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Tony Walton, Famed Costume, Set Designer for Broadway and the Big Screen, Dies at 87


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Tony Walton, the legendary British costume designer, set/scenic designer and production designer who won an Oscar for his work on All That Jazz and Tony Awards for Pippin, The House of Blue Leaves and a revival of Guys and Dolls, has died. He was 87.

Walton died Wednesday evening in New York in his Upper West Side apartment of complications from a stroke, Emma Walton Hamilton, his daughter with Julie Andrews, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Walton also collected Oscar noms for his costume work on Mary Poppins (1964) — he was married to the star of the film, his childhood sweetheart Andrews, from 1959 until their 1968 divorce —​ and Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and for his costume and design contributions to the Diana Ross-starring The Wiz (1978).

Plus, Walton received an Emmy for his art direction on the 1985 telefilm Death of a Salesman, starring Dustin Hoffman.

He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1991 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Art Directors Guild in 2012.

Walton, who also worked on Broadway in Golden Boy, Chicago, A Day in Hollywood /A Night in the Ukraine, Woman of the Year, Sophisticated Ladies, Anything Goes, I’m Not Rappaport, Grand Hotel, The Will Rogers Follies and Uncle Vanya, among others, received 16 Tony noms during his spectacular career.

Born on Oct. 24, 1934, in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, Walton was the son of a surgeon. He trained at the Slade School of Art in London in the mid-’50s and served as a Royal Air Force pilot in Canada. His first design project was an off-Broadway revival of Noël Coward’s Conversation Piece in 1957.

Walton made his Broadway debut in 1961 as a costume and scenic designer on Once There Was a Russian, starring Walter Matthau. It opened and closed on the same night, but his fortunes improved the next year when he landed on Stephen Sondheim‘s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

His film résumé also included the big-screen version of that play as well as Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Petulia (1968), Equus (1977), Deathtrap (1982) and Regarding Henry (1991).

He described his work process during a 2008 interview with Playbill.

“I try to read the script or listen to the score as if it were a radio show and not allow myself to have a rush of imagery,” he said. “Then, after meeting with the director — and if I’m lucky the writer — and whatever input they may want to give, I try to imagine what I see as if it were slowly being revealed by a pool of light.

“I try to get the palette — and the feel of it — whether it’s crispy or soft, whatever the flavor may be, before I get into any of the essential nuts and bolts. Generally, of course, it’s about how best to tell the tale.”

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife, Genevieve LeRoy Walton, stepdaughter Bridget LeRoy and five grandchildren.

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