All in the Family: The Pereira Brothers
While true genius is hard to find, rarely does one find two outstanding talents within the same family. Such is the case, however, with the Academy Award winning siblings William and Hal Pereira. Architect William Pereira was best known for his Transamerica Pyramid Tower in San Francisco, California, and brother Hal served as supervising art director for Paramount Studios from 1950 to 1968. The brothers recently came to our attention in a post from Designslinger on the Art Deco Esquire Theatre that William and Hal designed in the 1930s.
The Pereira Brothers’ Early Years Chicago
The Pereiras were born in Chicago, Illinois to Portuguese immigrants1. Hal, the older brother, was born on April 29, 19052; William arrived four years later on April 25, 19091. Both were graduates of the University of Illinois and began their careers in their hometown of Chicago1,2. William took up his first position in the office of Holabird & Root, where he contributed to the masterplan for the 1933 World’s Fair3. He left Holabird & Root to partner with brother Hal designing and building “movie theatres and interiors across the country, among them the [aforementioned] landmark and high style Esquire Theatre of Chicago.3”
Left: William Pereira (photographer unknown). Source:http://assets.artandculture.com/media-prod/public/uploads/images/27174/pereira_medal_sm_thumb_medium.jpg
Right: Hal Pereira (photographer unknown). Source: http://thinesclaude.wifeo.com/images/1/195/1955—-Hal-Pereira.jpg
Making the Move to Hollywood
After a successful stint in theatre design, William followed his first wife, actress and model Margaret McConnell, to Los Angeles4 in the late 1930s. Brother Hal moved there four years later to embark on his career as “a unit art director under the tutelage of department head Hans Dreier. He took over Dreier’s job as supervising art director upon the latter’s retirement in 1950”2.
Esquire Theatre, The ‘Classiest’ Movie House in Chicago
Our friends in the Windy City, designslinger, have devoted a recent post to the Esquire Theatre, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The Esquire was designed by brothers architect William Pereira and designer Hal Pereira for the two younger Balaban brothers, Harry and Elmer. (You may be familiar with the elder brothers, motion picture business pioneers Abe and Barney of the Balaban and Katz Theatre Corporation.)
According to designslinger, in its day the 1400-seat Esquire, “with its streamline details and elegant appointments was dubbed the city’s ‘classiest’ movie house in Chicago.”
Incidentally William and Hal Pereiera, both enjoyed successful careers as Hollywood art directors. William was the production designer on the film noir classic, “This Gun for Hire" (1942) and also on "Jane Eyre" (1943)1. Hal worked on over 200 films and won an Academy Award in 1955 for his art direction on “The Rose Tattoo.” Hal also later served as one of the production designers on the long-running television series “Bonanza”2.
See more great photos and read the entire post on designslinger.com.
William and Hal Pereira, Esquire Theatre, Chicago, IL (1938). Photo: Copyright 2012 Designslinger.
- Wikipedia (2012). William Pereira. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Pereira
- Fandango.com (n.d.). Hal Pereira. http://www.fandango.com/halpereira/biography/p106081