Jacques Marquette

Active - 1957 - 1985  |   Born - Jan 26, 1915   |   Genres - Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Jacques R. Marquette led two separate yet interlocked careers in movies (and later television), both growing out of his interest in photography. He was probably most visible between the 1960s and the 1980s and a cinematographer on such series as Surfside 6, McHale's Navy, The Patty Duke Show, Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, and Hunter, as well as miniseries such as Wheels and the occasional feature film. During the late '50s, however, Marquette made a brief foray into producing and directing movies that led to the making of a handful of low-budget science fiction and horror classics, the most fondly remembered of which was Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). Jacques R. Marquette -- who was sometimes billed as Jack Marquette -- was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1915, and moved with his family to Hollywood in 1919. He attended Hollywood High School in the early '30s and by the time he graduated had been bitten by the bug to join the movie industry. His older brother Joseph Marquette was already working as a newsreel cameraman, and at age 18, Jacques broke into the movie business as his sibling's assistant in covering an earthquake in Long Beach, CA.

Jacques Marquette became a cameraman while serving in the United States Army Air Force during the Second World War, in their film division, and after returning to civilian life, he joined Technicolor as a technician. By age 42, he was working as a camera operator at some of the major studios and wanted to become a cinematographer. The problem was that by 1957, production was slackening and there were already more directors of photography established in the union than there were slots to fill in feature films -- many were already jumping to television, and such was the competition that he couldn't get a break to make the jump to cinematographer. Conversely (as he recalled for Tom Weaver in an interview in Starlog magazine), this led him to the realization that there were a lot of under-employed professionals around him in the business, both in front of and behind the cameras, who were eager to work even if it was for union scale on short-term projects. It was to avail himself of their services, make some profitable films, and graduate to the role of cinematographer that he formed Marquette Productions in 1957. As his own producer as well as a union member, Marquette was able to hire himself to serve as director of photography, thus solving that career problem in one fell swoop.

The script for Marquette Productions' first film, Teenage Thunder (1957), was good enough to attract the attention of Howco International, a distributor that became Marquette's partner for that movie and their next production, The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), a sci-fi thriller that has since come to be regarded as a low-rent classic. Marquette shot the latter film for an estimated 58,000 dollars, using the house and backyard of a neighbor, while actors John Agar, Robert Fuller, Thomas B. Henry, and everyone else involved -- including director Nathan Juran, working under the alias Nathan Hertz on this low-budget production -- worked for scale. The movie was a hit on the drive-in and exploitation circuits and made a huge amount of money, although thanks to Howco's accounting, Marquette and his investors never saw any return on their investment. He followed this up with a Western/horror movie hybrid that ultimately gained the somewhat misleading title Teenage Monster (making it seem like a different kind of hybrid). Marquette also ended up unexpectedly moving into the director's chair, in addition to producing and overseeing the cameraman, thanks to the sudden departure of the original director for a better paying job, shooting the whole picture in seven days.

After Teenage Monster -- which is usually thought of as the worst of his films -- Marquette linked up with Bernard Woolner and his production company, Woolner Brothers, for his next movie, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Marquette served as co-producer and cinematographer (with Juran -- credited as Nathan Hertz -- directing) and brought the whole picture in for 88,000 dollars, making it the most expensive film with which he had been associated up to that point. This time, however, he had Allied Artists as a distributor, and their efforts allowed the movie to earn -- officially, thanks to Allied's fairer accounting methods -- more than four times its investment at the box office on its initial run. Some of those ticket sales were undoubtedly inspired by the memorable poster art, an artist's conception of a towering Allison Hayes (whose measurements were fairly spectacular at normal height), clad in a revealing two-piece outfit, standing astride a highway, and holding a car in one hand.

Marquette Productions went out of business in 1959, and the photographer subsequently went to work for Roger Corman, shooting his satirical A Bucket of Blood and Creature From the Haunted Sea, and the libidinous doomsday thriller The Last Woman on Earth for the producer/director, before returned to work with the Woolners on Flight of the Lost Balloon. Marquette also found steady work on television shooting episodes of 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and other Warner Bros.-produced series, and by the end of the 1960s was photographing feature films, including the Elvis Presley vehicles Frankie and Johnny and The Trouble With Girls, the Burt Reynolds/Raquel Welch police thriller Fuzz, and Dan Curtis' horror feature Burnt Offerings. Marquette's last credit was for the made-for-television movie Infidelity (1987). By that time, he'd seen The Brain From Planet Arous come to be treated as a low-budget sci-fi classic (and serve as the unofficial storyboard for The Hidden), and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman get remade as well as becoming enshrined as a camp classic in the field of science fiction. Marquette passed away in 1999.

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