Dorothea Holt Redmond dies at 98; designer helped create the look of several Hitchcock films

Dorothea Holt Redmond, an illustrator and production designer who helped visualize several Alfred Hitchcock films and worked with Walt Disney to design a private apartment in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, has died. She was 98.

Redmond died of congestive heart failure Feb. 27 at her longtime home in the Hollywood Hills, said her daughter, Lynne Jackson.

In Hollywood, Redmond broke ground in 1938 as the first woman to invade the “heretofore exclusively male field” of motion-picture production design, at David O. Selznick’s studio, The Times reported that year. Her male colleagues so resented her, they insisted that Redmond’s work space be walled off from theirs, her daughter recalled.

Redmond came to be regarded as one of the most talented illustrators in the industry, according to research by Tania Modleski, a USC English professor who is documenting the contributions women made Hitchcock’s films.

Working with Hitchcock and an art director, Redmond would create an illustration that became the basis for communicating to the cameraman and others -- and essentially set the tone of key scenes, Modleski told The Times in an e-mail.

The artist “was masterful at working with light and shadow,” Modleski said, “and deserves credit for working with Hitchcock to convey the German Expressionist aesthetic he has been praised for adopting throughout much of his career.”

“Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film,” an exhibit staged last year at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, also documented Redmond’s collaboration with Hitchcock. The director was known for presenting himself as an auteur when in reality he was deeply collaborative, the exhibit pointed out.

Redmond’s suspense-filled graphite drawings interpreting a sequence in Hitchcock’s 1943 film “Shadow of a Doubt” helped transform a sleepy town into a threatening locale, which was essential to the movie’s evolution, according to the 2007 book “Casting a Shadow,” based on the exhibit.

Hitchcock was “one of her very favorite people to work with,” said Redmond’s daughter. “She just loved his personality and his taste.”

In a film career that started with 1937’s “Nothing Sacred” and spanned 20 years, Redmond contributed to seven Hitchcock films, including “Rebecca” (1940), “Rear Window” (1954) and “To Catch a Thief” (1955).

Among the more than 30 films she worked on are such classics as “Gone With the Wind” (1939), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) and “The Ten Commandments” (1956).

In 1964, she joined what is now known as Walt Disney Imagineering and helped envision elements of Disneyland and Disney World.

Disney died in 1966 before the elaborate New Orleans Square hideaway she designed with him could be completed. For decades, the space was used as a gallery.

Following Redmond’s original renderings, the park recently restored the apartment above Pirates of the Caribbean and turned it into the Disneyland Dream Suite, where randomly chosen park visitors can stay overnight.

Redmond also designed the interior and exterior settings of many restaurants and shops in New Orleans Square.

For Florida’s Walt Disney World, she completed moody studies of Fantasyland and opulent renderings of Main Street, according to Disney.

“Her watercolor sketches were extraordinary place-making,” Marty Sklar, an executive with Walt Disney Imagineering, said last fall when Redmond was named a Disney Legend in a hall-of-fame program that honors those who have had lasting impact on the Walt Disney Co.

The elaborate mosaic murals in the archway of Disney World’s Cinderella Castle were also designed by Redmond and realized by another artist in a million pieces of glass. Some of the murals were later duplicated in Tokyo Disneyland.

Dorothea Holt was born May 18, 1910, in Los Angeles, the only child of Harry and Mary Holt. Her father co-owned Western Lithograph Co.

After studying architecture and earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from USC in 1933, Redmond received a degree in illustration in 1936 from what is now the Art Center College of Design. She later taught at the school, her family said.

In 1940, she married Harry Redmond, a producer she met at Selznick’s studio. The couple built a house in the Hollywood Hills and finished designing it themselves when the architect died midway through the project, completed in 1948.

For about a decade, Dorothea Redmond worked for the architectural firm of William Pereira and Charles Luckman before joining Disney. She retired in 1974.

About a week before Redmond’s death, a private exhibit of her artwork opened at Walt Disney Imagineering’s Information Research Center in Glendale.

In addition to her daughter and husband, Redmond is survived by a son, Lee Redmond; three granddaughters; and three great-grandsons.

Services were private.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to the Motion Picture & Television Fund,