NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Sad news arrived over the weekend: the death on Saturday of Donfeld, one of Hollywood’s best costume designers of the recent past and one of the industry’s best friends as well.
He was a witty, stylish and colorful gentleman who always reminded me of a walking tree (he stood 6-foot-5), someone who never failed to amaze those who met him with his knowledge of the film world’s ancient history as well as what Russell Crowe said to Nicole Kidman last Friday. Donfeld knew it all. But, like Roddy McDowall, he could keep secrets.
One of his many strengths, in addition to his talent, was his willingness to do battle when he thought there had been an oversight of one of the industry’s hard workers or whenever he felt his beloved Hollywood was going haywire — a judgment that seemed to pop up more and more in conversations with him in recent times. But he also found the movie business and its citizenry endlessly fascinating and worth respect.
The four-time Academy Award nominee — “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969), “Tom Sawyer” (1973) and “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985) — was born Donald Lee Feld and began working in films as Don Feld (first movie: 1961’s “Sanctuary,” for which he did Lee Remick’s costumes), after which he rarely stopped throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. His professional name eventually melded into Donfeld.
He worked with everybody. Bette Davis insisted he do her clothes for “Dead Ringer,” Ingrid Bergman asked for him on “Walk in the Spring Rain,” he designed Ann-Margret’s wardrobe for “Viva Las Vegas,” Jill St. John’s for “Diamonds Are Forever” and Natalie Wood’s for “The Great Race” — and he’d go anywhere Jacqueline Bisset wanted him, day or night, sun or storm, Europe or Pico Boulevard.
He adored most of the ladies he worked with, but not all, and had many male pals he liked working with as well, Patrick Swayze being a particular favorite.
In the ‘90s, the work offers didn’t stop, but Donfeld did, going into semi-retirement, only occasionally being tempted enough to again pull out the sketch pad and drawing pencils. Because of his great flair for life, unquenchable interest in films and overflowing humor, it seems unusual he would leave us so quickly and quietly, the victim of a heart attack at age 72.
If you didn’t know Donfeld, you missed one of the really good fellows. Hollywood will be a much less interesting, less Technicolored place without him in it.
This week’s N.Y. show business calendar includes Ben Vereen beginning a two-week stand Tuesday night at Feinstein’s at the Regency and Justin Timberlake and Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden (Wednesday and Thursday, respectively).
A concert staging of “Follies” launches this season’s “Encores!” series Thursday for four nights at the City Center with a knockout cast: Donna Murphy in the role that was a Tony winner for Alexis Smith in the original 1971 incarnation, Victoria Clark (the Dorothy Collins role), Christine Baranski (in the part originated by Yvonne De Carlo), Victor Garber, Jo Anne Worley, Mimi Hines, Philip Bosco, Michael McGrath and Anne Rogers.
On Monday, 50 Oscar statuettes go on display, and will be available for public holding, at ABC’s Times Square Studios to add to the city’s Oscar consciousness.