Irene Lentz bigraphy, stories - Costume designer

Irene Lentz : biography

December 8, 1900 - November 15, 1962

Irene Lentz (December 8, 1900 – November 15, 1962), also known as Irene, was an American costume designer. Her work as a clothing designer in Los Angeles led to her career as a costume designer for films in the 1930s. Lentz also worked under the name Irene Gibbons.

Death

On November 15, 1962, three weeks short of her sixty-second birthday, Lentz took room 1129 at the Knickerbocker Hotel, checking in under an assumed name. She jumped to her death from her bathroom window at about 3 p.m., landing on the extended roof of the lobby.

She had left notes for friends and family, for her ailing husband, and for the hotel residents, apologizing for any inconvenience her death might cause. Per her wishes, she was interred next to her first husband, director F. Richard Jones, in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

In 2005, Irene Lentz was inducted into the Costume Designers Guild's Anne Cole Hall of Fame.

Design career

Lentz had been taught sewing as a child and with a flair for style, she decided to open a small dress shop. The success of her designs in her tiny store eventually led to an offer from the Bullocks Wilshire luxury department store to design for their Ladies Custom Salon which catered to a wealthy clientele including a number of Hollywood stars.

Lentz's designs at Bullocks gained her much attention in the film community and she was contracted by independent production companies to design the wardrobe for some of their productions. Billing herself simply as "Irene," her first work came in 1933 on the film Goldie Gets Along featuring her designs for star Lily Damita. However, her big break came when she was hired to create the gowns for Ginger Rogers for her 1937 film Shall We Dance with Fred Astaire. This was followed by more designs in another Ginger Rogers film as well as work for other independents such as Walter Wanger Productions, Hal Roach Studios as well as majors such as RKO, Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures. During the 1930s, Irene Lentz designed the film wardrobe for leading ladies such as Constance Bennett, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Bennett, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman, and Loretta Young among others.

Through her work, she met and married short story author and screenwriter Eliot Gibbons, brother of multi-Academy Award winning Cedric Gibbons, head of art direction at MGM Studios. Despite her success, working under the powerful set designer Cedric Gibbons while being married to his brother was not easy. Irene confided to her close friend Doris Day that the marriage to Gibbons was not a happy one.In Day's autobiography, she wrote that in 1962, Irene "had an unhappy marriage to a man who lived out of the state and only occasionally came to visit her." Generally regarded as the most important and influential production designer in the history of American films, Cedric Gibbons hired Lentz when gown designer Adrian left MGM to join Universal Studios. By 1943 she was a leading costume supervisor at MGM, earning international recognition for her "soufflé creations" and is remembered for her avant-garde wardrobe for Lana Turner in 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1948, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White for B.F.'s Daughter.

In 1950, she left MGM to open her own fashion house. After being out of the film industry for nearly ten years, in 1960, Doris Day requested her talents for the Universal Studios production Midnight Lace for which Lentz earned a second Academy Award nomination. The following year she did the costume design for another Doris Day film and during 1962 worked on her last production, A Gathering of Eagles.

In 1962, after Doris Day noticed that Lentz seemed upset and nervous, Lentz confided in her that she was in love with actor Gary Cooper and that he was the only man that she had ever loved.Day later wrote that she got the feeling that she was the first person to whom Irene had confided this information. She also wrote: "Thinking about it now, I cannot honestly say whether Irene's love was one-sided or whether she and Cooper had actually had or were having an affair." Cooper had died in 1961.

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