Paul Sylbert, Oscar-Winning Production Designer on 'Heaven Can Wait,' Dies at 88

Mathew Imaging/WireImage
Paul Sylbert

His esteemed body of work also includes 'A Face in the Crowd,' 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and 'The Prince of Tides.'

Paul Sylbert, the famed production designer and art director who worked on the best picture Oscar winners One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Kramer vs. Kramer and won an Academy Award for Heaven Can Wait, has died. He was 88.

Sylbert died Saturday in a hospital near his home in Jenkintown, Pa., producer Hawk Koch announced. Recently, Sylbert had served on the faculty of the Film & Media Arts Department at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He and his twin brother, the late Richard Sylbert (he won Oscars for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Dick Tracy), were two of the most sought-after production designers in Hollywood from the late 1950s through the '90s.

Paul Sylbert also designed (with his brother) A Face in the Crowd (1957) for director Elia Kazan, and he did Bad Company (1972), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Nadine (1987) for Robert Benton and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) for Milos Forman.

In addition to Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (1978), Sylbert also received an Oscar nom for designing Barbra Streisand's The Prince of Tides (1991).

His film résumé also includes such notable pics as Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956), Mikey and Nicky (1976), Gorky Park (1983), Blow Out (1981), The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), Ishtar (1987), Biloxi Blues (1988), Rush (1991) and Rosewood (1997).

"Paul was one of a kind," Koch, who worked with Sylbert on Heaven Can Wait and four other films, said in a statement. "He was as smart and as well-read as anyone I have ever come in contact with, and he was respected by all that knew him. Aside from the work, he loved music, literature, opera and friends."

The Brooklyn native and Temple student also wrote and directed the 1971 feature The Steagle, starring Richard Benjamin, and penned Final Cut, a 1974 book about his experiences on the set. He was given the Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Sylbert also designed operas for the New York City Opera Company and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoletto, Italy. And he designed and directed plays off-Broadway and at the Theatron Kentrikon and Theatron Dionysus in Athens.

Survivors include his wife Jenny and children Olivia and Christian. A memorial service to be held outside of Philadelphia is being planned.

comments powered by Disqus