Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hitchcock Film Designer Robert F. Boyle Passes On

Robert F. Boyle, art director and  production designer on many films, passed on August 1 at the age of 100. He had worked on over 80 films.

Robert F. Boyle was born in Los Angeles, California on October 10, 1909. He grew up on a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. He attended the University of Southern California where he majored on architecture. Following graduation he found little demand for his chosen field during the Great Depression, and so he took a job a bit player at RKO Pictures. It was while there he became interested in set design. He talked with RKO's art director, who sent him to Paramount, where he went to work for art director Han Drier. He worked on The Plainsmen (1936), You and Me (1938), Union Pacific (1939), and Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935). He received his first major screen credit in 1941 as associate art director on the classic Universal horror film The Wolf Man. His first credits as art director were not long in coming. He was first credited as art director on the movie serial Don Winslow of the Navy (1942). He would receive credit as associate art director on the films Private Buckaroo (1942) and Invisible Agent (1942). He first worked with director Alfred Hitchcock on the film Saboteur (1942) as an associate art director. He would work again with the director on his film Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

Over the next several decades, Robert F. Boyle would serve as art director or production designer on several films, including Flesh and Fantasy (1943), Nocturne (1946), The Milkman (1950), Ma and Pa Go on Vacation (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Private War of Major Benson (1955), and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). In 1959 Mr. Boyle received a production credit for the film that would change his career. Alfred Hitchcock's  North by Northwest brought him more attention that he had ever had, including a nomination for the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Colour. Mr. Boyle would work with Alfred Hitchcock several again on the films The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). Over the next two decades Robert F. Boyle would work on such films as Cape Fear (1962), The Thrill of It All (1963), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967), In Cold Blood (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Leadbelly (1976), Winter Kills (1979), Private Benjamin (1980), Table for Five (1983), Explorers (1985), and Dragnet (1987). In addition to North by Northwest, Mr. Boyle was nominated for Oscars for his work on the films Gaily, Gaily (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Shootist (1976).

Robert F. Boyle also worked in television, as a an art director on episodes of The Web, Casey Jones, The Donna Reed Show, and Alcoa Theatre.

If Robert F. Doyle is considered among the greatest art designers of all time, it is perhaps because of his amazing attention to detail. Indeed, when Mr. Doyle was working on In Cold Blood he used the actual Kansas farm house where the murders, portrayed in the both the movie and Truman Capote's book upon which the film was based, took place. Robert F. Doyle cold recreate 1900s Czarist Russia in Yugoslavia, as he had done with Fiddler on the Roof, or the North Carolina setting of Cape Fear using such diverse places as the Universal backlot, Ladd's Marina (in Stockton, California), and Savannah, Georgia). Not many art directors could capture the feel of a film so perfectly as Robert F. Doyle.

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