Carmen Dillon – Famous Film Art Director

Carmen Dillon achieved International fame as a Film Art Director.

Carmen Dillon

In fact in  1948, in recognition of her design of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, she became the first woman ever to win an Oscar for set decoration.

Although Roger Furse was credited with the art direction on Hamlet, it was mainly Carmen Dillon who realised what was required for Elsinore Castle - she always felt that her architectural background was helpful in her film career – she was right I am sure !

Her interest in the cinema came about when she met several art directors, including Vincent Korda and Alfred Junge, while studying in London at the Architectural Association. She liked, what she called, “the arty side” of films. She began in the industry working on  films, which she found very exciting and great fun to do – with as little as £100 to spend on sets.

Carmen Dillon 1

Carmen Dillon 2

Above we see Top Picture a street set in production and below the completed set for the film  ‘Miracle in Soho’

She was born in Cricklewood, north-west London, the youngest of six children.

To me , she attained her greatest prize when Walt Disney handed her the job of Art Director on The Story of Robin Hood made at Denham. As the Director Ken Annakin stated in his Autobiogrpahy, Walt Disney put great faith in Carmen Dillon on this project and she designed and built some of those huge sets that are as impressive as you would ever see in film land.

C armen Dillon, Perce Pearce and Alex Bryce 1951

She then went on to do the same for Disney on The Sword and The Rose and Rob Roy The Highland Rogue but it was her earlier work on Robin Hood that, to me, is the peak of her career. Those sets were simply breath-taking – the enormous 250 ft wide Robin Hood’s camp, Nottingham Castle and the woodland scene where Robin fights Little John on the bridge – that is wonderful and the best I have ever seen for this legendary encounter. Also, a little later in the film when Robin meets Friar Tuck and wades across the stream – again all a beautiful studio set – but there was so much attention to detail – one thing that sticks with me is that in those scenes,there was a slight breeze which rustled the leaves on the trees and the hair of the actors just to add to the realism.

Robin against Little John on the Bridge


Above - Robin meets Friar Tuck above. On a Bridge over the stream in the woodland – beautiful studio set.

More Studio sets from Walt Disney’s  The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952 – Below :-

Robin and Friar Tuck

Robin's Camp

Story of Robin Hood 1952

In the Woodland

Carmen Dillion went on to do the Art Direction on Richard 111 as well as The Chalk Garden, and The Prince and the Showgirl – with Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier, but there were many more than these.


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