SANTA MONICA — Hollywood art director George Jenkins, who won an Oscar for his work on the 1976 film “All the President’s Men” and was nominated for 1979’s “The China Syndrome,” has died. He was 98.
Jenkins died of heart failure April 6 at his Santa Monica home, his granddaughter Wylie Griffin said Thursday.
Jenkins designed and lighted sets on Broadway during the 1940s, gaining prominence for his work on “I Remember Mama” in 1944, before heading to Hollywood at the behest of producer Samuel Goldwyn.
Jenkins’ first work as a Hollywood art director was on “The Best Years of Our Lives,” director William Wyler’s 1946 drama about returning World War II veterans that won the Academy Award for best picture.
He went on to work on more than 30 motion pictures as an art director or production designer, including “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “Wait Until Dark,” “The Subject Was Roses,” “Klute,” “1776,” “The Paper Chase,” “The Parallax View,” “Funny Lady,” “Comes a Horseman,” “Starting Over” and “Sophie’s Choice.”
He won an Academy Award for best art direction/set decoration, along with set decorator George Gaines, for “Men,” based on the Watergate scandal book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
“It was absolutely faithful; he had re-created it down to the trash on our desks,” Bernstein told the Los Angeles Times this week. “It was a remarkable achievement.”
Jenkins also was the art director for director Arthur Penn’s 1962 movie version of “The Miracle Worker.” They had worked together on the Broadway version.
“From the first time I worked with him, we understood each other,” Penn said. “So we went on to many, many projects together (including the movies ‘Mickey One’ and ‘Night Moves’),” Penn said.
Griffin said Jenkins was born in Baltimore on Nov. 19, 1908, (some sources list his year of birth as 1911), attended architectural school at the University of Pennsylvania, then designed stage productions for a Philadelphia theatrical group.
Jenkins was divorced from his first wife, Barbara. His second wife, television producer Phyllis Adams Jenkins, died in 2004.
Besides his granddaughter, who lives in Santa Monica, Jenkins is survived by his daughter from his first marriage, Jane Jenkins Dumais of New Hampshire. A private funeral was planned.