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Leo Edwin Kuter (1897-1970) was born in Shannon, Illinois, and in 1911 moved to Los Angeles, where he later graduated from Manual Arts High School. After working as a clerk for several different businesses, he went back to school to study art and architecture, which led to a job designing furniture for Barker Bros. Kuter entered the film industry in 1921 when he was hired as a draftsman at Paramount. He soon moved to Metro as chief draftsman and while there worked for director Rex Ingram on such films as "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1922) and "Trifling Women" (1922), receiving his first screen credit for the latter. Kuter was next hired by the Pickford studio as set designer for "Rosita" (1923) and then by Universal as art director for such films as "The Mad Whirl" (1925) and "What Happened to Jones" (1926). In 1925 Kuter again changed studios when he joined Warner Bros. and worked as art director on "The Caveman" (1926) and "Silken Shackles" (1926), among other films. He received no screen credit for his work at Warner, however. At Fox he art directed such films as "The Monkey Talks" (1927), "Hangman's House" (1928), and "A Girl in Every Port" (1928), again receiving no screen credit. In 1929 Kuter joined RKO as a set designer and soon was named chief draftsman, a position he held until 1932. He rejoined Warner Bros. in 1933 as set designer, and two years later he became an assistant art director, first to Robert Haas, then to Carl Weyl, and finally to Anton Grot. In 1942 he was promoted to art director for "The Last Ride" (1944) and went on to design "Key Largo" (1948), "Rio Bravo" (1959), "A Summer Place" (1959), and "PT-109" (1963), as well as others. His final film was "Three on a Couch" (1966). Active in various attempts at unionizing art directors, Kuter was involved with and served on the boards of such groups as Cinemagundi (1924-1937), United Scenic Artists (1928-1942), Federated Motion Picture Crafts (1931-1937), and the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors (1941- ).
The Leo "K" Kuter papers span the years 1914-1979 (bulk 1921-1966) and encompass 48 linear feet. The collection consists of production files, subject files, and oversize drawings. The production files consist of a script, budgets, memos, and storyboard drawings for the films and television shows on which Kuter was art director. There is also some material, usually only a single drawing, for films Kuter did not work on, such as "Kings Row" (1942) and "Robin Hood" (1922). The subject files contain material relating to Kuter's professional life and interests, including material on art direction organizations, especially Cinemagundi, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors. There are also a number of unidentified drawings, as well as drawings by art directors and sketch artists such as Anton Grot and Tyrus Wong. The oversize material makes up more than half of the collection and consists of drawings and storyboards collected by Kuter over the years. As with the production files, the oversize material covers films Kuter worked on as well as some films he was not involved with, such as "The Big Sleep" (1946) and "Gone with the Wind" (1939). There are also a great number of unidentified drawings and tentatively identified drawings. The majority of identified material relates to Warner Bros. films.
Gift of Kay E. Kuter and Jeane Kuter Harvey, 1991.
Drawing for "April in Paris" fromthe Leo “K” Kuter papers