Terence Marsh (14 November 1931 – 9 January 2018)
It’s easy to forget when watching a movie that what you’re actually looking at, the physical environment that the cast is working within, has either been designed or adapted to look how it does by the production designer, or art director as they’re otherwise known. A production designer works closely with a movie’s director to ensure that the visual look and style of a movie suits the material and communicates, where necessary, a mood or tone. It’s a challenging job, and Terence Marsh was one of the best in his particular corner of the movie industry.
Marsh began his career as a draughtsman at Pinewood Studios, where he worked uncredited on a number of movies including A Town Like Alice (1956) and The League of Gentlemen (1960). In the early Sixties he began to work as an assistant art director, and he gained his first on-screen credit for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Three years later he had become a fully-fledged art director and won the first of two Academy Awards for his work on Doctor Zhivago (1965) (Marsh must have really impressed David Lean with his work). His second Academy Award came three years later with Oliver! (1968). For this, he oversaw the building of a London street that was carried out by around three hundred and fifty men and which included the laying of around ten thousand cobblestone slabs.
Marsh worked continuously from the Sixties onwards, and in a variety of genres, bringing his attention to detail and visual acuity to a number of movies that were improved just by his work on them. During his career he collaborated with the likes of Richard Attenborough, Sydney Pollack, Frank Darabont, Carol Reed, Gene Wilder, John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven and Mel Brooks, and always did his best to match his vision of a movie to theirs. He remained at the top of his game even in the Nineties, whether it was through riding out in a Trident-class nuclear submarine for The Hunt for Red October (1990), or designing “Old Sparky” the electric chair for The Green Mile (1999). For his expertise and his apparently infallible skill in picking the right environment to suit the tone or the mood of a movie, or even just an individual scene, Marsh will be sorely missed.
1 – Doctor Zhivago (1965)
2 – Oliver! (1968)
3 – Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
4 – A Touch of Class (1973)
5 – The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
6 – To Be or Not to Be (1983)
7 – The Hunt for Red October (1990)
8 – Basic Instinct (1992)
9 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
10 – The Green Mile (1999)