Leon Shamroy

Active - 1926 - 1969  |   Born - Jul 16, 1901   |   Died - Jan 1, 1974   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Trained as a mechanical engineer, American cinematographer Leon Shamroy entered the film business as a lab technician at Fox Studios in the early '20s. For Pathe, Shamroy photographed several of the rapidly paced serials of director Charles Hutchinson. Wishing to broaden his scope, Shamroy shot the avant-garde The Last Moment (1928) for director Paul Fejos, then spent several years on documentary films. Re-signed by 20th Century-Fox in 1940, Shamroy came to specialize in that studio's prolific Technicolor product of the '40s, including such elaborately lensed "specials" as Wilson (1945), State Fair (1945) and Leave Her to Heaven (1945) (during this period Shamroy married Wilson costar Mary Anderson). Tackling a new cinematic challenge in 1953, Shamroy photographed Fox's first Cinemascope feature The Robe, simultaneously shooting a "flat" normal-aspect version. He moved on to an even wider film gauge, Cinemascope 55, for The King and I, then spent several years manning the even wider Todd-AO camera lenses for such films as South Pacific (1958). Thus it is that Shamroy's best work cannot possibly be properly assessed when seen on television. After working on such Fox spectaculars of the '60s as Cleopatra (1963) (for which he won an Oscar) and Planet of the Apes (1968), Shamroy took it upon himself to apply what he'd learned on the wide screen to the 21-inch confines of television. Among Leon Shamroy's last assignments were the consummately photographed 20th Century-Fox TV series Arnie and M*A*S*H.

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