The 5X Series presents five films by influential and innovative filmmakers who are no longer with us. 5X opens a window into the creative worlds of a wide variety of filmmakers: some who may be well-known, but whose more diverse work is overlooked; some whose work has been underappreciated; some whose work requires reappraisal; and many, many more. While these filmmakers may be gone, 5X examines how their lasting cinematic influence is still felt.
5X: James Wong Howe
With a résumé of over 130 films, a handful of directorial efforts, numerous TV episodes and commercials, and ten Academy Award nominations including two wins, cinematographer James Wong Howe was one of the greatest to ever render light and shadow on celluloid. A Chinese-American man working in mainstream Hollywood from the silent era up until his death in the 1970s, he was also a towering pioneer.
Born Wong Tung Jim in 1899, Howe began his film career at the age of 17 as a cleaner at the Famous Players-Lasky studio, where he became an assistant cameraman and earned his big break by making actress Mary Miles Minter’s light blue eyes show better on film by having her look at a black curtain. Howe became known for his out-of-the-box thinking, like when he filmed a boxing match on roller-skates, achieved close-ups during a swimming scene by getting into the pool with the actors, and used the reflection of tin cans to illuminate a scene without electric lights.
At one time the most well-paid cameraman in Tinseltown, Howe’s innovation found him amongst the first to employ wide-angle lenses, deep-focus photography, handheld cameras, and helicopter shots. Whether capturing glittering cityscapes, desperately trapped criminals, the desolation of the rugged west, swashbuckling heroes, aching love stories, or the stunning baby blues of one Paul Newman, Howe’s impeccable eye for lighting and composition was rooted in the realism and emotionality of his films with camera movements that consistently evoked the perfect tone.
A visionary through and through, James Wong Howe created his own space in the film industry and changed moviemaking with his sublime style and maverick attitude.
Coming up in this series
Previously in this series
Sat, Feb 17, 4 pm
Sat, Feb 10, 4 pm
Sat, Feb 3, 4 pm
Sat, Jan 27, 4 pm
Sat, Jan 20, 4 pm