Tony Walton

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Tony Walton
Anthony John Walton

(1934-10-24)24 October 1934
Died2 March 2022(2022-03-02) (aged 87)
New York City, U.S.
EducationRadley College
Slade School of Fine Art
Occupation(s)Art director, set designer, costume designer
Years active1957–2007
  • (m. 1959; div. 1968)
  • Gen LeRoy
    (m. 1991)
ChildrenEmma Walton Hamilton

Anthony John Walton (24 October 1934 – 2 March 2022) was a British set and costume designer.[1] He won three Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and a Emmy Award. He received three Tony Awards for Pippin (1973), House of Blue Leaves (1986), and Guys and Dolls (1992). For his work in movies, he won an Academy Award for Best Production Design, for All That Jazz (1979), and nominations for Mary Poppins (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and The Wiz (1978).[2] For his work in television, he won an Primetime Emmy Award, for Death of a Salesman (1985).[3]

Early life[edit]

Walton was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, on 24 October 1934. His father, Lancelot, was an orthopedic surgeon and his mother, Hilda, was a homemaker.[4][3][5] He fell in love with the theatre as child when on a family trip to a pantomime.[5] At the age of 12, he met Julie Andrews after he had watched her in a performance of Humpty Dumpty in the West End. She was 11 at the time. He found her number in the telephone book and asked for her address so he could send her some pictures. The two became good friends from this point.[2]

Walton attended Radley College in Oxford where he studied Greek and Latin. Here he put on some ambitious marionette shows, one of which was attended by the English artist John Piper. He came to find Walton at the end of the show, and told him he should go into stage design.[2] Walton followed his advice and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He spent two years of mandatory military training with the Royal Air Force,[6] as a trainee pilot in Ontario, Canada.[4] After completing his National Service, he headed to New York to join Julie Andrews, who was making a name for herself on Broadway.[2]


He began his career in 1957 with the stage design for Noël Coward's off-Broadway production of Conversation Piece.[3] Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, he designed for the New York and London stage.

Walton entered the motion pictures business through Walt Disney, after Disney met him back stage after a performance of Camelot. Julie Andrews, who was now his fiancé, was already in line to play the part of Mary Poppins in the classic film. Disney offered to look at his portfolio and later ended up hiring Walton as a costume designer, set designer, and visual consultant for Mary Poppins. He was not allowed to make any reference to the famous illustrations that Mary Shephard had done for the original book in 1934, as the rights to the story did not include this. The Sherman brothers, who were working on the songs for the movie, suggested that he transposed the era of the story from the 1930s to the Edwardian era, to ensure he avoided any accidental replications.[5] He made the set realistic, paying attention to detail, as he was always annoyed by sets that didn't look real. He also alluded to Mary Poppins' "secret life", by making her clothes grey or black on the outside, but with brightly coloured linings and flashes of crimson.[5] For this he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design (Color).

Walton continued to work in the film industry as a costume designer and set designer working on films such as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), The Boy Friend (1971), and Equus (1977). Walton received further Academy Award nominations for his work on Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and The Wiz (1978). He won his only Academy Award for his work as an Art Director on Bob Fosse's musical film All That Jazz (1979).[2]

In 1983, Diana Ross, the star of the film The Wiz, chose Walton to design the stage set for her 1983 Central Park concert, "For One & For All". Broadcast worldwide on the Showtime cable network, the concert special, over the course of two days, featured an on-site audience of over 1,200,000 on the park's Great Lawn.

In 1989, the American Museum of the Moving Image showcased over 30 years of his work for films, television, and theatre in an exhibit entitled: Tony Walton: Designing for Stage and Screen, including drawings, models and photographs from his early plays including the Regency-style Conversation Piece from 1957 and "his evocation of a London street" for the 1964 film Mary Poppins.[7]

In December 2005, for their annual birthday celebration to 'The Master', The Noël Coward Society invited Walton as the guest celebrity to lay flowers in front of Coward's statue at New York's Gershwin Theatre, thereby commemorating the 106th birthday of Sir Noël.

Inspiration for Disney's Winnie the Pooh

Walton gave the Sherman Brothers the insight and inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree songs as is explained in the Sherman Brothers' joint autobiography, Walt's Time:

Walt (Disney) said 'Read the Pooh stories and let me know what you think.' We tried, but the stories just weren't coming through to us. At that time designer Tony Walton was working on Poppins. He was English-born, and he was about our age, so we asked him to give us some insight on the Pooh character. His eyes lit up. 'Winnie the Pooh?', he said. 'I love Winnie the Pooh! Of course I'll help you!' Three hours later, he was still talking about Pooh, inspiring us no end. He explained how he had been a chubby little boy, and had felt very insecure. But Winnie the Pooh was his buddy, because Pooh was pudgy and proud of it. Pooh was probably the only character in the world who exercised to gain weight! Pooh was a wonderful, lovable friend who would never let you down or turn his back on you. Soon, we started to fall in love with Pooh ourselves. Our songs for Winnie the Pooh were truly a love affair, thanks to A.A. Milne and to Tony Walton.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

Walton married his childhood sweetheart Julie Andrews in 1959, and together they had a daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.[9] Walton said that he fell in love with Andrews when they were children and he saw her playing the egg in a theatre production of Humpty Dumpty. They divorced in 1968 but remained close friends.

Walton married Gen LeRoy in 1991. Walton, Andrews, and their daughter worked together professionally several times. He illustrated several children's books written by Andrews and their daughter. Walton died from complications of a stroke at his apartment in New York City on 2 March 2022, at the age of 87.[10]



Year Title Set Designer Costume Designer Note
1964 Mary Poppins Yes Yes
1966 Fahrenheit 451 Yes Yes
1966 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Yes Yes
1968 Petulia Yes Yes
1968 The Sea Gull Yes Yes
1971 The Boy Friend Yes No
1974 Murder on the Orient Express Yes Yes
1977 Equus Yes Yes
1978 The Wiz Yes Yes
1980 Just Tell Me What You Want Yes Yes
1981 Prince of the City Yes No
1982 Deathtrap Yes Yes
1984 The Goodbye People Yes Yes
1986 Heartburn Yes No
1987 The Glass Menagerie No Yes
1991 Regarding Henry Yes No


Year Title Set Designer Costume Designer Note
1959 Theatre Night Yes Yes Episode: "Fool's Paradise"
1959 The Julie Andrews Show Yes No 3 episodes
1981 Pippin: His Life and Times Yes No Television movie
1983 Diana Ross Live in Central Park Yes No Television concert
1985 Death of a Salesman Yes No Television movie
1987 American Playhouse Yes Yes Episode: "House of Blue Leaves"
2000 The Man Who Came to Dinner Yes No Television movie
2003 Our Town Yes Yes Television movie


Year Production Notes
1961 Once There Was a Russian
1962 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum[11]
1963 The Rehearsal
1964 Golden Boy
1967 The Apple Tree
1972 Pippin
1973 Shelter
1975 Chicago
1980 A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine
1981 Sophisticated Ladies
1984 The Real Thing
1984 Hurlyburly
1985 I'm Not Rappaport
1986 House of Blue Leaves
1986 The Front Page
1986 Social Security
1987 Anything Goes
1989 Lend Me a Tenor
1989 Grand Hotel
1990 Six Degrees of Separation
1991 The Will Rogers Follies
1992 Death and the Maiden
1992 Conversations with My Father
1992 Four Baboons Adoring the Sun
1992 Guys and Dolls [12]
1992 Tommy Tune Tonight
1993 She Loves Me
1993 A Grand Night for Singing
1993 Laughter on the 23rd Floor
1994 Picnic
1994 A Christmas Carol
1995 Busker Alley Also director in 2006
1995 Company
1995 Moonlight
1996 A Fair Country
1996 A Fair Country
1996 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
1996 The Shawl
1996 The Shawl
1997 Steel Pier
1997 King David
1997 1776
1998 The Cripple of Inishmaan
1999 Annie Get Your Gun
2000 On Raftery's Hill
2000 Uncle Vanya
2000 The Man Who Came to Dinner
2000 Taller Than a Dwarf
2002 Our Town
2003 Nobody Don't Like Yogi
2003 The Boy Friend
2005 The Boy Friend National Tour
2006 Well
2007 The Sleeping Beauty ABT, Metropolitan Opera
2007 A Tale of Two Cities

Walton later diversified into directing, with productions of:

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Year Award Nominated work Result
1964 Best Costume Design Mary Poppins Nominated
1974 Murder on the Orient Express Nominated
1978 The Wiz Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated
1979 All That Jazz Won

Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result
1985 Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Death of a Salesman Won

Tony Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result
1967 Best Costume Design The Apple Tree Nominated
1973 Best Scenic Design Pippin Won
1976 Chicago Nominated
1980 A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine Nominated
1984 The Real Thing Nominated
1986 The House of Blue Leaves Won
1987 The Front Page Nominated
1988 Anything Goes Nominated
Best Costume Design Nominated
1989 Best Scenic Design Lend Me a Tenor Nominated
1990 Grand Hotel Nominated
1991 The Will Rogers Follies Nominated
1992 Guys and Dolls Won
1994 She Loves Me Nominated
1997 Steel Pier Nominated
2000 Uncle Vanya Nominated


  1. ^ Liebenson, Bess (29 December 1991). "Spinning Visual Style From Writers' Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hayward, Anthony (7 March 2022). "Tony Walton obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Sandomir, Richard (5 March 2022). "Tony Walton, Award-Winning Stage and Screen Designer, Dies at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  4. ^ a b Rothstein, Mervyn (2008). "A Life in the Theatre: Tony Walton". Playbill. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d "Tony Walton obituary". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  6. ^ Grimes, William (9 June 1992). "For a Broadway Set Designer, Home Is Where the Stage Is". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  7. ^ Stephens, Suzanne (5 October 1989). "Currents; The World According To Walton". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  8. ^ Sherman, Robert B., Walt's Time: from before to beyond, 1998, p 68.
  9. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 372. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  10. ^ Barnes, Mike (3 March 2022). "Tony Walton, Famed Costume, Set Designer for Broadway and the Big Screen, Dies at 87". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  11. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (6 June 1989). "Tonys? Six. Profits? None Soon". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  12. ^ Collins, Glenn (1 June 1992). "'Dancing at Lughnasa' And 'Crazy for You' Win Top Tony Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.

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