Elwood Bredell

Active - 1937 - 1955  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Musical, Crime, Mystery

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Woody Bredell, whose career in feature films spanned the mid-'30s through the mid-'50s, photographed movies in most genres (except Westerns), including comedy (Hellzapoppin'), musicals (Argentine Nights, Private Buckaroo), and horror (The Ghost of Frankenstein, Horror Island, Man Made Monster), and even did his share of Technicolor work (The Inspector General, Romance on the High Seas, The Adventures of Don Juan). It was in the field of thrillers and film noir, however, that he made his biggest mark. Bredell was employed at Universal from 1937 through 1946 and starting with Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror in 1942, he revealed his skills at evoking the dark side of a drama. His striking use of shadows in that film's major sequences (especially the finale) turned a clever detective film into a memorably atmospheric piece of cinema, with several startling scenes that overcame some obvious model shots and other budgetary shortcomings. Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady gave Bredell a chance to paint dark, threatening, disquieting images for the duration of an entire feature and the film was virtually a symphony of shadows, composed by Bredell. He later repeated this triumph in Siodmak's The Killers and it can be argued that, along with Deanna Durbin's performance, Bredell's photography was the most successful component of the actress' change-of-pace thriller, Lady on a Train. Bredell joined Warner Bros. in 1947 and was assigned to bigger budgeted, higher prestige movies such as the late-day Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Adventures of Don Juan and the Danny Kaye vehicle The Inspector General. After a brief stay at 20th Century Fox in the early '50s, he returned to his favorite cinematic environment with the film noir The Female Jungle, which was notable as the first starring vehicle for blonde bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield. A production of screenwriter Burt Kaiser (who also acted in the film), The Female Jungle was shot on a low budget in Chicago and later bought up by American International Pictures. The movie has the texture of an alcohol-induced nightmare, which is exactly what its booze-hound police detective hero experiences as the suspect in a murder, and Bredell's photography makes every frame look like it was lifted off a page of a Jim Thompson story.

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