Gene Allen, Former Academy President, Dead at 97

Allen won an Oscar for his work as an art director on “My Fair Lady” in 1965

Last Updated: October 9, 2015 @ 4:52 PM

Oscar winner Gene Allen, a former three-term President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from 1983-85, died on Wednesday from natural causes, TheWrap has learned. He was 97.

The production designer, who lived in Newport Beach, California, received his Art Direction Oscar on “My Fair Lady” in 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 (ADG, IATSE LOCAL 800), where he served as executive director for 27 years from 1970 to 1997.

He had also served as a VP of IATSE and 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.”

“Gene Allen displayed verve and brio in his 27 years leading the Art Directors Guild,” Scott Roth, executive director of the ADG, who succeeded Allen in 1997, said in a statement. “Add to this his service as an IATSE VP, 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.””

Mimi Gramatky, president of the ADG, 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 Design 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, 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.

“As long as I can remember I loved the feel of a soft-leaded pencil applied to a drawing pad,” Allen recently said.