Karl Struss

Active - 1920 - 1959  |   Born - Jan 1, 1891   |   Died - Dec 16, 1981   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Musical, Adventure

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a wire manufacturer, American cinematographer Karl Struss studied photography at Columbia University. His fellow film cameraman Hal Mohr has labelled Struss one of the greatest still photographers who ever lived; in this capacity, Struss maintained his own well-patronized Los Angeles portrait studio from 1914 through 1919. He was first hired for moving pictures in 1919 by Cecil B. DeMille. Climbing to the top in relatively short order, Struss worked most often in collaboration with Charles Rosher; he and Rosher shared the first-ever Best Photography Academy Award for their eye-popping work on F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927). Many of Struss' own innovations were often mistakenly credited by film historians to directors; for example, it was Struss and not director Rouben Mamoulian who hit upon using infrared filters for the transformation scenes in 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During his many years at Paramount, Struss helped train some of the best cameramen of the '50s; one of his assistants was George Clemens, who later went on to photograph the Twilight Zone TV series. Struss remained active in films until 1959, often as cameraman for science-fiction director Kurt Neumann; Struss' next to last project was the 1959 version of The Fly, wherein he came up with the now-famous "fly's eye view" shot of Susan Morrow. After wrapping up his movie career, Karl Struss spent an additional ten years filming television commercials, then retired in 1970.

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