Boris Leven

Boris Leven

Moscow Federal City, Russia
Death 12 Oct 1986 (aged 78)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 137134544 · View Source
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Art Film Director.

Boris Leven
(August 13, 1908 – October 11(12), 1986) was a Russian-born Academy Award-winning art director and production designer whose Hollywood career spanned fifty-three years. The son of Israel and Zinaida (Narkirier) Leven; married Vera Glooshkoff, February 8, 1948.

Boris Leven was born in Moscow Russia and immigrated to America with his prominent family, fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. He studied architecture at USC, a classmate of Robert Boyle’s, and joined the Paramount Art Department in 1933 as a sketch artist and draftsman, learning the craft under the legendary Hans Dreier in the department that came to be known as “Dreier College.”

He viewed the motion picture industry as temporary employment to carry him through the lean years until work in architectural firms picked up again. When Leven moved over to 20th Century-Fox at the end of the 1930's, however, he found his calling as an Art Director.

His first film for Fox, the Irving Berlin musical Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), earned him his first of nine Oscar nominations; and he went on to work on such black-and-white films as The Shanghai Gesture (1942), Criss Cross (1949), and Sudden Fear (1952). He was, however, a master colorist and achieved his finest work on Technicolor dramas and musicals. Hello Frisco, Hello (1943) and The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947) were perhaps his best while still at Fox. Independent by temperament, he came to feel hampered by the rigidity and discipline of the studio Art Department, and in the early fifties he left Fox for the uncertainty of the freelance world.

George Stevens had a similar temperament, and when he hired Leven to design Giant (1956), the freedom from studio interference enabled the two of them to structure one of the first Hollywood epics to shoot primarily on location. Leven’s watercolor silhouette of Reata, the Victorian ranch house, against the lonely west Texas plains, is one of cinema’s iconic images.

He designed Biblical epics like The Silver Chalice (1954) and westerns such as Thunder in the Sun (1959), and he was highly respected by directors and other designers alike. When William Cameron Menzies tried his hand at directing, he selected Leven to design Invaders From Mars (1953). Later, when Robert Wise selected him to design a new style of musical tragedy, West Side Story (1961) earned Leven his only Academy Award, and established him as the master of the 1960's musical.

He went on to design The Sound of Music (1965), Star! (1968), and Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York (1977). The Andromeda Strain (1971), one of seven films he designed for Robert Wise, and The Color of Money (1986), yet another film for Martin Scorsese, earned him Oscar nominations right to the end of his life. He was, for more than 50 years, the epitome of what a Production Designer could be.

Besides his film work, Leven was known locally for his oil and watercolor paintings, which have been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California.

Leven became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1939 and served with the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, he married the former Vera Glooshkoff, who survived him.

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  • Created by: R.C.
  • Added: 11 Oct 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 137134544
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Boris Leven (13 Aug 1908–12 Oct 1986), Find a Grave Memorial no. 137134544, ; Maintained by R.C. (contributor 47303570) Unknown.