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Wiard Boppo Ihnen (1897-1979) was born in New York City and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of German-born architect Henry S. Ihnen. Apparently named after select members of his family tree, Wiard (pronounced "weird") also was known as William and Bill.
Educated in public schools, Ihnen apprenticed as an architect with his father's associates from 1913 to 1918. He later apprenticed in portrait painting and sculpture and took coursework in engineering and drawing at the Mechanics' Institute and Art Students League of New York and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Enlisting with the U.S. Army in October 1918, he served as a private until his discharge in February 1919. For the next two years Ihnen worked for an architect and civil engineer, and by 1921 he was registered to practice architecture in New Jersey.
Ihnen had accepted a job as an assistant art director (scenic designer) with Famous Players-Lasky in New York in late 1919. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920) provided his first film experience. In the early and mid-1920s he worked for two other New York-based companies, Cosmopolitan Pictures and Inspiration Pictures. For the latter he acted as technical director on "The Fighting Blade" (1923). Ihnen was part owner and secretary of Tilford Cinema Corporation, a New York motion picture services company that produced several films in 1924, including "Another Scandal," "Miami," and "Ramshackle House." The company offered contractual production services and employed experts in architecture, construction, electrical engineering, and art and scenic effects.
From around 1923 to 1928 Ihnen worked as a designer for an architectural firm, as director of pageant lighting for Westinghouse, and as assistant to muralist Barry Faulkner. He moved to Hollywood in the summer of 1928 and worked at Paramount as an art director until 1934 on such pictures as "Monte Carlo" (1930), "Blonde Venus" (1932), and "Duck Soup" (1933). After a year of travel, sketching, and photography, he returned to Hollywood in 1935 to work for Pioneer Pictures as an art director on "Becky Sharp" (1935) and "Dancing Pirate" (1936). At Major Pictures, Ihnen served as art director from 1936 to 1938 on "Go West Young Man" (1936), "Every Day's a Holiday" (1937), and "Doctor Rhythm" (1938). He designed sets for "Stagecoach" (1939) before joining 20th Century-Fox as an art director in December 1938. Between 1939 and 1943 he worked on "Crash Dive" (1943), "Jane Eyre" (1944), and "Wilson" (1944) at Fox.
During World War II, Ihnen assisted the Office of Civilian Defense as chief of the technical section in camouflage planning for the protection of Pacific Coast property. Joining International Pictures in 1944 as head of the art department, he worked on "It's a Pleasure!" (1945), "Along Came Jones" (1945), and "Tomorrow Is Forever" (1946). International Pictures loaned Ihnen to William Cagney for "Blood on the Sun" (1945). Ihnen then moved to Cagney Productions, where he acted as production designer from 1945 to 1950 on "The Time of Your Life" (1948) and "A Lion Is in the Streets" (1953). His freelance credits in the 1950s include "I, the Jury" (1953) and "The King and Four Queens" (1956). He provided production design on "Rancho Notorious" (1952) for director Fritz Lang, with whom Ihnen had worked at Fox on "Man Hunt" (1941) and "The Return of Frank James" (1940).
In 1940 Ihnen married costume designer Edith Head. He served on the Academy Board of Governors as assistant secretary from October 1943 to October 1945 and as secretary from October 1945 to May 1947. He was president of the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors in 1941-1942. Nominated in the art direction category for "Every Day's a Holiday," Ihnen received Academy Awards for "Wilson" and "Blood on the Sun."