Marcel LePicard

Active - 1916 - 1952  |   Genres - Western, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Action

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Born in 1887 -- practically before there were "motion pictures" as we know them today -- cinematographer Marcel Le Picard ended up carving out a niche for himself in Hollywood across almost four decades. Born Andre Marcel Le Picard in Le Havre, France in 1887, he joined the American film industry practically before there was a Hollywood, in 1915, at age 38, when he photographed The Outlaw's Revenge, starring Mae Marsh and a young Raoul Walsh. Le Picard (whose name was sometimes credited as "LePicard," Picard, and also Pickard) went on to photograph dozens of movies in the silent era, working on as many as six (or more) a year. He quickly developed a reputation as a fast, highly efficient shooter who could deliver quality results on schedule. Although the pace of his early work -- which involved all manner of subjects, but was weighted toward westerns and other outdoor and adventure films -- slackened in the mid-1920s, he continued to work regularly in the years of the transition from silents to talkies, albeit on as few as one or two movies a year. But by the second half of the 1930s he was back to the same grueling pace of his silent-era work. These were all low-budget productions, and included vehicles for such figures as African-American film star and singer Herb Jeffries, horror movie legend Bela Lugosi in his declining years, and also such notorious low-budget pieces as Child Bride (1938). His late 1930s work was principally for Poverty Row independent producers, such as M & A Alexander and Equity Pictures.

Much of Le Picard's work from the early 1940s onward was shot for Monogram Pictures, and he seemed to work most often with director William Beaudine -- although with his ubiquitous list of credits it is difficult to quantify such matters. Amid his work with Beaudine (which included Kroger Babb's notorious exploitation film Mom And Dad), Le Picard may well also have been more closely associated with the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys movies than anyone other than the director and stars Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. And for all of his speed, Le Picard also knew how to get impressive results when something special was called for -- his shooting on Spooks Run Wild gave that movie a convincing old-style ghost story look that translated well to the small-screen in the 1960s, while Smugglers' Cove had a dark, ominous look throughout, Angels In Disguise a classic noir-ish visual tone, and Ghost Chasers a moody lyricism that made it one of the better later Bowery Boys pictures. He also got to shoot in color on at least two occasions, on the Bela Lugosi vehicle Scared To Death -- a horror film in which the Cinecolor shooting looks more than a little eerie -- and his final film, the independently produced western Born To The Saddle.

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