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Willis studied at the University of Arizona before completing her bachelor's degree at the University of New Mexico. She began her career creating sets and costumes at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She went on to earn a master's degree at the Yale University Art and Drama School.
She was nominated for an Oscar seven times, earning the Academy Award for her colorful designs for The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm in 1962. In addition to designing for film, she has also worked on live shows, including Shipstead & Johnson's Ice Follies and the New Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.
- "Mary Wills". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
- "Mary Wills; Costume Designer Won Oscar for 'Brothers Grimm'". Los Angeles Times. 1997-02-11. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
- "OBITUARY - Tucson Citizen Morgue, Part 2 (1993-2009)". tucsoncitizen.com. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
- "Mary Wills | LACMA Collections". collections.lacma.org. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
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