Byron Haskin

Active - 1923 - 1968  |   Born - Apr 22, 1899   |   Died - Apr 16, 1984   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Science Fiction, Crime, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Byron Haskin studied at the University of California-Berkeley before signing up with the navy as an aviation cadet. After wartime service, Haskin worked as a cartoonist and ad man, then entered the film industry as a newsreel cameraman. By 1922, he was a director of photography at Warner Bros., and within five years graduated to director of such diverse Warner programmers as Irish Hearts and Ginsburg the Great. With the coming of talkies, he returned to cinematography, spending his spare time developing more efficient means of adapting to the new technical challenges of sound. From 1929 to 1932, Haskin served as a production executive and technical advisor for the British movie industry. Upon his return to Hollywood, Haskin was signed by Warner Bros.' special effects department, which he headed from 1937 to 1945. During this phase of his career, Haskin and his staff earned several Oscar nominations for their technological advancements. When Warners executive producer Hal Wallis moved to Paramount in 1945, he took Haskin along. Here, Haskin resumed his directorial career with the Burt Lancaster-Kirk Douglas film noir I Walk Alone (1947). He made a second trip to England in 1949, where he helmed Disney's live-action adaptation of Treasure Island, starring Robert Newton (later in the 1950s, he directed Newton in the follow-up film Long John Silver, and also worked on the spin-off TV series of the same name). With his direction of 1953's The War of the Worlds, Haskin began a long and rewarding association with fantasy-film producer--and fellow special-effects specialist--George Pal. The director's subsequent science-fiction efforts (not all of them produced by Pal) included Conquest of Space (1955), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and The Power (1968). He also directed episodes of such memorable TV weeklies as "The Outer Limits." It might be true that, in the words of film historian Bill Warren, Byron Haskin was never really "a director of actors," but his handling of robots, extraterrestrials and mutated insects was second to none.

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