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Norman Melancton Bel Geddes Edit Profile

also known as "Big Norm"

designer , director

Norman Melancton Bel Geddes was an American stage and industrial designer, director whose clean, functional decors contributed substantially to the trend away from naturalism in 20th-century stage design.


Bel Geddes was born on April 27, 1893 in Adrian, Michigan, the son of Flora Luelle and Clifton Terry Geddes, a stockbroker.


He studied art in Cleveland and at the Chicago Art Institute.


Bel Geddes designed his first theatrical production, Nju, for the Los Angeles Little Theater in 1916. He began designing sets for the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, and subsequently provided scenery for over 200 operas, musical comedies, and plays. Geddes climbed to sudden fame as designer for Max Reinhardt's New York production of the spectacular The Miracle (1923).

The monumentality, coloristic splendor, and theatrical simplicity required for that staging became the hallmarks of his scenic style, exemplified later in settings for such outstanding plays and musicals as Strike Up the Band, Lysistrata, Hamlet (with Raymond Massey, which, like Lysistrata, he also directed and produced), Flying Colors, Jeanne d'Arc, Dead End, and The Eternal Road.

Toward the end of the 1920's, Geddes became interested in industrial design. In 1931, he made drawings for the first streamlined ocean liner; in 1934, for interiors of Pan American's "China Clipper" airplanes. He designed the "Futurama" exhibit for General Motors Corporation at the New York World's Fair (1939 - 1940), and during World War II originated a technique of model construction and photography for the U. S. Navy and Army Air Corps.


  • As an important industrial designer, Norman Bel helped popularize “streamlining” as a distinct modern style.


When he married Helen Belle Schneider in 1916, they incorporated their names to Bel Geddes.

Helen Belle Schneiderouse