Bill Thomas, one of the industry’s most versatile costume designers, with a career spanning from his Oscar-winning period designs for “Spartacus” to the futuristic fare of “Logan’s Run,” died Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills from natural causes. He had recently undergone bypass surgery. He was 79.
Thomas was nominated for the Academy Award for best costume design 10 times, which included such films as “Babes in Toyland,” “Bon Voyage,” “Ship of Fools,” “The Happiest Millionaire,” “The Hawaiians” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” In 1960 he won the Oscar for “Spartacus,” which he shared with designer Valles.
A Chicago native, Thomas earned a scholarship and majored in drama at USC. He also studied at the Chouinard Art Institute.
During World War II he served in the U.S. Air Force as a supply sergeant, designing costumes for USO shows. He became the only film designer to have received training under the G.I. Bill.
After the war, he was hired as an assistant costume designer for MGM from 1947 to 1948. Thomas honed his craft as he assisted some of the great studio designers, Walter Punkett and Irene.
He took his sketches to Universal, earning himself a seven-year contract. Thomas stayed at the studio from 1949 to 1959, becoming head designer.
Aside from his film work, he was a wardrobe designer for the stars, commisioned to create personal collections for socialite Edie Goetz, actress Kim Novak and singer Helen Reddy.
By 1979, Thomas had worked on more than 300 feature films. The roster of stars he designed for in his career included Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, John Wayne, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr.
He had no known survivors.