Wig designer Paul Huntley dies at 88

Tony-honored wig master Paul Huntley has died at the age of 88 after a brief illness in London. His death was announced on July 9 in a Instagram Publish.

Over a six-decade career that spanned over 200 Broadway shows, Mr. Huntley created the instantly recognizable hairstyles for Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd: Fleet Street Barber Demon, Patti LuPone in Evita, and Harvey Fierstein in Hair spray, among many others. His most recent creations will be seen in the musical Diane when it debuts on Netflix in October ahead of a Main Stem performance starting in November.

Mr. Huntley made his Broadway debut in 1973 with a production of Uncle Vanya, with Julie Christie and Lillian Gish. He didn’t stop until the beginning of the year, when he announced his retirement. Along the way he designed wigs for Cats, the 1998 and 2015 revivals of Cabaret, The producers, Hair spray, Rodgers + Cinderella from Hammerstein, and Tootsie. Among the many stars he has worked with are Jessica Lange, Donna Murphy, Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Mae West and Carol Channing.

READ: Magic to ‘Do: How Paul Huntley Became a Broadway Wig Master

Born in London, England on July 2, 1933, Mr. Huntley grew up surrounded by a love for glamor. “My mom was a movie buff,” Huntley told Playbill in 2004. “She always had magazines and she let me look at them. I must have been six or seven and saw an article about makeup artists in the studios. It showed aged actress Agnes Moorehead from a young woman to a 100-year-old woman. And I thought, “I want to do something like this.”


Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou

Martha Swope / © NYPL for the Performing Arts

After studying acting in drama school and joining a touring repertory troupe, Mr Huntley dabbled in hairstyle design. He apprenticed at Stanley Hall’s Wig Creations, who designed iconic pieces like Elizabeth Taylor’s hairstyle for Cleopatra. He became a staple of the UK film and theater industry in the 1950s and 1960s, working with Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Alec Guinness and Vanessa Redgrave.

He moved to the United States on the recommendation of Mike Nichols in the 1970s, where he remained for the rest of his career. Usually working with a small team, Mr. Huntley has become an institution in its own right. The designer was known to have read the entire script and delved deeply into the psyche of the characters before taking the plunge. “If an actor looks at himself in the mirror and isn’t happy with what he or she sees, that’s not good,” he said in an interview. “They have to be totally happy with how they look, totally safe when they go on because that plays a big part in the outcome.”

He was also known for his dedication to serving others, often making wigs for cancer patients in his spare time. In 2003, the American Theater Wing honored Mr. Huntley with a Special Tony Award for Excellence in Theater. He was also honored by the Drama Desk Awards in 2002 with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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