Cedric Gibbons

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Cedric Gibbons
Cedric Gibbons in 1936
Austin Cedric Gibbons

(1890-03-23)March 23, 1890
DiedJuly 26, 1960(1960-07-26) (aged 70)
Resting place Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles
OccupationArt director, set decorator
Years active1919 1956
(m. 1930;div. 1941)

(m. 1944)

Austin Cedric Gibbons (March 23, 1890 July 26, 1960) was an Irish-American art director for the film industry. He also made a significant contribution to motion picture theater architecture from the 1930s to 1950s. Gibbons designed the Oscar statuette in 1928, but tasked the sculpting to George Stanley, a Los Angeles artist. [1] [2] He was nominated 39 times for the Academy Award for Best Production Design and won the Oscar 11 times, both of which are records. [3]


Early life and career

In addition to his credits as set decorator and art director, Cedric Gibbons is credited for directing one feature film, Tarzan and His Mate (1934) Tarzan his mate poster.jpg
In addition to his credits as set decorator and art director, Cedric Gibbons is credited for directing one feature film, Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Cedric Gibbons was born in New York City [4] [5] in 1890 [6] [5] or 1893 [7] (although conflicting reports have him born in Dublin, Ireland) [8] to architect Austin P. Gibbons and Veronica Fitzpatrick Simmons. [9] The couple raised him in the Brooklyn borough moving to New York City after the birth of their third child. [10] Cedric studied at the Art Students League of New York in 1911. [11] He began working in his father's office as a junior draftsman, then in the art department at Edison Studios under Hugo Ballin in New Jersey in 1915. He was drafted and served in the US Navy Reserves during World War I at Pelham Bay in New York. [12] He then joined Goldwyn Studios, and began a long career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, when the studio was founded. [13]

In 1925, when he was first working in the art department at MGM, he was in competition with another talent, Romain De Tirtoff, for a more substantial position, while working with Joseph Wright, Merrill Pye and Richard Day on some 20 films. [14] Tirtoff is better known as Erte. When studio executive Irving Thalberg summoned Gibbons to work on Ben Hur (1925), he used knowledge of the up-and-coming art moderne (that was to become known as art deco) to advance in the MGM art department. [14]

Gibbons was one of the original 36 founding members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and designed the Academy Awards statuette in 1928. [2] A trophy for which he himself would be nominated 39 times, winning 11. [15] The last time for Best Art Direction for Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

He retired from MGM as art director and the head of the art department on April 26, 1956 due to ill health with over 1,500 films credited to him; however, other designers did major work on these films, some credited, some were not, during Gibbons tenure as head of the art department. [14] Even so, his actual hands-on art direction is considerable and his contributions lasting. [16] [17]

Personal life and death

In 1930, Gibbons married actress Dolores del Río and co-designed their house with Douglas Honnold [18] in Santa Monica, an intricate Art Deco residence influenced by Rudolf Schindler. [19] [20] They divorced in 1941. In October 1944, he married actress Hazel Brooks, [21] with whom he remained until his death. [22]

Gibbons niece Veronica "Rocky" Balfe was Gary Cooper's wife and briefly an actress known as Sandra Shaw. [23] [24]

Gibbons' second cousin[ citation needed ] Frederick "Royal" Gibbons—a musician, orchestra conductor, and entertainer [25] who worked with him at MGM—was the father of Billy Gibbons of the rock band ZZ Top. [26] [27]

On July 26, 1960, after a long illness, Gibbons died in Los Angeles at age 70, and was buried under a modest marker, at the Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles. [28] Dorothy Kilgallen, journalist and gossip columnist, also friend of his second wife, reported his age as 65 at the time of his death.


Gibbons' set designs, particularly those in such films as Born to Dance (1936) and Rosalie (1937), heavily inspired motion picture theater architecture in the late 1930s through 1950s. The style is also found in the theaters that were managed by the Skouras brothers, whose designer Carl G. Moeller used the sweeping scroll-like details in his creations. [29]

Among the more classic examples are the Loma Theater in San Diego, The Crest theaters in Long Beach and Fresno, and the Culver Theater in Culver City, all of which are in California and some extant. The style is sometimes referred to as Art Deco and Art Moderne.

The iconic Oscar statuettes that Gibbons designed, which were first awarded in 1929, are still being presented to winners at Academy Awards ceremonies each year.

In February 2005, Gibbons was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame. [30]

Academy Awards

Awards for Art Direction

Nominations for Art Direction

See also


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