Lloyd Henry Bumstead, whose career as one of the greatest production designers in the history of Hollywood spanned seven decades and garnered him Oscars for To Kill a Mockingbird and The Sting, died May 25. He was 91.
Bummy, as he was universally known, worked almost to the end of his life. He had completed work as production designer on his 11th film for director Clint Eastwood just two weeks before he passed away from what Bumstead’s family said was prostate cancer. At a memorial service at the San Marino Community Church, Eastwood eulogized his long-time art director before some 400 of Bumstead’s friends and colleagues who were in attendance along with members of his family.
“I rode with him and I have no complaints,” said the director. “Bummy was an understated guy, but he was bigger than life.”
In 1998, when Bumstead received the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Art Directors, Eastwood gave him another accolade: “Bummy, you take the B.S. out of filmmaking,” the director said presenting him with the award.
“If it wasn’t for Clint, I wouldn’t be working now,” Bumstead told Below the Line last year when he was honored with a special tribute by this publication on his 90th birthday. The period with Eastwood represented an extended “golden years” period for the production designer, encompassing films such as Unforgiven (which got Bumstead his fourth Academy Award nomination), Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Two yet-to-be released World War II movies—Flags of Our Fathers and Red Sun, Black Sand—were his last films for the actor-director. Over the years Bumstead worked with a cavalcade of other great directors, including George Marshall, Mitchell Leisen, Anthony Mann, Michael Curtiz, Billy Wilder, Robert Mulligan, Franklin Schaffner, George Roy Hill, Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock. He did four films with Hitchcock including Vertigo, for which Bumstead received his first Oscar nod. A quintessential Californian, he was born in the town of Ontario and was a high school football player and track star who went to the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship. Sidelined by an injury, he concentrated on his architectural design classes. He was hired by a colleague of showman Florenz Ziegfield to work summers drafting sets at RKO. After graduating from USC in 1937, he went to work at Paramount where German-born art directing legend Hans Dreier was in charge. Dreier became Bumstead’s mentor, taking him under his wing. During those apprentice years, Bumstead worked on everything from Cecil B. DeMille epics to the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road” movies.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Bumstead returned to Hollywood and in 1948 got his first job as a full-fledged art director on Saigon. During the 1950s he designed notable black-and-white melodramas, including No Man of Her Own and The Furies, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and Come Back Little Sheba with Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster.
Bumstead switched to Universal, where his collaboration with Hitchcock began on The Man Who Knew Too Much. A career high point was his production design for To Kill a Mockingbird, with director Mulligan, earning him his first Oscar. And he did six films with George Roy Hill, including The Sting, his second Oscar-winning movie. In Slaughterhouse Five, authored by Kurt Vonnegut, Bumstead had an acting role as the sweet-natured Mr. Rosewater, on top of his production design duties. In a lighter vein, Bumstead was art director on a number of Jerry Lewis comedies, as well as I Married a Monster from Outer Space. The latter became a running gag between himself and Jack Taylor, Bumstead’s art director and Number-2 throughout the Eastwood era.
“Henry put his all into every movie he did, no matter how big or small the picture, even in something like I Married a Monster,” said Taylor. “He was a very special person,” Taylor added. “And one of his most endearing qualities was making everyone else he worked with feel very special—he was a true gentleman’s gentleman.” Bumstead is survived by his wife Lena; three sons and a daughter from a first marriage; two stepdaughters and 11 grandchildren.