November 23, 2011

Theadora Van Runkle, Primetime Emmy-Winning Costume Designer

Van Runkle also earned Oscar nominations for Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather: Part II and Peggy Sue Got Married.

Theadora Van Runkle, a costume designer who won a Primetime Emmy and earned three Oscar nominations died Friday, November 4, 2011, in West Hollywood, California. She was 82.

According to news reports, the cause was complications of lung cancer.

Van Runkle won her Emmy for outstanding costume design for the 1983 CBS series Wizards and Warriors.

Her Oscar nominations were for her work on the films Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather: Part II and Peggy Sue Got Married.

“Theadora was one of the most iconic costume designers we’ve ever had as well as one of the greatest illustrators and artists,” said Mary Rose, president of the board for the Costume Designers Guild, and a current Television Academy governor, who knew Van Runkle for 25 years. “On a person level, she was whimsical, most charming, sometimes childlike and always kind. She was a free and wonderful person, and will be greatly missed.”

Born Dorothy Schweppe in Beverly Hills on March 27, 1929, she married at the age of 16. After training at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, she worked as a fashion illustrator. Her first film credit came in 1966 as a sketch artist on Hawaii, based on the novel by James Michener.

Van Runkle scored her first credit as a costume designer on Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Depression-era bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. She was hired on the recommendation of Oscar-winning designer Dorothy Jeakins, who was unable to do it herself due to a scheduling conflict. During the production she developed a professional relationship with Dunaway, and went on to design for her for several years.

Van Runkle’s other features included I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!, Bullitt, The Arrangement, Myra Breckinridge, Mame, Nickelodeon, New York, New York, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Everybody’s All American and The Butcher’s Wife.

Her other television credits consisted primarily of miniseries and made-for-television movies. They included White Dwarf, The Last Don and That Championship Season.

Van Runkle also taught at Chouinard and the Otis Parsons School.

In 1995 she appeared in the AMC special The Hollywood Fashion Machine, and in 2002 the Costume Designers Guild honored her with a Career Achievement Award.

She is survived by a son and a daughter.

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