John DeCuir was born June 4, 1918, in San Francisco and he was destined to be an artist. When DeCuir stumbled upon a sign painter who offered him a paintbrush, he was immediately drawn to the artform. Although his father wanted him to be a concert violinist, he started drawing in his head while practicing violin, envisioning the art on the tiled wall. Each afternoon, he’d put his idea to paper. Eventually, he could create an image square by square, starting at the top left corner and drawing down to the bottom right with picture-perfect accuracy. He went on to use his artistic abilities as an art director and production designer in Hollywood. In the course of his career, he designed the productions of classic movies such as Cleopatra, The Bride of Frankenstein, The King and I, and South Pacific. DeCuir earned eleven Oscar nominations and won three for his work on Cleopatra, The King and I, and Hello Dolly!.

DeCuir died on October 29, 1991 and is survived by his son, John DeCuir, Jr., who is also a designer.

June 4, 1918

John Decuir born in San Fransisco 


At age 6, DeCuir begins to study the violin. After discovering the paintbrush, DeCuir splits his time between mastering the violin and the canvas. He practices the violin each morning, meanwhile drawing pictures in his head to redraw later from memory. DeCuir eventually acquires the ability the draw from one corner to the other like a laser printer.


DeCuir becomes a concert violinist.



DeCuir is hired as a matte shot illustrator at Universal Studios. 

DeCuir attends Montebello High School.


DeCuir studies at Chouinard Art Institute under Herb Ryman. 


As a new employee at Universal, DeCuir would arrive early and brew a pot of coffee. By doing this simple thing, he caught the attention of the company’s producer. He would stop by each morning for coffee and soon enough, he began to take note of John’s work.

“A cup of coffee got him his first job. That along with a great deal of talent, but the coffee helped.

— John DeCuir Jr.

the adventures of marco polo (1938)*

Director: Archie Mayo, John Cromwell