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Carmen Dillon; British Art Director Won Oscar for Olivier's 'Hamlet'

April 22, 2000

Carmen Dillon, 91, the first female art director in the British film industry, who won an Oscar in 1948 for her work on Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet." Dillon, born in London in 1908, trained as an architect. For a quarter-century she was the only woman working as an art director in English films. She became known early in her career for her collaborations with the great British art directors Paul Sheriff and Roger Furse and worked with them on two movies that were landmarks in the history of film design. She worked with Sheriff on Olivier's "Henry V," which changed from a realistic style depicting Elizabethan England to a more historic theatrical look and finally to a re-creation of the style of a medieval illuminated manuscript. Then, in "Hamlet," which Olivier filmed in black and white, she created sets imagined by Furse that gave the impression of an etching, giving the dark castle setting the look of modern minimal theater. Dillon preferred films with a distinctively English feel, which made her an ideal match for Olivier's Shakespeare adaptations. She worked with Olivier on several stage productions, as well as on his film of "Richard III." Among her other films were Joseph Losey's "The Accident" and "The Go-Between" and the horror film "The Omen." On April 12 in Hove, England.

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