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Box, John (1920-2005)


Main image of Box, John (1920-2005)

Even a mediocre film such as First Knight (US, d. Jerry Zucker, 1995) looks wonderful thanks to John Box's glittering designs. Born in London on 27 January 1920 and educated at the London School of Architecture, he entered films in the late '40s as a draughtsman on such films as The Woman in Question (d. Anthony Asquith, 1950) and The Importance of Being Earnest (d. Asquith, 1952).

As 'art director', he worked on more than a dozen '50s genre films, including six adventures for Warwick, including Cockleshell Heroes (d. José Ferrer, 1955) and Zarak (d. Terence Young, 1956). He designed for Anthony Asquith (The Young Lovers, 1954), Carol Reed (Our Man in Havana, 1959, Oliver!, 1968, winning an Oscar) and, most notably, for David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962, Doctor Zhivago, UK/US, 1965; both Oscar-winning): i.e, for the best-regarded British directors of their day. The design arguably overwhelms such large-scale films as Zhivago, Nicholas and Alexandra (UK/US, d. Franklin J.Schaffner, 1971, another Oscar) and The Great Gatsby (US, 1974, a BAFTA) but, if so, the responsibility lies elsewhere. He also won BAFTAs for A Man for All Seasons (d. Fred Zinnemann, 1966) and Rollerball (US, d. Norman Jewison, 1975), and Oscar and BAFTA nominations for Lean's A Passage to India (1984), and was awarded an OBE in 1998. He was arguably Britain's most distinguished artist in his field since the 1960s.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Doctor Zhivago (1965)Doctor Zhivago (1965)

David Lean's epic version of Boris Pasternak's novel

Thumbnail image of Lawrence of Arabia (1962)Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Spectacular David Lean epic about the desert adventurer

Thumbnail image of Man for All Seasons, A (1966)Man for All Seasons, A (1966)

Oscar-laden story of Sir Thomas More's defiance of Henry VIII

Thumbnail image of Oliver! (1968)Oliver! (1968)

Lionel Bart's Oscar-winning musical adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist

Thumbnail image of Our Man in Havana (1959)Our Man in Havana (1959)

Alec Guinness is out of his depth in pre-revolution Cuba

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