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Herbert Strabel, the Berlin-born art director and set designer who won an Academy Award for his work on the Liza Minnelli classic Cabaret, has died. He was 90.
Strabel died Oct. 21 in a nursing home in Holzkirchen, Germany, The Munchner Merkur newspaper reported.
Strabel also served as art director on the Germany-set 1978 suspense film Brass Target, which implied that Gen. George Patton’s fatal automobile crash was not accidental.
When Ingmar Bergman was living in Germany in a tax-related exile, he hired Strabel for From the Life of the Marionettes (1980), which told the story of Katarina and Peter Egermann, two characters who briefly appeared in the famed director’s Scenes From a Marriage (1973).
Strabel was art director on the Delbert Mann drama Night Crossing (1982), which starred John Hurt in the true story of families attempting to escape East Germany in a hot air balloon. Two years later, he teamed with Wolfgang Petersen on the fantasy adventure The NeverEnding Story.
Strabel also was the set decorator on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s first feature in English, Despair (1978). He then worked with the director on Lili Marleen (1981).
Cabaret (1972), directed by Bob Fosse, told the story of Sally Bowles (Minnelli in her Oscar-winning role), a performer at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. The film is set in 1931, shortly before the Nazis’ rise to power.
Strabel’s designs wonderfully showcased the stage and backstage area of the Kit Kat Klub, as it became a central character in itself, symbolic of the decadence of the era. Upon its release, The Hollywood Reporter critic Garry Giddins wrote that Cabaret was “a musical for people who don’t particularly care for musicals.”
The film also is known for winning the most Academy Awards, eight — for director, actress, supporting actor, cinematography, editing, original score, art direction-set decoration and sound — without collecting the best picture prize as well.
On Oscar night, Strabel shared his award with Rolf Zehetbauer and Hans Jurgen Kiebach.
Strabel also received a Emmy nomination in 1984 for his work on ABC’s Inside the Third Reich, starring Rutger Hauer and John Gielgud.
He retired from the industry in 1988.
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