Edith Head biography
Born on October 28, 1897, Edith Head became chief designer at Paramount Pictures in 1933 and later worked at Universal Studios. Hollywood's best-known designer, Head's costumes ranged from the elegantly simple to the elaborately flamboyant. She won a record eight Academy Awards for her work in films such as All About Eve (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), Rear Window (1954), The Sting (1973) and The Big Fix (1978).
Early Life and Education
Legendary American costume designer Edith Head was born Edith Claire Posener on October 28, 1897, in San Bernardino, California, the daughter of a mining engineer. Head relocated several times during her youth, growing up largely in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, she attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in letters and sciences (earning honors in French), and then went on to enroll at Stanford University, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in romance languages in 1920.
After receiving her M.A., Edith Head served a brief stint as a schoolteacher. Then, in 1923, Head landed the position of head designer at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles—becoming the first woman to hold such a position at that time.
A decade later, in 1933, Head was named chief designer at Paramount Pictures. She later worked at Universal Studios, where she became known for personally phoning producers and directors who were workinh on important films for Universal to offer her services.
Head received her first Academy Award nomination (best costume design, color; shared with designer Gile Steele) in 1949, for her design work in the 1948 film The Emperor Waltz, starring Joan Fontaine (Johanna Augusta Franziska) and Bing Crosby (Virgil Smith). She won her first Oscar (best costume design, black-and-white; shared with designer Gile Steele) in 1950, for her costume work in 1949's The Heiress.
By 1970, Head had received her 20th Oscar nomination, winning the award that year for her work on Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity (1969), starring Shirley MacLaine (Charity) and Ricardo Montalban (Vittorio). That same year, Head would work with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock for the second time (the two had worked together on Hitchcock's 1958 film, Vertigo, starring Kim Novak), on Topaz, and with George Roy Hill on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. She later called the latter film her favorite movie, stating, "In terms of sheer entertainment, not in terms of my designing ... It had everything—humor, action, romance and the two handsomest men in Hollywood."
Head's costumes ranged from the elegantly simple to the elaborately flamboyant.
Later Years and Legacy
By the end of her lifetime, Edith Head had secured her legacy as Hollywood's best-known costume designer. In 1978, Head was honored with her 24th Oscar nomination (best costume design; shared with Burton Miller), for her design work in the 1977 film Airport '77.
She had won her eighth and last Oscar fiver years earlier, in 1973—setting the record for most Oscars won by a woman (a record she still holds today)—for her work in George Roy Hill's The Sting.
Other film credits include All About Eve (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), Rear Window (1954) and The Big Fix (1978).
The iconic designer died on October 24, 1981, at the age of 83, in Hollywood, California.