Nathan Juran

Naftuli "Nathan" Hertz Juran ((1907-09-01)September 1, 1907, Gura Humorului (2002-10-23)October 23, 2002, Palos Verdes Estates, California, USA) was an American film art director, and later film and television director. As an art director, he won the Oscar for Best Art Direction in 1942 for How Green Was My Valley, along with Richard Day and Thomas Little. His work on The Razor's Edge in 1946 also received an Academy nomination. In the 1950s, he began to direct, and was known for science fiction and fantasy films such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. He was also the brother of quality guru Joseph M. Juran.

Life and career

Early life

Juran was born to a Jewish family in Gura Humorului, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Romania).[1]

In 1912, he emigrated to America with his family, settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He earned a bachelor's degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota. He also spent a summer studying at the École des Beaux-Arts before earning a master's degree in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He passed the architect's exam and set up his own office as an architect.[2]

Art department

With the construction industry at a standstill due to the Great Depression, Juran moved to Los Angeles. He sought architecture work at the studios and got a job doing a drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge for RKO Radio Pictures. He managed to get a permanent job a draftsman in the art department. He was an assistant art director on Quality Street (1937).

Juaran later moved to MGM, where he helped design Juliet's bedroom in Romeo and Juliet (1936). He then went to 20th Century Fox, assisting art department head Richard Day on How Green Was My Valley (1941).[3]

Fox liked his worked and put Juran under contract. His early credits as art director included Charley's American Aunt (1941), and Belle Starr (1941), and he and Day won an Oscar for their work on Valley.[4]

Juran also worked on I Wake Up Screaming (1941), A Gentleman at Heart (1942), Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942), The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942), Dr. Renault's Secret (1942), It's Everybody's War (1942, a short), and That Other Woman (1942).

Juran enlisted in the Navy during the Second World War in July 1942 and was assigned to first the Office of Strategic Services and then to the Royal Air Force Intelligence Center.[5]

After the war, Juran returned to work at Fox, winning an Oscar nomination for his work on The Razor's Edge (1946).

Juran accepted a seven-year contract to be head of the art department for Enterprise Productions. While there he was credited on The Other Love (1947) and Body and Soul (1947).[6] When Enterprise collapsed, Juran did Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) for Harold Hecht and Tulsa (1948) for Walter Wanger.


Juran then signed a long term contract with Universal, where he was the art director on Free for All (1949), Undertow (1949), Winchester '73 (1950), Deported (1950), Harvey (1950), Bright Victory (1951), Thunder on the Hill (1951), Reunion in Reno (1951), Cave of Outlaws (1951), The Strange Door (1951), Meet Danny Wilson (1951), Bend of the River (1952) and Untamed Frontier (1952).[3]


Juran was assigned as art department head for The Black Castle (1952), when director Joseph Pevney dropped out shortly before filming. Juran was asked to take over as director two weeks prior to filming.[6]

Universal were happy with Juran's work and signed him to a one-year directing contract. He made an Audie Murphy Western Gunsmoke (1952), and a Ronald Reagan Western Law and Order (1953), then did The Golden Blade (1953), an "Eastern" with Rock Hudson and Tumbleweed (1953) with Murphy.

Juran went to Italy in 1954 to direct a swashbuckler, Knights of the Queen (1954), based on The Three Musketeers. He then directed some episodes of a TV series based on the movie.

Juran returned to Hollywood to direct an independent film, Highway Dragnet (1954) based on a story by Roger Corman. After The Big Moment (1954) at Paramount he went back to Universal to do Drums Across the River (1954) with Murphy.[7]

Juran directed episodes of Fury (1954), Crossroads and My Friend Flicka on TV, and The Crooked Web (1955) for Sam Katzman at Columbia.[8]

Science fiction and fantasy

Juran's first science fiction film was The Deadly Mantis (1957) at Universal. He followed this with Hellcats of the Navy (1957) starring Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy. It was his first film for producer Charles H. Schneer. Schneer hired Juran for 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. This film established Juran in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Schneer hired him to do another movie with Harryhausen, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1957). It was a commercial and critically success. Instead of continuing with A features, he accepted two jobs "for the money", in his own words:[9] The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) then Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1957). Both became cult classics.[10] He was unhappy with how Arous turned out and arranged for his billing to be "Nathan Hertz".

Juran did a Western for Schneer, Good Day for a Hanging (1958) and, for TV, episodes of Frances Langford Presents, World of Giants, and Men Into Space (1960).

Juran got back into features with a movie he wrote himself, Jack the Giant Killer (1961) for producer Edward Small. He then did Flight of the Lost Balloon (1961), an adventure heavily influenced by Jules Verne, which he co-wrote and directed. Around this time he provided the stories for, but did not direct, Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961) and Boy Who Caught a Crook (1961) and wrote a draft of Son of Captain Blood.[11]

Jurana did some second unit directing on MGM's Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Schneer hired Juran to direct Siege of the Saxons (1963) and First Men in the Moon (1964) (based on the novel by H.G. Wells with effects by Harryhausen).[12][13] He did an imperial adventure for Schneer, East of Sudan (1964) and directed second unit on Cyrano et d'Artagnan (1964).


Juran turned to television in 1959. He directed episodes of A Man Called Shenandoah and Daniel Boone, and episodes of all four of Irwin Allen's 1960s science fiction series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.

Last films

He did a feature for Schneer, Land Raiders (1970), a Western, before an operation for cancer prompted him to retire in 1970. Juran returned from retirement to direct The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973) with his old Sinbad star, Kerwin Mathews. He then returned to his first career, architecture.[14]

In 1999, he was honored with the Lifetime Career Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA.

He died at the age of 95 in Palos Verdes, California.

Partial filmography

As art director
As director


  1. Juran, Joseph M. (2004), Architect of Quality: The Autobiography of Dr. Joseph M. Juran (1 ed.), New York City, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 354–355, ISBN 978-0-07-142610-7, OCLC 52877405
  2. Swires, April 1989 p 58
  3. "Interview with Nathan Juran". Directors Guild of America.
  4. ACADEMY AWARD TO JOAN FONTAINE. (1942, Feb 27). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. McLellan, Dennis (November 1, 2002), "Nathan Juran, 95; Art Director, Filmmaker", The Los Angeles Times, p. B12
  6. Swires, April 1989 p 59
  7. Schallert, E. (1953, Sep 28). Drama. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. Scheuer, P. K. (1955, Aug 21). A town called hollywood. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. Swires, May 1989 p 56
  10. FILM EVENT. (1958, Jan 03). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. FILMLAND EVENTS. (1961, Sep 08). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  12. Westfahl, Gary, Gary Westfahl's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, retrieved 2008-04-05
  13. 'TOM JONES' FILM OPENS HERE OCT. 7. (1963, Sep 17). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. Swires, May 1989 p 62


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