Box, John Allan Hyatt

Birth Name Box, John Allan Hyatt
Nick Name The Magician
Gramps ID I1673
Gender male
Age at Death 85 years, 1 month, 11 days


Event Date Place Description Notes Sources
Birth [E4437] 27 January 1920 Hampstead, London  
Death [E4438] 7 March 2005 Leatherhead, Surrey  
Occupation [E4439]   film production designer and art director


Relation to main person Name Relation within this family (if not by birth)
Father Box, Allan Cyril [I1671]
Mother Storey, Albertha [I1672]
         Box, John Allan Hyatt [I1673]
    Brother     Box, David Charles [I1674]


    Family of Box, John Allan Hyatt and Linton, Barbara [F0558]
Married Wife Linton, Barbara [I1882]
    Family of Box, John Allan Hyatt and Lee, Doris [F0557]
Unknown Partner Lee, Doris [I2064]


Born in Hampstead, London in 1920, John Allan Hyatt Box was only a few years old when the family went to Ceylon, where his father worked as an engineer, building roads and bridges. When he was about 12 he returned to England with his mother and younger brother. Shortly after their arrival his mother died of a tropical disease, and he was raised by relatives.

Educated at Highgate School, then the London School of Architecture. Box trained as an architect but enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War. He served in France, was mentioned in dispatches and ended up as an acting colonel at the age of 25. He retained a clipped moustache and conversational style, reminiscent of the military, though his thinking was by no means regimented.

After the war Box entered the film industry and worked as a draughtsman, initially for Two Cities Films, on the likes of the Cecil Parker drama The Weaker Sex (1948) and the comedy Adam and Evelyne (1949), with Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. Other early films include Anthony Asquith's The Importance of Being Earnest and Disney's The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (both 1952). He was promoted to art director on The Million Pound Note (1953), a Ronald Neame comedy with Gregory Peck.

There had been a brief wartime marriage, and Box met his second wife, the costume designer Doris Lee, on The Black Knight (1954), a medieval adventure that starred Alan Ladd and was shot in Spain and Wales, which were to become Box's regular haunts over the years.

After Chinese officials refused to allow "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" to be filmed in China, he constructed a walled Chinese city in Wales. He built Doctor Zhivago's Russian country house in Spain, and used white plastic sheets and marble dust to replicate a snowy landscape. He was noted for recreating exotic locations in unlikely settings, hence the nickname "the Magician".
He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Art Directors Branch). During his career he won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction on four occasions and won its BAFTA equivalent three times, making him the most decorated member of his profession of all time.
He was awarded the OBE in 1998.

Military career:
2nd Lt. 21.12.1940 [164706]
WS/Lt. 21.06.1942
T/Capt. 08.02.1944-(04.1944)
WS/Capt. 10.11.1945
T/Maj. 10.11.1945-(04.1946)

? - 21.12.1940 either Sandhurst or 162nd Officer Cadet Training Unit
21.12.1940 commissioned, The Hampshire Regiment [emergency commission]
01.06.1942 transferred, Royal Armoured Corps


Type Value Notes Sources
RFN 633485733


  1. Box, Allan Cyril [I1671]
    1. Storey, Albertha [I1672]
      1. Box, John Allan Hyatt
        1. Linton, Barbara [I1882]
        2. Lee, Doris [I2064]
      2. Box, David Charles [I1674]