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James Wong Howe
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    (August 28, 1899-July 12, 1976)
    Born in Guangzhou, China
    Birth name was Wong Tung Jim
    Cinematographer on over 100 films
    Won Oscars for Best Cinematography for 'The Rose Tattoo' (1955) and 'Hud' (1963)
    Also nominated for 'Algiers' (1938), 'Abe Lincoln in Illinois' (1940), 'Kings Row' (1942), 'Air Force' (1943), 'The North Star' (1943), 'The Old Man and the Sea' (1958), 'Seconds' (1966) and 'Funny Lady' (1975)
    Directed the films 'Go Man Go' (1954) and 'The Invisible Avenger' (1958)
    Cousin of actress Anna May Wong
    Before going into the movies, he worked as a bantamweight boxer, a deliveryman and a busboy.
    When he first joined the Famous Players-Lasky Studios, the head of the photography department decided he was too small to lug equipment around and gave him the job of cleaning up scraps of nitrate film stock from the cutting room floor.
    He was originally billed as James (or Jimmie) Howe, with the 'Wong' added by MGM during the 30s for 'exotic flair.'
    At 4'11, he nearly disappeared completely behind the podium when he won his two Oscars.
    As his career went on, he developed a reputation for being difficult to work with.
    He complained about John Frankenheimer, 'He's more or less mechanically inclined: lenses and camera and that. All that's my job. He ought to worry about the story and the actors.'
    He got his big break when he figured out how to get Mary Miles Minter's pale blue eyes, which did not register well on film, to look darker.
    He was the first cameraman to use deep focus cinematography, in which both the foreground and background remain in focus.
    He made successful transitions from silents to talking pictures and from black and white to color film.
    He was unable to become a US citizen until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1943).
    He married author Sanora Babb in Paris in 1937, but their marriage was not recognized in the US until California repealed its anti-miscegenation laws in 1949.
    He was temporarily blacklisted as a suspected Communist sympathizer.
    He discovered actress Quinn Cummings, who was his neighbor.
    In a survey of its members by the International Cinematographers Guild, he was named one of the 10 most influential cinematographers in film history (2004).

Credit: C. Fishel

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