [right] (1905-1984), star of Cleopatra (1934), The Last Of The Mohicans (1936), The Crusades (1935), Unconquered (1947) and Samson and Delilah (1949), and his twenty-five-year association with legendary director Cecil B. De Mille. With the publication of Lionheart In Hollywood by Scarecrow Press in late 1991, she turned to writing full-time.
She was a staff writer on Cult Movies magazine for over ten years, penning articles on such subjects as Lawrence of Arabia, Ed Wood, actresses Yvonne De Carlo and Joan Woodbury, actor Bela Lugosi, the re-modeling of Cecil B. De Mille’s estate in Los Feliz, and the making of Blade Runner, to name a few. She also contributed regularly to the Cult Movies book review column.
She appeared as a film historian on the Yul Brynner episode of Biography, on the CBC on the subject of Gary Cooper and on the BBC on the subject of epic films. She provided the DVD commentary on both the 1923 and 1956 versions of The Ten Commandments, for Paramount Studios.
Her second book, Written In Stone: Making Cecil B. De Mille’s Epic The Ten Commandments, was published in 1999 by Vestal Press.
Katherine Orrison married Sherman Labby in the early 1990s. Labby was production illustrator on over eighty films including Blade Runner, Top Gun, Thelma and Louise, 2010, The Horse Whisperer, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and What Dreams May Come. He died from the effects of muscular dystrophy in 1998.
In addition to books and magazine articles, she has collaborated on several screenplays, one of which, Rave-On Macbeth, was produced in Europe in 2002.
Orrison does not own a computer, cellphone, fax, answering machine, CD player, TiVo, iPod, pager or digital camera, but she does employ an answering service. All her writing is done with a #2 pencil with no eraser. Her favorite tech gadget is her 1930s Western Electric rotary-dial telephone from Henry Wilcoxon's Paramount office.
She has resided in Hollywood through fires, floods, earthquakes, riots and recessions. She currently lives in a Mediterranean-style building once owned by Cecil B. De Mille, although it's obvious he never lived there.