Samuel Leve, a Broadway and New York scenic, lighting and costume designer whose work for Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre appeared during the politically and artistically feverish late Depression years, died Dec. 6 in Manhattan. He was 91.
The Russian immigrant designed Welles' famous staging of Julius Caesar in 1937, and The Shoemaker's Holiday in 1938. For the latter, he designed a London skyline from slats of orange crates, to offer just a suggestion of the world; Welles was fond of making the audience use its imagination.
Mr. Leve also designed sets and costumes for a play called Revolt of the Beavers, a piece that figures prominently in Tim Robbins' fanciful, partly-fictionalized film, "Cradle Will Rock," about Welles, the Federal Theatre Project, Depression leftism and censorship.
Mr. Leve was scenic designer for The Wild Duck, Big Blow, Who is Who (all in 1938), Medicine Show (1940), The Beautiful People (1941), The Distant City (1941), Macbeth (1941) and dozens of other New York productions over the next several decades (Comes a Day in 1959, the musical, Cafe Crown, in 1964).
According to The New York Times, he also designed presidential events, including the famous Marilyn Monroe appearance in which she sang "Happy Birthday" to John F. Kennedy. During the song, the lighting made her dress diaphanous, titillating the crowd. -- By Kenneth Jones