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Dorothy Jeakins

Dorothy Jeakins

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Also Known As: Dorothy Elizabeth Willett Died: November 21, 1995
Born: January 11, 1914 Cause of Death: Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases
Birth Place: San Diego, California, USA Profession: costume designer, artist, set designer, cel painter (Walt Disney Studios)

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This three-time Academy Award-winning costume designer got her start working on WPA projects and as a Disney artist in the 1930s. Her fashion career began as a designer at I. Magnin's, where she was spotted by director Victor Fleming. Hired as a sketch artist for "Joan of Arc" (1948), Jeakins soon replaced costume designer Karinska and won an Oscar--the first awarded to a costume designer--for her medieval designs.Jeakins was unusual in that she freelanced, never signing a long-term contract with any one studio. She worked steadily for the next fifty years, winning another two Oscars, for "Samson and Delilah" (1950, shared with Edith Head and others), and "Night of the Iguana" (1964), and another 12 nominations. She was perhaps best-known for her period costumes, in such films as "The Ten Commandments" (1956), "The Music Man" (1962), "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Little Big Man" (1970), "The Way We Were" (1973), "Young Frankenstein" (1974) and "The Dead" (1988). Her modern-dress excursions included "Niagara" (1952), "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954), "South Pacific" (1958) and "On Golden Pond" (1981).Jeakins also worked on stage productions, including "South Pacific", "King Lear", "Winesburg,...

This three-time Academy Award-winning costume designer got her start working on WPA projects and as a Disney artist in the 1930s. Her fashion career began as a designer at I. Magnin's, where she was spotted by director Victor Fleming. Hired as a sketch artist for "Joan of Arc" (1948), Jeakins soon replaced costume designer Karinska and won an Oscar--the first awarded to a costume designer--for her medieval designs.

Jeakins was unusual in that she freelanced, never signing a long-term contract with any one studio. She worked steadily for the next fifty years, winning another two Oscars, for "Samson and Delilah" (1950, shared with Edith Head and others), and "Night of the Iguana" (1964), and another 12 nominations. She was perhaps best-known for her period costumes, in such films as "The Ten Commandments" (1956), "The Music Man" (1962), "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Little Big Man" (1970), "The Way We Were" (1973), "Young Frankenstein" (1974) and "The Dead" (1988). Her modern-dress excursions included "Niagara" (1952), "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954), "South Pacific" (1958) and "On Golden Pond" (1981).

Jeakins also worked on stage productions, including "South Pacific", "King Lear", "Winesburg, Ohio" and "The World of Suzie Wong", and such TV-movies as "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Mayerling". For ten years beginning in 1953, she served as designer for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Company, and was curator of that city's textile and costume collection at the County Museum of Art. Jeakins, who retired in 1990, once summed up her designing: "I can put my world down to two words: Make beauty. It's my cue and my private passion."

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Hawaii (1966) Hepzibah Hale
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Milestones close milestones

1935:
Worked on WPA Federal Art Project
:
Worked as cel painter at Walt Disney Studios
1938:
First feature credit, as assistant to designer, on "Dr. Rhythm"
1945:
Moved to New York to pursue career as costume designer (date approximate)
1948:
Feature debut as costume designer "Joan of Arc"
1950:
Stage debut as costume designer, "Affairs of State"
1968:
Named curator of costumes and textiles at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1987:
Final feature credit, John Huston's "The Dead"
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Education

Art Students League: Los Angeles , California - 1935

Notes

She was kidnapped by her father at age five and put into foster homes. She was never reunited with her mother, a dress designer.

Received an honorary doctorate from Otis Art Institute of the Parson School of Design

Received a Guggenheim Fellowship that took her to Japan for one year to study costumes of the Japanese theater in 1962.

Jeakins received two Tony Award nominations for her costumes for "Major Barbara" and "Too Late the Phalarope" in 1957 and "The World of Suzi Wong" in 1959

"I was always a director's designer more than an actor's designer. My work was literary. What concerns me most is the canvas. The canvas is the script, and the designer is the painter. What colors do you put on the canvas and why?" --Dorothy Jeakins, quoted in her NEW YORK TIMES obituary, November 30, 1995

"She very seldom tries to impose her own quirks or ideas on the actors. She works for the script rather than the flash." --John Houseman, quoted in her NEW YORK TIMES obituary

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Raymond Eugene Dane. Publicity director for 20th Century-Fox. Married in 1940; divorced in 1946.

Family close complete family listing

father:
George Willett. Bank clerk.
mother:
Sophie-Marie von Kempf. Couture dressmaker.
sister:
Jessica Willett. Born in 1912.
brother:
Allan Willett. Survived her.
son:
Stephen Dannenbaum. Born in 1941.
son:
Peter Dannenbaum.
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