Cedric Gibbons

Austin Cedric Gibbons (March 23, 1893 July 26, 1960) was an Irish-American art director and production designer for the film industry. He also made a significant contribution to motion picture theater architecture from the 1930s to 1950s. Gibbons designed the Oscar statuette in 1928, but tasked the sculpting to George Stanley, a Los Angeles artist.[1][2] He was nominated 39 times for the Academy Award for Best Production Design and won the Oscar 11 times, both of which are records.[3]

Cedric Gibbons
Cedric Gibbons in 1936
Austin Cedric Gibbons

(1893-03-23)March 23, 1893
DiedJuly 26, 1960(1960-07-26) (aged 67)
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles
OccupationArt director, set decorator
Years active1919 1956
Dolores del Rio
(m. 1930; div. 1941)

Hazel Brooks
(m. 1944)
RelativesVeronica Cooper (niece)

Early life and career

Cedric Gibbons was born in New York City[4][5]in 1890[6][5]or 1893[7] (although conflicting reports have him born in Dublin, Ireland)[8] to architect Austin P. Gibbons and Veronica Fitzpatrick Simmons. The couple raised him in the Brooklyn borough moving to New York City after the birth of their third child.[6]Cedric studied at the Art Students League of New York in 1911.[9] He began working in his father's office as a junior draftsman, then in the art department at Edison Studios under Hugo Ballin in New Jersey in 1915. He served in the US Navy during World War I. He then joined Goldwyn Studios, and began a long career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, when the studio was founded.[10]

In 1925, when he was first working in the art department at MGM, he was in competition with another talent, Romain De Tirtoff, for a more substantial position, while working with Joseph Wright, Merrill Pye and Richard Day on some 20 films.[11] Tirtoff is better known as Erte. When studio executive Irving Thalberg summoned Gibbons to work on Ben Hur (1925), he used knowledge of the up and coming art moderne (that was to become known as art deco) to advance in the MGM art department.[11]

Gibbons was one of the original 36 founding members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and designed the Academy Awards statuette in 1928.[2] A trophy for which he himself would be nominated 38 times, winning 11.

He retired from MGM as art director and the head of the art department on April 26, 1956 due to ill health with over 1,500 films credited to him; however, other designers did major work on these films, some credited, some were not, during Gibbons tenure as head of the art department.[11] Even so, his actual hands-on art direction is considerable and his contributions lasting.[12][13]

Personal life and death

In 1930, Gibbons married actress Dolores del Río and co-designed their house with Douglas Honnold in Santa Monica, an intricate Art Deco residence influenced by Rudolf Schindler.[14][15] They divorced in 1941; three years later[16] he married actress Hazel Brooks, with whom he remained until his death.[17]

Gibbons niece Veronica "Rocky" Balfe was Gary Cooper's wife and briefly an actress known as Sandra Shaw.[18][19]

Gibbons' second cousin Frederick "Royal" Gibbons—a musician, orchestra conductor, and entertainer[20] who worked with him at MGM—was the father of Billy Gibbons of the rock band ZZ Top.[21][22]

On July 26, 1960, after a long illness, Gibbons died in Los Angeles at age 67, and was buried under a modest marker, at the Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles.[23] Dorothy Kilgallen, journalist and gossip columnist, also friend of his second wife, reported his age as 65 at the time of his death.


Gibbons' set designs, particularly those in such films as Born to Dance (1936) and Rosalie (1937), heavily inspired motion picture theater architecture in the late 1930s through 1950s. The style is found very clearly in the theaters that were managed by the Skouras brothers, whose designer Carl G. Moeller used the sweeping scroll-like details in his creations.

Among the more classic examples are the Loma Theater in San Diego, The Crest theaters in Long Beach and Fresno, and the Culver Theater in Culver City, all of which are in California and some extant. The style is sometimes referred to as Art Deco and Art Moderne.

The iconic Oscar statuettes that Gibbons designed, which were first awarded in 1929, are still being presented to winners at Academy Awards ceremonies each year.

In February 2005 Gibbons was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame.[24]

Academy Awards

Awards for Art Direction

Nominations for Art Direction

See also


  • "Cedric Gibbons Architect of Style", LA Modernism catalog, May 2006, pp. 16–17 by Jeffrey Head


  1. Nichols, Chris (2016-02-25). "Meet George Stanley, Sculptor of the Academy Award Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  2. "Oscar Statuette". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2014-07-25. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  3. "Nominee Facts - Most Nominations and Awards" Archived 2016-04-25 at WebCite, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; retrieved November 29, 2015.
  4. Gutner, Howard (2019-09-17). MGM Style: Cedric Gibbons and the Art of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781493038589.
  5. Eyman,, Scott. "Lion of Hollywood The life and Legend of Louis B Mayer".CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. Pawlak, Debra Ann. "Bringing up Oscar: The story of the men and women who founded the Academy".
  7. Hannigan, Fionnuala (2013-07-04). Filmcraft: Production Design. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781136071102.
  8. "Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History".
  9. Hogan, David J. (2014-06-01). The Wizard of Oz FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Life According to Oz. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781480397200.
  10. "Cedric Gibbons, M-G-M Artist, 65". The New York Times. July 27, 1960. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  11. Gutner, Howard (2019-10-01). MGM Style: Cedric Gibbons and the Art of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781493038589.
  12. Stephens, Michael L. (2015-09-02). Art Directors in Cinema: A Worldwide Biographical Dictionary. McFarland. ISBN 9781476611280.
  13. Nast, Condé. "The Architectural Digest Greenroom at the 2013 Oscars". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  14. "Inside Oscar Statuette Designer Cedric Gibbons' Restored Art Deco Home (Exclusive Photos)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  15. Nast, Condé. "Cedric Gibbons Crafts a California Home That Evokes Hollywood Glamour". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2019-08-25.
  16. "Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen". Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  17. "Cedric Gibbons and Hazel Brooks papers". oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  18. Meyers, Jeffrey (2001-02-27). Gary Cooper: American Hero. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 9781461660989.
  19. Frankel, Glenn (2017-02-21). High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9781620409503.
  20. Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions. Library of Congress, Copyright Office. 1944.
  21. Welling, David (2010-06-30). Cinema Houston: From Nickelodeon to Megaplex. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292773981.
  22. Jasinski, Laurie E. (2012-02-22). Handbook of Texas Music. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 9780876112977.
  23. Wilson, Scott (2016-08-17). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9780786479924.
  24. McNary, Dave; McNary, Dave (2005-10-26). "Art Directors paint quintet with honors". Variety. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
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