Today I learned that there was a 1949 made-for-TV production of the Agatha Christie work now known as Ten Little Indians that was produced under, shall we say, its original name. So that’s a thing. It is also one of the many, many credits of Dorothea Hold Redmond, considered the first female production designer. When David O. Selznick gave her the job, her daughter says her coworkers were so resentful that they insisted that her area be walled off so they didn’t have to deal with her. Which meant, on the other hand, that she had her own office and they didn’t?
She’s another one of those people who has three things that would each be a worthy career, and of course no one really talks about any of them. She helped give Hitchcock films their look, working on such classics as Rebecca and To Catch a Thief. She worked as an Imagineer, helping to design Disneyland—including designing Walt’s apartment above Pirates of the Caribbean. And she worked in architecture, designing interiors for LA landmarks such as LAX and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and helping design the Seattle Space Needle. And all of that without getting into the non-Hitchcock movies she worked in.
In a period-appropriate sort of way, she helped design the look of The Bishop’s Wife, one of my favourite Christmas movies, starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, and Cary Grant. Also White Christmas, if that’s more your speed. Danny Kaye fan? How about The Court Jester and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. She worked on four movies in 1939—Made For Each Other, Intermezzo: A Love Story, Destry Rides Again, and Gone With the Wind. And even if you’re not a fan of that last one, which is totally legitimate, it’s a heck of a well-designed movie.
Like the look of Fantasyland in Walt Disney World? That’s her. Much of New Orleans Square in Disneyland was her work. I suspect she and Mary Blair between them were responsible for enormous amounts of the look of the parks, and while Mary Blair’s name is finally being recognized, Dorothea Hold Redmond still isn’t talked about. It’s a shame, really. Walt Disney started hiring women outside the Ink and Paint Department, and they shaped the look of Disney for years to come, except mostly we still use Walt’s name and not theirs.
I will say, unlike the last production designer I talked about—who also worked for Hitchcock, come to think of it—it was a lot easier to find information about her. There’s no bio on her IMDb page, but there is a decent Wikipedia page for her, and I was able to find more than a single blurry picture online. The lack of information about her does have a lot more to do with the job than anything else; it’s not a job that a lot of people talk about, even though movies rely on it. Rear Window and The Ten Commandments would not have been the same without her.