Richard Sylbert

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Richard Sylbert
Born(1928-04-16)April 16, 1928
Brooklyn, New York
DiedMarch 23, 2002(2002-03-23) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California
OccupationActor, producer, scenery painter, production designer, art director, set designer
Relatives Paul Sylbert (twin brother)

Richard Sylbert (April 16, 1928 – March 23, 2002) was an American production designer and art director, primarily for feature films.


Early life

Sylbert was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Samuel and Lily (Lazell) Sylbert, and was the twin brother of Oscar-winning production designer Paul Sylbert. Richard fought in the Korean War [1] and attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. [2] His grandfather, Ribac, was a journalist in his native Romania before immigrating to the United States. Sylbert began his career in the early days of television, designing productions of Hamlet (1953) and Richard II (1954) for the Hallmark Hall of Fame .

Sylbert's first film credit was Patterns (1956), a big screen adaptation of an Emmy Award-winning teleplay by Rod Serling. He went on to design Baby Doll , A Face in the Crowd , The Fugitive Kind , Murder, Inc. , Splendor in the Grass , Walk on the Wild Side , Long Day's Journey into Night , The Manchurian Candidate , The Pawnbroker , Lilith , Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , The Graduate , Rosemary's Baby , Catch-22 , Carnal Knowledge , Chinatown , Shampoo , Reds , Frances , The Cotton Club , Tequila Sunrise , Dick Tracy , The Bonfire of the Vanities , Carlito's Way , Mulholland Falls , My Best Friend's Wedding , and Trapped . He worked multiple times with directors Roman Polanski, Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols, and Warren Beatty. [3]

Robert Evans named Sylbert his successor when he relinquished his position as production chief at Paramount Pictures in 1975. Sylbert oversaw The Bad News Bears , Nashville , and Days of Heaven before being replaced in 1978. [1]

Sylbert was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction six times and won twice, for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Dick Tracy . [4] He won the BAFTA Award for Best Production Design for Dick Tracy. He was nominated for an Emmy for his production design of the set for the long-running television sit-com Cheers . In 2000 Sylbert was honored with the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002 Sylbert was to have received the Hollywood Film Festival's Life Achievement Award. His widow gave the committee permission to name the award after him in perpetuity and that year it was given to Harold Michelson, his longtime art director and colleague.

Sylbert died of cancer at the age of 73 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. At the time of his death, Sylbert was married to Native American poet Sharmagne Leland-St. John, mother of one of his daughters, Daisy Alexandra Sylbert-Torres, a costume designer and Echo Park boutique owner. He had three sons Douglas, Jon and Mark, by his first wife, Carol Godshalk, and another daughter, Lulu, by writer/actress/production and costume Designer Susanna Moore.

Film and television credits

This is the not-entirely complete table of credits that can be sorted by date, title or type of credit.

YearTitleCredit typeNotes
1953 Hamlet Production designerHallmark Hall of Fame telefeature
1954 King Richard II Production designerHallmark Hall of Fame telefeature
1956 Baby Doll Art director
1960 Murder, Inc. Production designer
1961 Splendor in the Grass Production designer
1961 Young Doctors, The Production designer
1961 Connection, The Production designer
1962 Manchurian Candidate, The Production designer
1962 Long Day's Journey Into Night Production designer
1962 Walk on the Wild Side Production designer
1963 All the Way Home Production designer
1963 East Side/West Side Production designer(1963–1964 TV series)
1964 Lilith Production designer
1964 Pawnbroker, The Production designer
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Production designer
1966 Grand Prix Production designer
1966 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Production designer Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) shared with George James Hopkins
1967 Graduate, The Production designer
1968 Rosemary's Baby Production designer
1969 The April Fools Production designer
1970 Catch-22 Production designer
1971 Carnal Knowledge Production designer
1972 Fat City Production designer
1973 The Day of the Dolphin Production designer
1974 Chinatown Production designerAcademy Award nominee
1975 The Fortune Production designer
1975 Last Hours Before Morning Production designerTV movie
1975 Shampoo Production designerAcademy Award nominee
1976 Partners Production designerCanadian feature. He was also credited for 1982 film of same title.
1979 Players Production designer
1981 Reds Production designerAcademy Award nominee for Art Direction-Set Decoration; co-nominee Michael Seirton
1982 Partners Production designer
1982 Frances Production designer
1982 Cheers Production designer(1982–1993 TV series)
1983 Breathless Production designer
1984 The Cotton Club Production designerAcademy Award nominee
1986 Under the Cherry Moon Production designer
1987 "Heartbeat" (video) Production designerDirected by John Nicolella; stars Don Johnson
1988 Tequila Sunrise Production designer
1988 Shoot to Kill Production designer
1990 Dick Tracy Production designer Academy Award for Best Art Direction shared with set decorator Rick Simpson
1990 The Bonfire of the Vanities Production designer
1991 Mobsters Production designer
1993 Carlito's Way Production designer
1993 Ruby Cairo Production designer
1996 Blood and Wine Production designer
1996 Mulholland Falls Production designer
1997 My Best Friend's Wedding Production designer
1997 Red Corner Production designer
2002 Unconditional Love Production designer
2002 Trapped Production designer


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