Jacque Mapes

Studio art director and set decorator

Jacque Mapes, longtime studio art director and set decorator whose career began at RKO in 1939 and later included a long personal and professional relationship with producer Ross Hunter, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 88.

Mapes served as associate producer on two of Hunter’s big pics for Universal: 1967’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” for Universal and 1970’s “Airport.” The two films combined proved to be Oscar nom magnets, pulling in 16 Academy Award nods between them.

Mapes also served as producer of Universal’s 1967 Rosalind Russell starrer “Rosie,” based on Ruth Gordon’s Broadway play “A Very Rich Woman.”

Mapes came to Hollywood in 1939 as a set decorator and assistant art director on William Dieterle’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” which starred Charles Laughton. His career was interrupted by World War II service, during which time he served in the U.S. Navy.

At war’s end, he returned to Hollywood where he worked on the sets of “Delightfully Dangerous” (UA, 1945) with Jane Powell, and the Gary Cooper/Ann Sheridan starrer “Good Sam” (RKO, 1948).

During the late 1940s, he and Hunter, then an actor, were co-producing theatre plays and revues in the Los Angeles area including the first West Coast productions of Elmer Rice’s “Dream Girl.”

In the early 1950s, Mapes joined MGM and worked as a set decorator on such films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Everything I Have Is Yours” and “Latin Lovers.” One of Mapes’ proudest achievements was the discovery of the original 1927 art deco furniture designed for the Greta Garbo/John Gilbert film “Flesh and the Devil,” which he recycled in Gene Kelly’s living room set for the number “Good Morning” in “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Moving over to network TV, Mapes joined NBC and worked on the sets for “The Loretta Young Show” during its first year on the air.

He eventually formed a producing partnership with Hunter, and together they produced features and several TV specials including “A Family Upside Down,” which garnered an Emmy for Fred Astaire.

A contributor to numerous charities, Mapes was a driving force behind the annual S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event) benefit shows.

He is survived by a nephew.