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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Paris, France
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (heart attack)

Mini Bio (1)

What Cedric Gibbons was to MGM, Jo Mielziner was to Broadway. Simply put, American theatrical design can be divided distinctly into pre and post Mielziner periods. Born in Paris, France in 1901, he wasn't French--- his parents were American ex-patriate artists. Mielziner was schooled in England, the U.S. and eventually, across the European continent. His older brother, Kenneth MacKenna, was an actor who recruited him as a stage manager in a summer stock production in Michigan and he found his calling. By the late 1920's he was recognized as a prodigious artistic genius, soon becoming the most influential theatrical designer of his era, designing the scenery and the lighting for some 200 Broadway productions (his output was astounding, his actual credits may extend to 300 in total if off-Broadway credits are counted), many of which became American classics (see "Other Works"). His set designs for 1947's A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman (1949; featuring a then-revolutionary transparent skeletal setting) were utterly revolutionary, rendering later designers' work in revivals imitative by comparison. He had no qualms about working in any style; he moved freely from dramas to elaborate musicals, but proved most effective in productions allowing for abstract designs over abject realism. As a result of his scope, he would add costumes and lighting designer to his list of credits. Mielziner put his talents to work in WWII as a camouflage specialist with the Army Air Corps before being transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (or OSS, precursor to the CIA), under General "Wild Bill" Donovan. His circle of friends included artist, Edward Hopper, who was widely thought to have constructed his painting 'Early Sunday Morning' after Mielziner's set designs for Elmer Rice's Street Scene. His work extended into the field interior design in collaboration with architect Eero Saarinen for their work on the Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. He also accepted design consultancies with the Denver Center Theater and North Carolina's Wake Forest University. He was chosen to design the special events at the San Francisco convention of the United Nations in 1945. While he certainly could have easily moved into film work, his credits in the medium are confined to a small number of 1950's theatrical adaptations. Interestingly, Mielziner can be spied working in his studio in an exterior shot at his residence in The Dakota in Rosemary's Baby (1968). While his film resume is limited, Mielziner's influence was undoubtedly responsible for many of his phenomenal successes being sold for film adaptations. He won five Tony Awards and enjoyed a 50+ year career on Broadway. He was unhappily married three times, two of which ended in divorce. He had converted to Catholicism under the guidance of none other than Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (later designing his personal chapel) in the 1930's and later found happiness in a long term relationship with his private secretary--- in a sad irony, his conversion prevented another divorce. Mielziner never retired; he died of a heart attack in a taxi en route to a meeting with David Merrick about designs concepts for The Baker's Wife, just shy of his 75th birthday. Fittingly, the designs were completed by Ming Cho Lee, a colleague.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (2)

Jeanne Macintyre (June 1938 - ?)
Marya Mannes (? - ?) (divorced)

Trivia (4)

Brother of actor Kenneth MacKenna.
Won five Tony Awards as Best Scenic Designer: in 1949 for "Sleepy Hollow," "Summer and Smoke," "Anne of the Thousand Days," "Death of a Salesman" and "South Pacific;" in 1950 for "The Innocents;" in 1952 for "The King and I;" and in 1970 for"Child's Play;" and as Best Lighting Designer, also in 1970 for "Child's Play." He was Tony-nominated seven other times: as Best Scenic Designer, in 1956 for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Lark," "Middle of the Night" and "Pipe Dream;" in 1958 for "Look Homeward, Angel," "Miss Lonelyhearts," "The Square Root of Wonderful," "Oh, Captain!" and "The Day the Money Stopped;" in 1969 for "1776;" and in 1971 for "Father's Day;" as Best Scenic Designer (Dramatic), in 1960 for "The Best Man;"and in 1961 for "The Devil's Advocate;" and as Best Scenic Designer (Musical), in 1960 for "Gypsy."
Son of artist Leo Mielziner.
Although he began as an actor, he was the premier scenic designer in Broadway history. He was active there from 1923-1975, often pulling double duty as a costume designer and/or lighting designer, working in many of the most notable theatrical productions of the 20th century.

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