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Production designer Michelson dies

Two-time Oscar nominee was 87

Two-time Oscar-nommed production designer Harold Michelson died in Woodland Hills, Calif., on Friday, March 2, after a lingering illness. He was 87.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, March 6, at 2 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive Los Angeles.

Michelson’s art direction noms came for “Terms of Endearment” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” He was also considered one of the foremost motion picture illustrators for his storyboards and set drawings of films such as “The Ten Commandments,” “West Side Story” and “The Birds.”

His other major credits as an art director and/or production designer include “Dick Tracy,” “Spaceballs,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “Mommie Dearest,” “Catch-22,” “Johnny Got His Gun,” “Hair,” “Mame” and “Can’t Stop the Music.” He also worked as a visual consultant on “Matilda” and “The Fly.”

He additionally provided storyboards and illustrations for films such as “Cleopatra,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “The Graduate,” “Irma La Douce,” “The Apartment,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “A Star Is Born” and “From Here to Eternity.”

Born in New York, he worked for the Bureau of Printing in Washington, D.C., and during WWII, he flew more than 40 missions over Germany in the Air Force.

After the war, he became an illustrator for magazines while attending art school at New York’s Arts Students League. He then worked in Chicago and Los Angeles illustrating movie posters. His first studio job was as an apprentice illustrator for Columbia Pictures, which segued to his being traded to Paramount Pictures to do illustrations and storyboards for “The Ten Commandments.”

At Paramount he moved up the ranks to junior and then senior illustrator. After that, he went to MGM to work on “Ben Hur” and then Universal to illustrate for “Spartacus.”

Michelson’s career in art direction began with NBC’s “Matinee Theater” and went from there to CBS’ “The Gomer Pyle Show” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” In recent years he was a consultant for Danny DeVito.

Michelson was presented the Art Directors Guild’s lifetime achievement award in 1999 and the Hollywood Film Festival’s outstanding achievement in production design award in 2002.

He is survived by wife Lillian, a motion picture researcher; three sons; and two grandchildren.

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