Floyd Crosby - Writer

Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: Floyd Delafield Crosby in New York City, 12 December 1899. Family: Son: the rock musician David Crosby. Career: Worked in cotton industry and on Wall Street in stock exchange; 1927—photographer for William Beebe in Haiti, and worked on documentary films in 1930s; after World War II—freelance cinematographer on entertainment films; TV work includes episodes for Reader's Digest , Court of Last Appeal , Author's Playhouse , and other series. Award: Academy Award for Tabu , 1931. Died: In Ojai, California, 30 September 1985.

Films as Cinematographer:


Tabu (Murnau and Flaherty)


Matto Grosso (+ co-d) (co)


The River (Lorentz) (co)


The Fight for Life (Lorentz); The Power and the Land (Ivens—short) (co)


The Land (Flaherty—short) (co)


Power for Defense (Gerke and Bolte—short) (co); Name, Age, Occupation (Lorentz—short; produced 1939)


Rural Co-op (Lorentz—short); My Father's House (Kilne)


Of Men and Music (Reis) (co)


The Brave Bulls (Rossen) (co)


High Noon (Zinnemann)


Man in the Dark (Landers); Mystery Lake (Lansburgh); Stormy, the Thoroughbred with an Inferiority Complex (Landsburgh—short) (co); The Steel Lady ( The Treasure of Kalifa ) (Dupont); Man Crazy (Lerner)


Monster from the Ocean Floor (Ordung); Five Guns West (Corman); The Fast and the Furious (Ireland and Sampson); The Snow Creature (W. Wilder)


The Naked Street (Shane); Apache Woman (Corman); Shack Out on 101 (Dein); Hell's Horizon (Gries)


She-Gods of Shark Reef ( Shark Reef ) (Corman); Naked Paradise (Corman); Rock All Night (Corman); Attack of the Crab Monsters (Corman); Carnival Rock (Corman); Ride Out for Revenge (Girard); Hell Canyon Outlaws ( The Tall Trouble ) (Landers); Reform School Girl (Bernds)


Suicide Battalion (Cahn); War of the Satellites (Corman); The Cry Baby Killer (Addiss); Hot Rod Gang ( Fury Unleashed ) (Landers); Machine Gun Kelly (Corman); Teenage Caveman ( Out of the Darkness ) (Corman); Wolf Larsen (Jones); The Old Man and the Sea (Sturges) (co); The Screaming Skull (Nicol); I, Mobster ( The Mobster ) (Corman)


Crime and Punishment , U.S.A. (Sanders); The Wonderful Country (Parrish) (co); Blood and Steel (Kowalski); The Rookie (O'Hanlon); Terror at Black Falls ( Ordeal at Dry Red ) (Sarafian)


Twelve Hours to Kill (Cahn); The Fall of the House of Usher ( House of Usher ) (Corman); High-Powered Rifle (Dexter); Freckles (McLaglen); Walk Tall (Dexter); Operation Bottleneck (Cahn); The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (McLaglen); The Gambler Wore a Gun (Cahn)


A Cold Wind in August (Singer); The Pit and the Pendulum (Corman); The Purple Hills (Dexter); The Explosive Generation (Kulik); Seven Women from Hell (Webb); The Two Little Bears (Hood); The Broken Land (Bushelman); Hand of Death (Nelson); Woman Hunt (Dexter)


The Premature Burial (Corman); Tales of Terror (Corman); The Firebrand (Dexter)


The Raven (Corman); The Yellow Canary (Kulik); Black Zoo (Gordon); The Young Racers (Corman); The Haunted Palace (Corman); X ( The Man with the X-Ray Eyes ) (Corman); The Comedy of Terrors (Tourneur)


Bikini Beach (Asher); Pajama Party (Weis); Indian Paint (Foster)


Beach Blanket Bingo (Asher); Sergeant Deadhead (Taurog); Sallah (Kishon); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini ( How to Fill a Wild Bikini ) (Asher)


Fireball 500 (Asher)


The Cool Ones (Nelson)


Sweet Kill ( The Arousers ) (Hanson) (co)

Other Films:


Doctor Rhythm (Tuttle) (cam)


Oklahoma (Zinnemann) (2nd unit ph)


On CROSBY: articles—

Lightman, Herb A., "A Study in Horror Film Photography," American Cinematographer (Hollywood), October 1961.

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

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

Obituary in Variety (New York), 9 October 1985.

Obituary in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1985.

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Although Floyd Crosby's work as a cinematographer stretches back to Tabu (1931) and The River (1937), he achieved his greatest measure of commercial and artistic success in the late 1950s and early 1960s as director of photography for the American director Roger Corman, working on a series of low-budget horror and science fiction films. Crosby was born in 1899 in New York City, and after a brief period on Wall Street, he began working as a still photographer, before turning to cinematography around 1930. Crosby rapidly made a name for himself as a cameraman, working with such pioneer documentarists as Robert Flaherty, Joris Ivens, and Pare Lorentz. In 1931, Crosby won the Academy Award for his work on Tabu , directed by Flaherty and F.W. Murnau. But following this early period of celebrity and success, Crosby shied away from the Hollywood mainstream. Except for a few assignments, such as Fight for Life in 1940 and My Father's House in 1947, he remained a fringe figure in the film community, known for his uncompromising standards and his lack of interest in studio politics.

In 1951, however, he went back to work on Robert Rossen's The Brave Bulls and shot Fred Zinnemann's classic antiwestern High Noon the following year. These films showed that Crosby had lost none of his skill as a cinematographer. He was much in demand as a result of his speed and craftsmanship on both projects, but still refused to become tied to any particular producer or director. That is, until he met Corman. The two first worked together on Five Guns West in 1954 and immediately hit it off. "He needed a lot less coaching than a lot of other young directors," Crosby remembered later. "He knew what he wanted, he worked fast, and it was fun. Suddenly we were a team." In an interview I conducted with Corman on 21 April 1986, he remembered working with Crosby with equal fondness. "He was a rarity," Corman reminisced. "He worked fast, which is important to me, and yet his stuff was always good. No matter how fast I moved, Floyd kept right up, and he could light a setup in 10–15 minutes flat, or even faster if need be, and we'd go. That's unusual—lots of people are fast, but you don't want to see the results. With Floyd, you didn't have that problem. Plus, he knew how to set up these really complicated dolly shots quickly . He was the best, and working with him was always a pleasure, professionally and personally."

For Corman, Crosby shot War of the Satellites , Machine Gun Kelly , I, Mobster , The Fall of the House of Usher , The Pit and the Pendulum , The Premature Burial , Tales of Terror , and many other films. Most of these films were for American International Pictures, or AIP, Corman's "home company." Eventually Crosby worked on other AIP projects not directed by Corman, including Bikini Beach , Pajama Party , How to Stuff a Wild Bikini , and Fireball 500 . After his work as a cophotographer of the undistinguished programmer The Arousers , Crosby retired from the industry.

But it is his atmospheric, imaginative work for Corman which is Floyd Crosby's most enduring achievement. The unlikely alliance between Crosby, the seasoned veteran (he was 56 when he shot his first film for Corman), and Corman, the brash young neophyte of 1950s cinema, remains one of the most prolific and resonant partnerships in film.

—Wheeler Winston Dixon

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