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Randall Duell

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Randall Duell
Born(1903-07-14)July 14, 1903
DiedNovember 28, 1992(1992-11-28) (aged 89)
OccupationArt director and architect
Years active1944-1992

Randall Duell (July 14, 1903 – November 28, 1992) was an American architect and motion picture art director. He designed Magic Mountain theme park in Santa Clarita, California, the original Universal Studio Tours in California, Six Flags Over Texas, Marriott's Great America theme parks, as well as Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee.[1]


Duell was born on a farm in Russell County, Kansas, moved with his family to Los Angeles, California in 1912, and died of a stroke in Los Angeles, California.[1]

Duell attended the University of Southern California School of Architecture and graduated in 1925. Joining the Los Angeles architectural firm Webber, Staunton and Spaulding, Duell contributed to designs for notable building projects in metropolitan Los Angeles during the 1920s and 1930s, among them the Avalon Casino on Catalina Island, Frary Dining Hall and adjacent residence halls at Pomona College, and Greenacres, the estate of silent movie actor Harold Lloyd in Beverly Hills. He and architect Sumner Spaulding collaborated in the design of the Atkinson residence in Bel Air, which was modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailes.

As construction declined during the Great Depression, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hired Duell in 1936 to design the set of the Capulet home in Irving Thalberg's production of Romeo and Juliet. In 1937, he joined the MGM art department in a full-time capacity. During his career as a motion picture art director, he was nominated for three Academy Awards in the category Best Art Direction.[2] He received screen credit for his work on 38 films, among them Ninotchka (1939), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Intruder in the Dust (1949), and Singin' in the Rain (1952). Additionally he worked on a number of motion pictures without film credit, among them The Wizard of Oz, 1939. He retired from MGM in 1959.

During much of his career at MGM, Duell maintained an outside architectural practice and designed residential and commercial buildings in Southern California. Notable among his designs during this period is Casa de Cadillac, a car dealership in Sherman Oaks built in 1948 which is now considered a prime example of Googie architecture. Following his departure from MGM in 1959, he joined Marco Engineering and collaborated with C. V. Wood and Wade Rubottom in the design of Freedomland U.S.A. in The Bronx, the first of many theme parks he would design.[3] At Freedomland, Duell designed many of the park structures and specified the color scheme for the Santa Fe Rail Road and other areas of the park. He is featured in the book, Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History (Theme Park Press, 2019).

The following year, Duell left Marco Engineering and established R. Duell and Associates, a Santa Monica-based architectural practice which specialized in the design of theme parks. Marrying traditional architecture with stagecraft, the firm designed most of the country's theme parks. The list of projects included Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, TX; Marriott's Great America parks in Gurnee, IL (now Six Flags Great America), and Santa Clara, CA (now California's Great America); the Universal Studios Tour, Universal City, CA; the Texas Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York[4]; Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA; Opryland, Nashville, TN; Six Flags AstroWorld, Houston, TX; Hersheypark Hershey, PA; Carowinds, Charlotte, NC; Kings Island, Mason, OH; Kings Dominion, Doswell, VA; and others. The Duell office employed the talents of a number of former motion picture art directors and theme park designers, among them Robert H Branham, Leroy Coleman, John DeCuir, John DeCuir, Jr., Roger Duell, Paul Saunders, Ira West, Harry Webster, Art Pieper, and Paul Groesse.

Duell was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame in 1993.

Selected filmography

Duell was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Art Direction:


  1. ^ a b FOLKART, BURT A. (December 3, 1992). "Randall Duell; Designed Magic Mountain, Other Parks". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  2. ^ "IMDb.com: Randall Duell - Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  3. ^ Vanderbilt, Tom (September 1, 2002). "CITY LORE; Stagecoach Wreck Injures 10 in Bronx". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  4. ^ Hill, Jim. "Texan with Big Dreams + Big Apple = Big Trouble". jimhillmedia.com. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
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