Harry Horner; Designer Won 2 Oscars, Accolades in Theater


Harry Horner, performing arts designer and director who won Academy Awards for his work on the films “The Heiress” and “The Hustler,” has died. He was 84.

Horner died of pneumonia Monday at his home in Pacific Palisades.

In addition to the Oscars he won for design in 1949 and 1961, he was nominated for a third award for the film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”


Equally at home in theater, Horner staged productions on Broadway and in Los Angeles. He earned a Los Angeles Drama Critics award for best stage design for “Idiot’s Delight,” which was presented in the Ahmanson Theater in 1970.

Despite his many accolades, Horner remained a modest man. “I become fearful when people notice so much design,” he said after earning kudos for the Ahmanson play. “Stage settings should be secondary. Shakespeare didn’t even use them.”

Born in Holic, Czechoslovakia, Horner moved to the United States in 1935, became an American citizen in 1940 and served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II. As a youth in Europe, he had earned a degree in architecture from the University of Vienna and another in acting from the Max Reinhardt Theater Company. He performed briefly as an actor in Vienna and Salzburg.

Among Horner’s other films over four decades were “Our Town,” “Separate Tables,” “Born Yesterday” and “Lady Sings the Blues.”

His theater projects included the original “Our Town” on Broadway in 1938, “Joy to the World” in 1948, “Little Foxes” in 1949 and, the same year, the Air Force’s “Winged Victory.” Horner designed the first revolving stage for Moss Hart’s “Lady in the Dark” in 1947.

The versatile Horner also designed and directed operas such as “The Magic Flute” for New York’s Metropolitan Opera and “Turandot” for the San Francisco Opera. He staged another, “David” in 1956, for the Hollywood Bowl.

For television, Horner designed or directed such productions as “Four Star Theatre” and “Gunsmoke,” and, for Canadian television, the series “Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”

Survivors include his wife, the former Joan Frankel; three sons, Christopher, Anthony and James, and two granddaughters. Services will be private.

The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Hospice Visiting Nurses’ Assn., to the Harry Horner Scholarship Fund at the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors, or to a children’s charity of the donor’s choice.