Eugen SchÜfftan - Writer




Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Germany; emigrated to the United States, 1940; naturalized, 1947; used the name Eugene Shuftan in the United States. Education: Studied fine arts in Breslau. Career: Painter, sculptor, designer, and architect; worked in German films in the 1920s as a photographic effects specialist: invented the Schüfftan process (using miniature backgrounds with action foregrounds); cinematographer from 1929; 1933–40—worked in France after the rise of the Nazis; worked in the United States after 1940, and internationally in the 1950s and 1960s. Awards: Academy Award for The Hustler , 1961; Billy Bitzer Award, 1975. Died: 6 September 1977.


Films as Special Effects Photographer:

1924

Die Nibelungen (Lang—2 parts)

1925

Ein Walzertraum (Berger); Variété ( Variety ) (Dupont); Eifersucht (Grune)

1926

Dagfin (May)

1927

Metropolis (Lang); Königin Luise ( Queen Louise ) (Grune)

1929

Narkose (Abel)



Films as Cinematographer:

1929

Menschen am Sonntag ( People on Sunday ) (Siodmak and Ulmer)

1930

Abscheid (Siodmak); Das gestohlene Gesicht (Schmidt and Mayring); Dann Schon lieber Lebertran (Ophüls)

1931

Gassenhauer (Pick); Meine Frau, die Hochstaplerin (Gerron); Das Ekel (co, + co-d)

1932

L'Atlantide (Pabst) (co); Zigeuner der nacht (Schwarz)

1933

Der Läufer von Marathon ( The Marathon Runner ) (Dupont); Du haut en bas ( High and Low ) (Pabst); Les Requins du pétrole (Decoin); La Voix sans visage (Mittler); Unsichtbare Gegner (Katscher)

1934

Ademai aviateur (Tarride); La Crise est finie ( The Slump Is Over ) (Siodmak); Le Scandale (L'Herbier)

1935

La Tendre Ennemi ( The Tender Enemy ) (Ophüls); The Invader (Brunel)

1936

Mademoiselle Docteur (Pabst); La Symphonie des brigands (Feher)

1937

Forfaiture (L'Herbier); Yoshiwara (Ophüls); Drôle de drame ( Bizarre Bizarre ) (Carné)

1938

Mollenard ( Hatred ) (Siodmak); Les Trois Valses (Berger); Le Drame de Shanghaï ( The Shanghai Drama ) (Pabst) (co); Quai des brumes ( Port of Shadows ) (Carné)

1939

Les Musiciens du ciel (Lacombe)

1940

L'Emigrante (Joannon); Sans lendemain (Ophüls)

1944

Summer Storm (Sirk)

1947

Carnegie Hall (Ulmer)

1950

Les Joyeux Pélerins (Pasquali); Le Traqué ( Gunman in the Streets ) (Lewin and Tuttle)

1952

Le Banquet des fraudeurs ( Dans Bankett der Schmugger ) (Storck); La P . . . respecteuse ( The Respectable Prostitute ) (Pagliero and Brabant); Le Chemin de Damas (Glass); Nina de Vanghel (Clavel and Barry)

1953

Le Rideau cramoisi ( The Crimson Curtain ) (Astruc)

1954

Une parigina a Roma ( Begegnung in Rom ) (Kobler and Tolnay)

1955

Marianne de ma jeunesse (Duvivier)

1958

La Tête contre les murs (Franju)

1959

The Bloody Brood (Roffman); Les Yeux sans visage ( The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus ) (Franju)

1960

Un Couple (Mocky)

1961

The Hustler (Rossen); Something Wild (Garfein)

1962

Les Vièrges (Mocky)

1963

Captain Sinbad (Haskin) (co)

1964

La Grande Frousse (Mocky); Lilith (Rossen)

1965

Trois chambres à Manhattan (Carné)

1966

Angeklagt nach N.218 ( The Doctor Says ) (A. Ford)



Other Films:

1943

It Happened Tomorrow (Clair) (technical d)

1946

The Dark Mirror (Siodmak) (technical supervisor)

1955

Ulisse ( Ulysses ) (Camerini) (special ph)

1967

Chappaqua ( Rooks ) (consultant)



Publications


On SCHÜFFTAN: articles—

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

Brandlmeier, A., in Film und Ton (Munich), October 1974.

Gerely, A., in Film und Ton (Munich), December 1977.

Filme (Berlin), May-June 1981.

Pruemm, K., in Archives: Institut Jean Vigo (Perpignan), December 1997.


* * *


When Eugen Schüfftan was nominated for the 1961 Academy Award for The Hustler , American Cinematographer magazine was unable to provide much background in their customary profile; when Schüfftan's name was announced as the winner on Oscar night, Howard Keel blithely accepted the award, declaring, "I don't know where he is." Clearly, Schüfftan's work on The Hustler , rather than an obvious accumulation of Hollywood credits or an enormous popularity within the industry, was responsible for the award. His credits, however, are extensive, both as a cameraman and an inventor.

His most acclaimed contribution to cinema technology is his invention of the Schüfftan process. Originally designed for the unrealized German production of Gulliver's Travels , it was first employed by Fritz Lang on Metropolis and subsequently by many other directors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Fred Zinnemann. This process—one of the many trick photographic effects Schüfftan pioneered at UFA—involved placing a semitransparent mirror at a 45-degree angle in front of the camera lens, reflecting the image of a scale model or actual location onto the visual field. Blending credibly with the live-action being photographed, this process allows architectural figures of all dimensions to be mapped onto the image, thus reducing the enormous costs of monumental set construction or overcoming the difficulties of shooting in certain locations. In Metropolis Lang effectively used this process to depict his futuristic vision; Hitchcock employed it in Blackmail for the climactic chase around the roof of the British Museum.

As a cameraman, Schüfftan is now best known for his work in France, particularly the atmospheric black-and-white images of doom and despair created for Marcel Carné in the 1930s—most notably Quai des brumes —and for Georges Franju in the 1950s—notably Les Yeux sans visage . For Schüfftan, an effective ambience created by lighting is the key to cinematography: he preferred to establish mood by lighting the action rather than the performer.

During the 1940s Schüfftan worked in Hollywood as a "supervisor" (a Guild title) on projects by the European implants Douglas Sirk, Edgar G. Ulmer, Robert Siodmak, and René Clair; disenchanted, he returned to Europe after three years and eight projects. Schüfftan's return to the United States ten years later was facilitated by Jack Garfein who sought him for his second feature, Something Wild , a New York film about a rape victim who contemplates suicide. (Garfein had difficulty convincing the New York Cinematographers Guild to allow Schüfftan—only an Honorary member—work papers.) Then during production, Garfein fortuitously introduced Schüfftan to Robert Rossen who was seeking a strong black-and-white cinematographer for The Hustler , his gritty tale of a New York pool player. Following the success of that film, Schüfftan remained in New York to shoot Rossen's final film, Lilith , before returning to Europe. He shot only a few additional projects before retiring, among them the final film for his old collaborator Marcel Carné, Trois chambres à Manhattan .


—Doug Tomlinson

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