Anthony Powell, a three-time Oscar winner whose costume design helped bring Broadway’s Indiana Jones and Norma Desmond to life to extravagant excesses, died Sunday. He was 85 years old.
Costume Designers Guild 892 confirmed the news Monday night on their Facebook page. “Legendary English costume designer Anthony Powell passed away last weekend. He will be celebrated in a small private gathering due to COVID restrictions and is survived by two nieces, ”they said. “Anthony Powell’s passion for his job and for his friends was limitless. The Costume Designers Guild sends its condolences to all who enjoyed the pleasure of his company and his unforgettable creations.
Powell, who won a Tony Award for costumes from 1963 School for scandal, received the Oscars in 1978 for Death on the Nile and in 1979 for Tess. He received his first Oscar for costume design for eccentric Augusta by Maggie Smith in George Cukor Travel with my aunt (1972).
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He also won Oscar nominations for The Pirates (1986), To hook (1991) and 102 Dalmatians (2000) and received the Costume Designers Guild Career Achievement Award in 2000.
With a career spanning the 1960s to the 21st century, Powell has designed costumes for stars such as Angela Lansbury, Glenn Close, Lauren Bacall, Paul Newman, Bette Davis, Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman , Roger Moore, Harrison Ford, Peter Ustinov, Johnny Depp, Mia Farrow, Betty Buckley and Elaine Page, among others.
A cross section of directors Powell has collaborated with include Cukor, Roman Polanski, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, David Lean, and Elaine May. His costumes have appeared in period films as diverse as Tess, Death on the Nile and Butterfly and wacky comedies Ishtar and the live-action of 1996 101 Dalmatians.
For the latter, he created the decadent sumptuous outfit of the Cruella de Vil de Close; the two would make a new team in 2017 when Close played Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway revival. Sunset Boulevard.
Powell was born on June 2, 1935 in the suburbs of Manchester, England. After graduating from the Central School of Art and Design in London, Powell apprenticed as an assistant to designers such as the great Cecil Beaton. In 1963 he would win his first major award – a Tony for John Gielgud’s Broadway production of The school of scandal – and in 1969 began a long film career with director Irving Lerner The royal hunt for the sun.
His Hollywood career was taken to the next level in 1972 with the Oscar victory for Travel with my aunt, and the following year brought the rags to Devil’s Island Butterfly, with McQueen and Hoffman.
By the end of the decade, he had designed costumes for the Altman western. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull History Lesson, By William Friedkin Wizard, Anthony Shaffer Death on the Nile and Polanski’s Tess, winning Oscars for the latter two.
The 1980s brought another shimmering Agatha Christie mystery into Evil under the sun, the soon to be iconic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He designed the sunny desert outfit for the famous 1987 Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman flop Ishtar and in 1991 had passed to the fantasy of Spielberg To hook, earning another Oscar nomination.
Following movie credits included 101 Dalmatians (1996), The Avengers (1998), The ninth gate (1999), 102 Dalmatians (2000, Oscar nomination) and Miss Potter, the 2006 Beatrix Potter biopic with Renée Zellweger.
For the stage, Powell is mostly remembered for his magnificent Sunset Boulevard costumes that combined the 1950s styles of the musical set and the quirks of the silent movie era of her delusional turbaned heroine Norma Desmond. Powell designed the costumes for the original Broadway production in 1994, its revival in 2017, as well as the West End productions. Her Normas included Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Elaine Page and Glenn Close.
Below are other reactions to his death.
So sad to hear of the death of @TheTonyAwards @BAFTA & thrice #Oscar costume designer winner #AnthonyPowell, with whom I had the chance to work @OfficialALW #SunsetBoulevard here in the UK and on Broadway. pic.twitter.com/uuojSOy2Dm
– Elaine Paige (@elaine_paige) April 18, 2021
Very sorry to hear that the great costume designer #AnthonyPowell has left us. I had the chance to work with him three times for the film “Frantic” in Paris and “Sunset Blvd”. in London and Broadway. What a brilliant man. #TonyAwards #BAFTA and three times #Oscar Winner. #TO TEAR APART
– Betty Buckley (@BettyBuckley) April 18, 2021
One of the most beautiful dresses I have had the privilege of wearing. Designed by the great Anthony Powell. https://t.co/TGVaL2m8qQ
– Betty Buckley (@BettyBuckley) April 19, 2021