Ernest Haller

Last updated
Ernest Haller
Born(1896-05-31)May 31, 1896
Los Angeles, CA
DiedOctober 21, 1970(1970-10-21) (aged 74)
Marina Del Rey, CA
Years active1920 - 1965

Ernest Jacob Haller (May 31, 1896 – October 21, 1970), sometimes known as Ernie J. Haller, was an American cinematographer.


He was most notable for his involvement in Gone with the Wind (1939), and his close professional relationships with prominent actresses of the time, such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Ingrid Bergman.

Haller was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography seven times for Jezebel, All This, and Heaven Too, Mildred Pierce, The Flame and The Arrow, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Lilies of the Field; winning once for Gone with the Wind. [1]

He was killed in a car accident in Marina Del Rey, California on October 21, 1970, at the age of 74, and was buried at Freedom Mausoleum, Forest Lawn, Glendale, CA. [2]

Early life and education

Ernest Haller was born in Los Angeles, California on May 31, 1896. He went to Hollywood High School and graduated after four years. With his photographic training and a year of laboratory experience, Haller dove straight into the film industry after graduating. His initial interest was in acting; although none of his parents or other relatives were theatrical people, he managed to pursue acting both on stage and screen. [3]


In 1914 with his older brother's help, Haller first joined the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, also known as the Biograph Studio or Biograph, as an actor. However, he realized his true passion fairly quickly, for he switched to the camera department within a year of joining the studio. [3] At the time, Biograph's prized director was D.W. Griffith, and Haller began as an assistant cameraman to Griffith's great cameraman Billy Bitzer. [4]

His first job as a cameraman was The Hazards of Helen (1914), which was an early adventure serial film that was released by the Kalem Company. [5] When D.W. Griffith left Biograph due to a disagreement between him and the studio regarding his feature film Judith of Bethulia (1914), the company gradually met its end. Eventually, the Biograph was bought by the First National Pictures, and First National was later bought by Warner Brothers. When Warner Brothers took over the First National, a number of the company's finest cameramen including Haller followed. [6]

Upon the launch of his career as a cinematographer, Haller worked vigorously in every department of silent film, photographing approximately 50 films in the next decade. The first motion picture that he was officially credited as a cinematographer was Mothers of Men in 1920. [3] Some of Haller's recognized works after that include Weary River (1928), Dawn Patrol (1930), The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)— a film where he first photographed Bette Davis—, The Emperor Jones (1933), and Dangerous (1935). In 1938, Haller received his first Academy Awards nomination for Best Cinematography for the film Jezebel. This recognition caught the eye of David O. Selznick who was impressed with Haller's work in Jezebel enough to borrow him from Warner Bros. to participate in Gone with the Wind (1939), which garnered Haller his first and only Oscar for Best Cinematography. [7] A year later, Haller received his third nomination for All This, and Heaven Too (1940), then his fourth for Mildred Pierce (1945), and his fifth for The Flame and the Arrow (1950).

With the coming of independent cinema, Haller and many other cameramen decide to continue their careers as freelancers. Jim Thorpe— All American (1951) was his last film, Haller left Warner Bros. after 26 years. [6] After little work on films as a freelancer, Haller returned to Warner Bros. as an independent contractor for Rebel Without a Cause (1955). With this as a start, he continued to work on a few films for Warner Bros. including What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which earned him his sixth nomination. His seventh and final nomination was only a year later with his work on Lilies of the Field (1963). [6]

Haller initially announced his retirement in 1965 but briefly came out of it in July 1965 upon the request of director James Goldstone to film the second pilot of the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". [5] With this as his final credit, Haller retired from the motion pictures industry. [8]


Jezebel and Bette Davis

Haller's relationship with Bette Davis was ardent and long-lasting. They met on the film The Rich Are Always with Us (1932), and frequently worked together. He was the director of photography when she won her first Oscar for Dangerous (1935). With Jezebel, Haller was nominated alongside her. Davis was extremely fond of Haller and his style, “Ernest Haller had always been my favorite cameraman. I never told him what to do, but I put my trust in him to do what he knew how to do, to make me look my best.” [9] His work on Jezebel led to his involvement in Gone with the Wind.

Gone with the Wind

Producer, David O. Selznick, was impressed with Haller's work on Jezebel, replacing the former cinematographer Lee Garmes, who left the production after a month over creative differences. [7] Haller's work earned him his first and only Academy Awards along with the Technicolor Associates Ray Rennahan and Wilfred M. Cline. [3] Gone with theWind (1939) was a success, also winning awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Supporting Actress. [10]

Mildred Pierce and Joan Crawford

Working closely with Bette Davis and earning two nominations for photographing her in Jezebel and All This, and Heaven Too, Haller also developed a strong relationship with Joan Crawford. He received his fourth nomination for Mildred Pierce , and Crawford won the award for Best Actress. Haller continued to photograph Crawford in several other films, including Humoresque (1946) and both actresses in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Although Haller terminated his contract with Warner Bros. in 1951, he was the best choice to photograph Bette Davis and Joan Crawford— two of the closest actresses that Haller has worked with and the ex-Warner stars. He was brought back to photograph the only film the two would appear in together. In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Davis made the decision to embrace the unflattering qualities of the character while Crawford remained with her glamour.

Awards and nominations

Best Cinematography

Selective filmography

Bibliography and further reading

Related Research Articles

Joan Crawford 20th-century American actress

Joan Crawford was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway. Crawford then signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925; her career spanned six decades, multiple studios, and controversies.

<i>All This, and Heaven Too</i> 1940 film by Anatole Litvak

All This, and Heaven Too is a 1940 American drama film made by Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, produced and directed by Anatole Litvak with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer. The screenplay was adapted by Casey Robinson from the 1938 novel by Rachel Field. The music was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Ernie Haller. The film stars Bette Davis and Charles Boyer with Barbara O'Neil, Jeffrey Lynn, Virginia Weidler, Helen Westley, Walter Hampden, Henry Daniell, Harry Davenport, George Coulouris, Montagu Love, Janet Beecher and June Lockhart.

Bette Davis American actress

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first thespian to accrue ten nominations.

<i>Mildred Pierce</i>

Mildred Pierce is a 1941 hardboiled novel by James M. Cain. It was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same name in 1945, starring Joan Crawford, and a 2011 Emmy Award–winning miniseries of the same name, starring Kate Winslet. Cain's portrayal of the title character as an independent working woman was a departure from the one-dimensional depictions of women in his earlier crime fiction; in this he was influenced by his friendship with Kate Cummings Logan, whom he believed had sacrificed her singing career to advance her daughter, the actress Constance Cummings. Kate Cummings served as muse during the writing of the novel, encouraging the author to make his portrayal of working women more authentic.

Michael Curtiz Hungarian-American director

Michael Curtiz was a Hungarian-born American film director, recognized as one of the most prolific directors in history. He directed classic films from the silent era and numerous others during Hollywood's Golden Age, when the studio system was prevalent.

<i>The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex</i> 1939 American historical romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is a 1939 American historical romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the play Elizabeth the Queen by Maxwell Anderson—which had a successful run on Broadway with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in the lead roles—the film fictionalizes the historical relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The screenplay was written by Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie.

<i>Visions of Light</i>

Visions of Light is a 1992 documentary film directed by Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy and Stuart Samuels. The film is also known as Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography.

<i>Jezebel</i> (1938 film) 1938 film by William Wyler

Jezebel is a 1938 American romantic drama film released by Warner Bros. and directed by William Wyler. It stars Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, supported by George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Crisp, Richard Cromwell, and Fay Bainter. The film was adapted by Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston, and Robert Buckner, from the 1933 play by Owen Davis Sr. Tallulah Bankhead was originally slated for the stage role, but fell severely ill during rehearsals and was replaced by Miriam Hopkins.

<i>Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte</i> 1964 film by Robert Aldrich

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a 1964 American psychological thriller film directed and produced by Robert Aldrich. It stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead and Mary Astor in her final film role. It follows a middle-aged Southern woman, suspected in the unsolved murder of her lover from decades before, who is plagued by bizarre occurrences after summoning her cousin to help challenge the local government's impending demolition of her home. The screenplay was adapted by Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller, from Farrell's unpublished short story "What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?"

James Wong Howe Chinese-born American film director and cinematographer

Wong Tung Jim, A.S.C., known professionally as James Wong Howe (Houghto), was a Chinese-born American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood due to his innovative filming techniques. Howe was known as a master of the use of shadow and one of the first to use deep-focus cinematography, in which both foreground and distant planes remain in focus.

Frederick James Koenekamp, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer. He was the son of cinematographer Hans F. Koenekamp.

The 12th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best in film for 1939. The ceremony was held on February 29, 1940, at a banquet in the Coconut Grove at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was hosted by Bob Hope.

<i>Mildred Pierce</i> (film) 1945 film by Michael Curtiz

Mildred Pierce is a 1945 American film noir directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, and Zachary Scott, also featuring Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, and Bruce Bennett. Based on the 1941 novel by James M. Cain, this was Crawford's first starring film for Warner Bros. after leaving Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Bette Davis filmography Every movie Bette Davis was in.

This is a complete filmography of Bette Davis. Davis began acting in films in 1931, initially as a contract player with Universal Studios, where she made her film debut in Bad Sister (1931). Davis was initially seen as unappealing by studio executives, and was assigned to a string of B-movies early in her career.

Walter C. Pfister is an American cinematographer and director, who is best known for his work with acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan. Some of his collaborations with Nolan include Memento (2000), The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005–2012), and Inception (2010). For his work on Inception, Pfister won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and received a BAFTA Award nomination.

The 18th Academy Awards was the first such ceremony after World War II. As a result, the ceremony featured more glamour than had been present during the war. Plaster statuettes that had been given out during the war years were replaced with bronze statuettes with gold plating. Despite this, director Billy Wilder's grim and socially significant drama The Lost Weekend took the top honors. It became the first film to win both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Palme d'Or. Joan Crawford was absent, claiming she had pneumonia. As it turned out, she did win, and the award was delivered to her while in bed that night.

<i>The Man Who Played God</i> (1932 film) 1932 film

The Man Who Played God is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by John G. Adolfi and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. George Arliss stars as a concert pianist embittered by the loss of his hearing who eventually finds redemption in helping others; it also features a then little-known Bette Davis as the much younger woman in love with the protagonist.

<i>Of Human Bondage</i> (1934 film) 1934 film by John Cromwell

Of Human Bondage is a 1934 American pre-Code drama film directed by John Cromwell and is widely regarded by critics as the film that made Bette Davis a star. The screenplay by Lester Cohen is based on the 1915 novel Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.

<i>Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</i> (film) 1966 film by Mike Nichols

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American black comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols in his directorial debut. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of Edward Albee's 1962 play of the same name. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha, Richard Burton as George, George Segal as Nick, and Sandy Dennis as Honey.

Sol Polito

Sol Polito, A.S.C. was a Sicilian-American cinematographer. He is best known for his work with directors Michael Curtiz and Mervyn LeRoy at Warner Bros. studios in the 1930s and 1940s.


  1. Finler, Joel Waldo (2003). The Hollywood Story . Wallflower Press. p.  310. ISBN   978-1-903364-66-6. ernest haller oscar.
  2. Wilson, Scott (2016-08-17). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN   978-0-7864-7992-4.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Haller, Ernest. "A.S.C. Application Form." March 3, 1924. American Society of Cinematographers Collection. Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection, Los Angeles.
  4. Cormack, Michael J. (1994). Ideology and Cinematography in Hollywood, 1930-39 . New York: St. Martin's. pp.  2. ISBN   978-1-349-11860-1.
  5. 1 2 Sadoul, Georges (1972). Dictionary of Filmmakers . Berkeley: University of California. pp.  187. ISBN   0-520-02151-7.
  6. 1 2 3 Finler, Joel W. (2003). The Hollywood Story. London: Wallflower Press. pp.  310. ISBN   1-903364-66-3.
  7. 1 2 Wilson, Steve (2014). The Making of Gone with the Wind. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 173. ISBN   978-0-292-76126-1.
  8. "ERNEST HALLER". Retrieved 2016-11-22.
  9. Chandler, Charlotte (2006). The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis A Personal Biography . New York: Simon & Schuster. pp.  95. ISBN   978-1-84739-698-3.
  10. Davis, Anita Price (2014-01-10). The Margaret Mitchell Encyclopedia. McFarland. ISBN   978-0-7864-9245-9.