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 – 2018 Individual Inductee –

Randall A. Duell


Randall A. Duell was an American architect and art designer who was born July 14, 1903 on a farm near Luray, Russell County, Kansas.  He was the son and the second of four children born to Lewis and Sarah (Rogers) Duell.  Randall attended the Luray schools through the third grade.


S. S. Class Entertained

“A merry party of little folks, about twenty-three in number, met at the home of Mrs. Austin Fritts, on Tuesday evening of last week from 5 to 3 o’clock, where they enjoyed themselves to the utmost. One of the jolliest events of the evening was a contest in which Scott Markley was the winner on the boys’ side and Ella Dick on the girls’. About half past seven supper was served, which consisted of pie, cake, candy and nuts, which all enjoyed. After this, the jolly little party departed for home, surely thinking they should have stayed till 9 o’clock. Those present were: May Olson, Vera Taylor, Tressie Markley, Oma Armsbury, Lucile Miller, Nova Armsbury, Rosella Whiteman, Gwendolyn Duell, Eva Whiteman, Estelle Evans, Doris Smith, Ella Dick, Sarah Whiteman, Burl Joy, Leland VanScoyoc, Floyd Maupin, Earl Markley, Vergil Buster, Scott Markley, Lloyd Belveal, Randall Duell, Calvin Belveal, [and] Dwight Armsbury.” –  Luray Herald , December 1, 1911.


In 1912 Randall moved with his family to Ontario, California.  His first taste of rides, slides and thrills came in 1915 at the San Diego Fair.  In 1920 the sixteen-year old Randall was working as a farmer on a fruit farm.  He graduated as an architect from the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 1925.  On December 22, 1925 Randall married Rachel Beatrice Coleman in Los Angeles, California, with whom he had a one son, Roger.


After college Randall joined the Los Angeles architectural firm Webber, Staunton and Spaulding and contributed to designs for notable building projects in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s, among them the Avalon Casino on Catalina Island, Frary Dining Hall and adjacent residence halls at Pomona College, and Green Acres, 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.


As construction declined during the Great Depression, the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) film studio hired Randall in 1936 to design the set of the Capulet home in Irving Thalberg’s production of Romeo and Juliet.  He joined the MGM art department in a full-time capacity the next year.


Randall 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). He worked on an additional 33 more motion pictures without film credit, including The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Randall was nominated for an Academy Award for Art Direction three times, for his work in the movies When Ladies Meet (1941), Random Harvest (1942), and Blackboard Jungle (1955)


After a 23-year career Randall retired from the movie business in 1959. “I thought it would be kind of nice to get into something else,” he replied when asked about the decision.


During much of his career at MGM, Duell had maintained an outside architectural practice. 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 the success of Disneyland, that park’s general manager, C. V. Wood formed Marco Engineering with Disney art director Wade Rubottom. Randall Duell joined them in 1959. Marco developed several failed Disneyland-wannabes, including Pleasure Island near Boston and Freedom Land in the Bronx.


In 1960 Randall and Rachel Duell founded R. Duell and Associates (later Duell Enterprises), based in Santa Monica, California, with Randall as architect and Rachel as business manager.  Combining traditional architecture design with motion picture stagecraft, the firm designed most of the theme parks across the country. The Duell office employed the talents of a number of former motion picture art directors, among them Leroy Coleman, John de Cuir and Paul Gross.


The corporation’s first theme park design was Six Flags Over Texas at Arlington, Texas. Their most notable theme park creations after that were: Lion Country Safari in Irvine, California; Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta, Georgia; Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee; Astroworld in Houston, Texas; Marriott’s Great America Park in Gurnee, Illinois (Six Flags Great America), Asterix park in Paris; Bellewaerde park in Belgium; Darien Lake in western New York, Dunia Fantasi in Indonesia; in Santa Clara, California (California’s Great America); Magic Mountain in Valencia, California; the original Universal Studios Tour at Universal City, California; and numerous others. Another noted design was the Texas Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. 


Those are just some of the parks they created; they also did work for already-existing funzones, including Great Adventure, Circus World, the Pavilion amusement park in Myrtle Beach, and many more.  Duell Enterprises was the biggest amusement park designer in the world when Randall was listed in Who’s Who in the West in 1970-1971.


In 1990 Randall at last fully retired and enjoyed a quiet life until he suffered a stroke on November 28, 1992 at his home in Los Angeles, California, and passed away at the age of 89 years.  He was interred in Rose Hills Memorial Park at Whittier, Los Angeles County, California.  The next year Randall was named to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame.  In 2001 Rachel died at the age of 100 and was laid to rest beside him.


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List of Randall Duell’s Work as Associate Art Director / Art Director in the Movies:


 1937 My Dear Miss Aldrich (associate art director) 

 1938 Out West with the Hardys (associate art director) 

 1938 The Chaser (associate art director) 

 1938 Woman Against Woman (associate art director) 

 1939 Ninotchka (associate art director) 

 1939 Sergeant Madden (associate art director) 

 1939 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (associate art director) 

 1939 The Secret of Dr. Kildare (associate art director) 

 1939 The Wizard of Oz (scenic artist - uncredited) 

 1940 Florian (associate art director)

 1940 Susan and God (associate art director) 

 1940 Wyoming (associate art director) 

 1941 Come Live with Me (associate art director) 

 1941 The Penalty (associate art director) 

 1941 They Met in Bombay (associate art director) 

 1941 When Ladies Meet (associate art director) [Academy Award Nominee, Best Art Direction]

 1942 Her Cardboard Lover (associate art director) 

 1942 Kid Glove Killer (associate art director) 

 1942 Random Harvest (associate art director) [Academy Award Nominee, Best Art Direction]

 1942 Woman of the Year (associate art director) 

 1943 Above Suspicion (associate art director) 

 1944 Mrs. Parkington (art director)

 1944 The White Cliffs of Dover (associate art director) 

 1945 Anchors Aweigh (art director)

 1946 The Postman Always Rings Twice (art director)

 1946 Undercurrent (art director)

 1947 Song of the Thin Man (art director)

 1947 This Time for Keeps (art director)

 1948 A Southern Yankee (art director)

 1948 Homecoming  (art director)

 1948 The Kissing Bandit (art director)

 1949 Big Jack (art director)

 1949 East Side, West Side (art director)

 1949 In the Good Old Summertime (art director)

 1949 Intruder in the Dust (art director)

 1949 The Sun Comes Up (art director)

 1950 Pagan Love Song (art director)

 1950 The Asphalt Jungle (art director)

 1951 Excuse My Dust (art director)

 1951 The Unknown Man (art director)

 1952 Everything I Have Is Yours (art director)

 1952 Shadow in the Sky (art director)

 1952 Singin’ in the Rain (art director)

 1953 All the Brothers Were Valiant (art director)

 1953 The Girl Who Had Everything (art director)

 1954 The Last Time I Saw Paris (art director)

 1954 The Student Prince (art director)

 1955 Blackboard Jungle [Academy Award Nominee, Best Art Direction]

 1955 The Prodigal (art director)

 1955 Trial (art director)

 1956 Invitation to the Dance (segment “Sinbad the Tailor”) (art director)

 1956 The Great American Pastime (art director)

 1956 The Swan (art director)

 1957 Jailhouse Rock (art director)

 1957 Silk Stockings (art director)

 1957 Ten Thousand Bedrooms (art director)

 1958 Party Girl (art director)

 1958 The High Cost of Loving (art director)

 1958 The Tunnel of Love (art director)

 1959 Count Your Blessings (art director)


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Los Angeles Times

August 9, 1970

Page 19

By Mary Lou Loper

Times Staff Writer

He Works to Provide Fun for Others

Randall Duell, American Institute of Architects (AIA), positively contradicts his looks.


A kindly, grandfatherly type, he would (it seems) look practically perfect sitting on a rock, fishing a mountain stream.


Not so. In his own words, “I’m not much of a fisherman.”


In fact, that’s what he told himself when he retired at 58 after 23 years as art director of MGM Studios. While friends were dreaming of “going fishing,” he sized himself up.


Share of Pictures

“I had had my share of great pictures. I thought it would be kind of nice to get into something different.”


First off, a co-director asked, him to help design Pleasure Island in Boston. Next he designed Freedomland in New York, but that was one of Zeckendorf’s enterprises that went bankrupt.  


Next came Six Flags Over Texas, and today, at 67, he has a string of credits: Lion Country Safari, Six Flags Over Georgia, Houston’s Astroworld.


Upcoming newest play place is Magic Mountain, the $20 million family entertainment facility opening next spring in the valley of Valencia.


Duell also is masterminding Opryland U.S.A. in Nashville, Carowinds Park in the Carolinas, Busch Gardens in Houston, is modernizing Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and siting a marineland in Rio de Janeiro.


Duell doesn’t dally.


As opposed to most fisherman, he likes working seven days a week. A man with few personal recreational inclinations, he says about his professional recreational planning, “My life is just dollars and cents. I like what I am doing because it is a real challenge.”


“And Sunday mornings, I usually come down here. It’s quiet and no one is here. If I have some problem, and the phones aren’t ringing, I can sit here and in two hours solve everything.”


Duell heads a firm with a staff of 40, including 15 registered architects and engineers, the oldest of whom is Don Wilkinson, 80, who designed Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and who Duell says, “comes in early, stays late, and turns out more work than anyone.”


Duell, by his own description, “was born in the middle of a wheat field in Russell County, Kansas, in 1904, came to California in 1912, and went to the San Diego Fair in 1915.”


He met his wife at USC and they have rollercoastered around the world in their travels, scrutinizing amusement parks.


“She’s the business manager, the white-haired lady downstairs who keeps us out of problems,” he grinned. “I want you to meet her.”


But though the Duells’ favorite recreations are quick trips to San Francisco, being with their grandchildren or gardening, they recognize that the recreational habits of the rest of Southern California are different.


“There is more leisure time today,” said Duell. “Most people have to have some place to go. They like to get out of the city.”


Duell Provides Thrills

Bent on working four days a week, they like to play.


So Duell provides the thrills.


“The most popular form of entertainment is some form of a thrill ride,” he said. “That is partly because teenagers like a device that gives them a thrill sensation – and adults, when they are out there, are kind of teenagers, too.” 


Location of amusement parks (“I don’t mind calling them amusement” parks, but a lot of people think that is a terrible name”) has little to do with weather, he explained.


“We as adults worry about the weather, but kids really decide where the family goes. If parents promise their children a weekend somewhere, they stick to it, regardless of rain.”


Duell helped choose the site for Magic Mountain from a helicopter.  He wanted a contour, since most parks are built on the flats.  To succeed, amusement parks, he said, require good access to freeways and a population not overly endowed with something to do.


Magic Mountain, for instance, (a joint venture of Sea World Inc., San Diego and the Newhall Land and Farming Co.), will be near new freeways, and will draw from the Bakersfield, San Fernando, Oxnard, Ventura, Lancaster and Los Angeles areas. It also will be several miles from man-made Castaic and Piru lakes, new recreational centers themselves.


“What we are doing is creating an oasis,” said Duell. “Planting 7,000 trees on 65 acres, and air- conditioning even the outdoor queue lines.”


Nestled against the shoulder of Magic Mountain will be three dance pavilions, featuring live rock and a 3,000-seat Talent Showcase.


“What dictates is what people want,” said Duell.


And the message he gets, is white-knuckler thrill rides (a 90-ft. plunge into a log-jammed lake), a funicular, and pavilions playing to night crowds. 


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Luray Herald, March 3, 1911; December 1, 1911.


Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1970; December 3, 1992; June 28, 2001.


New York Times, December 4, 1992.


Variety Magazine, December 7, 1992., “Randall Duell”., “Randall Duell”., “1982 Interview with Randall Duell and Ira West of R. Duell and Associates”

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