in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Germany; emigrated to the United States, 1940;
naturalized, 1947; used the name Eugene Shuftan in the United States.
Studied fine arts in Breslau.
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.
Academy Award for
, 1961; Billy Bitzer Award, 1975.
6 September 1977.
Die Nibelungen (Lang—2 parts)
Ein Walzertraum (Berger); Variété ( Variety ) (Dupont); Eifersucht (Grune)
Metropolis (Lang); Königin Luise ( Queen Louise ) (Grune)
Menschen am Sonntag ( People on Sunday ) (Siodmak and Ulmer)
Abscheid (Siodmak); Das gestohlene Gesicht (Schmidt and Mayring); Dann Schon lieber Lebertran (Ophüls)
Gassenhauer (Pick); Meine Frau, die Hochstaplerin (Gerron); Das Ekel (co, + co-d)
L'Atlantide (Pabst) (co); Zigeuner der nacht (Schwarz)
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)
Ademai aviateur (Tarride); La Crise est finie ( The Slump Is Over ) (Siodmak); Le Scandale (L'Herbier)
La Tendre Ennemi ( The Tender Enemy ) (Ophüls); The Invader (Brunel)
Mademoiselle Docteur (Pabst); La Symphonie des brigands (Feher)
Forfaiture (L'Herbier); Yoshiwara (Ophüls); Drôle de drame ( Bizarre Bizarre ) (Carné)
Mollenard ( Hatred ) (Siodmak); Les Trois Valses (Berger); Le Drame de Shanghaï ( The Shanghai Drama ) (Pabst) (co); Quai des brumes ( Port of Shadows ) (Carné)
Les Musiciens du ciel (Lacombe)
L'Emigrante (Joannon); Sans lendemain (Ophüls)
Summer Storm (Sirk)
Carnegie Hall (Ulmer)
Les Joyeux Pélerins (Pasquali); Le Traqué ( Gunman in the Streets ) (Lewin and Tuttle)
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)
Le Rideau cramoisi ( The Crimson Curtain ) (Astruc)
Une parigina a Roma ( Begegnung in Rom ) (Kobler and Tolnay)
Marianne de ma jeunesse (Duvivier)
La Tête contre les murs (Franju)
The Bloody Brood (Roffman); Les Yeux sans visage ( The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus ) (Franju)
Un Couple (Mocky)
The Hustler (Rossen); Something Wild (Garfein)
Les Vièrges (Mocky)
Captain Sinbad (Haskin) (co)
La Grande Frousse (Mocky); Lilith (Rossen)
Trois chambres à Manhattan (Carné)
Angeklagt nach N.218 ( The Doctor Says ) (A. Ford)
It Happened Tomorrow (Clair) (technical d)
The Dark Mirror (Siodmak) (technical supervisor)
Ulisse ( Ulysses ) (Camerini) (special ph)
Chappaqua ( Rooks ) (consultant)
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 .