EDITH HEAD Biography - Socialites, celebrities and People in the fashion industry


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Name: Edith Claire Posener                                                             
Born: 28 October 1897 San Bernadino, California                                         
Died: 24 October 1981 Los Angeles, California                                           
Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981) was an American costume             
designer who had a long career in Hollywood that garnered her more Academy             
Awards than any other woman in history.                                                 
She was born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California, the daughter of       
Max Posener and Anna E. Levy. Whether her parents were married is unknown but,         
in 1901, her mother married Frank Spare and Edith was passed off as his child.         
Though her birth parents were Jewish, Head would claim to be a Catholic later in       
She graduated from university in 1919 and became a school teacher at Bishops           
School in La Jolla, California. On July 25, 1923, she married Charles Head, whom       
she divorced in 1936.                                                                   
With no experience, Head answered an advertisement to work for Paramount Studios       
in the costume department. She borrowed another's sketches and passed them off         
as her own. She began designing costumes for silent films and by the 1930s had         
established herself as one of the leading designers. She worked at Paramount for       
44 years until she went to Universal Pictures on March 27, 1967, possibly               
prompted by her extensive work for director Alfred Hitchcock, who had moved to         
Universal in 1960.                                                                     
She married set designer Wiard Ihnen, on September 8, 1940. Their marriage             
lasted until his death in 1968.                                                         
During her long career she was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, including every         
year from 1948 through 1966, and won eight times, more Oscars than any other           
woman has won. She was responsible for some of the best-known Hollywood fashion         
images of her day, with her costumes being worn by the most glamorous and famous       
actresses in films seen by millions. Head's influence on world fashion was far         
reaching, especially in the 1950s when she began appearing on Art Linkletter's         
television program and writing books on fashion.                                       
Although Ms Head was featured in studio publicity from the mid-1920's onward,           
she was originally over-shadowed by Paramount's Head Designer, first Howard             
Greer then Travis Banton. It was only after Banton's resignation in 1938 that           
she achieved fame as a designer in her own right. Her association with the "sarong"     
dress designed for Dorothy Lamour in The Hurricane made her well known among the       
general public, albeit as a more restrained designer than either Banton or             
Adrian. However, in 1944 she did gain some public attention for the top mink-lined     
gown she was credited with designing for Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark,             
which gained notoriety as it flew in the face of the prevailing mood of wartime         
austerity and restraint.                                                               
Ms. Head was known for her no-nonsense, assertive working style, and unlike many       
of her male contemporaries usually consulted extensively with the female stars         
she worked with. As a result she was a favourite designer for several of the           
leading female stars of the 1940's and 1950's; Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis,             
Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley Maclaine and Ann Baxter, and was frequently 'loaned'         
out by Paramount to other studios at the request of their female stars. She was         
also known for her restraint, and during the 1950's was dubbed the "queen of the       
shirtwaisters". Despite this she has been cited as one of Alfred Hitchcock's           
favourite custome designers and had a long association with Hal Wallis among           
Over the course of her long career Head was occasionally criticised for her             
working methods. Early in her career she initially opposed the creation of a           
union to represent studio based costume designers and outfitters, and was               
accused of being "anti-union" on a number of occasions. Her design trademark of         
restraint also on occasion brought her into conflict with the wishes of film           
stars or directors. Claudette Colbert apparently being one film star who               
preferred not to work with her. Despite her own design accomplishments, she also       
had a reputation for taking credit for others' work. However, this practise only       
became controversial in the latter part of her career; in the studio days a             
department head not uncommonly claimed credit for everything in her department.         
Privately, she was a warm and loving hostess, hosting fabulous soirees at her           
and her husband's Benedict Canyon home.                                                 
In 1967 she left Paramount Studios, and joined Universal where she remained             
until her death in 1981. As studio based feature film production declined, and         
many of her favoured stars retired, Head became more active as a TV costume             
designer. During this period her designs for a TV mini-series based on the novel       
Little Women were notable. Her last film project was the black and white comedy         
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, starring Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, in which she         
accurately re-created fashions of the 1940s, matching the extensive use of film         
clips from classic film noir motion pictures. It was released shortly after her         
death and dedicated to her memory.                                                     
She died on October 24, 1981 in her sleep while coughing violently and she             
ruptured her esophagus. She was coughing because she had a rare bone marrow             
disease. She died at age 83 (four days before her 84th birthday).                       
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6504 Hollywood Blvd.