Fred Sersen

Active - 1930 - 1953  |   Born - Jan 1, 1890   |   Died - Jan 1, 1962   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Musical, Romance, War

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American special-effects maestro Fred Sersen spent the bulk of his motion picture career at 20th Century-Fox. Under the aegis of Darryl F. Zanuck, Fox earned a reputation of turning out lavish productions at the lowest possible cost. To convey a sense of grandeur, Fox needed a special effects department head who could create the illusion of vast landscapes, huge palaces and natural disasters where none actually existed. Sersen served up the goods with his first important assignment, In Old Chicago (1938), where with a seamless blend of miniatures, glass shots, travelling mattes and process screens, the city of Chicago realistically went up in flames for nearly two reels. While Fred Sersen garnered Academy Awards for The Rains Came (1939) (which included an outsized flood) and Crash Dive (1942), he was equally craftsmanlike on all studio projects, big or small. To Fred Sersen can go credit for the canal building sequences in Suez (1938), the climactic conflagration in Hangover Square (1945), the wood-resistant baseball in It Happens Every Spring (1949), the arrival of Klatu's spacecraft in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), the sinking of the title vessel in Titanic (1952), and the bizarre closing gag in The Bullfighters (1945), wherein Laurel and Hardy were transformed into living skeletons! In honor of this indispensable but unsung genius, the huge 20th Century-Fox backlot lake originally built for 1939's The Rains Came -- and utilized right up to 1961's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- was named Sersen Lake.

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