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Stephen B. Grimes (18 April 1927 – 12 September 1988) was an English production designer and art director. He won an Oscar and was nominated for two more in the category Best Art Direction.[1]

Stephen B. Grimes
Born(1927-04-18)18 April 1927
Weybridge, Surrey, England
Died12 September 1988(1988-09-12) (aged 61)
Positano, Italy
OccupationProduction designer
Art director
Years active1957-1988


Stephen B. Grimes started working in the British film industry after the war as a sketch-artist. From the mid-50s to the late 60s, Grimes worked almost exclusively with John Huston. Their longer term collaboration resulted in 14 films in over 30 years.

Grimes also had a fruitful long-term working relationship with Sydney Pollack, making seven films with him.

Grimes also worked with directors David Lean, Peter Yates, Mark Rydell and Ulu Grosbard.

One of his great strengths as a production designer was his skill as an artist: in researching and preparing a film he would produce many beautiful, dramatic and atmospheric sketches. These would help the director, director of photography and other key personnel to create the visual style and look of a film. Grimes understood the importance of light, space and texture – he put more into his sketches than most art directors – and tended to make sketches as much as or more than take photographs. He was not lavish; he liked the challenge of getting a good visual look with essentials – combining observation and imagination. Grimes was conscientious with high standards and poured himself into his work.


Stephen B. Grimes was the second of seven children of Leslie and Nancy Grimes. Leslie was an artist and cartoonist. Three of his brothers, Michael, Bruce and Colin, also worked in the British film and TV industry as art directors or assistant art directors. Colin Grimes sometimes assisted Stephen.

Grimes grew up in Haslemere, Surrey; Peldon in Essex; and Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill Gate, London. He went to St Martins School of Art, where he met and then married Kathleen Grimes (née Sanders). They had five children. Grimes was in the Army at the tail-end of the war.

Work as sketch artist or draughtsmanEdit

After leaving art school Grimes was told that they were employing sketch artists at Denham Studios. He went along with a portfolio of work and was taken on. Carmen Dillon took him ‘under her wing’ and he also worked alongside Oliver Messel, Vertchinsky, Paul Sheriff, Hein Heckroth, Ivor Beddoes, John Box and Ralph Brinton. From the mid-40s to mid-50s Grimes worked as a sketch artist or draughtsman on a variety of films made at Denham and Pinewood Studios including:

  • Henry V, 1944 (d: Laurence Olivier) SG designed the posters
  • Caesar and Cleopatra, 1945 (d: Gabriel Pascal) SG sketch artist
  • Carnival, 1946 (d: Stanley Haynes) SG draughtsman
  • Temptation Harbour, 1946 (d: Lance Comfort) SG sketch artist
  • Vice Versa, 1947 (d: Peter Ustinov) SG draughtsman
  • Trottie True, 1948 (d: Brian Desmond Hurst)
  • The Rocking Horse Winner, 1949 (d: Anthony Pélissier) SG draughtsman
  • Give Us This Day, 1949 (d: Edward Dmytryk)
  • The Story of Robin Hood and His Merry Men, 1951–52 (d: Ken Annakin) SG sketch artist
  • Moulin Rouge, 1952 (d: John Huston) SG copied Toulouse-Lautrec paintings and posters used in the film.
  • Crimson Pirate, 1952 (d: Robert Siodmak) SG set-up/sketch artist. Went to Ischia on location.
  • Rob Roy the Highland Rogue, 1953 (d: Harold French) SG set-up/continuity sketches
  • The Sword and the Rose, 1953 (d: Ken Annakin) SG set-up/continuity sketches
  • The Million Pound Note, 1953 (d: Ronald Neame) SG sketch artist
  • The Black Knight, 1954 (d: Tay Garnett) SG sketch artist
  • Attila the Hun, 1954 (d: Pietro Francesci) SG special effects and matte shots
  • Svengali, 1954 (d: Noel Langley) SG copied the paintings of Hildergard Neff
  • The Bespoke Overcoat, 1955 (short d: Jack Clayton)
  • The Iron Petticoat, 1956 (d: Ralph Thomas)
  • Moby Dick, 1956 (d: John Huston) SG: Assistant Art Director – SG’s first screen credit. AD was Ralph Brinton

Work as art director or production designerEdit

  • Typee, 1955 - unrealised film project that was to be directed by John Huston. SG did pre-production and went on trip to Tahiti with JH to scout locations.
  • The Man Who Would Be King, 1956 – unrealised film project d: John Huston. SG went on location trip with JH to Afghanistan; made many preparatory sketches (and later collaborated on a script in early 60s). This long-time cherished film project of JH’s was originally to star Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Film eventually made by Huston in 1975 with Sean Connery and Michael Caine, but SG not available.
  • A Farewell to Arms, 1957 (d: Charles Vidor) JH started directing this and SG was associate AD. Huston left the picture, SG stayed on but also didn’t complete it. David O Selznick was the producer.
  • Heaven Knows Mr Allison, 1957 (d: John Huston) Locations in Tobago
  • The Roots of Heaven, 1958 (d: John Huston) Locs: Congo
  • The Unforgiven, 1959 (d: John Huston) Locs: Durango, Mexico
  • The Boy and the Bridge, 1959 (d: Kevin McClory), not credited as AD, maybe he just did sketches? Locs: Tower Bridge, Bermondsey
  • The Misfits, 1961 (d: John Huston). Had to have US AD because of the union situation – so shared credit with William Newberry. Locs: Nevada (near Reno and Dayton)
  • Lawrence of Arabia, 1962 (d: David Lean) SG made some contributions to the art direction but not credited, John Box main PD
  • Freud, 1962 (d: John Huston). Locs: Vienna, Munich, London
  • The List of Adrian Messenger, 1963 (d: John Huston) Locs: mainly Ireland, some London
  • The Chalk Garden, 1963 (d: Ronald Neame) Locs: Sussex. Carmen Dillon was AD, SG associate AD
  • The Night of the Iguana, 1964 (d: John Huston) Locs: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. SG received AA nomination for the Art Direction
  • The Bible, 1966 (d: John Huston) Locs: Rome, Sicily, Sardinia and Egypt
  • This Property Is Condemned, 1966 (d: Sydney Pollack)
  • Reflections in a Golden Eye, 1967 (d: John Huston). SG also undertook second unit direction Locs: Rome, Italy - prints were specially treated so that the colour appeared washed out and sepia toned
  • Red White and Zero, 1967 – a portmanteau films which was shelved (Directors: Peter Brook, Zero Mostel, Tony Richardson
  • Sinful Davey, 1968 (d: John Huston) Locs: Ireland
  • The Madwoman of Chaillot, 1969 (d: Bryan Forbes) The film was begun by John Huston and sets designed by SG before Huston left the production and SG left with him
  • A Walk With Love and Death, 1969 (d: John Huston) Locs: Austria and Italy
  • Ryan's Daughter, 1970 (d: David Lean) Locs: Dingle, Ireland
  • The Last Run, 1971 (d: Richard Fleischer) Film was started by John Huston with SG as AD but Huston walked off the picture and SG left too. Locs: Spain
  • The Way We Were, 1973 (d: Sydney Pollack) SG received an AA nomination for the Production Design
  • The Yakuza, 1974 (d: Sydney Pollack) Locs: Japan. SG undertook second unit direction.
  • Three Days of the Condor, 1975 (d: Sydney Pollack) Locs: NY, US
  • Independence, 1975 (d: John Huston) 28-minute short made for the American Bicentennial
  • Murder by Death, 1976 (d: Robert Moore)
  • Bobby Deerfield, 1977 (d: Sydney Pollack) SG also did second unit direction Locs: France, Italy, Switzerland
  • Straight Time, 1977 (d: Ulu Grosbard)
  • The Bounty, 1978 (dir: David Lean) unrealised film project, SG undertook preparatory work
  • The Electric Horseman, 1979 (d: Sydney Pollack) Locs: American West and Las Vegas
  • Urban Cowboy, 1980 (d: James Bridges)
  • True Confessions, 1981 (d: Ulu Grosbard)
  • On Golden Pond, 1981 (d: Mark Rydell) Locs: New Hampshire. SG also undertook second unit direction
  • Never Say Never Again, 1983 (d: Irvin Kershner)
  • Krull, 1983 (d: Peter Yates) Locs: Italy, Pinewood
  • The Dresser, 1984 (d: Peter Yates)
  • Out of Africa, 1985 (d: Sydney Pollack) Locs: Kenya. SG won Academy Award.
  • The Dead, 1987 (d: John Huston). Locs: mostly shot in an industrial warehouse in LA. 2nd unit in Dublin.
  • preliminary work on Rain Man which was originally to be directed by Sydney Pollack
  • Haunted Summer, 1988 (d: Ivan Passer) Locs: Italy
  • The King’s Whore, 1990 (d: Axel Corti) SG did preparatory work only, was working on the preliminary sketches at the time of his death in September 1988.

Selected filmographyEdit

Grimes won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and was nominated for two more:


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ " Stephen B. Grimes - Awards". Retrieved 25 December 2008.

External linksEdit