A Diverse Celebration of Joe Musil’s Life

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Today, we wrote about the life of the late theater designer Joseph Musil and his impact on the cinematic experience.

On Saturday, a mix of his contemporaries — from restaurant CEOs to Art Deco maestros to cinema designers — gathered at Santa Ana’s Santora building to celebrate his life.

In speeches at the service and discussions afterward, old friends remembered Musil before he was a pioneer of the Artists Village — when he worked out of a makeshift studio in a cramped apartment in Long Beach.

When Musil moved to the Artists Village in Santa Ana in the 1990’s, it was the beginning of a cosmopolitan revolution for the city.

Don Cribb, one of the founder’s of the Artists Village, said Musil provided a “professional presence” that the village could build on.

“The arts helped move Santa Ana to a more cosmopolitan culture, and Joe Musil made his contribution,” Cribb said.

People from the theater design industry also weighed in on Musil’s work, saying he captured a kind of theater magic all but lost since the end of the 1940s.

“What Joe and Disney did in Hollywood was preserve the golden era of moviegoing,” said Ed Collins, general manager of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Collins said Musil’s work as head of the 1987 El Capitan restoration resulted in the “highest grossing single-screen theater by far.”

Musil’s influence doesn’t just extend to theaters. CEO and Chairman of Ruby’s Diners Doug Cavanaugh also attended the service and said much of what is seen in Ruby’s restaurants today can be credited to Musil’s imagination.

“When I was stumped on a detail, I would give Joe a call,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh said Musil also designed the World’s Fair Pavilion restaurant in San Diego. That restaurant, Cavanaugh said, is “to this day one of the busiest restaraunts in town.”

Charlie Bell, movie cinema architect for Regal, Galaxy and Edwards theaters, said that many contemporary designers, including himself, use Musil’s work for inspiration.

“I would come in and spend time with Joe and take some of the magic he preserved and build it into my cinemas,” Bell said.



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