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Encyclopedia > James Wong Howe

James Wong Howe (黃宗霑; pinyin: Huáng Zōngzhān) (August 28, 1899 - July 12, 1976) is considered one of the greatest cinematographers in movie history. He has over 130 films to his credit. A master at the use of shadow, he was one of the first to use deep-focus cinematography, photography in which both foreground and distant planes remain in focus. During the 1930s and 1940s he was considered one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood. He was nominated for ten Academy Awards for cinematography, winning twice. Howe was judged to be one of history's ten most influencial cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild. Pinyin (拼音, pÄ«nyÄ«n) literally means join (together) sounds (a less literal translation being phoneticize, spell or transcription) in Chinese and usually refers to HànyÇ” PÄ«nyÄ«n (汉语拼音, literal meaning: Han language pinyin), which is a system of romanization (phonetic notation and transliteration to roman script) for Standard Mandarin. ... August 28 is the 240th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (241st in leap years), with 125 days remaining. ... 1899 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... July 12 is the 193rd day (194th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 172 days remaining. ... 1976 is a leap year starting on Thursday (link will take you to calendar). ... Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, AFC, meters Audrey Tautou on the set of A Very Long Engagement. ... A scene from William Wylers film, The Best Years of Our Lives, exemplifies deep focus. ... Although he never won an Oscar for any of his movie performances, the comedian Bob Hope received two honorary Oscars for his contributions to cinema. ...

Contents


Life and work

Early life

Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Canton (now Guangzhou), China in 1899. His father moved to America that year to work on Northern Pacific Railway and in 1904 sent for his family. The Howes settled in Pasco, Washington, where they owned a general store. A childhood Brownie may have sparked an early interest in photography. The teenaged Howe moved to Oregon after his father's death and briefly considered a career as a flyweight boxer before moving to Los Angeles, California. In Los Angeles, Howe took several odd jobs, including work as a commercial photographer's delivery boy and as a busboy at the Beverly Hills Hotel, before becoming interested in movies. Howe eventually took a low-level job at Lasky Studios which brought him into contact with silent film director Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille gave Howe a job as a clap boy. To earn additional money, Howe took stills during the filming, which he frequently sold to the stars as souvenirs. Location within China Guangzhou (Simplified Chinese: 广州; Traditional Chinese: 廣州; pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Kuang-chou; Jyutping: Gwong2zau1; Yale: GwóngjaÅ«) is the capital of the Guangdong Province in southern China. ... 1899 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... Northern Pacific Railway Categories: Stub | Defunct railroad companies of the United States | Idaho railroads | Minnesota railroads | Montana railroads | North Dakota railroads | Oregon railroads | Washington railroads | Wisconsin railroads ... 1904 is a leap year starting on a Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... Pasco is a city located in Franklin County, Washington. ... The Kodak Brownie box camera, introduced in 1900, was a very simple camera that anyone could use. ... State nickname: Beaver State Other U.S. States Capital Salem Largest city Portland Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) Official languages None Area 255,026 km² (9th)  - Land 248,849 km²  - Water 6,177 km² (2. ... The City of Los Angeles (from Spanish Los Ángeles , meaning the angels), also known as L.A., is the second-largest city in the United States in terms of population, as well as one of the worlds most important economic, cultural, and entertainment centers. ... Cecil Blount DeMille (August 12, 1881 - January 21, 1959) was one of the most successful filmmakers during the first half of the 20th century. ... A clap boy or clapper-boy is a defunct movie industry profession. ...


Silent film

One of those still photographs launched Howe's career as a cinematographer when Howe stumbled across a means of making actress Mary Miles Minter's eyes look darker by photographing her while she was looking at a dark surface (see Howe's technical innovations for more details). Howe became Minter's preferred photographer and in 1923 worked on his first movie as head cameraman, filming Minter's closeups in Drums of Fate after mounting black velvet in a frame around the camera. Throughout his career, Howe retained a reputation for making actresses look their best without resorting to tricks like shooting through gauze; in 1949 he was tasked with shooting test footage for a proposed comeback film (La Duchesse de Langeais) for Greta Garbo. The comeback film was never made. Howe worked steadily as a cinematographer from 1923 until the end of the era of silent film. Mary Miles Minter (April 1, 1902 - August 4, 1984) was a US film actress in silent films. ... 1923 was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1949 is a common year starting on Saturday. ... Garbo in the 1920s Greta Garbo (September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990) was a Swedish actress. ... A silent film is a film which has no accompanying soundtrack. ...


In 1928, Howe was in China shooting backgrounds for a movie he hoped to direct. The project he was working on was never completed (although some of the footage was used in Shanghai Express), and when he returned to Hollywood, he discovered that the "talkies" had largely supplanted silent films. Howe had no experience with sound film and his talents were no longer considered applicable. He fell out of demand as a cameraman until director William K. Howard selected him to be the cinematographer on Transatlantic in 1930. 1928 was a leap year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... Shanghai Express is a 1932 movie starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong and Warner Oland. ... A sound film (or talkie) is a motion picture with synchronized sound, as opposed to a silent movie. ... 1930 is a common year starting on Wednesday. ...


Sound film and the war years

Howe's innovative work on Transatlantic reestablished him as one of the leading cinematographers in Hollywood, and he worked continuously through the 1930s and 1940s, generally on several movies a year. Howe gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be difficult to work with, often overruling and even berating other members of the film crew. In a 1945 issue of The Screen Writer [1], Howe stated his views of a cameraman's responsibility, writing that "[t]he cameraman confers with the director on: (a) the composition of shots for action, since some scenes require definite composition for their best dramatic effect, while others require the utmost fluidity, or freedom from any strict definition or stylization; (b) atmosphere; (c) the dramatic mood of the story, which they plan together from beginning to end; (d) the action of the piece." Howe's broad view of a cinematographer's responsibilities may in some cases have infringed upon the traditional role of the director. A film crew is a group of people hired by a film company for the purpose of producing a film or motion picture. ...


In the early 1930s, while at MGM, Howe, who had generally been billed as "James Howe", began listing his name in film credits as "James Wong Howe". Over the course of his career, he was also credited as "James How", "Jimmie Howe", and "James Wong How". MGM logo Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM, is a large media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of cinema and television programs. ...


During World War II, Howe continued to work in Hollywood, where he met his future wife, novelist Sanora Babb. Due to anti-miscegnation laws, the two would not be married until 1949. Miscegenation is an archaic term invented in 1863 to describe people of different human races (usually one European and one African) producing offspring; the use of this term is invariably restricted to those who believe that the category race is meaningful when applied to human beings. ... 1949 is a common year starting on Saturday. ...


Post-war

After the end of World War II, Howe worked somewhat less frequently. His work continued to be highly regarded, however. In 1956, Howe won his first Academy Award for The Rose Tattoo. The film's director, Daniel Mann, had originally been a stage director and later stated that he gave Howe control over almost all decisions about the filming other than those regarding the actors and dialogue. In 1957's Sweet Smell of Success, Howe worked with director Alexander Mackendrick to give the black-and-white film a sharp-edged look reminiscent of New York tabloid photography such as that taken by Arthur "Weegee" Fellig. During the 1950s, Howe directed his only two feature films, The Invisible Avenger, one of many film adaptions of The Shadow, and Go, Man, Go!, a movie about the Harlem Globetrotters. Neither was a critical or commercial success. 1956 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Although he never won an Oscar for any of his movie performances, the comedian Bob Hope received two honorary Oscars for his contributions to cinema. ... The Rose Tattoo is a Tennessee Williams play. ... Daniel Mann, also known as Daniel Chugerman (August 8, 1912–November 21, 1991), was an American film and television director. ... 1957 was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 film which tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his connections to ruin his sisters relationship with a man he deems inappropriate. ... Alexander Mackendrick ( September 8, 1912 - December 22, 1993) was a Scottish- American film director. ... Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 - December 26, 1968), an American photographer and photojournalist. ... This article is about the radio/pulp magazine/comic book hero. ... Eugene Killer Edgerson of the Harlem Globetrotters goes up for a lay-up The Harlem Globetrotters are a comic basketball team that combines athleticism and comedy to create one of the best-known sports franchises in the world. ...


Later life and work

Howe's best known work was almost entirely in black and white. His two Academy Awards both came during the period when Best Cinematography Oscars were awarded seperately for color and black-and-white films. However, he successfully made the transition to color films and earned his first Academy Award nomination for a color film in 1959 for The Old Man and the Sea. He won his second Academy Award for 1963's Hud. His cinematographry remained inventive during his later career. For instance, his use of fish-eye and wide-angle lenses in 1966's Seconds helped give an eerie tension to director John Frankenheimer's science fiction movie. After working on 1970's The Mollie Maguires, Howe's health began to fail and he entered semi-retirement. In 1974, he was well enough to be selected as a replacement cinematographer for Funny Girl. He collapsed during the filming; American Society of Cinematographers president Ernest Laszlo filled in for Howe while he was recovering in the hospital. Funny Girl earned Howe his tenth and final Oscar nomination. Three documentaries were made about Howe during the last two decades of his life. 1959 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Original book cover The Old Man and the Sea is a novella by Ernest Hemingway written in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952. ... For other meanings of Hud, see this article Hud is a 1963 film which tells the story of a modern-day cowboy who conflicts with his father over the best way to keep their ranch from dying. ... 1966 was a common year starting on Saturday (link goes to calendar) // Events January January 1 - In a coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa ousts president David Dacko and takes over the Central African Republic. ... John Michael Frankenheimer (February 19, 1930 – July 6, 2002) was an American film director. ... 1970 was a common year starting on Thursday. ... 1974 is a common year starting on Tuesday (click on link for calendar). ... Funny Girl is a 1964 semi-biographical musical that tells the story of Broadway star Fanny Brice. ... The American Society of Cinematographers is not a labor union or guild, but is an educational, cultural and professional organization. ...


He is buried at Pierce Bros. Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.


Technical innovations

Howe's earliest discovery was the use of black velvet to make blue eyes show up better on the orthochromatic film stock in use until the early 1920s. Orthochromatic film was "blue blind"; it was sensitive to blue and green light, which showed as white on the developed film. Reds and yellows were darkened. Faced with the problem of actors' eyes appearing washed out or even stark white on film, Howe developed a technique of mounting a frame swathed with black velvet around his camera so that the reflections darkened the actors' eyes enough for them to appear more natural in the developed film.


Howe earned the nickname "Low-Key" because of his preference for lowering the height of the key light used in three-point lighting. A high key light, well above the plane of the camera, casts shadows downward and away from the camera; use of a lower key light throws visible shadows on the set and often on the subjects. Film noirs commonly used of low-key lighting, but Howe was an early proponent of the technique; although some of his later films feature the sort of crisp shadows common in film noir, his earliest work often used low-key lighting to produce soft shadows and low-contrast interiors. Even after transitioning to color film, Howe often showed a preference for dim lighting, including shooting one scene in The Mollie Maguires solely by candlelight. Low-key lighting creates a chiaroscuro effect. ... Three-point lighting is a very common lighting technique used in both still photography and in film. ... This still from The Big Combo (1955) demonstrates the visual style of film noir at its most extreme. ...


Howe also was known for his use of unusual lenses, film stocks, and shooting techniques. In the 1920s, he was an early adopter of the crab dolly, a form of camera dolly with four independent wheels and a movable arm to which the camera is attached. He entered the ring on roller-skates, carrying an early hand-held camera, for the boxing scenes of 1947's Body and Soul. 1955's Picnic features a very early example of the helicopter shot filmed by the second-unit cinematographer, Haskell Wexler, and planned by Wexler and Howe. 1947 was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1955 is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... DVD cover for the 1955 film, showing stars William Holden and Kim Novak Picnic is a 1955 film which tells the story of a drifter who crashes a small towns Labor Day picnic and romances a girl whos already spoken for. ... Haskell Wexler (born 1926 February 6) is an award-winning American cinematographer and director. ...


Although the film technique of deep focus is most associated with cinematographer Gregg Toland, Howe used it in his first sound film, Transatlantic, ten years before Toland made the technique famous with Citizen Kane. For deep focus, the cinematographer stops the lens down and floods the set with light so that elements in both the foreground and background remain in sharp focus. The technique requires highly sensitive film and was difficult to achieve with early film stocks; Toland, Howe, and Arthur Edeson were among the earliest cinematographers to actually carry off the effect. A scene from William Wylers film, The Best Years of Our Lives, exemplifies deep focus. ... Gregg Toland (1904-1948) was an influential American cinematographer, most noted for his work on Orson Welles Citizen Kane. ... TransAtlantic were a progressive rock supergroup formed in 2000 by vocalist/keyboardist Neal Morse of Spocks Beard and drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. ... Citizen Kane is the first feature film directed by Orson Welles (he had directed two short films previously), and is loosely based on the lives of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the reclusive aerospace and movie mogul Howard Hughes, and the Chicago utilities magnate Samuel Insull. ...


Frequent collaborators

William K. Howard


Selected filmography

Funny Lady was a musical film of 1975, starring Barbra Streisand. ... The Heart is a Lonely Hunter book cover The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) is a novel by Carson McCullers. ... Hombre means man in Spanish and is sometimes used as a synonym of guy. ... This 1966 love story starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in a Tennessee Williams tale. ... For other meanings of Hud, see this article Hud is a 1963 film which tells the story of a modern-day cowboy who conflicts with his father over the best way to keep their ranch from dying. ... Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 film which tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his connections to ruin his sisters relationship with a man he deems inappropriate. ... DVD cover for the 1955 film, showing stars William Holden and Kim Novak Picnic is a 1955 film which tells the story of a drifter who crashes a small towns Labor Day picnic and romances a girl whos already spoken for. ... The Rose Tattoo is a Tennessee Williams play. ... Body and Soul is a film made in 1947 film noir film which tells the story of a boxer who becomes involved with a corrupt promoter. ... Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 biographical film about George M. Cohan, starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp and Jeanne Cagney. ... Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a 1940 biographical film which tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln. ... Fantasia Festival - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... Leopold Stokowski Leopold Stokowski (April 18, 1882 - September 13, 1977) (born Antoni Stanisław Bolesławowicz) was the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. ... The Philadelphia Orchestra, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the Big Five symphony orchestras in the United States and usually considered among the finest in the world. ... Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky in Injun Joes cave. ... DVD cover The Thin Man is the title of the first of six comic detective films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a hard-drinking and flirtatious married couple who banter wittily as they easily solve crimes. ... The Power and the Glory is a novel written by British author Graham Greene. ...

External links

IMDB filmography


The International Cinematographers Guild's Most Influential Cinematographers


"The Camera Talks Back", by James Wong Howe


Depth of Focus: A Tribute to Cinematographer James Wong Howe


James Wong Howe Collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


  Results from FactBites:
 
James Wong Howe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1454 words)
James Wong Howe (黃宗霑; pinyin: Huáng Zōngzhān) (August 28, 1899 - July 12, 1976) is considered one of the greatest cinematographers in movie history.
Howe was judged to be one of history's ten most influencial cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild.
Howe gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be difficult to work with, often overruling and even berating other members of the film crew.
Special Collections Manuscripts - Margaret Herrick Library - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (562 words)
James Wong Howe (1899-1976) was born Tung Jim Wong in the province of Kwantung (Canton), China.
Howe was credited as James Howe or James How in his early years in the industry, but Majestic Pictures and Fox added Wong in the early 1930s to create a sense of novelty.
Howe married the novelist Sanora Babb in 1937 in Paris, though the marriage was not legalized in California until 1957 because of the State Miscegenation Law, which prohibited interracial marriage.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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