Art director, production designer worked on 'American Hero'
John Jefferies Sr., art director and production designer on such series as “The Greatest American Hero” and films like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” died March 25 in Sherman Oaks, Calif., due to complications from lung cancer. He was 74.
Jefferies was born in Richmond, Va., and grew up in New Jersey, one of three brothers who worked as art and set directors and production designer. After a stint in the Air Force he moved to the West Coast to pursue a career in showbiz, where his brothers Matthew and Philip were already working. Philip, the oldest, brought in the other two because there was a shortage of art directors at the time, according to a 1987 profile of the brothers in Daily Variety.
John Jefferies got started with 1963’s “The Chase.” As a set designer he worked at Fox, Disney, Warners, Columbia, Paramount and Universal on films such as “The Happiest Millionaire” (with brother Matthew), “Hello Dolly,” “Funny Girl,” “Cat Ballou” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
According to a 1987 Daily Variety profile, all three brothers worked at one time or another on “Catch-22.” Philip started as art director, fell ill and was replaced by Matthew while John was working as a set designer at the same time and pitched in on Philip’s other duties.
The siblings also worked together on “Star Trek,” for which John did the final construction design on the USS Enterprise nights while working on films during the days. Sometimes directors got confused among them as when John worked on vidpic “Malice in Wonderland” at the same time Philip was on “Alice in Wonderland.” John told Daily Variety that it got to be a running gag between the two.
John Jefferies’ TV credits include “Operation Petticoat,” and “The Gypsy Warriors” before “The Greatest American Hero” in 1980-81. He also worked on “Matlock” and “JAG.”
His later film credits include “Baseketball,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” and 2001’s “Black Knight.”
An artist, Jefferies worked around the United States and overseas with many of the major studios and production facilities. He was served as president for the IATSE Set Designers and Model Makers, and belonged to the Art Directors Guild and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Philip died in 1987, a few months after the brothers’ profile was published in Daily Variety, Matthew in 2003. John’s survivors his wife, Dolores, and six children.