GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#2: With Joan Crawford - "Flamingo Road" [1948]

#3: [Right] with John Huston - "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" [1947]

 

   


TED D. McCORD

 

Born: 2 August 1900, Cass, Sullivan County, Indiana, USA, as Thamer D. McCord.

Died: 19 January 1976, Glendale, Calif., USA.

Education: Left school at age 17.

Career: Went to work in a film laboratory. Became c.asst to doph James C. Van Trees [1890-1973] at the Hobart Bosworth Studio in Los Angeles. His first credited film as fully-fledged cinematographer was 'Sacred and Profane Love' [1921], billing himself as T.D. McCord. Between 1924 and 1928, he worked at First National Pictures, which became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. in 1928. He also began working with the showman-like cowboy star Ken Maynard on such Westerns as 'The Canyon of Adventure' [1928]. His picturesque rendering of the scenery of 1849 California won critical praise, and Maynard put McCord under contract. When Maynard moved to Universal in 1929, he took his cinematographer with him, setting a pattern for much of McCord's work over the next decade. McCord shot over 20 of Maynard's vehicles until 1934, bringing clean compositions and brisk camerawork to a highly enjoyable series of low-budget Westerns. During the early 1930s, he had brief spells at Universal, Columbia and RKO-Pathé, before finally settling at Warner Bros. for the bulk of his career [1936-57]. He shot numerous films for Bryan Foy's 'B' film unit at Warner Bros. During World War II, he served as a captain with the U.S. Army Air Force Photographic Unit and was among the first Americans to enter devastated Berlin, filming inside Hitler's ruined chancellery and the Potsdam Conference [July-August 1945]. Retired in 1967.

Was a member of the ASC.

Awards: 'Oscar' AA nom [1948; b&w] for 'Johnny Belinda'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1962; b&w] for 'Two for the Seesaw'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1965; color] for 'The Sound of Music'.



The veteran cinematographer Ted McCord worked in the American film industry for a remarkable six decades, from the 1910s through the 1960s. As such he toiled on many a big-budget silent film such as First National's 'Sally' and was behind the camera for the major blockbuster of the 1960s, 20th Century-Fox's 'The Sound of Music'. But remarkably he never won an Academy Award, though he received three nominations. McCord was considered a good craftsman, not a great artist.

He was most praised for his complex use of lighting. McCord attributed his use of deep shadows to his interest in the paintings of Rembrandt and the cinematography of the great Gregg Toland. This was particularly apparent in such sequences as the 'Climb Every Mountain' number in 'The Sound of Music' and the brothel hallway footage in 'East of Eden'.

Like many who entered the industry in the 1910s, McCord had no formal training in photography or aesthetics. Rather he learned on the job. He began in a film laboratory and took his training under James Van Trees at the old Hobart Bosworth Studio. He then moved on to film dozens of B-westerns. He was able to move to a major studio only as World War II sent many a younger cinematographer to battle and thus opened up positions in Hollywood.

Many of the great cameramen of the studio era took long tenures at one studio. For McCord that was Warner Bros. He worked on many of the studio's most famous and profitable films of the 1940s, including 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' and 'Flamingo Road'. Some of these are remembered as classics, but all were interesting visual artifacts. This is the portion of his career for which McCord will probably be most remembered.

He was also a generous benefactor to younger cameramen. Conrad Hall tells all interviewers that it was McCord who opened up the system for him and other aspiring cinematographers of the 1960s. McCord was a self-confident 'old pro.' He was not set in his ways, but willing to help a new generation learn from the great craftsmen of the past. [From article by Douglas Gomery.]

 

Joanne Woodward - Ted McCord [cap] - Jean Seberg - Sean Connery -  Irvin Kershner

"A Fine Madness" [1965]

 

'After a quarter of a century spent laboring in the wilderness, Ted McCord finally graduated to 'A' pictures when he was nearly 50. Having spent so much time out of doors learning his craft on westerns, he swiftly established himself as a master of location photography and had nearly twenty more active years in him before eventually bowing out in style in the mid-sixties by vividly rendering Salzburg and then New York for his final two films.' [Richard Chatten in 'Film Dope', #37, June 1987.]


'Ted McCord is dead now. He was a cinematographer, an artist and a wonderful man. We met on a project that Leslie Stevens directed, wrote and produced. I operated for Ted on that film and then I became his operator for a number of years until I became a first cameraman on 'Stoney Burke'. I learned a number of things from him about cinematography and filmmaking. But what I really learned from him was the approach to your job, the approach to the way you look at film and how you think about it. [...] It was his non-closed-off sense about his job. He approached each picture as if he knew nothing when he began. And it wasn't that he didn't know anything; he knew everything that he knew. But he approached it as if he was always frightened to death and he was always trying to bring something unique and special to that piece of material. It was the search for that uniqueness and that specialness that embodied his approach. He was always searching for the best way to express that piece of material. That's the kind of artistic sense I'm talking about. He was trying to find precisely the right kind of thing rather than imposing techniques indiscriminately on the material. He wanted to find the way of telling that story correctly using everything that he knew or finding out new things and experimenting. Those are the things that I learned from Ted. And that attitude is what I cherish.' [Conrad L. Hall in 'Masters of Light - Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers' by Dennis Schaefer & Larry Salvato, 1984.]


'I had help on ['East of Eden'] from a wonderful cameraman, Ted McCord, a terrific, mean old man. People didn't like to work with him. He was pigheaded, bullheaded. But boy, when you talked to him, he worked. He really tried to give you his equivalent for what you wanted. He had a lot of guts.' [Elia Kazan in 'Kazan on Kazan' by Michel Ciment, 1973]


 

 FILMS [1 reel = c. 10m]

1921

Sacred and Profane Love [William Desmond Taylor] b&w; 5 reels; cph: James Van Trees; prod Famous Players-Lasky Corporation

1924

For Sale [George Archainbaud] b&w; prod Associated First National Pictures

1924

Flirting with Love [John Francis Dillon] b&w; 70m; prod Associated First National Pictures

1924

So Big [Charles Brabin] b&w; prod First National Pictures (FN)

1925

Sally [Alfred E. Green] b&w; prod FN

 

"The Desert Flower"

 

1925

The Desert Flower [Irving Cummings] b&w; 70m; prod FN

1925

The Marriage Whirl/Modern Madness [Alfred Santell] b&w; prod Corinne Griffith Productions

1925

The Pace That Thrills [Webster Campbell] b&w; prod FN

1925

We Moderns [John Francis Dillon] b&w; 70m; prod John McCormick Productions

1925

Irene [Alfred E. Green] b&w + c (2-strip Technicolor); prod FN

1927

The Valley of the Giants [Charles Brabin] b&w; 70m; prod FN

1928

The Canyon of Adventure [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 6 reels; prod Charles R. Rogers Productions

1928

The Upland Rider [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 6 reels; prod FN

1928

The Code of the Scarlet [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 57m; prod Charles R. Rogers Productions

1928

The Crash [Eddie Cline] b&w; prod FN

1928

The Phantom City [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 6 reels; prod Charles R. Rogers Productions

1928

The Royal Rider [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 67m; prod FN

1929

The Wagon Master [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 70m; silent & sound (talking seq) version; prod Ken Maynard Productions (KMP)

1929

Señor Americano [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 71m

1929

Parade of the West [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 66m

1929

Lucky Larkin [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 66m; silent & sound (music + efx) version; prod KMP

1930

The Fighting Legion [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 74m

1930

Mountain Justice/Kettle Creek [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 74m

1930

Song of the Caballero [Harry J. Brown] b&w; 73m

1930

The Lone Rider [Louis King] b&w; 66m

1930

Sons of the Saddle [Harry J. Brown] b&w

1930

Shadow Ranch [Louis King] b&w; 64m

1930

Men Without Law [Louis King] b&w; 65m

1930

The Dawn Trail [Christy Cabanne] b&w; 66m

1930

Fighting Thru; or, California in 1878/Fightin' Ranch [William Nigh] b&w; 61m; or ph Arthur Reed

1930

Desert Vengeance [Louis King] b&w; 65m

1931

Sundown Trail [Robert F. Hill] b&w; 56m

1931

Freighters of Destiny [Fred Allen] b&w; 57m

1931

Easy to Get [Howard Bretherton] b&w; short/18m; ep #3 of 6-part 'Gay Girls Comedy'-series (RKO-Pathé)

1931

The Wide Open Spaces [Arthur Rosson] b&w; short/20m

1931

Carnival Boat [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 62m

1932

Hell-Fire Austin [Forrest Sheldon] b&w; 70m; cph: Joe Novak

1932

The Saddle Buster/Montana Rides [Fred Allen] b&w; 59m

1932

Ghost Valley [Fred Allen] b&w; 54m

1932

Dynamite Ranch [Forrest Sheldon] b&w; 59m

1932

Beyond the Rockies [Fred Allen] b&w; 54m

1932

High Hats and Low Brows [Harry Sweet] b&w; short/18m

1932

Ride Him, Cowboy/The Hawk [Fred Allen] b&w; 55m

1932

Come On, Tarzan [Alan James] b&w; 61m

1932

The Big Stampede [Tenny Wright] b&w; 54m

1932

False Faces/What Price Beauty? [Lowell Sherman] b&w; cph: R.O. Binger

1932

Between Fighting Men [Forrest Sheldon] b&w; 59m

1932

Fargo Express [Alan James] b&w; 61m

 

 

1932

Tombstone Canyon [Alan James] b&w; 62m

1933

The Telegraph Trail [Tenny Wright] b&w; 60m

1933

Somewhere in Sonora [Mack V. Wright] b&w; 59m

1933

King of the Arena [Alan James] b&w; 59m

1933

The Man from Monterey [Mack V. Wright] b&w; 57m

1933

The Fiddlin' Buckaroo [Ken Maynard] b&w; 65m

1933

The Trail Drive [Alan James] b&w; 60m

1933

Strawberry Roan/Flying Fury [Alan James] b&w; 59m

1933

Gun Justice/Rider of the Law/Riders of Justice [Alan James] b&w; 59m

1934

Wheels of Destiny [Alan James] b&w; 64m

1934

Honor of the Range [Alan James] b&w; 61m

1934

Smoking Guns/Doomed to Die [Alan James] b&w; 62m; 2nd cam: Joe Novak

1934

Rocky Rhodes [Al Raboch] b&w; 64m

1934

When a Man Sees Red [Alan James] b&w; 60m; uncred cph: Joe Novak

1935

Stone of Silver Creek [Nick Grinde] b&w; 63m; cph: Joe Novak

1935

The Rainmakers [Fred Guiol] b&w; pfx: Vernon Walker

1935

Señor Jim/Murder in the Dark [Jacques Jaccard] b&w; 58m

1936

Feud of the West/The Vengeance of Gregory Walters [Harry Fraser] b&w; 62m

1936

Trailin' West/On Secret Service [Noel Smith] b&w; 59m; cph: Sidney Hickox

1936

California Mail [Noel Smith] b&w; 55m

1936

Fugitive in the Sky [Nick Grinde] b&w; 58m; spec pfx: Fred Jackman

1936

Guns of the Pecos [Noel Smith] b&w; 56m

1936

Land Beyond the Law [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 54m; uncred cph: L. William O'Connell

1937

Blazing Sixes [Noel Smith] b&w; 55m

1937

Empty Holsters [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 62m

1937

The Devil's Saddle Legion [Bobby Connolly] b&w; 52m

1937

Prairie Thunder [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 55m

1937

Sergeant Murphy [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 57m

1937

Daredevil Drivers [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 60m

1938

Secret Service of the Air [Noel Smith] b&w; 61m; uncred cph: Arthur Edeson; film #1 in 4-part 'Secret Service'-series (Warner Bros., 1939-40)

1938

Code of the Secret Service [Noel Smith] b&w; 58m; film #2 in 4-part 'Secret Service'-series

1939

Pride of the Blue Grass/Steeplechase [William McGann] b&w; 65m

1939

The Cowboy Quarterback [Noel Smith] b&w; 56m

1939

Private Detective [Noel Smith] b&w; 57m

1939

Murder in the Air [Lewis Seiler] b&w; 55m; film #4 in 4-part 'Secret Service'-series

1940

Alice in Movieland [Jean Negulesco] b&w; short/22m; ep 'Broadway Brevities'-series (Warner Bros./Vitaphone)

1940

Ladies Must Live/The Bridegroom Misbehaves [Noel Smith] b&w; 58m

1940

Calling All Husbands [Noel Smith] b&w; 63m

1940

Father Is a Prince [Noel Smith] b&w; 57m

1940

She Couldn't Say No [William Clemens] b&w; 62m

1940

The Case of the Black Parrot [Noel Smith] b&w; 60m

1940

Knockout/Right to the Heart [William Clemens] b&w; 73m

 

 

1940

Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus + dram short/9m; ep 'Melody Masters'-series (Warner Bros./Vitaphone)

1941

Singapore Woman [Jean Negulesco] b&w; 64m

1941

International Squadron [Lothar Mendes & Lewis Seiler] b&w; cph: James Van Trees; sfx: Robert Burks

1941

Bullets for O'Hara [William K. Howard] b&w; 52m

1941

Highway West [William C. McGann] b&w; 64m; sfx: Robert Burks

1941

Nine Lives Are Not Enough [A. Edward Sutherland] b&w; 63m

1941

At the Stroke of Twelve [Jean Negulesco] b&w; short/20m; ep 'Broadway Brevities'-series (Warner Bros./Vitaphone)

1941

Wild Bill Hickok Rides [Ray Enright] b&w; 72m & 82m; sfx: Byron Haskin & Willard Van Enger

1942

The United States Army Air Force Band [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/11m

1942

Bullet Scars [D. Ross Lederman] b&w; 59m; sfx: Byron Haskin & Rex Wimpy

1942

I Was Framed [D. Ross Lederman] b&w; 61m

1942

Murder in the Big House/Born for Trouble/Human Sabotage [B. Reeves Eason] b&w; 60m

 

 

1942

Action in the North Atlantic [Lloyd Bacon; (uncred) Byron Haskin & Raoul Walsh] b&w; uncred cph: Tony Gaudio; sfx: Jack Cosgrove (dir), Edwin DuPar & (uncred) Harry Redmond Jr.; montages: Don Siegel & James Leicester

1942

Six Hits and a Miss [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/9m; ep 'Melody Masters'-series (Warner Bros./Vitaphone)

1942

The United States Marine Band [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/10m

1942

Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica School [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/10m

1943

The United States Navy Band [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/10m

1943

The United States Army Band [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/9m

1943

The United States Service Bands [Jean Negulesco] b&w; mus short/9m; edited from the Marine, Navy and Army Band shorts (see above)

 

 

1943

The Rear Gunner [Ray Enright] b&w; short/20m (Warner Bros. & Vitaphone Present) & 26m (United States Army Air Forces Present); cph: James Van Trees

1943

Letter from a Friend [Sherry Shourds] b&w; short/?m; for 3rd War Loan Drive

1945

Airborne Lifeboat [?] b&w; training film/?m; for the U.S. Army Air Corps

1946

That Way with Women [Frederick De Cordova] b&w; sfx: H.F. Koenekamp & William McGann

1946

So You Want to Play the Horses [Richard Bare] b&w; short/11m; ep #4 of 63-part film series, 1942-56

1946

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra [Jack Scholl] b&w; mus short/10m

 

[Left] with Ida Lupino and Dane Clark - "Deep Valley"

 

1946

Deep Valley [Jean Negulesco] b&w; spec pfx: H.F. Koenekamp & William McGann; filmed 1946-47

1947

So You're Going on a Vacation [Richard Bare] b&w; short/11m; ep #9 of 63-part film series, 1942-56

1947

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [John Huston] b&w; sfx: William McGann (dir), H.F. Koenekamp & (uncred) Eddie Craven

1947

Johnny Belinda [Jean Negulesco] b&w; sfx: William McGann (dir) & Edwin DuPar

1948

John Loves Mary [David Butler] b&w; uncred cph; ph: Peverell Marley

1948

Smart Girls Don't Talk [Richard Bare] b&w; sfx: Robert Burks

1948

June Bride [Bretaigne Windust] b&w; sfx: William McGann (dir) & H.F. Koenekamp

 

[Left] with Michael Curtiz [2nd from left] and Joan Crawford [right] - "Flamingo Road"

 

1948

Flamingo Road [Michael Curtiz] b&w

1949

The Lady Takes a Sailor [Michael Curtiz] b&w; sfx: Roy Davidson (dir) & H.F. Koenekamp

1949

Young Man with a Horn/Young Man of Music [Michael Curtiz] b&w

1949

The Damned Don't Cry [Vincent Sherman] b&w

1950

The Breaking Point [Michael Curtiz] b&w

1950

Rocky Mountain [William Keighley] b&w

1950

Goodbye, My Fancy [Vincent Sherman] b&w

1951

Force of Arms/A Girl for Joe [Michael Curtiz] b&w

1951

Starlift [Roy Del Ruth] b&w

1951

I'll See You in My Dreams [Michael Curtiz] b&w

1951

This Woman Is Dangerous [Felix Feist] b&w

1952

Cattle Town [Noel Smith] b&w; 71m

1952

Operation Secret [Lewis Seiler] b&w

1952

Stop, You're Killing Me [Roy Del Ruth] c

1952

Three Lives [Edward Dmytryk] b&w; short/27m (3 seg); for United Jewish Appeal

1953

South Sea Woman [Arthur Lubin] b&w; sfx: H.F. Koenekamp

1954

Battle Cry [Raoul Walsh] cs/b&w-c; uncred 2uc; ph: Sid Hickox

 

[Left/pointing] - Elia Kazan [shirtless] - Albert Dekker [sitting] - Raymond Massey - James Dean

"East of Eden"

 

1954

East of Eden [Elia Kazan] cs/c

1954

Young at Heart [Gordon Douglas] c; sfx: H.F. Koenekamp

1954

The McConnell Story/Tiger in the Sky [Gordon Douglas] cs/c; 2uc; ph: John F. Seitz; filmed 1954-55

1955

I Died a Thousand Times [Stuart Heisler] cs/c; 2uc: Edwin DuPar

1955

Giant [George Stevens] c; uncred addph 2u; ph: William C. Mellor

1955

Zarak/Zarak Khan [Terence Young & (uncred) Stuart Heisler] cs/c; cph (?); ph: John Wilcox, Ted Moore & Cyril Knowles; sfx: Cliff Richardson; filmed November 1955-February 1956

1956

The Burning Hills [Stuart Heisler] cs/c

1956

The Girl He Left Behind [David Butler] b&w

1956

Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend [Richard L. Bare] b&w; (?); ph: Carl Guthrie

1957

The Helen Morgan Story/Both Ends of the Candle/Why Was I Born? [Michael Curtiz] cs/b&w

1957

The Proud Rebel [Michael Curtiz] c

1958

The Hanging Tree [Delmer Daves; (uncred) Karl Malden (finished film) & Vincent Sherman (co-dir for one day)] c

1959

Private Property [Leslie Stevens] b&w; 'To achieve the effects he needed, Stevens would require a particularly adept cinematographer, one who could handle a variety of interiors, camera set-ups, lighting requirements, and - in the film's frenetic denouement - underwater photography. 'Private Property' benefited immeasurably from a chance meeting between producer Colbert and young camera operator Conrad L. Hall. Hall had training in underwater photography, but he had something even more valuable for the film: a mentor named Ted McCord, one of film noir's most innovative cinematographers, a notably cantankerous personality who had nonetheless taken a fatherly shine to Hall. McCord's long tenure with Warner Brothers had come to an end, and he was quickly enlisted for a fraction of his usual fee and an unusual film credit using only his name and association with the American Society of Cinematographers. [Hall, his camera operator and assistant, referred to this arrangement as the recognition that, more than anyone, it was McCord who was the actual star of the film.] The teamwork between McCord and Hall permitted the film, with its myriad of on-location set-ups, to be completed in just ten days of shooting at a total cost of just under $60,000. Together, McCord and Hall would manage to use the swimming pool at Stevens' house to convey both complacency and menace, permitting it to operate simultaneously as a symbol of an elusive, sought-after 'dolce vita' and a proxy for a sexual possession that signaled a pathological 'vida loca' in which a morbidly materialist society would drown itself.' [From the Bright Lights Film Journal website, August 2012]

1959

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn [Michael Curtiz] cs/c; sfx: A. Arnold Gillespie

1962

War Hunt [Denis Sanders] b&w; title background ph (+ pictorial continuity): Terry Sanders

1962

Hero's Island/The Land We Love [Leslie Stevens] p/c

1962

Smog [Franco Rossi] b&w

1962

Two for the Seesaw [Robert Wise] p/b&w

 

 

1964

The Sound of Music [Robert Wise] tao/c; addph: Paul Beeson; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott & Emil Kosa Jr.; Filming on location in Salzburg and then on stages in Los Angeles, everything would be kept simple, letting the backdrop of Salzburg dictate the tone of the film. Wise brought director of photography Ted McCord to the project as he had recently worked with him. Wise notes, 'I loved his color work for Warner Brothers, and I felt he could bring just the right touch of romanticism the film would need for its overall look. I wanted a fairly soft-focused, romantic feeling that would be appropriate without being too much.' McCord wisely opted to capture the film on the non-anamorphic Todd-AO wide-screen process in 65 mm that allowed for rich saturation and detail. He worked closely with photographer and second unit director Maurice Zuberano, who used the Superpanorama 70 process, which seamlessly integrated with Todd-AO in post. [Kenneth Sweeney on the ASC website, 2011.]

1965

A Fine Madness [Irvin Kershner] c; uncred addph: Frank Calabria

 

 TELEVISION

 

 

1956

Conflict [ep #6 'Man From 1997' dir by Roy Del Ruth & #9 'Girl on the Subway' dir by John Rich] 20-part dramatic anthology series/b&w, 1956-57 (ABC-tv)

1956

Cheyenne [ep #20 'The Law Man' dir by Walter Doniger & #22 'Lone Gun' dir by Richard L. Bare] 108-part western series/b&w, 1955-62 (ABC-tv); 2nd season, 1956-57

1957

Cheyenne [ep #37 'The Conspirators' dir by Leslie H. Martinson] 3rd season, 1957-58; see 1956

1957

Sugarfoot/Tenderfoot [ep #2 'Reluctant Hero' dir by Leslie H. Martinson (LHM) & #3 'The Strange Land' dir by LHM] 69-part western series/b&w, 1957-61 (ABC-tv); 1st season, 1957-58

1960

Hong Kong [ep #7 (remake of unaired pilot) 'Blind Bargain' dir by Christian Nyby] unaired pilot + 26-part adventure series/b&w, 1960-61 (ABC-tv); cph: Philip Lathrop; other ph: P. Lathrop (24 ep), Frank Phillips (1 ep) & Robert Hauser (1 ep)

1962

Stoney Burke [6 ep, e.g. #2 'Fight Night' dir by Leslie Stevens] 32-part modern-day western series/b&w, 1962-63 (ABC-tv); other ph: Conrad L. Hall

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1929

Border Romance [Richard Thorpe] b&w; 71m; ph archive footage; ph: Harry Zech

1953

The Eddie Cantor Story [Alfred E. Green; (uncred) George Stevens (add scenes filmed in August) & Gordon Douglas (one add ext scene filmed in September)] c.op; ph: Edwin DuPar

1955

The Spirit of St. Louis [Billy Wilder] (uncred) co-c.op or ph adv or head camera; ph: Robert Burks & J. Peverell Marley; filmed between July 1955 and March 1956

1956

Bombers B-52/No Sleep Till Dawn [Gordon Douglas] uncred c.op (?); ph: William Clothier; filmed December 1956-February 1957