George Jenkins, Tony-Nominated Scenic Designer, Dies at 98

Obituaries   George Jenkins, Tony-Nominated Scenic Designer, Dies at 98
George Jenkins, a set and lighting designer who worked on dozens of Broadway shows, and was four times nominated for a Tony Award, died April 6 at his home in Santa Monica, CA. He was 98.

After a few years serving as assistant to the legendary scenic designer Jo Mielziner, Mr. Jenkins designed his first Broadway set for a 1943 musical comedy called Early to Bed. It was a hit, and in the next few years he became extreme busy, designing the sets and lighting for shows such as Mexican Hayride, I Remember Mama, Dark of the Moon, Are You With It?, Lost in the Stars, Bell, Book and Candle and Strange Fruit.

Of Bell, Book and Candle, Harold Clurman wrote "George Jenkins catches the atmosphere of elegant comfort and semi-bohemian familiarity with admirable scenic rightness."

The 1950s brought work on such notable shows as The Bad Seed, Two for the Seesaw, The Desk Set and The Miracle Worker. The latter William Gibson play became one of his best known credits. He was nominated for a Tony Award for the show. His other nominations were for The Happiest Millionaire, Too Late the Phalarope and 13 Daughters.

Writing about Mr. Jenkins' set for his play Two for the Seesaw, Gibson said, "The action took place in two unconnected flats… [George] has conceived these as separable and doubly mobile, riding on tracks onstage and off, and each on its own turntable swinging to present various views of itself from scene to scene. This inventive design…[would] multiply the visual possibilities of a show which…needed every element a variety we could get into it."

He continued to design into the mid-70s, working on comedies like A Thousand Clowns and Sly Fox and dramas like Wait Until Dark and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Mr. Jenkins also worked extensively in film, winning an Oscar for his memorably hyper-realistic newsroom sets for "All the President's Men." "It was absolutely faithful; he had re-created it down to the trash on our desks," Carl Bernstein told the Los Angeles Times this week. "It was a remarkable achievement." He got another Oscar nomination for "The China Syndrome." Mr. Jenkins frequently worked with director Alan J. Pakula, working on his films "Klute," "Starting Over," "The Parallax View" and "Presumed Innocent," the designer's final movie credit.

Other films include "Mickey One," "1776," "The Paper Chase," "Night Moves," "Sophie's Choice" and "Orphans."

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.

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