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November 10, 2010

Noel Taylor, Emmy-Winning Costume Designer: 1917-2010

Taylor designed dozens of Broadway plays and television productions in a career that spanned seven decades.

Noel Taylor, a costume designer who created the costumes for such productions as the television special Actor: The Paul Muni Story and The Teahouse of the August Moon on Broadway, died November 4, 2010, in Los Angeles. He was 97.

According to news reports, Taylor died of natural causes.

Born January 17, 1917, in Youngstown, Ohio, Taylor originally wanted to be an actor. His credits included the 1935 Broadway production Cross Ruff, which he also wrote.

Also trained as a painter, he turned to costume design after artist Marc Chagall asked him to help paint costumes in the late 1940s for a New York City Ballet production of The Firebird.

Over the course of a career that spanned seven decades, he worked on several dozen film and television productions, as well as regular theater work.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he designed several made-for-television movies with Katharine Hepburn, who admired his work and trusted him as a collaborator.

In addition to Teahouse of the August Moon, his long list of Broadway credits included Auntie Mame, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Night of the Iguana and The Sunshine Boys.

His feature films included Generation, Rhinoceros, An Enemy of the People and The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

The majority of his work came in television. He designed Hallmark Hall of Fame for many years, as well as the 1974 series Lincoln, starring Hal Holbrook as Abraham Lincoln. He also deigned numerous made-for-television movies, including Pinocchio, The Man without a Country, The People vs. Jean Harris, Antony and Cleopatra, Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry and Second Serve.

He won a Primetime Emmy for the 1978 PBS production Actor: The Paul Muni Story. He also earned Emmy nominations for The Magnificent Yankee in 1965, the 1982 production Eleanor, First Lady of the World and the 1994 production Ironclads. He also received the Costume Designers Guild award for career achievement in 2004.

He is survived by a nephew.

On April 19, 2005, Taylor had the distinction of being interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television. Over the course of the one-and-a-half hour interview, conducted in West Hollywood, California, by the Archive’s Gary Rutkowski, Taylor talked about his early experiences in the theater as an actor and writer before turning his talents to costume designing.

He discussed his entrance into television working under NBC contract, primarily on the anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame. He also talked about several of that series’ productions, including Hamlet, The Green Pastures, The Magnificent Yankee and Barefoot in Athens.

In addition, he elaborated on such aspects of the craft as creating a shade of white that could be read on camera and painting embroidery on costumes as a moneysaving technique.

He detailed his continued work in television including the KCET series The Hollywood Television Theater, for which he earned a Primetime Emmy Award.

Lastly, he discussed his long association with Katharine Hepburn on all of her later work, including Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry.

The interview is available online here.

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