Harold Michelson, 87; film production designer, art director

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Harold Michelson, 87, a longtime production designer, art director and storyboard illustrator who was nominated for two Academy Awards, died Friday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund home after a long illness.

His Oscar nominations for best art direction came in 1980 for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” along with Joe Jennings, Leon Harris, John Vallone and set decorator Linda DeScenna, and in 1984 for “Terms of Endearment,” along with Polly Platt and set decorators Tom Pedigo and Anthony Mondello.

Michelson was also honored with the Art Directors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Other films for which he is credited as art director or production designer include “History of the World: Part I,” “Dick Tracy” and “Mommie Dearest.”


Born in New York City in 1920, Michelson studied briefly at the Pratt Institute in New York and New York University before going to work for the U.S. Bureau of Printing in Washington, D.C. During World War II he served as a bombardier and navigator for the Army Air Forces in Europe. After the war he resumed his art training at the Art Students League in New York.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1947 and began doing illustrations and story boards for films, including “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben Hur,” “The Birds” and “The Graduate,” among many others.

Among his survivors are his wife, Lillian Michelson, who for many years has maintained an extensive motion picture research library and collection considered a vital resource by many in the film business.