Famed Set Decorator Garrett Lewis Dies at 77

Garrett Lewis - P 2013
Jason Sweers

Garrett Lewis - P 2013

UPDATE: A frequent collaborator with director Herbert Ross, he earned four Oscar nominations after a career as an actor and dancer in such shows as "My Fair Lady" and "Hello, Dolly!"

Garrett Lewis, a dancer and actor who went on to collect four Oscar nominations as a set decorator after getting his start by working on the residence of director Herbert Ross, has died. He was 77.

Lewis died Jan. 29 of natural causes at his home in Woodland Hills, publicist Harlan Boll announced Tuesday.

Lewis worked on 39 films as a set decorator, receiving Oscar noms for Garry Marshall’s Beaches (1988), Edward Zwick’s Glory (1989), Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

His designing credits also include Pennies From Heaven (1981) and Steel Magnolias (1989) -- both directed by Ross -- as well as Against All Odds (1984), Pretty Woman (1990), Backdraft (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Dear God (1996), Face/Off (1997), Enemy of the State (1998), Bedazzled (2000), Panic Room (2002), Hidalgo (2004), Fun With Dick and Jane (2005), Wedding Crashers (2005) and Georgia Rule (2007).

Lewis didn't get his start in the set decorating business until he was in his early 40s.

His friends, agent Sue Mengers and her husband, Belgian writer-director Jean-Claude Tramont, purchased a home in Bel-Air in 1975. They admired the way Lewis had decorated his own home and asked him to redesign their new one. This led Lewis to designing homes for such Hollywood notables as Barbra Streisand, Barry Diller and Ross.

When Ross was helming The Turning Point (1977), he asked Lewis to decorate several sets for the film that would amass 11 Oscar nominations. A year later, while filming California Suite, Ross called him in again to assist with the art direction, and he received a credit as a "pictorial consultant."

Lewis also earned a Primetime Emmy for his work on the 2000 telefilm Gepetto, starring Drew Carey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Born in St. Louis on April 2, 1935, Lewis was offered the dance lead for a season at the Kansas City Starlight Theatre. After one season of summer stock, he went to New York and landed his first Broadway show, My Fair Lady. This was followed by numerous roles in Broadway productions including Hello, Dolly!, Vintage ’60 and First Impressions.

Lewis played the role of Cornelius in Hello, Dolly! opposite five leading ladies. He went on national tour with Carol Channing, and Hello, Dolly! was the first stage show at the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles in 1965.

He reprised the role with Mary Martin in London as Hello, Dolly! premiered in the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Dec. 2, 1965, with the Queen Mother in attendance. He also performed in the musical opposite Carole Cook, Dora Bryan and Patrice Munsel in various productions.

Lewis was a featured performer on TV’s The Red Skelton Hour and The Julie Andrews Hour. He also appeared in clubs across the U.S., supporting such leading ladies as Anna Maria Alberghetti, Arlene Dahl and Dorothy Provine. He was a soloist in The Lido Show in Paris and appeared as the male lead in Little Mary Sunshine in Paris.

He then transitioned into film and appeared in Star! (1968) with Andrews and Ross’ Funny Lady (1975) with Streisand.

A longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he also served on the executive committee for the Art Directors branch.

A memorial is being planned. Contact gl_memorial@earthlink.net for further information.