Albert Nozaki, art director for Paramount Pictures; 91
LOS ANGELES -- Albert Nozaki, an Academy Award-nominated art director whose credits include the epic "The 10 Commandments" and the science-fiction classic "The War of the Worlds," died Nov. 16 in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 91.
Mr. Nozaki, whose nearly four-decade career at Paramount Pictures was interrupted by his relocation to the Manzanar internment camp during World War II, died of complications of pneumonia.
"He was one of the last great studio-system art directors," Eric Warren, an art director, said.
Beginning as a draftsman in the Paramount set-design department in 1934 and continuing until his retirement in 1969 as the studio's supervising art director for features, Mr. Nozaki worked on numerous films.
Among his credits as an art director are "The Big Clock," "Sorrowful Jones," "Appointment with Danger," "Pony Express," "Houdini," "The Buccaneer," and "Loving You."
Mr. Nozaki received an Academy Award nomination for color art direction, with Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler, for director Cecil B. De Mille's 1956 production of "The 10 Commandments."
But Mr. Nozaki knew which movie he would be best remembered for, said his friend, Robert Skotak, an Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor ("Aliens" and "Terminator II").
"The last time I saw him he said, `I guess "The War of the Worlds" is my masterpiece,' " Skotak said. "He said this in a very humble way because everybody had been telling him that. Al was very modest. He was a sweet, very special person."
Mr. Nozaki had worked on producer George Pal's 1951 science fiction film "When Worlds Collide" when Pal tapped him as art director to convert and modernize the written visuals for his 1953 screen version of the H.G. Wells novel about Martians invading Earth.
The Technicolor movie, directed by Byron Haskin and starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, is considered a classic of the genre and won an Academy Award for best visual effects.
The filmmakers built a downtown Los Angeles in miniature, and one of the movie's most memorable scenes shows a Martian war machine firing a deadly ray that disintegrates City Hall.
The "remarkable thing" about Nozaki's work on "The War Of the Worlds," according to Skotak, "is he story-boarded the entire movie himself, meaning he drew every camera angle, including what's in the shots. He also designed all the technology -- the war machines, the meteor, the Martians -- all the special things that are in the movie that don't exist."
One of three sons of a banker father, Mr. Nozaki was born in Tokyo. His family moved to the United States when he was 3 and settled in Los Angeles, where Mr. Nozaki demonstrated an early ability in art, particularly drawing.
He earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Southern California in 1933 and a master's degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1934. An invitation that year to tour Paramount from a friend who worked at the studio prompted Mr. Nozaki to apply for a job in the art department.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he abruptly was dismissed from his job at Paramount. In the spring of 1942, in the roundup of 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent, he and his wife, Lorna, were forced first into a distribution center and then sent to the Manzanar internment camp in California's Owens Valley.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.