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Jo Mielziner

Joseph Mielziner
Born March 19, 1901
Died March 15, 1976(1976-03-15) (aged 74)
New York City
Known for Scenic design
Awards Tony Award; Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design; Academy Award for Best Art Direction
Jo Mielziner's design for The Doctor's Dilemma, 1927

Joseph "Jo" Mielziner (March 19, 1901, in Paris - March 15, 1976, in New York City) was an American theatrical scenic, and lighting designer born in Paris, France. He is "the most successful set designer of the Golden era of Broadway", and worked on both stage plays and musicals.[1]


  • Career 1
  • References 2
  • Further reading 3
  • External links 4


He was the son of artist Leo Mielziner, Sr. (son of a rabbi), and Ella (née Friend), a writer, and brother of actor-director Kenneth MacKenna.[2] He studied at the Art Students League and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.[3] Mielziner was considered one of the most influential theatre designers of the 20th century,[4] designing the scenery and often the lighting for more than 200 productions, many of which became American classics. He "pioneered 'selective realism' in scenic design".[5] According to his obituary, he was perhaps "praised most often...for his sweeping canvas of people under the Brooklyn Bridge, used as a backdrop for Maxwell Anderson's Winterset.[2]

After his education and spending 13 months in Europe "absorbing the revolutionary changes occurring in traditional stage design", in 1923 he worked for the Theatre Guild in New York as an assistant stage manager and bit actor.[2] Mielziner's Broadway debut as a designer was in 1927 with The Guardsman, for which he designed the scenery and lighting.[6] His other Broadway credits include the original productions of Sweet and Low, Another Part of the Forest, Winterset, Oh, Captain!, Dodsworth, Strange Interlude, Carousel, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gypsy, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,[7] as well as the film Picnic and the ballet Who Cares?. He won the Academy Award for best color art direction for his work on Picnic.[8]

During World War II, Mielziner worked as a camouflage specialist with the United States Air Force.[9]

In the course of his career, Mielziner won seven Tony Awards and was nominated for another five.[10] He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design. His influence extended outside of the theatre. He was acquainted with the American artist Edward Hopper, who is said to have modeled his well-known painting Early Sunday Morning after Mielziner's set for Elmer Rice's play Street Scene, produced in 1929.

Mielziner designed the theater at Wake Forest University[11] and co-designed the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center with architect Eero Saarinen.[12]

He resided for many years at The Dakota[13] and can be seen working in his studio in an exterior shot in the film Rosemary's Baby. He died on March 15, 1976, in New York City.[2]

Recently, his scenic designs for the original production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman were re-created for the 2012 Broadway revival starring Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Andrew Garfield and Linda Emond. Director Mike Nichols stated that he felt he needed Mielziner's original set because it was "intimately connected with the way the play developed." He went on to say he has never seen anything "near as good in any of the productions of 'Salesman' because it's everything and nothing."[14]


  1. ^ Vlastnik, Frank; Bloom, Ken."Jo Mielziner" Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, Black Dog Publishing, 2010, ISBN 1-57912-849-1, p. 261
  2. ^ a b c d Krebs, Albin.Jo Mielziner Dead at 74; Pioneering Set Designer; Dozens of Hits 'A Unique Gift' Got Traveling Scholarships Designed Theaters" The New York Times (abstract), March 16, 1976, p. 38
  3. ^ "Art: Theatre Time Magazine, April 11, 1932
  4. ^ Williams, Tennessee and Thornton, Margaret Bradham."Jo Mielziner" Notebooks, p. 554
  5. ^ Barranger, Milly S.Mielziner Theatre: A Way of Seeing, Cengage Learning, 2005, ISBN 0-495-00472-3, p. 258
  6. ^ Atkinson, Brooks."The Play:Pasting the Medicine Men" The New York Times (abstract), November 22, 1927
  7. ^ "Mielziner Broadway Credits" InternetBroadwayDatabase, accessed April 16, 2011
  8. ^ "NY Times: Picnic". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  9. ^ Wright, Charles."No Ordinary Jo -- Mielziner: Master of Modern Stage Design", April 5, 2001
  10. ^ "Mielziner Tony Awards, wins and nominations", accessed April 16, 2011
  11. ^ "Harold Tedford Abstract", accessed April 16, 2011
  12. ^ "Claire Tow Theater", accessed April 16, 2011
  13. ^ Birmingham, Stephen.Mielziner Life at the Dakota:New York's most unusual address, Syracuse University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8156-0338-X, p.74
  14. ^ Bloom, Julie; Huang, Jon; Piepenburg/, Erik (March 1, 2012). "'"Life of a ‘Salesman. The New York Times. 

Further reading

  • Henderson, Mary C. Mielziner: Master of Modern Stage Design, Back Stage Books (2001), 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-8230-8823-2

External links

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