Hal Rosson - Writer





Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: Harold Rosson in New York City, 1895. Family: Brother of the directors Arthur Rosson and Richard Rosson; Married 1) the actress Jean Harlow, 1933 (divorced 1935); 2) Yvonne Crellin (divorced). Career: 1908—bit player at Vitagraph, and worked in various production capacities before becoming a camera operator in 1915, and a cinematographer in 1917; then worked mainly for MGM. Award: Special Academy Award, 1936. Died: In Florida, 6 September 1988.


Films as Cinematographer:

1915

David Harum (Dwan) (cam)

1917

Panthea (Dwan) (co)

1919

The Cinema Murder (Baker)

1920

Polly of the Storm Country (Baker)

1921

Heliotrope (Baker); Buried Treasure (Webb); Everything for Sale (O'Connor)

1922

A Homespun Vamp (O'Connor); A Virginia Courtship (O'Connor); The Cradle (Powell); For the Defense (Powell); Through a Glass Window (Campbell)

1923

Quicksands (Conway) (co); Lawful Larceny (Dwan); Garrison's Finish (A. Rosson); Dark Secrets (Fleming); The Glimpses of the Moon (Dwan); Zaza (Dwan)

1924

Manhattan (Burnside); A Society Scandal (Dwan); Manhandled (Dwan); The Story without a Name (Willat)

1925

A Man Must Live (Sloane); Too Many Kisses (Sloane); The Little French Girl (Brenon); The Street of Forgotten Men (Brenon); Classified (Santell)

1926

Infatuation (Cummings); Up in Mabel's Room (Hopper); For Wives Only (Heerman); Say It Again (La Cava); Almost a Lady (Hopper); Man Bait (Crisp)

1927

Rough House Rosie (Strayer) (co); Jim the Conqueror (Seitz); Getting Gertie's Garter (Hopper); Evening Clothes (Reed); Service for Ladies (D'Arrast); A Gentleman of Paris (D'Arrast); Open Range (Smith)

1928

The Docks of New York (von Sternberg); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (St. Clair); The Sawdust Paradise (Reed); Three Week Ends (Badger); The Drag Net (von Sternberg); Abie's Irish Rose (Fleming)

1929

The Far Call (Dwan); Trent's Last Case (Hawks); Frozen Justice (Dwan); South Sea Rose (Dwan); The Case of Lena Smith (von Sternberg)

1930

Hello Sister (W. Lang); This Mad World (C. DeMille) (co); Madame Satan (C. DeMille); Passion Flower (W. De Mille)

1931

Men Call It Love (Selwyn); The Prodigal (Pollard); The Squaw Man (C. DeMille); Son of India (Feyder); Sporting Blood (Brabin); The Cuban Love Song (Van Dyke)

1932

Red Headed Woman (Conway); Red Dust (Fleming); Tarzan, the Ape Man (Van Dyke); When a Feller Needs a Friend (Pollard); Are You Listening? (Beaumont); Downstairs (Bell); Kongo (Cowan)

1933

Hold Your Man (Wood); Bombshell (Fleming); Hell Below (Conway); The Barbarian (Wood); Turn Back the Clock (Selwyn); Penthouse (Van Dyke) (co)

1934

The Cat and the Fiddle (Howard) (co); This Side of Heaven (Howard); Treasure Island (Fleming) (co)

1935

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Young)

1936

As You Like It (Czinner); The Ghost Goes West (Clair); The Man Who Could Work Miracles (Mendes); The Devil Is a Sissy (Van Dyke) (co); The Garden of Allah (Boleslawsky) (co)

1937

Captains Courageous (Fleming); They Gave Him a Gun (Van Dyke); The Emperor's Candlesticks (Fitzmaurice)

1938

Too Hot to Handle (Conway); A Yank at Oxford (Conway)

1939

Gone with the Wind (Fleming) (co); The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)

1940

Boom Town (Conway); I Take This Woman (Van Dyke); Flight Command (Borzage); Edison the Man (Brown); Dr. Kildare Goes Home (Bucquet)

1941

The Penalty (Bucquet); Men of Boys Town (Taurog); Washington Melodrama (Simon); Honky Tonk (Conway); Johnny Eager (LeRoy)

1942

Somewhere I'll Find You (Ruggles); Tennessee Johnson (Dieterle)

1943

Slightly Dangerous (Ruggles)

1944

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (LeRoy) (co); An American Romance (K. Vidor); Between Two Women (Goldbeck)

1946

Three Wise Fools (Buzzell); No Leave, No Love (Martin) (co); My Brother Talks to Horses (Zinnemann)

1947

The Hucksters (Conway); Living in a Big Way (La Cava); Duel in the Sun (K. Vidor) (co)

1948

Command Decision (Wood); Homecoming (LeRoy)

1949

On the Town (Kelly and Donen); Any Number Can Play (LeRoy); The Stratton Story (Wood)

1950

To Please a Lady (Brown); Key to the City (Sidney); The Asphalt Jungle (Huston)

1951

The Red Badge of Courage (Huston)

1952

The Lone Star (V. Sherman); Love Is Better Than Ever (Donen); Singin' in the Rain (Kelly and Donen)

1953

The Actress (Cukor); I Love Melvin (Weis); The Story of Three Loves (Reinhardt and Minnelli) (co); Dangerous When Wet (Walters)

1954

Mambo (Rossen); Ulisse ( Ulysses ) (Camerini)

1955

Strange Lady in Town (LeRoy); Pete Kelly's Blues (Webb)

1956

The Bad Seed (LeRoy); Toward the Unknown (LeRoy)

1957

The Enemy Below (Powell)

1958

No Time for Sergeants (LeRoy); Onionhead (Taurog)

1967

El Dorado (Hawks)



Publications


By ROSSON: article—

In The Art of the Cinematographer , by Leonard Maltin, New York, 1978.

On ROSSON: articles—

Wayne, Palma, in Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia), 22 July 1933.

Lightman, Herb A., in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1950.

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

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

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), October 1973.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 14 September 1988.

Obituary in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1988.


* * *


Louis B. Mayer once said to the cinematographer Hal Rosson: "If it's an MGM film, it has to look like an MGM film." Rosson, one of the pioneers in motion picture photography—his career spanned the years 1915 to 1967—spent 23 of those years at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is one of the photographers who helped create and maintain the "polished look" that was so integral a part of the studio's films.

Rosson was an actor with Vitagraph as early as 1908 and became a camera operator in 1915. By 1920 he was a full-fledged cinematographer at Paramount where he enjoyed close working relationships with such directors as Allan Dwan, Harry D'Arrast, Mal St. Clair, and Josef von Sternberg, working on such films as Manhandled , A Gentleman of Paris , Gentlemen Prefer Blondes , and The Docks of New York . Rosson recalled that during those days one experimented, listened, and watched to learn and develop one's craft. Technical difficulties were approached and surmounted as they occurred, with no pretensions to "art." In doing so, Rosson became one of the finest exponents of his craft.

He joined MGM in 1930 and it was there that he perfected his own skills and aided that studio in developing the glossy patina which would become an MGM trademark. One beautifully photographed film was Red Dust , starring Jean Harlow (whom he married). MGM loaned him to Selznick International for The Garden of Allah in 1936, and Rosson recalled that while he knew nothing about color film at the time, he decided "to control color, to eliminate color unless it could be used dramatically. I didn't want color to control me." For his efforts, he and cophotographer W. Howard Greene, received special Academy Award plaques. His most outstanding achievement with color was for MGM's The Wizard of Oz , though again he modestly described his work as simply a matter of "controlling color." He received Academy Award nominations for his MGM work on such black-and-white films as Boom Town , Thirty Seconds over Tokyo , and The Asphalt Jungle , and ended his MGM years with excellent color work on Singin' in the Rain and The Story of Three Loves . After 1955 he worked at various studios, and received an Oscar nomination for The Bad Seed at Warner Bros. His last film was Howard Hawks's El Dorado for Paramount. Rosson was proud of his years at MGM, and fondly recalled its esprit de corps : "The spirit was such that we were proud to be at MGM."

—Ronald Bowers

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