His Name Isn’t Familiar to Most. But This 9-Time Emmy Nominee (He Won 3) Helped Create the Look of What We Saw When Color Spectaculars Came to TV. Check Out This Impressive Video. One of the Fathers of TV Art Direction, Charles Lisanby, Dies at 89

Aug 30, 2013  •  Post A Comment

He was one of the many in TV who spend most of their careers toiling behind-the scenes, and he’s the only art director enshrined in the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame. Charles Lisanby, 89, has died, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the article, "Lisanby, who helped pioneer color television scenic design, died Aug. 23 at his Los Angeles home of complications following a fall, publicist Leonard Morpurgo said.

"A great friend of famed pop artist Andy Warhol, Lisanby designed ‘The Garry Moore Show’ (1958), the legendary comedy show that introduced Carol Burnett to TV audiences, and designed numerous variety shows for stars such as Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Mitzi Gaynor, Diana Ross and Dolly Parton. He also served as art director for telecasts of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards and, in 1984, the first MTV Video Music Awards."

Charles Lisanby.bmpHe was nominated for nine Emmys over the span of five decades. According to THR, "He won in 1988 for ‘Barry Manilow: Big Fun on Swing Street’ (with a nomination the same year for the ’60th annual Academy Awards’ telecast); in 1980 for the special ‘Baryshnikov on Broadway’; and in 1975 for the miniseries ‘Benjamin Franklin.’"

The obituary notes: "Survivors include longtime partner Richard Bostard and sister-in-law Gladys. A funeral service will be held Sunday, Aug. 31, in his hometown of Princeton, KY."

The THR article also says that in a 2010 article from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Lisanby explained how he worked: “You have to find out what the show is about — who’s starring, what is the script or sketches. You really have to service the show, figure out what it needs to say, what it has to say. People have to look at something, and if what they’re looking at bores them, they’re not going to watch.”

Here’s a wonderful example of exactly what Lisanby was speaking about. This clip is from "Baryshnikov on Broadway" in 1980. Not only does it feature knockout perfomances from dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and his guest star, Liza Minnelli, it also highlights the absolutely stunning Emmy-winning art direction by Lisanby and set decoration by his collaborator, Dwight Jackson. (Don’t be put off by the subtitles at the very beginning of the clip. They disappear after about 10 seconds.)

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