Gene Kelly - W.H. Clothier - James Stewart

[Left/standing]

               

WILLIAM H. CLOTHIER

Born: 21 February 1903, Decatur, Illinois, USA.

Died: 7 January 1996, Studio City, Los Angeles, USA [complications resulting from a broken hip].

Career: Joined the US Army during World War I. Entered the film industry as a painter, becoming head painter at Alexander Studios. Became c.asst working with Bert Glennon, Victor Milner, Archie Stout & Harry Fischbeck. In 1933, because of a labor dispute, he was sacked by RKO and was hired to taxi a plane to Mexico City where he ran into Charlie Kimball, an editor, who was working on a film. 'The director of photography wanted to go home, so the production company bought his Mitchell camera and I finished the film. The director, a Mexican [Raphael J. Sevilla ?], was going to Spain to do some work, and I went with him.' Stayed in Spain until 1938, when he was jailed by authorities during the Spanish Civil War. Went back to Hollywood in 1940. Spent the war with the US Air Force, flying combat missions out of England. Ph his first picture with actor John Wayne, 'Blood Alley', in 1955. Wayne signed Clothier to a personal contract, which led to 21 more films. Retired in 1972.

Was married to Carmen E. [Clothier] [1908-96].

Was a member of the ASC since 1965.

Appeared in the doc's 'The Hollywood Greats: John Wayne' [1983, BBC-tv; presented by Barry Norman], 'Talking Pictures' [1988, BBC-tv; presented by Barry Norman] & 'John Wayne's 'The Alamo'' [2001].

Awards: 'Oscar' AA nom [1960; color] for 'The Alamo'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1964; color] for 'Cheyenne Autumn'; Western Heritage Awards 'Trustees Award' [1973]; ASC 'President's Award' [1995].



Lt. Col. William H. Clothier, U.S.A.F. flew 17 missions on 'The Memphis Belle', and gave us 52 years of great cinematography. He left us January 7, 1996 at 92 years young. Perhaps better than anyone else, he knew how to film clouds, dust, and beautiful rivers. He never said much on the set, but he was the one man to whom Pappy [John Ford] would listen. 'Give me time, Pappy, and I'll get it for you,' he would say. I suppose Pappy needed a great cameraman to continue filming with him up there in the clouds. [From 'Wildest Westerns Magazine'.]

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One of the most important of the Batjac [John Wayne's prod company] Boys, William H. Clothier has given a distinctive look to the Wayne/McLaglen/Kennedy and even Ford series of Westerns. Obviously, he is happiest out in the wide open spaces where his feeling for the American countryside shows itself in his superbly physical images - the snowy wastes of 'Track of the Cat', the lush greenery of 'Shenandoah' and the rugged peaks of 'The Way West'. This is not to give the impression that Clothier merely provides us with a series of beautiful stills - his visuals are continually on the move, whether they show boy soldiers or horse soldiers. [Markku Salmi in 'Film Dope', #7, April 1975.]

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"I never saw a mountain I wouldn't climb," said the cinematographer William H. Clothier, "if I thought I could make my shot better, or get up on a rooftop, or in an airplane, anything to improve a shot." In the course of 45 years, Clothier climbed many a mountain, and risked his life in all types of aircraft to achieve the most effective photography. A favorite Clothier setup involved digging a pit for his camera and crew, then charging John Ford's cavalry over it for a spectacular low-angle shot. Whether filming Westerns in Monument Valley, or documentary footage of aerial combat during World War II, Clothier was the preeminent location cameraman. His sense of composition and penchant for dangerous settings appealed to such action-oriented directors as Ford, William Wellman, Raoul Walsh, and Howard Hawks, and Clothier photographed their last films.

It took Clothier 20 years to rise to the status of Hollywood director of photography, but he brought with him a wealth of rich and varied cinematic experience. He broke into pictures at the age of 20, painting sets at Warner Brothers. He worked his way up to assistant cameraman on low-budget Westerns before joining Harry Perry's camera crew on William Wellman's aviation spectacular 'Wings'. A contract with Paramount followed, and Clothier assisted such veteran cinematographers as Bert Glennon [his strongest influence] and Victor Milner. With the advent of sound, he moved to RKO, where he did the beautiful aerial cinematography in Wellman's 'The Conquerors', and assisted on 'Cimarron', 'The Silver Horde', and 'King Kong'. Clothier spent the rest of the 1930s as a first cameraman in the fledgling Mexican and Spanish film industries, and shot newsreels of the Spanish Civil War for Paramount. He returned to America to work as Joseph August's camera operator on 'Gunga Din', and during World War II served as a photographic officer in the U.S. Air Force. In this capacity he shot William Wyler's historic documentary 'Memphis Belle', a color film shot in combat situations in the European skies.

After the war, Clothier began a relationship with John Ford. He also made his first Hollywood film as a director of photography, the low-budget 'For You I Die'. He renewed his association with William Wellman in 1953 shooting the aerials for 'Island in the Sky' and 'The High and the Mighty', the former in black and white, the latter in color and CinemaScope, both offering Clothier's visual sense of space and composition. With Archie Stout's retirement, Clothier became Wellman's regular cameraman, and he shot the remainder of Wellman's films. 'Track of the Cat' was a fascinating experiment, a black-and-white film in color. In the exteriors, the snow and forest were shot in low-light situations to create a black-and-white look. In the interiors the actors were clothed in black and white except for Robert Mitchum's red jacket and Diana Lynn's yellow sleeves. The cumulative effect was visually remarkable, and a statement against the typical garish color of Hollywood product. The other Wellman films have good pictorial values as well - 'Blood Alley' was comic-book color, recreating China in San Rafael, California; 'Good-bye, My Lady' profited from Georgia swamp locations; 'Darby's Rangers' featured a memorable combat terrain filmed entirely on a misty soundstage; and 'Lafayette Escadrille' contains some breathtaking aerial scenes shot at dawn, although the dogfights were reused from Wellman's earlier 'Men with Wings' [aph: Wilfrid Cline, Charles Marshall & Paul Mantz].

Clothier's work for John Ford is also distinguished. The main title sequence of 'The Horse Soldiers' showcases a classic Clothier shot, a long view of 30 Union troopers galloping along a railroad track, silhouetted against the sky. 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' is black-and-white symbolism, a story about right and wrong, and the building of a myth, given eloquence by the simplicity of Clothier's cinematography. By contrast, Ford's 'Donovan's Reef' with its bright colors and Hawaiian locations, and 'Cheyenne Autumn', filmed in color and Super Panavision 70mm to emphasize the epic qualities of the piece, reveal another side of Clothier's talent.

Clothier's films for Wellman and Ford, most of which starred John Wayne, made him the actor's favorite cameraman, and he was enlisted to shoot Wayne's Todd-A0 epic 'The Alamo'. It is one of his best-looking pictures, visualized in the style of Frederic Remington's Western paintings. Clothier went on to shoot the majority of Wayne's pictures, all on Western and Mexican locations.

Clothier's style embraced landscape and location in the classic manner of Remington and Russell, and his films share a common trait of beautiful compositions. Win Sharples, Jr., once commented on the shot across the dunes towards a line of horsemen in Burt Kennedy's 'The Train Robbers', and it sums up the essence of Clothier's work: "There was that clean, strong recording of the image - the composition coming out of that instinctive placing of the camera, a matter of an inch or two adjustment in the set-up, and the lighting just perfect - a real Clothier shot." [From article by John A. Gallagher on the filmreference.com website.]



 FILMS

1932

The Conquerors/Pioneer Builders [William A. Wellman] b&w; aph; ph: Edward Cronjager

1935

El ciento trece/El 113 [Raphael J. Sevilla & Ernesto Vilches] b&w; cph: Andrés Pérez Cubero

1936

Rinconcito madrileño [León Artola] b&w; 65m

1936

Don Floripondio [Eusebio Fernández Ardavín] b&w; cph: Henri Barreyre

1936

Lola Triana [Enrique del Campo] b&w

1942

For Whom the Bell Tolls [Sam Wood] c; 2uc; ph: Ray Rennahan

1942

The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress/Memphis Belle [William Wyler] 16mm+35mm-to-35mm/c; doc/43m; cph: Harold Tannenbaum (died during one of the flying missions), William V. Skall & William Wyler; prod US Army Air Forces 1st Motion Picture Unit; filmed 1942-43

1947

Fort Apache/War Party [John Ford] b&w; addph; ph: Archie Stout

1947

For You I Die [John Reinhardt] b&w

1948

Sofia [John Reinhardt] c

1949

Once a Thief [W. Lee Wilder] b&w; process ph: Clifford Stine

1949

Jet Pilot [Josef von Sternberg; re-shaped & re-edited by Howard Hughes] RKO-Scope/c; co-aph; ph: Winton C. Hoch; released in 1957

1950

Air Cadet/Jet Men of the Air [Joseph Pevney] b&w; co-aph; ph: Clifford Stine

1951

One Minute to Zero [Tay Garnett] b&w; aph; ph: William Snyder

1951

Confidence Girl [Andrew L. Stone] b&w

1952

Phantom from Space [W. Lee Wilder] b&w; pfx: Howard Anderson

1953

Island in the Sky [William A. Wellman] b&w; aph; ph: Archie Stout

1953

Killers from Space [W. Lee Wilder] b&w

1953

The High and the Mighty [William A. Wellman] cs/c; aph; ph: Archie Stout

1954

Track of the Cat [William A. Wellman] cs/c; 'The film was shot in color, but in both indoor and outdoor scenes, director Wellman worked with shades of black and white, creating a stark, monochromatic look, using color sparingly to convey symbolic significance. Warner Bros. wanted Wellman to shoot in color and the director complied while maintaining his preferred black-and-white look. Wellman stated that, "for years" he had wanted to do "black and white in color," adding that the idea occurred to him in a previous film by accident while shooting a color scene of a set dressed for black-and-white.'

1954

Top of the World [Lewis R. Foster] b&w; aph Alaska; ph: Harry J. Wild

1954

Gang Busters [Bill Karn] b&w; + co-prod; comp of 3-part ep 'The Pinson Gang' of tv-series 'Gang Busters/Captured' (1952)

1954

The Sea Chase [John Farrow] cs/c; sfx ph: H.F. Koenekamp

1955

Blood Alley [William A. Wellman & (uncred fill-in) John Wayne] cs/c

1955

Man in the Vault [Andrew V. McLaglen] b&w

1955

Sincerely Yours [Gordon Douglas] c; sfx ph: H.F. Koenekamp

1955

Good-bye, My Lady/The Boy and the Laughing Dog [William A. Wellman] b&w

1955

Seven Men from Now [Budd Boetticher] c

1956

Gun the Man Down/Arizona Mission [Andrew V. McLaglen] b&w

1956

Dragoon Wells Massacre [Harold Schuster] cs/c

1956

Lafayette Escadrille/Hell Bent for Glory/With You in My Arms [William A. Wellman] b&w

1956

Bombers B-52/No Sleep Till Dawn [Gordon Douglas] cs/c; aph: Harold E. Wellman; filmed December 1956-February 1957

1957

Guns Don't Argue [Richard C. Kahn & Bill Karn] b&w; cph: Clark Ramsey & Guy Roe; comp of 3 ep from tv-series 'Gang Busters/Captured' (1952)

1957

Darby's Rangers/The Young Invaders [William A. Wellman] b&w

1957

Fort Dobbs [Gordon Douglas] b&w

1957

China Doll [Frank Borzage] b&w

1958

Escort West [Francis D. Lyon] cs/b&w

1958

The Horse Soldiers [John Ford] c

1959

The Alamo [John Wayne] tao70/c; 140m & 192m; 'All of the sets were fully functional, three dimensional buildings with no wild walls or ceilings. When Clothier began the film he had access only to the older style Eastman Color negative, which required up to 300 foot candles of light. Often his greatest challenge as a cinematographer was in cramming his cameras and lights into the cramped rooms. Even though a more sensitive Eastman Color negative became available midway through production, allowing for lighting as low as 150 foot candles, the frequent night shooting - over 30 scenes - tested the limits of Clothier's expertise. 'When you're a cameraman you're supposed to know those things,' Clothier says. 'A lot of times it becomes a chore. You had to scratch your head a few times to figure out how you were going to do something, but then you'd go ahead and do it.' [From article by Frank Thompson in 'American Cinematographer', July 1990]; principal ph: 9 September-15 December

1960

Tomboy and the Champ [Francis D. Lyon] c

1960

The Deadly Companions/Trigger Happy [Sam Peckinpah] p/c

1961

Ring of Fire [Andrew L. Stone] cs/c

1961

Merrill's Marauders [Samuel Fuller] cs/c; 2uc: Higino J. Fallorina

1961

The Comancheros [Michael Curtiz & (uncred) John Wayne] cs/c

1961

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [John Ford] b&w; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1962

Donovan's Reef [John Ford] c; 2uc: Brick Marquard; spec pfx: Paul K. Lerpae; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1962

McLintock! [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c

1963

A Distant Trumpet [Raoul Walsh] p/c

1963

Cheyenne Autumn [John Ford] sp70/c

1964

Shenandoah [Andrew V. McLaglen] c

1965

The Rare Breed [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c

1965

Stagecoach [Gordon Douglas] cs/c; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott & Emil Kosa Jr.

1966

Way... Way Out [Gordon Douglas] cs/c; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott, Emil Kosa Jr. & Howard Lydecker

1966

The Way West [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c; spec pfx: Albert Whitlock

1966

The War Wagon [Burt Kennedy] p/c; 2uc: Alex Phillips Jr.

1966

Firecreek [Vincent McEveety] p/c

1967

The Devil's Brigade [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c

1967

Bandolero! [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott & Emil Kosa Jr.

1968

Hellfighters [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c; 2uc: Robert Berry

1969

The Undefeated [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott & Art Cruickshank

1969

The Cheyenne Social Club [Gene Kelly] p/c

1969

Chisum [Andrew V. McLaglen] p/c

1970

Rio Lobo [Howard Hawks] c

1970

Big Jake [George Sherman & (uncred) John Wayne] p/c; spec pfx: Albert Whitlock

1972

The Train Robbers [Burt Kennedy] p/c; spec pfx: Albert Whitlock


 TELEVISION

1952

Gang Busters/Captured (syndicated reruns) [3-part ep 'The Pinson Gang' dir by Bill Karn (BK), 'The Scissors Gang Case' dir by W. Lee Wilder (WLW), 3-part ep 'The Willie "The Actor" Sutton Case/The Case of Willie Sutton' dir by George Habib, 'The Red Dress Case' dir by WLW, 'The O'Dell-Griffen Case' dir by BK, 'The Rocco-Trapani Case' dir by BK & 'The Arthur Bennett Burl Case' dir by WLW] 26-part police anthology series, 1952/b&w (NBC-tv); other ph: Gilbert Warrenton, Guy Roe & Clark Ramsey; + co-prod; see Films (1954 & 1957)

1953

Holiday [ep 'Switzerland' prod by Karl Robinson] travelogue series/b&w; cph: K. Robinson

1955

Cheyenne [ep #12 'Fury at Rio Hondo' dir by Leslie H. Martinson] 108-part western series/b&w, 1955-62 (ABC-tv) & 1963 (reruns); 1st season, 1955-56

1962

[Alcoa] Premiere/Fred Astaire Presents [ep #37 'Flashing Spikes' dir by John Ford] 66-part dramatic anthology series, 1961-63/b&w (ABC-tv); 2nd season, 1962-63


 FILMS AS CAMERA ASSISTANT/OPERATOR

1926

Wings [William A. Wellman] co-c.op; ph: Harry Perry

1927

Underworld/Paying the Penalty [Josef von Sternberg (replaced Arthur Rosson)] c.asst; ph: Bert Glennon

1927

The Last Command [Josef von Sternberg] c.asst; ph: Bert Glennon

1928

The Patriot [Ernst Lubitsch] co-c.asst; ph: Bert Glennon

1928

Sins of the Father [Ludwig Berger] c.asst; ph: Victor Milner

1929

Rio Rita [Luther Reed] c.asst; ph: Robert Kurrle

1929

Hit the Deck [Luther Reed] c.asst; ph: Robert Kurrle

1930

The Silver Horde [George Archainbaud] c.op; ph: Leo Tover & John W. Boyle

1930

Cimarron [Wesley Ruggles] c.op; ph: Edward Cronjager

1931

Fanny Foley Herself/Top of the Bill [Melville Brown] co-c.asst; ph: Ray Rennahan

1931

Peach-O-Reno [William A. Seiter] co-c.op; ph: Jack MacKenzie

1931

Ladies of the Jury [Lowell Sherman] co-c.asst; ph: Jack MacKenzie

1931

Men of Chance [George Archainbaud] co-c.asst; ph: Nick Musuraca

1931

The Lost Squadron [George Archainbaud (replaced Paul Sloane)] ?; ph: Leo Tover & Edward Cronjager

1932

King Kong/The Eighth Wonder of the World [Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack] 1st c.asst 'b' cam; ph: Edward Linden

1932

What Price Hollywood? [George Cukor] co-c.asst; ph: Charles Rosher

1932

The Big Stampede [Tenny Wright] co-c.op; ph: Ted McCord

1933

Flying Devils/The Flying Circus [Russell Birdwell] co-c.asst; ph: Nick Musuraca

1933

One Man's Journey [John S. Robertson] co-c.asst; ph: Jack MacKenzie

1935

María Elena [Raphael J. Sevilla] co-c.op; ph: Jack Draper & Alvin Wyckoff

1938

Gunga Din [George Stevens (replaced Howard Hawks)] c.op; ph: Joseph H. August

1938

Ecce homo [Pare Lorentz] c.op; ph: Floyd Crosby; unfinished

1939

Name, Age, Occupation [Pare Lorentz; doc] c.op; ph: Floyd Crosby; ed from footage shot for 'Ecce homo'; released in 1942

1939

The Fight for Life [Pare Lorentz; dram doc] c.asst; ph: Floyd Crosby

1945

The Gay Cavalier [William Nigh] 2nd cam; ph: Harry Neumann

1946

Behind the Mask [Phil Karlson & (uncred fill-in) William Beaudine] 2nd cam; ph: William Sickner

1946

Below the Deadline/Jumpin' Joe [William Beaudine] co-c.op; ph: Harry Neumann

1947

High Tide [John Reinhardt] c.op; ph: Henry Sharp