Ernest B. Schoedsack

Active - 1924 - 2005  |   Born - Jun 8, 1893   |   Died - Jan 1, 1979   |   Genres - Adventure, History, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Six-foot-six Iowa-native Ernest B. Schoedsack was fascinated with the mechanics of film photography long before taking his first movie job with the Keystone Studios in 1914. During World War I, he worked as a Signal Corps cameraman, and after the Armistice he labored mightily on behalf of Polish war relief, helping thousand of Poles escape the Russian occupied territories. While in Ukraine in 1920 he met Captain Merian Cooper, who, like Schoedsack, was a fervent anti-Bolshevik -- and also an aspiring film director. The men renewed their friendship after the hostilities, collaborating on a brace of documentary films, Grass (1926) and Chang (1927). Still in partnership with Cooper, Schoedsack co-directed the fictional adventure film The Four Feathers (1929), then, after another documentary, the Cooper-Schoedsack team helmed RKO's The Most Dangerous Game (1932), which featured Four Feathers leading-lady Fay Wray. Concurrently with Game, Schoedsack and O'Brien launched their most ambitious project to date: the matchless fantasy classic King Kong (1933) ( also with Wray). Ruth Rose, Schoedsack's wife and an adventure lover in her own right, collaborated on the Kong screenplay. When Merian Cooper assumed leadership of RKO Radio, he took Schoedsack with him as a contract director. Some of Schoedsack's projects were sedate little domestic comedies like Long Lost Father (1934), while others were along the spectacular lines of The Last Days of Pompeii (1936). At Paramount, Schoedsack returned to the live action/miniature combo that had served him well on Kong for his first Technicolor production, Dr. Cyclops (1940). Still on the cutting edge of technological advances in the 1950s, Schoedsack directed the in-your-face prologue of the 1952 box-office hit This is Cinerama.

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