Ernest B. Schoedsack

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Ernest B. Schoedsack
Ernest Beaumont Schhoedsack

June 8, 1893
DiedDecember 23, 1979(1979-12-23) (aged 86)
Los Angeles County, California, US
Occupation Film producer, cinematographer, film director
Years active1915–1952
Spouse(s) Ruth Rose

Ernest Beaumont Schoedsack (June 8, 1893 – December 23, 1979) was an American motion picture cinematographer, producer, and director. [1] [2] He worked on several films with Merian C. Cooper including King Kong and Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness.

Cinematographer chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film

A cinematographer or director of photography is the chief over the camera and light crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The study and practice of this field is referred to as cinematography.

Merian C. Cooper American aviator, actor, director and producer

Merian Caldwell Cooper was an American aviator, United States Air Force and Polish Air Force officer, adventurer, screenwriter, film director, and producer. Cooper was the founder of the Kościuszko Squadron during the Polish–Soviet War and was a Soviet prisoner of war for a time. He was a notable movie producer, and got his start with film as part of the Explorers Club, traveling the world and documenting adventures. He was a member of the board of directors of Pan American Airways, but his love of film always took priority. During his film career, he worked for companies such as Pioneer Pictures, RKO Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He is also credited as co-inventor of the Cinerama film projection process. Cooper's most famous film was the 1933 movie King Kong. He was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

<i>King Kong</i> (1933 film) 1933 American monster adventure film

King Kong is a 1933 American pre-Code monster adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea conceived by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong, and opened in New York City on March 2, 1933, to rave reviews. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fourth greatest horror film of all time and the thirty-third greatest film of all time.


Early life

Ernest B. Schoedsack was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 8, 1893. [3] He ran away from home at age fourteen and worked with road gangs. [4] He went to San Francisco, where he worked as a surveyor. [5] He grew to be 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m), and his friends called him "Shorty." [6]

Council Bluffs, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Council Bluffs is a city in and the county seat of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States. The city is the most populous in Southwest Iowa, and forms part of the Omaha (Nebr.) Metropolitan Area. It is located on the east bank of the Missouri River, across from the city of Omaha. Council Bluffs was known, until at least 1853, as Kanesville. It was the historic starting point of the Mormon Trail. Kanesville is also the northernmost anchor town of the other emigrant trails, since there was a steam powered boat to ferry their wagons, and cattle, across the Missouri River.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially City and County of San Francisco and colloquially known as SF, San Fran or "The City", is a city in—and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of—Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, with 4,729,484 people in 2018. With San Jose, it forms the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Film career

Schoedsack began his career in films in 1914 when he became a cameraman for Mack Sennett. He continued working as a cameraman in World War I. [7] He served in the Signal Corps of the United States Army in France in 1916. [8] He also flew in combat missions. [4] After the war, he stayed in Europe furthering his career as a cameraman. [5] His eyesight was severely damaged in World War I, yet he continued to work with films afterwards. [9] In 1920, Schoedsack helped refugees in Poland escape the Polish–Russian Wars. He worked with the American Red Cross. During 1921 and 1922, he also helped refugees from the Greco-Turkish War. He was hired by The New York Times as a cameraman on an expedition around the world. [5]

Mack Sennett Canadian-American actor and filmmaker

Mack Sennett was a Canadian-American film actor, director, and producer, and studio head, known as the King of Comedy.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Signal Corps (United States Army) United States Army division

The United States Army Signal Corps (USASC) is a division of the Department of the Army that creates and manages communications and information systems for the command and control of combined arms forces. It was established in 1860, the brainchild of Major Albert J. Myer, and had an important role in the American Civil War. Over its history, it had the initial responsibility for portfolios and new technologies that were eventually transferred to other U.S. government entities. Such responsibilities included military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation.

Chang and early films

Schoedsack began as a co-director with Merian C. Cooper. [2] He first met Cooper in 1918 in Vienna. [4] They both later worked for The New York Times, but decided to make their own films. [6] Their first collaboration was on Grass which was produced in 1925. [2] That same year Schoedsack met screenwriter and former actress Ruth Rose, [5] would later marry her in 1926. [8] They met on an expedition Galapagos Islands where Schoedsack was the cameraman on that trip, and Rose was the official historian. [5]

Vienna Capital of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today it is the second largest German-speaking city after Berlin and just before Hamburg. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Ruth Rose American screenwriter

Ruth Rose was a writer who worked on several films in the 1930s and the 1940s, most famously the original 1933 classic King Kong.

In 1927, Cooper and Schoedsack produced the film Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness together, which depicts a man's survival in the Northern Siamese jungle. Schoedsack and Cooper spent 18 months in the jungle in order to produce the film and photograph certain scenes. [2] While producing the film, stampeding elephants that are featured in the movie almost ran over Schoedsack and his crew. The risk was worth it, however, and Chang was later nominated Best Picture at the first Academy Awards show. [5] Schoedsack kept a print of a Bengal tiger pouncing with its jaws open in his office. When asked by a reporter about the photo, Schoedsack said that the tiger had sprung and he shot it. [10]

<i>Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness</i> 1927 film by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927) is a silent film about a poor farmer in northern Nan Province and his daily struggle for survival in the jungle. The film was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. It was released by Famous Players-Lasky, a division of Paramount Pictures.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.

Bengal tiger subspecies of tiger

The Bengal tiger is a Panthera tigris tigris population native to the Indian subcontinent. It is threatened by poaching, loss, and fragmentation of habitat, and was estimated at comprising fewer than 2,500 individuals by 2011. None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within its range is considered large enough to support an effective population of more than 250 adult individuals. India's tiger population was estimated at 1,706–1,909 individuals in 2010. By 2018, the population had increased to an estimated 2,603–3,346 individuals. Around 440 tigers are estimated in Bangladesh, 163–253 tigers in Nepal and 103 tigers in Bhutan.

In 1929, the duo worked to create The Four Feathers film. It was the first fiction film that Schoedsack and Cooper collaborated on. It was also one of the last silent films of Hollywood. [5]

<i>The Four Feathers</i> (1929 film) 1929 film

The Four Feathers is a 1929 American war film directed by Merian C. Cooper and starring William Powell, Richard Arlen, Clive Brook and Fay Wray. The film is the third of numerous film versions of the 1902 novel The Four Feathers written by A. E. W. Mason.

Hollywood District in Los Angeles, California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry, including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.

King Kong and early 1930s films


While Schoedsack and Cooper made several other films together, they are most known for directing the 1933 film King Kong. [7] After finishing production on The Most Dangerous Game, Schoedsack joined Cooper in the production of King Kong. Schoedsack focused on scenes with human actors, while Cooper headed the special effects. Schoedsack, Cooper, and Rose inspired the characters of John Driscoll, Carl Denham, and Ann Darrow respectively. [5] The script was co-written by Schoedsack's wife, Rose. This film marked a transition in the working relationship of Schoedsack and Cooper. After the film, Schoedsack only directed films, while Cooper produced them. Their partnership ended, however, in the late 1930s. [7]

In 1932, after filming King Kong, Schoedsack worked on shooting for a film that was never completed called Arabia. For this project, Schoedsack went to shoot on location in Syria. [5] Another film was made in the King Kong franchise. Rose wrote the screenplay for the next film, Son of Kong which was released in 1933 by RKO. Schoedsack was the sole director of the film. Also in 1933, Rose and Schoedsack collaborated on the film Blind Adventure. [5]

Later work

Schoedsack directed several other films in the 1930s including The Last Days of Pompeii, Trouble in Morocco, and Outlaws of the Orient . In 1940, Schoedsack directed Dr. Cyclops which was Hollywood's first science fiction film in technicolor. In 1949 the film Mighty Joe Young was released by RKO and was directed by Schoedsack. It was a reunion film of the main King Kong creative team of Cooper, Schoedsack, and Ruth Rose. This would be the last film that Schoedsack would direct due to eye injuries received in World War II from testing photography equipment. [5]

FilmYear releasedContribution
The Lost Empire1924Director of photography [11]
Grass 1925Producer, Director [11]
Eagle Squadron 1924Background photographer [11]
Greed 1925Director of photography [11]
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness 1927Producer, [12] director [11]
Gow, the Head Hunter1928Director of photography [11]
The Four Feathers 1929Film editor, director, director of photography [11]
Rango 1931Writer, director, producer in Sumatra, editor, photographer [11]
The Most Dangerous Game 1932Director [11]
King Kong 1933Director [7]
Son of Kong 1933Director [11]
Blind Adventure 1933Director [7]
The Monkey's Paw 1933Director of prologue [11]
Long Lost Father 1934Director [7]
The Last Days of Pompeii 1935Director [13]
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer 1935Photographer and director of shooting of background location shooting in India [7]
Outlaws of the Orient 1937Director [7]
Trouble in Morocco 1937Director [7]
Dr. Cyclops 1940Director [7]
Mighty Joe Young 1949Director [7]
This is Cinerama1952Director [14]

Later life

Schoedsack died on December 23, 1979 in Los Angeles. [9] They are interred together at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. [15]

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  14. "Ernest B. Schoedsack". MUBI. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  15. "Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery". Geni. Retrieved June 2, 2016.

Further reading