Gene Allen, Former Academy President, Dies at 97

Production designer Gene Allen, a former three-term president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (1983-1985) and an Oscar winner for his work on “My Fair Lady,” died on Wednesday, October 7, from natural causes. He was 97 and lived in Newport Beach, California.

In addition to his art direction Oscar for “My Fair Lady,” Allen received Oscar nominations for “A Star Is Born” (1955) and “Les Girls” (1958). In 1997 he received a Special Achievement Award from the Art Directors Guild, where he served as executive director from 1970-1997. He had also served as a vice president of IATSE. He was a member of the Directors Guild of America, having worked as second unit director in addition to production designer for director George Cukor on “A Star Is Born.”

ADG executive director Scott Roth, who succeeded Allen in 1997, said, “Gene Allen displayed verve and brio in his 27 years leading the Art Directors Guild. Add to this his service as an IATSE vice president, president of the Motion Picture Academy, and his multiple Oscar nominations (and wins) for Art Direction and you’re looking at a protean career unlikely soon to be matched. He will be sorely missed by his many friends (including me) in the labor and entertainment communities.”

ADG president Mimi Gramatky added, “Painting until almost the last day of his life, Gene was a consummate artist, leader and award winner who made an enormous contribution to the field of production and art direction, for which we are eternally grateful. We will miss him very much.”

Other production designer credits included “At Long Last Love” (1975), “The Cheyenne Social Club” (1970) and “The Chapman Report” (1962). His art director credits included “Let’s Make Love,” “A Breath of Scandal” and “Heller in Pink Tights” (all in 1960), “Merry Andrew” (1958), “Les Girls” (1957), “Back From Eternity” and “Bhowani Junction” (both 1956).

He was hired by Warner Bros.’ art department in 1936 as an apprentice. When he was laid off, he followed his father, joining the Los Angeles Police Department. With the start of World War II he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After the war he found work teaching at art colleges, eventually getting back into Hollywood when he was rehired by Warner Bros. as a sketch artist.

Allen was a recognized water color painter whose work was exhibited in many galleries, including at the Art Directors Guild’s own Gallery 800 in North Hollywood last year.

He is survived by his wife Iris and sons Pat and Mike. Details of a memorial service will be announced later.

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