EDESON, Arthur






Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 24 October 1891. Education: Attended College of the City of New York. Military Service: United States Army, 1918. Career: Negative retoucher and platinum printer for New York portrait photographers; 1911—extra at Eclair Studios, Fort Lee, New Jersey; also studio still photographer; 1914—first film as cinematographer, A Gentleman from Mississippi ; 1919—co-founder, American Society of Cinematographers (president, 1949–50); 1950—retired. Died: In 1970.

Films as Cinematographer:

1914

A Gentleman from Mississippi (Sergeant); The Dollar Mark (Lund)

1915

The Deep Purple (Young); Wildfire (Middleton); Hearts in Exile ( Hearts Afire ) (Young)

1916

The Devil's Toy (Knoles); Miss Petticoats (Knoles); The Gilded Cage (Knoles); Bought and Paid For (Knoles)

1917

A Woman Alone (Davenport); A Square Deal (Knoles); The Master Hand (Knoles) (+ asst d); The Social Leper (Knoles); The Page Mystery (Knoles); In Again—Out Again (Emerson); The Stolen Paradise (Knoles); The Price of Pride (Knoles); Wild and Woolly (Emerson); Souls Adrift (Knoles); Baby Mine (Robertson and Ballin); Reaching for the Moon (Emerson); Nearly Married (Withey)

1918

Jack Spurlock, Prodigal (Harbaugh); Mr. Fixit (Dwan); The Savage Woman (Mortimer); The Road through the Dark (Mortimer)

1919

Cheating Cheaters (Dwan); The Better Wife (Earle); Hushed Hour (Mortimer); Eyes of Youth (Parker)

1920

The Forbidden Woman (Garson); For the Soul of Rafael (Garson); Mid Channel (Garson); Hush (Garson)

1921

Good Women (Gasnier); The Three Musketeers (Niblo)

1922

The Worldly Madonna (Garson); Robin Hood (Dwan)

1924

The End of the World (Keays); The Thief of Bagdad (Walsh); Inez from Hollywood ( The Good Bad Girl ) (Green)

1925

The Lost World (Hoyt) (co); Waking Up the Town (Cruze) (co); One Way Street (Dillon); The Talker (Green); Her Sister from Paris (Franklin); Stella Dallas (H. King)

1926

Partners Again (H. King); The Bat (West); Sweet Daddies (Santell); Subway Sadie (Santell); Just Another Blonde (Santell)

1927

McFadden's Flats (Wallace); The Patent Leather Kid (Santell) (co); The Drop Kick ( Glitter ) (Webb) (co); The Gorilla (Santell)

1928

A Thief in the Dark (Ray); Me, Gangster (Walsh)

1929

In Old Arizona (Walsh and Cummings); Girls Gone Wild (Seiler) (co); The Cock-Eyed World (Walsh); Romance of the Rio Grande (Santell)

1930

All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone); The Big Trail (Walsh) (co); The Man Who Came Back (Walsh)

1931

Doctors' Wives (Borzage); Always Goodbye (McKenna and Menzies); Waterloo Bridge (Whale); Frankenstein (Whale)

1932

The Impatient Maiden (Whale); Strangers of the Evening (Humberstone); Fast Companions ( Information Kid ) (Neuman); The Last Mile (Bischoff); Those We Love (Florey); The Old Dark House (Whale); Flesh (Ford)

1933

The Constant Woman (Schertzinger); A Study in Scarlet (Marin); The Life of Jimmy Dolan ( The Kid's Last Fight ) (Mayo); The Big Brain ( Enemies of Society ) (Archainbaud); The Invisible Man (Whale); His Double Life (Hopkins and W. De Mille)

1934

Palooka ( The Great Schnozzle ) (Stoloff); The Merry Frinks ( The Happy Family ) (Green); Here Comes the Navy (Bacon); Maybe It's Love (McGann)

1935

Devil Dogs of the Air (Bacon); While the Patient Slept (Enright); Dinky (Lederman and Bretherton); Going Highbrow (Florey) (co-ph); Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd); Ceiling Zero (Hawks)

1936

The Golden Arrow (Green); Satan Met a Lady (Dieterle); Hot Money (McGann); China Clipper (Enright); Gold Diggers of 1937 (Bacon)

1937

The Go Getter (Berkeley); Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (Green); The Footloose Heiress (Clements); They Won't Forget (LeRoy); Submarine D-1 (Bacon); Swing Your Lady (Enright); The Kid Comes Back ( Don't Pull Your Punches ) (Eason)

1938

Boy Meets Girl (Bacon); Cowboy from Brooklyn ( Romance and Rhythm ) (Bacon); Racket Busters (Bacon); Mr. Chump (Clements)

1939

Wings of the Navy (Bacon); Nancy Drew—Reporter (Clements); Sweepstakes Winner (McGann); No Place to Go (Morse); Each Dawn I Die (Keighley); Kid Nightingale (Amy)

1940

Castle on the Hudson ( Years without Days ) (Litvak); They Drive by Night ( The Road to Frisco ) (Walsh); Tugboat Annie Sails Again (Seiler); Lady with Red Hair (Bernhardt)

1941

Kisses for Breakfast (Seiler); Sergeant York (Hawks) (co); The Maltese Falcon (Huston)

1942

The Male Animal (Nugent); Across the Pacific (Huston); Casablanca (Curtiz)

1943

Thank Your Lucky Stars (Butler)

1944

Shine On, Harvest Moon (Butler); The Mask of Dimitrios (Negulesco); The Conspirators (Negulesco)

1946

Three Strangers (Negulesco); Two Guys from Milwaukee ( Royal Flush ) (Butler); Never Say Goodbye (Kern); Nobody Lives Forever (Negulesco); The Time, the Place and the Girl (Butler) (co-ph)

1947

Stallion Road (Kern); My Wild Irish Rose (Butler) (co)

1948

Two Guys from Texas ( Two Texas Knights ) (Butler) (co); The Fighting O'Flynn (Pierson)



Publications


On EDESON: articles—

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

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

Films in Review (New York), January 1975, March 1975.

Mitchell, G.J., "Making All Quiet on the Western Front ," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), September 1985.

Kauffmann, Stanley, " Casablanca ," in New Republic , 4 May 1992.

Krebs, Josef, " The Old Dark House ," in Stereo Review's Sound & Vision , October 1991.


* * *


Arthur Edeson's style is a perfect example of the approach and merger of two schools and aesthetics of world cinema. Like Hal Mohr, Arthur Miller, or Charles Rosher, Edeson was one of the master craftsmen of the old American school, whose principal work was on the side of realism, considered by most historians to represent the zenith of Hollywood photography. Edeson built on the influence of German Expressionism, brought to America by German cinematographers during the 1920s.

Notable among Edeson's 1920s work are his films for Douglas Fairbanks, especially three which gained Gold Medal Awards (the immediate predecessor of the Oscar): Fred Niblo's The Three Musketeers , Allan Dwan's Robin Hood , and Raoul Walsh's The Thief of Bagdad . One of Edeson's great strengths was his ability to capture the spirit of large-scale scenarios: for Robin Hood , for instance, with a scenario by Wilfred Buckland, through the use of double exposures and glass shots, and, notably for the scenes in the castle's interior, through the use of natural light. In The Thief of Bagdad his photography creates an atmosphere almost unreal, matching the William Cameron Menzies scenario, and bringing a fascination to Walsh's film.

In fact, in the late 1920s and early 1930s Walsh was the director to whose work Edeson was most linked. The realism of the photography of Me, Gangster and In Old Arizona (the first sound film to be shot outside a studio) prepares for that of The Big Trail , the culminating collaboration of the two men. Filmed in the first wide-screen process (70 mm), known as Grandeur, this epic reveals Edeson's mastery of composition, using frame enlargement dramatically. The Big Trail is both pictorial and documentary, with a spectacular use of space, sensitive to the archetypical sequences of the western, including a buffalo charge, an Indian attack, and a fantastic river crossing.

The visual drama of The Big Trail , based in part on epic realism, is counterpointed admirably in his work as cinematographer for James Whale. (His work for Whale is anticipated by his collaboration with Karl Freund, one of the great German photographers, on All Quiet on the Western Front , filmed with a mute camera and with sound added later, and one of the most widely praised American war films.) In Frankenstein , his first film with Whale, Edeson was seen to have assimilated and controlled the "expressionist heritage," synthesizing it into an appropriate style—attaining a fantastic and mysterious realism without losing the mobility of the camera. Frankenstein is a classic "horror movie," above all owing to its visual conception which suggests the silent German film, especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari , due to its paradigmatic opening scene in which Frankenstein and his assistant watch a funeral, and to Edeson's camera angles and camera movement. The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man are also classics of their genres. In the first of these, the potentialities of illumination to create zones of shadows give the film an irony approaching black comedy; in the second, there is a masterful combination of Edeson's photography and John Fulton's special effects.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s Edeson worked for Warner Brothers within the parameters of the studio style, but utilizing his own below-eye-level shots and strong angular compositions Edeson was able to produce the sinister and threatening Maltese Falcon and the devastatingly romantic Casablanca . This alone is enough for Edeson to merit a place of honor in American film. Without obsessively darkening the set, without a geometrical lighting leading to remote shadows, obscuring rather than suggesting, The Maltese Falcon can be said to have invented a genre—the film noir —and to have highlighted a visage that Louise Brooks called "the face of St. Bogart."

—M. S. Fonseca

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