Although German by birth, Alfred Junge (1886-1964), contributed most significantly to filmmaking in the British context, arguably becoming the most influential and important art director of his day. Junge discovered his artistic sensibility in his teens by trying his hand at all aspects of theatrical design in local productions in his native Germany, eventually going on to do set design work for the German State Theater and the Berlin National Opera. Establishing his reputation as a visionary craftsman, Junge accompanied the seminal German film director E.A. Dupont to England in the late 1920s to join the prestigious ranks of British International Pictures, essentially conducting the rest of his career in the UK.
In the early 1930s, Junge was selected to lead the Art Department at Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, and went on to complete the set design work for over thirty films for this studio in six years. During this time, Junge collaborated most extensively with the British film director, Victor Saville. Junge is perhaps most renowned for his breathtaking design work for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, ultimately working on eight films for them throughout the 1940s. Junge’s crowning achievement was as recipient of the 1947 Oscar in Art Direction for his work on Black Narcissus (1947). Junge’s artistic rendering of the Himalayas was so authentic that many viewers were surprised to learn that the film had not been shot on location. Junge’s work on the Technicolor film, A Matter of Life and Death (1946), for Powell and Pressburger also earned him considerable accolades, as the groundbreaking “Staircase to Heaven scene” remains a powerful cultural trope. Junge concluded his career as head of production for MGM Studios at their British headquarters in Elstree.
The Edward Carrick Papers, Harry Ransom Center
Catherine A. Surowiec, Accent on Design: Four European Art Directors (1992)
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