Edith Head (1897 - 1981)

Edith Head
1897 - 1981
updated December 05, 2019
Edith Head was born on March 1, 1897. She died on October 24, 1981 at 84 years old. We know that Edith Head had been residing in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California 91104.

Edith Head. Her 35 Oscar nominations and 8 awards make her both the most honored costume designer and woman in Academy Award history to date.

Born October 28, 1897 in San Bernardino, California, USA
Died October 24, 1981 in Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth Name Edith Claire Posener
Nickname The Doctor
Height 5' 1½" (1.56 m)
Edith Head was born on October 28, 1897 in San Bernardino, California, USA as Edith Claire Posener. She is known for her work on Sabrina (1954), All About Eve (1950) and Roman Holiday (1953). She was married to Wiard Ihnen and Charles Head. She died on October 24, 1981 in Los Angeles, California.
Spouse (2)
Wiard Ihnen (8 September 1940 - 22 June 1979) ( his death)
Charles Head (25 July 1923 - 1938) ( divorced)
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Cathedral Slope section, plot #1675.
Rarely did her own sketching because of her time schedule. Almost all sketches of "hers" one sees today were actually done by a devoted staff of sketch artists.
During the 1920s, she taught French and art at the Hollywood School for Girls.
On They Might Be Giants' 2001 album, "Mink Car", there is a song called "She Thinks She's Edith Head." Was a close friend of actress Anne Baxter. She was godmother to one of Baxter's children.
A photograph of Miss Head working on a dress design appears on one stamp of a sheet of 10 USA 37¢ commemorative postage stamps, issued 25 February 2003, celebrating American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes. The stamp honors costume design. Received a master's degree in French from Stanford University in 1920.
The Costume Department building on the Paramount lot is named after her.
The character "Edna Mode" in Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles (2004) was modeled on her.
Extremely diplomatic, she went out of her way to get along with co-workers and rarely gossiped. In later interviews, however, she mentioned that she did not enjoy working with Mary Martin, Claudette Colbert or Hedy Lamarr. In Paulette Goddard's case, she thought it was insensitive for the glamorous star to bring her bulging jewelry boxes to the studio workroom and tell her seamstresses (who were working for minimum wage) that they could "look, but not touch.".
Her trademark "sunglasses" were not "sunglasses" but rather blue lensed glasses. Looking through a blue glass was a common trick of costumers in the days of Black and White film to get a sense of how a color would photograph. Edith had a pair of glasses made out of the proper shade of blue glass to save herself from looking through a single lens. Her friends commonly would see her in regular "clear" glasses.
She is tied with composer Alan Menken for third most Academy Awards won.
Each of them have eight.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 376-378. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Alumnae Initiate of Delta Zeta sorority, Mu chapter.
She is credited with putting Dorothy Lamour in her first sarong for "The Jungle Princess".
Her first job was as a teacher of French, Spanish and Art at the Bishop School for Girls at La Jolla, California. She got into films by answering a wanted ad as a sketch artist for Paramount. Edith worked there in that capacity under Howard Greer from 1924 to 1927. In 1928 she was promoted assistant to Travis Banton. From 1938 to 1966, she held the top job as Head of Design at Paramount, contributing in one way or another to over 1,000 motion pictures (supervising costumes for 47 films in 1940 alone).
Raised in the mining town of Searchlight, Nevada. Studied at the University of California, Berkeley. Attended the Otis Art Institute and the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles.
The project she was most proud of was in the late 1970s when she designed a woman's uniform for the United States Coast Guard, in response to growing number of women in the service. She received the Meritorious Public Service Award for her efforts.
An Edith Head costume exhibition was displayed at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in 2014.
Amassed 500 costume credits over her long career.
Was in shock when she didn't win the Oscar for "The Emperor Waltz" ("Joan of Arc" was the winner); sat through the remainder of the ceremonies 'in a state of stupor'.
Her real Academy Awards were shown in 1973 during an episode of Columbo. 7 awards as she has yet to win her last one the following year for The Sting.
Was the costume designer in 19 Oscar Best Picture nominees: Wings (1927), She Done Him Wrong (1933), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Hold Back the Dawn (1941), Going My Way (1944), Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), The Heiress (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Shane (1953), Roman Holiday (1953), The Country Girl (1954), The Rose Tattoo (1955), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Airport (1970) and The Sting (1973), and designed some costumes in four others: All About Eve (1950), The Ten Commandments (1956), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Separate Tables (1958). Wings, Going My Way, The Lost Weekend, All About Eve, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Sting all won Best Picture.
Personal Quotes (15)
I've designed films I've never seen.
If it is a Paramount film, I probably designed it.
What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not. We ask the public to believe that every time they see a performer on the screen he's become a different person.
I have yet to see one completely unspoiled star, except for Lassie.
You can lead a horse to water and you can even make it drink, but you can't make actresses wear what they don't want to wear.
[1977 comment on Jacqueline Bisset] One of the greatest bodies I've ever worked with. But besides that she is rather the opposite, because she is so damned intelligent. It's a strange combination, almost a double personality.
[on Grace Kelly] I've dressed thousands of actors, actresses and animals, but whenever I am asked which star is my personal favorite, I answer, "Grace Kelly." She is a charming lady, a most gifted actress and, to me, a valued friend.
[on Kim Novak] I don't usually get into battles, but dressing Kim Novak for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) put to the test all my training in psychology.
[on viewing what many tanned actresses wore to the 1966 Academy Awards] I looked at all those white dresses and I thought we were doing a reprise of White Christmas (1954).
I never thought I did good work for [Cecil B. DeMille]. I always had to do what that conceited old goat wanted, whether it was correct or not.
[on winning her fifth Oscar, 1954] I'm going to take it home and design a dress for it. [Her reaction to losing the 1956 Color Costume Award to Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)] Charles Le Maire is a good friend of mind and I would tell him to his face that his designs were blah compared to my gowns. All the costumes Jennifer Jones wore were chong sams, the traditional Chinese dress, which could have been purchased in Chinatown. That loss was the single greatest disappointment of my costume-design career.
[on "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"] I guess I've come full circle when I design the exact dress for Steve Martin that I did for Barbara Stanwyck.
In the 1930's costumes didn't have anything to do with real life. The poor working girl was smothered in furs, and [in She Done Him Wrong (1933)] Mae West wore a simple black velvet festooned with rhinestones and ruffles when she met Cary Grant in the park.
[on the Hollywood rumor that Mae West was really a man] I've seen Mae West without a stitch and she's all woman. No hermaphrodite could have bosoms...well, like two large melons.
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Edith Head
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Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California 91104
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Amanda S. Stevenson
10.5k+ favorites
Best Clothing Designer for Films
Apr 23, 2019 · Reply
Amanda S. Stevenson
10.5k+ favorites
My favorite designer.
Dec 05, 2019 · Reply

Edith Head Obituary

This obit of Edith Head is maintained by Edith's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

EDITH HEAD, FASHION DESIGNER FOR THE MOVIES, DIES
By JOHN DUKA OCT. 27, 1981
October 27, 1981, Page 00026
The New York Times
Edith Head, the doyenne of motion-picture costume design who received a record eight Academy Awards for her work on films, died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Hollywood on Saturday. Death was attributed to myelobibrosis myeloid, a rare disease of the bone marrow.
Miss Head, who never admitted her age but was believed to be in her early 80's, was said to have been working on a new film at the time of her hospitalization two weeks ago.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Miss Head, whose bangs, bun, tortoise-shell glasses and two-piece suit became unmistakable fixtures of the Hollywood scene, worked on 1,000 films and was nominated for 35 Oscars. She designed clothes for Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Anna Magnani and Hedy Lamarr, among others.
Miss Head received her first Academy Award in 1949 for ''The Heiress,'' which was followed with awards for films that have become a part of Hollywood legend, including ''Samson and Delilah,'' ''All About Eve,'' ''A Place in the Sun,'' ''Roman Holiday,'' ''Sabrina'' and, more recently, ''The Sting.''
Of the award for ''The Sting,'' Miss Head, who is said to have preferred designing for men, remarked with some pride, ''It was the first time that the costume design Oscar went to a picture with no female star.''
Even if she had not worked on the films for which she was given the Oscar, Miss Head's career would still read like a short history of film making, with such productions as ''The Greatest Show on Earth,'' ''The Ten Commandments,'' ''Funny Face,'' ''Pepe,'' ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'' and ''Airport'' to her credit. 'Confirmed Fence-Sitter'
In a business known for temperament, Miss Head, who was barely 5 feet tall, managed to survive more through her ability to please quixotic directors and stars than for her design creativity, a distinction that even she acknowledged. This may explain why she was the last costume designer to have a year-round contract to a studio.
''I've been a confirmed fence-sitter,'' Miss Head once said. ''That's why I've been around so long.'' Her work was not marked by the flights of fancy that distinguished the work of Adrian, perhaps the greatest of all costume designers for film. Irene Sharaff, a fellow costume designer, said yesterday of Miss Head: ''Edith was respected. She was not an Adrian, but she had taste. The best way to describe her contribution is that she took the moment and grasped it and made the most of it.''
For all that, Miss Head's ability to give the same star a totally different appearance in various films is noteworthy. She helped guide Grace Kelly, for example, through several makeovers, from ''Rear Window'' to ''The Country Girl'' to ''High Society.'' Borrowed Friends' Work
Miss Head, was born in San Bernardino, Calif., and was raised in the mining town of Searchlight, Nev. She began her professional career not as a designer but as a teacher.
Tiring of teaching French at private schools for women in California, she decided in 1923 to answer a want ad for a sketch artist at Paramount. In a telling example of the ambition for which she was known, Miss Head took to the interview a portfolio of work that was not hers but which she had borrowed from fellow students in a drawing class. Even though Howard Greer, then chief designer at Paramount, discovered the ruse, he hired her anyway and Miss Head's career began.
While at Paramount, Miss Head, whose nickname was ''the Doctor,'' was credited with starting the craze for sarongs in the 30's when she designed the costumes for Dorothy Lamour in ''Jungle Princess.'' However, she disavowed the credit, saying, ''Anything I've done like that has been an accident.''
By 1938, she became the chief costume designer at Parmount, but in 1967, when Gulf & Western Industries gained control of Paramount, she moved to Universal Studios, where she had her own cottage with its front door hung with a gold shingle in the shape of a woman's body.
In later years Miss Head published two books, ''The Dress Doctor'' and ''How to Dress for Success,'' was host of a television program and designed the uniforms for Pan American World Airways and the United Nations tour guides.
Her husband, Wiard Inhen, who died three years ago, was a set designer for Paramount. Miss Head left no close relatives. A private funeral is planned.

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1897 - 1981 World Events

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In 1897, in the year that Edith Head was born, in the January 22nd issue of "Engineering", the word "computer" was first used to refer to a mechanical calculation device. Previously - since the 17th century - the term computer meant "one who computes" and referred to human beings who worked with numbers.

In 1905, when she was merely 8 years old, the first movie theater opened in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was the first theater to show nothing but movies - silent films. Two men, John P. Harris and his brother-in-law Harry Davis, opened the Nickelodeon on Smithfield Street - charging 5 cents for admission. The first day, 450 people watched movies at the new theater - on the second day, more than 1500 people stood in line to get in.

In 1919, by the time she was 22 years old, on January 6th, President Theodore Roosevelt died. Having gone to bed the previous night after being treated for breathing problems, the ex-President died in his sleep from a clot that had traveled to his lungs. He was 60. After a simple service, Roosevelt was buried on a hillside overlooking Oyster Bay.

In 1959, at the age of 62 years old, Edith was alive when on January 3rd, Alaska became the 49th state of the United States and the first state not a part of the contiguous United States. The flag was changed to display 49 stars.

In 1981, in the year of Edith Head's passing, on August 1st, MTV debuted. It was the first music video TV channel. The first music video played was the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" - the second was Pat Benatar's "You Better Run".

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