William H. Daniels

Active - 1919 - 1953  |   Born - Dec 1, 1895   |   Died - Jun 14, 1970   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Following his graduation from USC, 22-year-old Ohioan William H. Daniels secured an assistant cameraman job at Triangle Studios. In 1918, less than a year later, he was chief photographer at Universal. His association with Erich Von Stroheim's Greed brought Daniels to MGM in 1924, where he would remain for most of his career. While at MGM, Daniels became Greta Garbo's favorite cameraman; he responded to this honor by drawing up an annotated list of the various photographic techniques that showed off the actress to best advantage. At times, Daniels and his crew were the only people permitted on the set when Garbo went into a particularly delicate scene. In his heyday of the 1930s and early 1940s, Daniels was publicly praised by his contemporaries for his ability to convey his own personal "signature" on each film, without ever repeating himself or taking any glory away from the director. In the mid-1940s, a contract dispute and an illness briefly kept him out of films; his "comeback" was the 1947 Universal crime drama The Naked City, which won Daniels an Academy Award. During the 1950s, Daniels adapted his formerly lush, diffused MGM style to the gritty, hard-edged demands of such Universals as Brute Force (1918) and Winchester 73 (1950). Still active in the 1960s, Daniels turned producer for two Frank Sinatra films, and also served two years as president of the ASC. Daniels died shortly after shooting his last film, the Elliott Gould vehicle Move (1970).

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