Gene Allen, a production designer who won an Oscar for My Fair Lady and was a former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, died Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Newport Beach, CA. He was 97. The Academy announced the news today.
His was one of eight Academy Awards for My Fair Lady in 1965, including Best Picture. Allen also scored Oscar noms for A Star Is Born (1955) and Les Girls (1958). He was a three-term Academy President (1983-85) and served as Executive Director of the Art Directors Guild for more than a quarter-century, starting in 1970. He had also served as a Vice President of IATSE.
“Painting until almost the last day of his life, Gene was a consummate artist, leader and award-winner who made an enormous contribution to the field of production design and art direction, for which we are eternally grateful,” said ADG president Mimi Gramatky.
Allen’s other film credits as art or production designer include At Long Last Love (1975), The Cheyenne Social Club (1970), The Chapman Report (1962), 1960’s Lets Make Love, A Breath Of Scandal and Heller In Pink Tights; Merry Andrew (1958) and 1956’s Back From Eternity and Bhowani Junction.
“Gene Allen displayed verve and brio in his 27 years leading the Art Directors Guild,” said Scott Roth, Executive Director of the ADG, who succeeded Allen in 1997. “Add to this his service as an IATSE Vice President, President of the Motion Picture Academy, and his multiple Oscar nominations (and wins) for Art Direction and you’re looking at a protean career unlikely soon to be matched.”
The Los Angeles native joined Warner Bros in 1936 as an apprentice in its art department. After being laid off, he followed his father in becoming an LAPD officer. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he worked as a teacher at art colleges, eventually getting back into Hollywood when he was re-hired by Warner Bros as a sketch artist.
“As long as I can remember, I loved the feel of a soft-leaded pencil applied to a drawing pad,” Allen said recently.
Allen is survived by his wife Iris and sons Pat and Mike. A memorial service is being planned, with details to be announced later.