Juneau woman remembers her stepfather, a titan of titles

Late Wayne Fitzgerald had a hand in over 400 movies and shows

Wayne Fitzgerald, prolific and prodigious title sequence designer, is flanked by his grandsons, Bodhi and Portern Nelson of Juneau. All three hold awards earned by the late Fitzgerald over the course of his long career. (Courtesy Photo | Courtney Mico-Nelson)

Wayne Fitzgerald, prolific and prodigious title sequence designer, is flanked by his grandsons, Bodhi and Portern Nelson of Juneau. All three hold awards earned by the late Fitzgerald over the course of his long career. (Courtesy Photo | Courtney Mico-Nelson)

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably been watching Wayne Fitzgerald’s work most of your life.

Fitzgerald was a prolific and prodigious title sequence designer for movies and TV for the better part of 50 years, and he passed away last week at the age of 89 in Washington state.

“He’s everywhere, but people don’t know who he is,” said Courtney Mico-Nelson, Fitzgerald’s stepdaughter and resident of Juneau.

In recent years, Fitzgerald spoke in Juneau a handful of times while visiting Mico-Nelson.

“I really want his story to be told,” she added. “I just think he’s the best and the greatest.”

Late title sequence designer Wayne Fitzgerald, Courtney Mico-Nelson, Maryellen Courtney, Porter Nelson and Bodhi Nelson pose together in Juneau. Fitzgerald recently passed away, and Mico-Nelson wants his contributions to film and television to be remembered. Courtesy Photo | Courtney Mico-Nelson)

Late title sequence designer Wayne Fitzgerald, Courtney Mico-Nelson, Maryellen Courtney, Porter Nelson and Bodhi Nelson pose together in Juneau. Fitzgerald recently passed away, and Mico-Nelson wants his contributions to film and television to be remembered. Courtesy Photo | Courtney Mico-Nelson)

Fitzgerald’s filmography on the Internet Movie Database contains a mind-boggling 462 credits, including Oscar-nominated films “The Graduate,” “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and goofier fare like “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” “Kingpin” and “Beverly Hills Ninja” and hundreds of titles with a level of prestige somewhere in between.

“They don’t even have everything on there,” Mico-Nelson said. “Most of the TV stuff isn’t on there.”

Mico-Nelson said she never heard her stepfather identify a particular film’s title sequence as his favorite, but both “The Electric Horseman” starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and Billy Crystal comedy “City Slickers” were among his more involved efforts.

For “The Electric Horseman,” Mico-Nelson said Fitzgerald came up with the idea to depict Norman “Sonny” Steele (Redford) to show the former rodeo star in glory that’s mostly faded by the time of the events depicted in the movie.

“‘City Slickers’ was his most expensive title since it was animated,” Mico-Nelson said.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is also a major work since after working on that movie, and at the insistence of Warren Beatty, Fitzgerald started his own title design firm.

By the time Fitzgerald came into Mico-Nelson’s life, she was 12, it was the early ’80s and Fitzgerald and his firm were well entrenched in the film industry.

At that point, Fitzgerald’s title design firm had been in existence for more than a decade, and he had been working in Hollywood for a quarter-century.

Artwork for the movie “Honeymoon in Vegas” is part of Courtney Mico-Nelson’s collection of her late stepfather, Wayne Fitzgerald’s, work. Fitzgerald was a title sequence designer with a decades-spanning career. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Artwork for the movie “Honeymoon in Vegas” is part of Courtney Mico-Nelson’s collection of her late stepfather, Wayne Fitzgerald’s, work. Fitzgerald was a title sequence designer with a decades-spanning career. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

“From 12 on, he was my dad,” Mico-Nelson said. “The perks of having an L.A. dad is he was a member of the Academy, so we saw basically every movie ever made since I was 12.”

She also worked with and for him for about six years, she said. Mico-Nelson said that led to run-ins with Francis Ford Coppola, being an uncredited double for Dolly Parton and living in a home where a Maltese Falcon from “The Maltese Falcon” was a doorstop.

Beyond being both talented and prolific, Mico-Nelson said her stepfather, was an incredibly nice human being.

“He was literally like the nicest man in the world,” she said. “He was so nice, so easy going.”

How Fitzgerald, a born-and-raised Angeleno with a sunny disposition, had a multi-decade career in show business is something of a mystery to Mico-Nelson.

Storyboard

In her estimation, a specialized field, diligence and talent made up for what he lacked in a mean streak.

“He was just a consummate businessman, a professional and not starstruck at all — maybe that helped,” Mico-Nelson said. “Plus, he was a genius. They should have been starstruck.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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