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The images we are working with are for the most part recorded on Kodak film stock which over the last 50 years has deteriorated. The resolution of the images is excellent, in that they were recorded on either 4X5 or 8x10 transparencies. The problem resides in the color deterioration (magenta shift) which is an intrinsic fault of the original KODAK stock. While these images will never be restored to their original brilliance, with the help of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, we have been able to make a bold step toward 90% restoration. the following images illustrate:

                1. The original state of the positive transparencies.

                2. A desk top correction through limited software.

                3. The Academy-Lab restoration.

The images we are presenting in the King & I chapter of the DeCuir biography, see , are only desktop restorations, so keep in mind that the final product will have the brilliance and resolution of the Academy-Lab restoration.

With each passing hour the original film stock shifts a little closer to being irretrievable. As a result your support towards these restoration efforts is extremely important.


Original Transparency


Desktop Restoration


Academy Lab Restoration




The Art of

Legendary Film Designer John de Cuir



Proposal In Brief:


A coffee-table book chronicling the career and featuring the artwork of art director/production designer John De Cuir (1918-1992), three-time Oscar winner, among the greatest film designers in the history of Hollywood.


Proposal Overview:


During his fifty-five years in the movies, De Cuir designed the look of an astonishing number and range of classic films, from “The King and I” to “Ghostbusters,” from the Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner vehicle, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” to the Steve Martin comedy, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” from “South Pacific” to “Hello, Dolly.” And then, of course, there was his work heading up the greatest art project in moviedom: the most visually elaborate, most staggeringly expensive motion-picture ever made up to that point, the “Titanic” of its day: “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.


A Renaissance man— set designer, painter, illustrator, and architect De Cuir became one of the most famous production designers in motion picture history, and was recognized by his peers as the greatest film artist (i.e. draftsman, illustrator, and painter) of all time. Nominated for a total of eleven Academy Awards, he won three outright and shared in a fourth by (leading to a famous truce and deal with studio chief Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox, to be explained in our book). He added an Emmy to his list of honors for his work on the television special, “Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women.”


“Hollywood’s da Vinci” will present, for the first time ever, artwork from the De Cuir Collection, thought to be the finest private holding of original film art in the world, including De Cuir’s:


·                   Illustrations. (250) His original pre-visualizations of each of his films (including tempera renderings, pastels, and water colors)

·                   Oil paintings (35) of actors, film sets, and environments

·                   Quick Sketches (1750) and film storyboards

·                   Film Transparencies: (80) high resolution, full-color renderings of lost original work

·                   Various artifacts, including design notebooks and scripts.


These materials, and the dazzling film art they contain, have never before been published or made available to the public. They are a treasure trove of images from several dozen of Hollywood’s best-loved and most beautiful movies.


“Hollywood’s da Vinci” will demonstrate how John De Cuir invented the look of so many of these pivotal films and show how the look of so many pivotal films sprang from the mind and the brush of one man.


This will be a book designed to delight the eye with movie art, excite the memory of movie-lovers, and entertain the reader with accompanying text on behind-the-scenes tales of the movies and the movie business that John de Cuir knew.





·        John de Cuir, Jr. (son of de Cuir), himself a distinguished production designer, with credits including “Top Gun,” Turner & Hooch,” and “Sister Act 2.” Intermingled with his film design projects, John has been a longtime consultant to the Walt Disney Company’s film-attraction ventures, including “Jim Henson’s 3-D Muppet Movie,” “Alien Encounter,” and the Epcot Center’s “Energy Pavilion.” De Cuir has taught at the UCLA Performing Arts Program and USC’s School of Cinema, Graduate Program. He is a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Art Director’s Guild.


·        John Huddles, writer-director of such independent films as “Far Harbor” (starring Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly and Marcia Gay Harden) and “At Satchem Farm” (starring Oscar nominees Minnie Driver and the late Sir Nigel Hawthorne). He is currently at work on his studio comedy, “Mean Cuisine” for producers Julie Richardson (also producing the upcoming Tom Cruise thriller “Collateral,” for DreamWorks) and Frank Darabont (three-time Oscar nominated writer-director of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile).



Book Content:


“Hollywood’s da Vinci” will consist of the following elements:


·        A preface by Huddles discussing how the now-vanished premium on production design in movies (and especially in independent movies) has affected younger filmmakers, today’s films, and the enjoyment-factor for current audiences.


·        The preface will include a brief account of what a production designer actually does, step by step, to create the look of a film, and how the time and resources allotted to production design differ today from the resources of entire art departments in the studios of yesteryear.


·        The preface will speak with a personal voice about the art of film design from a current writer-director’s point of view, offering the reader an intimate rather than academic introduction to the material.



·        A single chapter by De Cuir, Jr. on his father’s background and early life.


·        This chapter will include a portrait of De Cuir as he grew up in the California of the 1920’s, when motion pictures were first coming into their own. Despite the wishes and demands of De Cuir’s parents that he become a concert violinist (which he managed to fit in on the side!), the boy’s passion from the age of six was drawing and painting, a passion which soon intersected with another family force, De Cuir’s uncle, Louis Kolb, who was first a sound technician and later head of the electrical department at MGM. (The electrical department is not the division that oversees a studio’s wiring, but the team that manages the lighting on the set of a film, in the service of the cinematographer, illuminating actors and scenery.)


·        The roads were still dirt when Uncle Louis took his seven year-old nephew over to “Fox Ranch,” now Century City, to spend his Saturdays wandering through film stages. Once de Cuir had watched the filming of “Ben-Hur” (the 1925 version), and later quietly observed from behind the camera the work of John Barrymore, Jeannette McDonald, and William Powell, his career choice was sealed.


·        This chapter will continue through to the formal beginnings of de Cuir’s career. As a young man, he broke into the film business as a sketch artist/illustrator on such classic sci-fi/fantasy pictures of the 1930’s as:


·        “The Bride of Frankenstein”

·        “Marco Polo”

·        “Ali Baba & The Seven Thieves”


·        De Cuir also worked on Hitchock’s and Bob Boyles “Saboteur” as an optical matte artist during this first phase of his career. His artwork from these early pictures has been preserved in the De Cuir Collection and will enliven the pages of this introductory chapter.



·        The bulk of the book: 10-15 chapters, each chapter devoted to a single film in De Cuir’s career. (See sample chapter below on “The King & I.”)


·        Each chapter will contain 1500-2000 words of text in John De Cuir Jr’s first-person voice, recounting inside stories and anecdotes from the making of his father’s films, lavishly interlaced with illustrations from and photographs of De Cuir’s work on the particular film featured in the given chapter.


·        Each chapter will present De Cuir’s original pre-visualization designs for a given film as well as stills from the finished movie: in other words, before-and-after comparisons of how De Cuir designed the film to look and how it actually looked when all was said and done , so that the reader can follow the process from imagination to execution.


·        Each chapter will begin with a quotation about De Cuir and his work from the movies stars and directors with whom he worked. In addition to already existing quotations, we will be seeking new remarks from those colleagues of De Cuir’s still alive. For example, but not limited to:


·        Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Martin, Barbra Streisand, Deborah Kerr, Bill Murray, Leslie Caron, Charleton Heston, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, director Ivan Reitman, and De Cuir’s longtime friend and collaborator at The Walt Disney Co., famed “Fahrenheit 451” author, Ray Bradbury.




De Cuir’s Filmography as Art Director and/or Production Designer (with career highlights in bold):


Ghostbusters (1984)

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

The Other Side of Midnight (1977)73)

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

The Great White Hope (1970)

Hello, Dolly! (1969)

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

A Man Could Get Killed (1966)

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Circus World (1964)

Cleopatra (1963)

Seven Thieves (1960)

The Big Fisherman (1959)

A Certain Smile (1958)

South Pacific (1958)

How To Be Very, Very Popular (1955)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

The Naked City (1948)

Mexican Hayride (1948)

Casbah (1948)

Time Out of Mind (1947)

Brute Force (1947)

White Tie and Tails (1946)