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Male 1901 - 1976  (74 years)

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  • Name Joseph MIELZINER 
    Born 19 Mar 1901  Paris, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Name Joseph "Jo" MIELZINER 
    Died Mar 1976  New York City, New York County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • (1) Guide to the Mielziner Family Papers, 1890-1935 <>, © 2003 The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, all rights reserved :

      Joseph "Jo" Mielziner, sometimes called the Dean of Designers, created scenic and lighting elements for dozens of Broadway shows, as well as Off-Broadway, regional, and university productions, from the 1920s to the 1970s. In the course of his long career he became a highly influential figure, not only in stage design but in theater architecture and even in playwriting, which he helped shape with his designs. Jo was born in Paris, France, on March 19, 1901. Although his earliest educational experiences were in various European schools, after 1909 Jo and his brother Leo were raised primarily in New York. After brief military service during the final days of the First World War, Jo studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy, then back in Europe. Through the influence of his brother, now known as actor Kenneth MacKenna, Jo was hired to design sets for Theatre Guild productions, including The Guardsman (1924) featuring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

      Beginning in 1925, Jo worked as an assistant to the innovative stage designer Robert Edmond Jones, whom he would always cite as a major influence. In the years that followed Jo designed a substantial number of Broadway productions, usually handling both scenic and lighting design. Among the most successful of the non-musical plays were Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude (1928), Elmer Rice's Street Scene (1929), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1931) with Katharine Cornell, Dodsworth (1934), Maxwell Anderson's Winterset (1935), and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938). Musicals designed by Jo Mielziner included the Gershwins' Of Thee I Sing (1931), Cole Porter's Gay Divorce (1931) with Fred Astaire, Rodgers & Hart's On Your Toes (1936) and Pal Joey (1940), then, after Richard Rodgers had teamed with Oscar Hammerstein, Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), and The King and I (1951), among many others. The postwar years brought two of Jo's best known designs, each of which was reputed to have helped influence the playwright's text, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949).

      Although he continued designing Broadway productions all his life, usually working out of his home studio at the Dakota apartment complex off Central Park West, Jo Mielziner's later years saw changes in the world which had an impact on his career. During the 1950s, the rise of television gave live theater formidable competition. Costs for mounting Broadway productions rose sharply, which led to a gradual decrease in the number of shows staged, while the rise of Off-Broadway theater drew more adventurous playgoers elsewhere. In addition, producers eager to cut costs began hiring younger designers who were struggling to establish themselves, and whose fees were lower than Jo's. Despite these factors, there were still successes in the latter portion of Jo's career, including Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), the stage and film versions of William Inge's Picnic (1953 and 1955), Gypsy (1959) with Ethel Merman, Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water (1966), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), and 1776 (1969). During this time Jo also offered his services as an architectural consultant for theaters, and became more involved in the technology of stage lighting. The last Broadway show designed by Jo Mielziner was In Praise of Love (1974), a moderate success on the strength of its stars, Rex Harrison and Julie Harris. In March of 1976, Jo was at work on a musical version of the French film The Baker's Wife (which, ultimately, closed out of town) when he died suddenly of a heart attack in the back seat of a taxi, on his way home to the Dakota. He was four days short of his 75th birthday.
    Person ID I15322  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 25 Nov 2018 

    Father Leo MIELZINER, Sr.,   b. 8 Dec 1869, New York City, New York County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Aug 1935, Truro, Barnstable County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Ella MacKenna FRIEND,   b. 18 Mar 1873, Manchester, NH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Feb 1968  (Age 94 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Family ID F6870  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart