Charles G. Clarke - Writer

Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: Charles Gallorsy Clarke in Potter Valley, California, 10 March 1899. Career: 1916—assistant cameraman to Allen Siegler at Universal; 1917–18—served in United States Army; 1918—worked in film laboratories at National (also editor) and Oliver Morosco Company; 1922—first cameraman, Jesse Lasky Company; 1927–33—cinematographer for Fox and for 20th Century-Fox, 1937–62; 1966—co-director, Milestone of the Movies; past president, American Society of Cinematographers. Died: In Beverly Hills, California, 1 July 1983.

Films as Cinematographer:


The Half Breed (Taylor) (co, + ed)


Salomy Jane ( The Law of the Sierras ) (Melford); The Light That Failed (Melford)


Flaming Barriers (Melford); The Dawn of a Tomorrow (Melford); Tiger Love (Melford); The Top of the World (Melford)


Friendly Enemies (Melford); Without Mercy (Melford)


Rocking Moon (Melford); Whispering Smith ( The Open Switch ) (Melford); One Minute to Play (Wood); Going Crooked (Melford); Upstream ( Footlight Glamor ) (Ford); Singed (Wray); A Racing Romeo (Wood); Ham and Eggs at the Front (Del Ruth)


Sharp Shooters ( Three Naval Rascals ) (Blystone); Four Sons (Ford) (co); The Red Dance ( The Red Dancer of Moscow ) (Walsh) (co); Plastered in Paris (Stoloff); Riley the Cop (Ford)


The Sin Sister (Klein) (co); Not Quite Decent (Cummings); The Veiled Woman (Flynn); The Exalted Flapper (Tinling); Masquerade (Birdwell) (co); Words and Music (Tinling) (co); Nix on Dames (Gallaher); A Song of Kentucky (Seiler)


Temple Tower (Gallaher); So This Is London (Blystone); Oh, for a Man! (MacFadden); Men on Call (Blystone)


Girls Demand Excitement (Felix); Annabelle's Affairs (Werker); Good Sport (MacKenna)


Too Busy to Work (Blystone); Second Hand Wife ( The Illegal Divorce ) (MacFadden)


Hot Pepper (Blystone)


The Cat and the Fiddle (Howard) (co); Tarzan and His Mate (Gibbons) (co); Viva Villa! (Conway) (co); Evelyn Prentice (Howard)


The Winning Ticket (Reisner); Shadow of Doubt (Seitz); The Casino Murder Case (Martin); Woman Wanted (Seitz); Pursuit (Martin) (co); The Perfect Gentleman (Whelan)


The Garden Murder Case (Marin); Moonlight Murder (Marin); Trouble for Two ( The Suicide Club ) (Rubin); All American Chump ( Country Bumpkin ) (Marin)


Under Cover of Night (Seitz); Man of the People (Marin); The Thirteenth Chair (Seitz); Stand-in (Garnett)


Safety in Numbers (St. Clair); Charlie Chan in Honolulu (Humberstone)


Pardon Our Nerve (Humberstone); The Return of the Cisco Kid (Leeds); Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (Foster); Frontier Marshal (Dwan)


Young As You Feel (St. Clair); Viva Cisco Kid (Foster); Yesterday's Heroes (Leeds); For Beauty's Sake (Traube); Street of Memories (Traube)


Romance of the Rio Grande (Leeds); Murder among Friends (McCarey); Dead Men Tell (Lachman); The Cowboy and the Blonde (McCarey); The Bride Wore Crutches (Traube); Accent on Love (McCarey); The Last of the Duanes (Tinling); Cadet Girl (McCarey); Marry the Boss's Daughter (Freeland); The Perfect Snob (McCarey)


A Gentleman at Heart (McCarey); It Happened in Flatbush (McCarey); Moontide (Mayo); Thru Different Eyes (Loring); Careful, Soft Shoulders (Garrett); Time to Kill (Leeds)


Hello, Frisco, Hello (Humberstone) (co); Wintertime (Brahm) (co); Guadalcanal Diary (Weiler)


Tampico (Mendes); Ladies of Washington (L. King)


Thunderhead, Son of Flicka (L. King); Molly and Me (Seiler); Junior Miss (Seaton)


Smokey (L. King); Margie (H. King)


Miracle on 34th Street ( The Big Heart ) (Seaton); Captain from Castile (H. King) (co); Thunder in the Valley ( Bob, Son of Battle ) (L. King)


The Iron Curtain (Wellman); Green Grass of Wyoming (L. King); That Wonderful Urge (Sinclair)


Sand (L. King); Slattery's Hurricane (De Toth)


The Big Lift (Seaton); I'll Get By (Sale)


Golden Girl (Bacon); The Academy Awards Film (Carleton-Hunt) (co)


Red Skies of Montana (Newman); Kangaroo (Milestone); Stars and Stripes Forever ( Marching Along) (Koster)


Destination Gobi (Wise); City of Bad Men (Jones); Vesuvius Express (O. Lang—short); The Coronation Parade (Hathaway—short)


Night People (Johnson); Suddenly (Allen); Black Widow (Johnson); Prince of Players (Dunne); The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Robson) (co)


Violent Saturday (Fleischer); The Virgin Queen (Koster)


Carousel (H. King); The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Johnson); The Dark Wave (Negulesco—short); Three Brave Men (Dunne)


Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (Johnson); The Wayward Bus (Vicas); Stopover Tokyo (Breen)


The Barbarian and the Geisha (Huston); The Hunters (Powell); These Thousand Hills (Fleischer)


The Sound and the Fury (Ritt); Holiday for Lovers (Levin); A Private's Affair (Walsh); Hound Dog Man (Siegel)


Flaming Star (Wiegel)


Return to Peyton Place (J. Ferrer); Madison Avenue (Humberstone)

Other Films:


Shoes (Weber) (asst)


The Son of Tarzan ( Jungle Trail of the Son of the Tarzan ) (Revier and Flaven—serial) (2nd unit ph)


Burning Sands ( The Dweller in the Desert ) (Melford) (asst); Ebb Tide (Melford) (asst)


Slippery McGee (Ruggles) (2nd unit ph + ed)


Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd) (2nd unit ph)


Pigskin Champions (d—short)


Suez (Dwan) (2nd unit ph)


Three Came Home (Negulesco) (2nd unit ph)


Milestones of the Movies (co-d)


By CLARKE: books—

Early Film Making in Los Angeles , Los Angeles, California, 1976.

Professional Cinematography , Hollywood, 1964, 5th edition, 1980.

By CLARKE: articles—

On The Big Lift in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1950.

On Kangaroo in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1952.

"Practical Filming Techniques for Three-Dimension and Wide-Screen Motion Pictures," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1953.

"CinemaScope Photographic Techniques," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), June 1955.

"And Now 55mm," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1955.

"Shooting Night Scenes in Daylight," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1956.

"The Case of the Inventor of Motion Pictures," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1961.

"How to Film Night Scenes in Daylight," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1966.

"What Is a 'Director of Photography,"' in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1967.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), June 1974.

Film Dope (London), no. 7, April 1975.

On CLARKE: articles—

Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.

Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1973.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 13 July 1983.

Obituary in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1983.

Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1985.

* * *

A commentator once noted that Charles G. Clarke "doesn't work at photography . . . he is in love with it." It is an apt comment on a cinematographer whose contribution to the screen as a cameraman is equalled by his devotion to acquiring and preserving (through donations to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) many early and rare books, papers, and artifacts.

Clarke was a pioneer in technical innovations in cinematography, including the introduction of a battery-operated camera motor, the development of matte photography, and a device for composing artificial clouds. He was heavily involved with the American Society of Cinematographers, and edited several editions of its Cinematographers Manual . He was a consummate filmmaker, and yet, at the same time, it is difficult to identify him as a great cameraman.

Although the films on which Clarke worked are widely known and admired, the cinematography in them is not particularly outstanding. Or, at least, he makes his camerawork seem so matter-of-fact that it is never noted as a major critical issue in the film. Indeed, his films very clearly emphasize his own comment that "There are two kinds of cinematographers—those who know and those who put on a show." He dismissed his work simply: "You work out a pleasing composition, take a light reading and shoot. It's that simple."

A prolific cinematographer, Clarke has no discernible style, as do the better-known cameramen. His photography is so innocuous that despite the critical furor over the "colorization" of black-and-white features, there were no arguments with the plans to "colorize" Clarke's work on Miracle on 34th Street . If Clarke is best-known for anything, it is for his outdoor work on difficult locations for features such as Mutiny on the Bounty , Viva Villa! , and The Good Earth . As one of the leading cameramen at 20th Century-Fox, to which he was under long-term contract, Clarke was considered reliable enough to photograph the first Technicolor Monopack feature, Thunderhead . His style could easily be changed to suit an Alice Faye musical such as Hello Frisco , Hello or a John Ford production, such as Four Sons , which Clarke always considered his best work.

—Anthony Slide

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