ADG Perspective

January-February 2017

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130 P E R S P E C T I V E | J A N UA RY / F E B R UA RY 2 0 1 7 milestones PAUL SYLBERT 1928 – 2016 based on an article by Steve Marble in the Los Angeles Times Production Designer Paul Sylbert, who received the Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, died November 19 at his home outside Philadelphia. He won an Oscar ® for Heaven Can Wait and was nominated again for his designs for Barbra Streisand's Prince of Tides. His career spanned nearly half a century, and included films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Drowning Pool, Baby Doll and Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man. Born in Brooklyn in 1928, Mr. Sylbert and his twin brother Richard were nearly inseparable. Both wanted to create comic strips for daily newspapers (Paul became the cartoonist for the high school paper, The Erasmian), they served in the same Army infantry unit in Korea and together attended the Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. Paul's first contact with theater came when he was hired as an apprentice Scenic Artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. After receiving his full union card, he painted sets at several New York scenic studios before becoming a designer at CBS Television, where he did such shows as Danger, Toast of the Town, Suspense and Studio One, and the first network color broadcast. His brother Richard found similar work at NBC. Blacklisted in 1952, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera and scenic painting. "In those days, I was redder than a lobster, no joke," Daniel Kremer, who directed Mr. Sylbert's last film, A Trip to Swadades (2008), recalled him saying. He worked at the Met and on off-Broadway stage productions before being hired by Alfred Hitchcock to design The Wrong Man, released in 1957. Elia Kazan then hired the two Sylbert brothers as a team to design his Southern Gothic film Baby Doll. The twins had Kazan hire their fellow New York City CBS Television set decorator Gene Callahan, who joined them in Benoit, Mississippi, to scout local locations and prep the fading antebellum mansion exterior. On stages in Brooklyn, they created a series of creepy, moldering interiors. Gene and the Sylbert twins shared their film-designing duties. Because of Mr. Callahan's Louisiana heritage, he was the perfect choice to decorate the squalid rundown plantation house interiors. A year later, the brothers collaborated on another Kazan film, A Face in the Crowd, with Andy Griffith as a charismatic but unscrupulous television star. Above: Mr. Sylbert in 2009 at the ADG Awards Banquet, accepting the Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award. continued

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