Irene (costume designer)
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December 8, 1901|
Baker, Montana, U.S.
|Died||November 15, 1962
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Other names||Irene Gibbons
|Known for||Designing costumes for motion picture actors|
|Spouse(s)||F. Richard Jones, Elliot Gibbons|
Irene Maud Lentz (December 8, 1901 –November 15, 1962)  also known mononymously and professionally as Irene, was an American fashion designer and costume designer. Her work as a clothing designer in Los Angeles led to her career as a costume designer for films in the 1930s. Lentz also worked under the name Irene Gibbons.
Born in Baker, Montana, to Emil Lents and Maud Walters, Lentz started out as an actress under her birth name, appearing in secondary roles in silent films beginning with Mack Sennett in 1921. She played ingenue parts opposite Sennett's leading comedians, Ben Turpin and Billy Bevan. Lentz was directed in her first film by Sennett's production chief, F. Richard Jones; their professional relationship matured into a personal one. They had been married for less than a year when Jones succumbed to tuberculosis in 1930.
Lentz had been taught sewing as a child and with a flair for style, she decided to open a small dress shop. The success of her designs in her tiny store eventually led to an offer from the Bullocks Wilshire luxury department store to design for their Ladies Custom Salon which catered to a wealthy clientele including a number of Hollywood stars.
Lentz's designs at Bullocks gained her much attention in the film community and she was contracted by independent production companies to design the wardrobe for some of their productions. Billing herself simply as "Irene," her first work came in 1933 on the film Goldie Gets Along featuring her designs for star Lily Damita. However, her big break came when she was hired to create the gowns for Ginger Rogers for her 1937 film Shall We Dance with Fred Astaire. This was followed by more designs in another Ginger Rogers film as well as work for other independents such as Walter Wanger Productions, Hal Roach Studios as well as majors such as RKO, Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures. During the 1930s, Irene Lentz designed the film wardrobe for leading ladies such as Constance Bennett, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Bennett, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman, and Loretta Young among others. She "is generally regarded as the originator of the dressmaker suit"  that was popular in the late 1930s.
Through her work, Lentz met and married short story author and screenwriter Eliot Gibbons, brother of multi-Academy Award winning Cedric Gibbons, head of art direction at MGM Studios. Despite her success, working under the powerful set designer Cedric while being married to his brother Eliot was not easy. Irene confided to her close friend Doris Day that the marriage to Eliot was not a happy one. Generally regarded as the most important and influential production designer in the history of American films, Cedric Gibbons hired Lentz when gown designer Adrian left MGM in 1941 to open his own fashion house. By 1943 she was a leading costume supervisor at MGM, earning international recognition for her "soufflé creations" and is remembered for her avant-garde wardrobe for Lana Turner in 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1948, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White for B.F.'s Daughter.
In 1950, Lentz left MGM to open her own fashion house. After being out of the film industry for nearly ten years, in 1960, Doris Day requested her talents for the Universal Studios production Midnight Lace for which Lentz earned a second Academy Award nomination. The following year she did the costume design for another Doris Day film and during 1962 worked on her last production, A Gathering of Eagles.
In 1962, after Doris Day noticed that Lentz seemed upset and nervous, Lentz confided in her that she was in love with actor Gary Cooper and that he was the only man that she had ever loved.[page needed] Cooper had died in 1961.
On November 15, 1962, three weeks short of her sixty-first birthday, Lentz took room 1129 at the Knickerbocker Hotel, checking in under an assumed name. She jumped to her death from her bathroom window.
She had left suicide notes for friends and family, for her ailing husband, and for the hotel residents, apologizing for any inconvenience her death might cause. Per her wishes, she is interred next to her first husband, director F. Richard Jones, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
In 2005, Irene Lentz was inducted into the Costume Designers Guild's Anne Cole Hall of Fame.
|1933||Goldie Gets Along||Costume designer, uncredited|
|1933||Flying Down to Rio||Costume designer, uncredited|
|1937||Shall We Dance||Gowns for Ginger Rogers|
|1937||Vogues of 1938||Gowns for Joan Bennett|
|1938||You Can't Take It With You||Gowns for Jean Arthur|
|1938||Topper Takes a Trip||Gowns for Constance Bennett|
|1938||Vivacious Lady||Gowns for Ginger Rogers|
|1939||In Name Only||Gowns for Carole Lombard|
|1939||Intermezzo: A Love Story||Costume designer for Ingrid Bergman|
|1939||Midnight||Gowns for Claudette Colbert|
|1940||Green Hell||Gowns for Joan Bennett|
|1940||Seven Sinners||Gowns for Marlene Dietrich|
|1941||That Uncertain Feelings||Gowns for Merle Oberon|
|1941||Mr. & Mrs. Smith||Gowns for Carole Lombard|
|1941||To Be or Not to Be||Gowns for Carole Lombard|
|1942||Take a Letter, Darling||Gowns for Rosalind Russell|
|1942||You Were Never Lovelier||Gowns for Rita Hayworth|
|1943||No Time for Love||Gowns for Claudette Colbert|
|1943||Girl Crazy||Costume supervisor|
|1944||Meet Me in St. Louis||Costume supervisor|
|1944||Bathing Beauty||Costume supervisor|
|1945||The Picture of Dorian Grey||Costume supervisor|
|1945||Week-End at the Waldorf||Costume supervisor|
|1946||Harvey Girls, TheThe Harvey Girls||Costume supervisor|
|1946||Ziegfeld Follies||Costume designer/supervisor, uncredited|
|1947||Lady in the Lake||Costume supervisor|
|1947||Cass Timberlane||Costume designer|
|1948||Easter Parade||Costume designer (women)|
|1948||Pirate, TheThe Pirate||Costume supervisor|
|1949||Barkleys of Broadway, TheThe Barkleys of Broadway||Costume designer|
|1949||Neptune's Daughter||Costume designer|
|1950||Shadow on the Wall||Costume designer|
|1960||Midnight Lace||Gowns for Doris Day|
|1961||Lover Come Back||Gown for Doris Day|
|1963||Gathering of Eagles, AA Gathering of Eagles||Costume designer|
- "Irene", in Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases, by David K. Frasier (McFarland, 2005) p156-157
- Hall, Mary (March 23, 2009). "Angelina Jolie's Costumes in The Tourist Pay Homage to MGM Fashion Designer Irene Lentz". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- In Day's autobiography, she wrote that in 1962, Irene "had an unhappy marriage to a man who lived out of the state and only occasionally came to visit her."
- Day, Doris; Hotchner, A.E. (Oct 1976) . Doris Day: Her Own Story (Bantam mass market paperback) (6th printing ed.). New York: William Morrow. p. 237. ISBN 0-553-02888-X.
- Day later wrote that she got the feeling that she was the first person to whom Irene had confided this information. She also wrote: "Thinking about it now, I cannot honestly say whether Irene's love was one-sided or whether she and Cooper had actually had or were having an affair."
- Michelle Vogel (2012). McFarland, ed. Lupe V'Lez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's Mexican Spitfire. p. 47. ISBN 978-0786461394.