Arnold Mesches was an American visual artist who appeared in Escape from the Planet of the Apes playing the role of a Courtroom Artist.
Mesches was born in 1923 in the Bronx, New York, and raised in Buffalo, New York, before moving to Los Angeles in 1943 on an art scholarship and beginning his fine art career in 1945. He had worked for CBS as a courtroom artist in LA, covering such trials as the Manson killings and the Robert Kennedy assassination, before director Don Taylor came to pick up his step-daughter from a class Mesches taught around late 1970. Taylor asked Mesches if he would like to play a courtroom artist in a movie he was doing. Mesches, who thought “the original ‘Planet of the Apes' story was astonishing,” said 'yes', which led to his appearance in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. During the four or five days he spent on set, Mesches used his free time to sit and draw pictures of the cast and crew of the film; everyone involved wanted a drawing and they would purchase the drawings from him on the set to add to their own collections. “It was just fun,” Mesches said about his experiences during filming.
In 1984, Mesches moved to New York City for eighteen years and taught at NYU, Parsons College and Rutgers, before teaching at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He has had over 125 solo exhibitions internationally. In 1999, he obtained access to a massive 760-page file on his activities between 1945-1972 that the FBI had gathered from his friends, neighbors, colleagues, models and students. His participation in peace marches and in demonstrations against Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his showing a Czech film in his class, led to him being targeted as a subversive communist, and many of his paintings included images of McCarthy and of his personal FBI file.
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