Charles Lisanby, Emmy-Winning Art Director, Dies at 89

Charles Lisanby obituary
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Charles Lisanby, a three-time Emmy winning art director, died at his Los Angeles home from complications following a fall on Aug. 23. He was 89.

In 2010 Lisanby became the first production designer inducted in the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Lisanby was one of the great pioneers of television design, responsible for one of the first daytime shows for CBS — Aaron Copland’s “Billy the Kid,” in 1948 — because William Paley wanted to see if dance would work on television. Lisanby continued working on Broadway and in television until 1999, when he was nominated for the Art Directors Guild’s excellence in production design award for “Reflections on Ice: Michelle Kwan Skates to the Music of Disney’s ‘Mulan.'”

He won his three Primetime Emmys in 1988 for “Barry Manilow: Big Fun on Swing Street” (with a nomination the same year for “The 60th annual Academy Awards”); in 1980 for “Barishnikov on Broadway”; and in 1975 for “Benjamin Franklin.” He was nominated for another seven Primetime Emmys.

He designed “The Gary Moore Show,” which introduced Carol Burnett to TV auds, and designed variety shows for such stars as Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Mitzi Gaynor and Dolly Parton.

He was an ADG (IATSE Local 800) member for more than 40 years and prior to that a member of United Scenic Artists since 1950.

Lisanby is survived by his longtime partner Richard Bostard and his sister-in-law Gladys. Funeral services are being held in Princeton, Kentucky, on Sept. 1.

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