Production designer Gene Allen, a former three-term president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (1983-1985) and an Oscar winner, passed away last Wednesday of natural causes at the age of 97.
Allen received his art direction Oscar for his work on My Fair Lady (1965) and received two 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 (IATSE LOCAL 800), where he served as executive director for 27 years (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 as well as production designer for George Cukor on A Star is Born.
He was hired by Warner Bros.’ art department in 1936 as an apprentice. When he was laid off, he followed his father, becoming a cop in 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.
He recently said, “As long as I can remember I loved the feel of a soft-leaded pencil applied to a drawing pad.”
Allen was a recognized water color painter whose work was exhibited in many galleries, including at the Art Directors Guild’s Gallery 800 in North Hollywood last year.
“Gene Allen displayed verve and brio in his 27 years leading the Art Directors Guild,” said Scott Roth, executive director of the ADG, who succeeded Allen in 1997. “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.”
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 Design and Art Direction, for which we are eternally grateful,” said ADG president Mimi Gramatky. “We will miss him very much.”
Allen is survived by his wife Iris and sons Pat and Mike.