Lyle Wheeler - Writer

Art Director. Nationality: American. Born: Woburn, Massachusetts, 2 February 1905. Education: Attended the University of Southern California School of Architecture, Los Angeles. Career: Magazine illustrator and industrial designer; then art director for David O. Selznick in late 1930s, and MGM, early 1940s; 1944–47—supervising art director, and 1940–60, head of the art department, 20th Century-Fox; then freelance art director. Awards: Academy Awards for Gone with the Wind , 1939, Anna and the King of Siam , 1946, The Robe , 1953, The King and I , 1956, and The Diary of Anne Frank , 1959. Died: In Los Angeles, California, 10 January 1990.

Films as Art Director:


The Garden of Allah (Boleslawsky)


A Star Is Born (Wellman); The Prisoner of Zenda (Cromwell)


Nothing Sacred (Wellman); The Young in Heart (Wallace); The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Taurog)


Gone with the Wind (Fleming); Made for Each Other (Cromwell); Intermezzo (Ratoff)


Rebecca (Hitchcock)


That Hamilton Woman ( Lady Hamilton ) (A. Korda)


Keeper of the Flame (Cukor); The Jungle Book ( Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book ) (Z. Korda); Cairo (Van Dyke)


Bataan (Garnett)


Laura (Preminger); Dragon Seed (Conway and Bucquet); Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (LeRoy); Winged Victory (Cukor); Wing and a Prayer (Hathaway)


Hangover Square (Brahm); Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Kazan); The Dolly Sisters (Cummings) (co); The House on 92nd Street (Hathaway); Fallen Angel (Preminger)


Anna and the King of Siam (Cromwell); Cluny Brown (Lubitsch); My Darling Clementine (Ford); Centennial Summer (Preminger); Wake Up and Dream (Bacon); Dragonwyck (Mankiewicz)


Daisy Kenyon (Preminger); Forever Amber (Preminger); The Foxes of Harrow (Stahl); Gentlemen's Agreement (Kazan); Kiss of Death (Hathaway); Nightmare Alley (Goulding)


Call Northside 777 (Hathaway); The Art Director (doc); That Lady in Ermine (Lubitsch); Unfaithfully Yours (P. Sturges); The Iron Curtain (Wellman); Cry of the City (Siodmak); Give My Regards to Broadway (Bacon); The Snake Pit (Litvak); Street with No Name (Keighly)


Thieves' Highway (Dassin); Whirlpool (Preminger); Pinky (Kazan); Chicken Every Sunday (Seaton); Twelve O'Clock High (H. King); Mother Is a Freshman (Bacon); Slattery's Hurricane (De Toth); I Was a Male War Bride (Hawks); House of Strangers (Mankiewicz); The Fan (Preminger); A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz); Dancing in the Dark (Reis); Down to the Sea in Ships (Hathaway)


Panic in the Streets (Kazan); Cheaper by the Dozen (W. Lang); All about Eve (Mankiewicz); Broken Arrow (Daves); American Guerilla in the Philippines (F. Lang); Two Flags West (Wise); When Willie Comes Marching Home (Ford); No Way Out (Mankiewicz); Where the Sidewalk Ends (Preminger)


Fourteen Hours (Hathaway); Bird of Paradise (Daves); The House on Telegraph Hill (Wise); David and Bathsheba (H. King); Halls of Montezuma (Milestone); Fixed Bayonets (Fuller); Rawhide! (Hathaway); The Guy Who Came Back (Newman); Golden Girl (Bacon); The Frogmen (Bacon); The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise); Call Me Mister (Bacon); Anne of the Indies (Tourneur); People Will Talk (Mankiewicz); Love Nest (Newman); The Thirteenth Letter (Preminger); You're in the Navy Now (Hathaway); The Desert Fox (Hathaway)


Deadline—U.S.A. (Brooks); My Cousin Rachel (Koster); Viva Zapata! (Kazan); The President's Lady (Levin); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (H. King); Five Fingers (Mankiewicz); Monkey Business (Hawks); Return of the Texan (Daves); The Model and the Marriage Broker (Cukor); Red Skies of Montana (Newman); Diplomatic Courier (Hathaway ); My Pal Gus (Parrish); Pony Soldier (Newman); Something for the Birds (Wise); Way of a Gaucho (Tourneur)


The Robe (Koster); Call Me Madam (W. Lang); Titanic! (Negulesco); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks); The Farmer Takes a Wife (Levin); Man in the Attic (Fregonese); Treasure of the Golden Condor (Daves); Dangerous Crossing (Newman); How to Marry a Millionaire (Negulesco); Pickup on South Street (Fuller); White Witch Doctor (Hathaway); The I Don't Care Girl (Bacon); Niagara (Hathaway); King of the Khyber Rifles (H. King)


River of No Return (Preminger); Three Coins in the Fountain (Negulesco); Garden of Evil (Hathaway); The Egyptian (Curtiz); Desirée (Koster); Hell and High Water (Fuller); The Siege at Red River (Maté); Demetrius and the Gladiators (Daves); There's No Business Like Show Business (W. Lang)


Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (H. King); The Racers (Hathaway); The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (Fleischer); Daddy Long Legs (Negulesco); The Seven Year Itch (Wilder); Violent Saturday (Fleischer); House of Bamboo (Fuller); The Tall Men (Walsh); The Left Hand of God (Dmytryk)


Bus Stop (Logan); Teenage Rebel (Goulding); The King and I (W. Lang); The Bottom of the Bottle (Hathaway); Carousel (H. King); The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (Tashlin); The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Johnson); The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Walsh); Bigger Than Life (Ray); The Lazy Wagon (Daves); The Girl Can't Help It (Tashlin); Between Heaven and Hell (Fleischer)


The Sun Also Rises (H. King); A Hatful of Rain (Zinnemann); Peyton Place (Robson); Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Tashlin); An Affair to Remember (McCarey); Stopover Tokyo (Breen); The Three Faces of Eve (Johnson); Kiss Them for Me (Donen); No Down Payment (Ritt)


South Pacific (Logan); A Certain Smile (Negulesco); The Young Lions (Dmytryk); From Hell to Texas (Hathaway); Ten North Frederick (Dunne); The Bravados (H. King); The Long Hot Summer (Ritt); The Hunters (D. Powell); The Barbarian and the Geisha (Huston); These Thousand Hills (Fleischer); The Fiend Who Walked the West (Douglas); Rally 'round the Flag, Boys! (McCarey)


Compulsion (Fleischer); Blue Denim (Dunne); Journey to the Center of the Earth (Levin); A Farewell to Arms (C. Vidor); The Diary of Anne Frank (Stevens); The Sound and the Fury (Ritt); Woman Obsessed (Hathaway); Say One for Me (Tashlin); Hound Dog Man (Siegel); The Man Who Understood Women (Johnson); The Story on Page One (Odets)


From the Terrace (Robson); Wild River (Kazan); Wake Me When It's Over (LeRoy); Seven Thieves (Preminger); Can-Can (W. Lang)


Advise and Consent (Preminger)


The Cardinal (Preminger)


The Best Man (Schaffner)


In Harm's Way (Preminger)


The Big Mouth (Lewis)


The Swimmer (Perry); Where Angels Go . . . Trouble Follows! (Neilson)


Marooned (J. Sturges)


Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (Preminger)


The Love Machine (Haley); Doctors' Wives (Schaefer)


Bless the Beasts and Children (Kramer); Stand Up and Be Counted (Cooper)


Posse (K. Douglas)


By WHEELER: article—

Film Comment (New York), May-June 1978.

On WHEELER: article—

Obituary in New York Times , 13 January 1990.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 17 January 1990.

Obituary in Classic Images (Muscatine), March 1990.

* * *

Lyle Wheeler began his career in art direction on a high note, precociously winning an Academy Award for Gone with the Wind . His role was to execute the sets which were painstakingly sketched by William Cameron Menzies, the production designer. Wheeler's talent for creating historically accurate sets is not only evident in this epic but is also seen in his later films, such as That Hamilton Woman (with Vincent Korda), about the lives of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and The Robe .

Wheeler's black-and-white films are characterized by a sharp, clean look. In the contemporary psychological thrillers Rebecca and Laura , the sharp shadows cast on and around the characters became more overbearing during tense moments. Though Wheeler's black-and-white films are much admired, he regretted that some of them could not have been made in color. The Academy Award-winning Anna and the King of Siam was made in black-and-white because of a painters' strike. To compensate for the lack of color, Wheeler built the sets of plaster treated to appear in varying values. The result is a monochrome film so vivid that it almost convinces the audience that it was shot in color.

Wheeler's color films are as beautiful as his black-and-white. He was able to design the Anna and the King story in bold, stunning colors when he worked on the musical version, The King and I . Wheeler even made the unusual decision to shoot one of the noir films, Leave Her to Heaven , in color. Instead of the dark, rain-soaked streets typical of that genre, this tale of deception is set effectively against bright country lawns and sunny skies.

From 1944 to 1960, Wheeler was supervising art director at 20th Century-Fox. As such, he oversaw the visual aspects of each film from its inception, as he worked with the writer, scouted locations with the art director assigned to each film, and approved all sketches.

During his career as an art director, Wheeler was in on the ground floor of many advances in film technology. He experimented with Technicolor as early as 1936 when he worked on The Garden of Allah with producer David O. Selznick. He led 20th Century-Fox through the transition from black-and-white to color production and from the standard shot-size to CinemaScope.

—Lois Miklas

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