GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#2: [Next to camera] - W.S. Hart [front row/center] [1916]

 

   


JOSEPH H. AUGUST

 

Born: 26 April 1890, Idaho Springs, Colorado, USA, as Joseph 'Joe' H. August.

Died: 25 September 1947, Culver City, Los Angeles, Calif., USA [collapsed and died of a heart attack on the set of 'Portrait of Jennie'].

Education: Colorado School of Mining

Career: Began his film career as a cowboy at Inceville [the western studio of prod Thomas H. Ince] in 1911. Gave up wrangling to become an asst to doph Ray Smallwood. Shot his first film, 'Lure of the Violin', in 1912, and became chief doph for William S. Hart in 1915. Shot more than 40 of the Western star's films. After Hart's first retirement in 1921, he went to work for Fox, where he did his first work with dir John Ford on 'Lightnin''. Although acclaimed for his outdoor photography, he was also known for his low-key lighting, a technique developed through necessity because lamp units were a luxury and not terribly efficient in his early days behind the camera. During WW2, he served with John Ford's Office of Strategic Services [O.S.S.] film unit. He was wounded while shooting the doc 'The Battle of Midway'.

Was one of the 15 charter members of the ASC in January 1919.

His son Joseph A. Jr. was his c.asst and became a doph.

Awards: 'Oscar' AA nom [1939; b&w] for 'Gunga Din'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1948; b&w] for 'Portrait of Jennie'.



One of the first great cameramen, whose early work for William S. Hart is nothing short of amazing: the harsh Western landscapes, at the same time uninvitingly barren and weirdly beautiful, shot with a remarkable realism, showing no signs of primitive equipment or the brief shooting schedules. [...] His work in sound is of equal proportions, but the most memorable was done - contrasting with his silents - in those which were vividly unnaturalistic ('The Informer'; 'Daniel and the Devil'). In this vein, and best of all, is his work in 'Portrait of Jennie': August had photographed skyscapes scores of time, but never with such strange and terrifying beauty as in this ghostly love story; the clouds, alternatively languorously peaceful and powerfully storm-ridden, have so much presence that they take on a leading role in the film, seeming to control the destiny of the tragic love affair far below.' [David J. Badder in 'Film Dope', #2, March 1973.]


'Screenwriter Dudley Nichols once wrote, "...Joe August was a great cameraman, perhaps the most experimental and audacious I have ever known." Much of his silent work has been lost or is available only in poor copies that do little justice to Joseph H. August's exemplary skill. But the films that survive - both silent and sound - eloquently support Nichols's appraisal.

August began in the business under the tutelage of Thomas Ince and soon was William S. Hart's photographer of choice. With only a couple of exceptions, August photographed every Hart feature from 'The Disciple' to 'Tumbleweeds'. Hart's westerns provided August with a wide range of stylistic challenges: the blazing religiosity of 'Hell's Hinges'; the staid, almost geometric groupings of people and buildings in 'The Return of Draw Egan', the bright, expansive 'Truthful Tulliver', the desert panoramas of 'The Silent Man'. August's eye for landscape distinguishes the Hart films; interiors, however, often look cramped and dull.

Though August was at home in the open western scenery, his work ranged farther afield during the 1920s. He provided startling images to moralistic fantasies, and delighted in the unusual and experimental: he turns the camera upside-down for an effect in 'Big Dan', works with double exposure in Hart's 'Three Word Brand', utilizes Technicolor in 'Fig Leaves'.

While the cliché would have it that the introduction of sound "nailed the camera to the floor", August found the new technology challenging and inspiring. His stunning camera work on John Ford films is filled with elaborate tracking shots, underwater photography (at one point, he mounted a camera in a waterproof booth on top of a submarine and filmed the submersion), and other bravura techniques without sacrificing what Lindsay Anderson calls his "voluptuous lighting" which gives films like 'The Black Watch' their "remarkable visual distinction: strikingly chiaroscuro, boldly dramatic in composition, strongly dramatic in atmosphere."

August worked often with Ford in the 1930s, oddly - considering that both men made their reputations in the genre - never in a western. Ford and August also worked together on 'The Informer', Ford's most overt excursion into the art film. 'The Informer' seems more deliberate and obvious than much of Ford's best work but August's contribution is superb: stylized, shadowy, evocative.

However, Ford had no monopoly on August's services. Rowland Brown, Stevens, Dieterle, Cukor, and Borzage all brought out fresh facets of the cinematographer's talent.

'Portrait of Jennie', August's last film, contains some of his most striking work: harsh, black-and-white contrasts in one scene, dreamy, misty romanticism in the next. Only in his late 50s when he died, August was a motion picture veteran of over 30 years. His career neatly spans the "Golden Age." He weathered the technical innovations of the silent period, matter-of-factly took on sound, and gracefully exited the scene before television ever played havoc with the sensitive, glimmering, and audacious images to which he devoted his life.' [From article by Frank Thompson on the www.filmreference.com website.]


 

 FILMS [incomplete 1912-23] [1 reel = c. 10m]

1912

Lure of the Violin [William Bauman] b&w; 3 reels; prod New York Motion Picture Company (brand name 'Broncho') (NYMPC)

1914

The Bargain/The Two-Gun Man in the Bargain [Reginald Barker] b&w; uncred cph; ph: Robert S. Newhard; prod NYMPC

1915

The Coward [Reginald Barker & Thomas H. Ince] b&w; 6 reels; cph: Robert S. Newhard; prod NYMPC

1915

The Disciple [William S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1915

Between Men [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1915

The Despoiler/The Awakening/War's Women [Reginald Barker] b&w; 6 reels; prod NYMPC

1915

Hell's Hinges [(W.S. Hart &) Charles Swickard] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1915

The Aryan [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1915

Civilization/He Who Returned [Raymond B. West, Thomas Harper Ince & Reginald Barker] b&w; cph: Dal Clawson, Irvin Willat, Clyde De Vinna, Devereaux Jennings & Robert S. Newhard; prod Thomas H. Ince Corporation & Triangle Film Corporation (TFC)

1915

Civilization's Child [Charles Giblyn] b&w; 5 reels; cph: Charles Kaufman; prod NYMPC

1915

The Primal Lure [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Apostle of Vengeance [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Captive God [Charles Swickard] b&w; 5 reels; or ph Clyde De Vinna; prod NYMPC

1916

The Dawn Maker [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Return of Draw Egan/The Fugitive [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Patriot [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Devil's Double [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

Truthful Tulliver [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Gun Fighter [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1916

The Square Deal Man [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1917

The Desert Man [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1917

Wolf Lowry [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod NYMPC

1917

The Cold Deck [W.S. Hart] b&w; prod NYMPC

1917

An Even Break [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod TFC

1917

Golden Rule Kate [Reginald Barker] b&w; 5 reels; cph: Robert S. Newhard; prod TFC

1917

The Narrow Trail [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod William S. Hart Prods, Inc. (WSHP)

1917

The Regenerates/Blue Blood [E. Mason Hopper] b&w; 5 reels; cph: Charles Stumar; prod TFC

1917

The Silent Man [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod Thomas H. Ince Corporation

1917

Wolves of the Rail [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

Blue Blazes Rawden [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

The Tiger Man [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

Selfish Yates [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

Shark Monroe [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

Riddle Gawne [W.S. Hart & (?) Lambert Hillyer)] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

He Comes Up Smiling [Allan Dwan] b&w; 5 reels; or ph Hugh McClung; prod Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation

1918

A Bullet for Berlin [W.S. Hart] b&w; 1 reel; prod National Association of the Motion Picture Industry & Liberty Loan Committee (a fund-raising short for the United States Fourth Liberty Loan Drive in World War I)

1918

The Border Wireless [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1918

Branding Broadway [W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

Breed of Men [Lambert Hillyer & (?) W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

The Poppy Girl's Husband/Poppy Girl [W.S. Hart & Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

The Money Corral [Lambert Hillyer & (?) W.S. Hart] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

Square Deal Sanderson [W.S. Hart & Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

Wagon Tracks [W.S. Hart & Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

1919

John Petticoats [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHP

 

 

1919

Sand [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; on this film, August was the first doph to have ASC listed after his name in an onscreen credit; prod The William S. Hart Company (WSHC)

 

[Left] with Lambert Hillyer [on horse], William S. Hart and actress Ann Little

 

1920

The Toll Gate [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHC

1920

The Cradle of Courage [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 5 reels; prod WSHC

1920

The Testing Block [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 6 reels; prod WSHP

1920

O'Malley of the Mounted [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 6 reels; prod WSHC

1921

The Whistle [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 6 reels; prod WSHP

1921

White Oak [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; prod WSHC

1921

Travelin' on [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; prod WSHC

1921

Three Word Brand [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; prod WSHC

1922

Arabian Love [Jerome Storm] b&w; 5 reels; prod Fox Film Corporation (FFC)

1922

Honor First [Jerome Storm] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1922

The Love Gambler [Joseph Franz] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1922

A California Romance/Across the Border [Jerome Storm] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1923

The Man Who Won [William A. Wellman] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1923

Truxton King/Truxtonia [Jerome Storm] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1923

Madness of Youth [Jerome Storm] b&w + color seq; 5 reels; prod FFC

1923

The Temple of Venus [Henry Otto] b&w; prod FFC

1923

Big Dan [William A. Wellman] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1923

Goodbye Girls/Good-by Girls/Don't Get Excited [Jerome Storm] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1923

St. Elmo [Jerome Storm] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1923

Darkness and Daylight [Albert Plummer] b&w; ? reels; prod Bancroft Pictures

1923

Cupid's Fireman [William A. Wellman] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1924

Dante's Inferno [Henry Otto] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1924

Not a Drum Was Heard [William A. Wellman] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1924

A Fighting Heart [Jack Nelson] b&w; 6 reels; prod Hercules Film Prods

1924

The Folly of Vanity [Maurice Elvey & Henry Otto] b&w; 6 reels; cph: Joseph Valentine & G.O. Post; prod FFC

1924

The Vagabond Trail [William A. Wellman] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1925

The Hunted Woman [Jack Conway] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1925

Greater Than a Crown [Roy William Neill] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

1925

Lightnin' [John Ford] b&w; prod FFC

1925

The Fighting Heart/Once to Every Man [John Ford] b&w; prod FFC

1925

The Ancient Mariner [Henry Otto & Chester Bennett] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1925

Tumbleweeds [King Baggot] b&w; re-issued in 1939 with a spoken word prologue; prod WSHC

1926

The Road to Glory [Howard Hawks] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1926

Fig Leaves [Howard Hawks] b&w + color seq; prod FFC

1926

The Flying Horseman/White Eagle [Orville O. Dull] b&w; 5 reels; prod FFC

 

 

1926

The Beloved Rogue [Alan Crosland] tinted; tech dir: Ned Herbert Mann; prod Feature Prods

1927

Two Arabian Knights [Lewis Milestone] b&w; cph: Antonio Gaudio; prod Caddo Company

1927

Come to My House [Alfred E. Green] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1927

Very Confidential [James Tinling] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1928

Soft Living [James Tinling] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1928

Honor Bound [Alfred E. Green] b&w; prod FFC

1928

Don't Marry [James Tinling] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1928

The Farmer's Daughter [Arthur Rosson and/or Norman Taurog] b&w; 6 reels; prod FFC

1929

Strong Boy [John Ford] b&w; 6 reels; silent & sound (efx + music) versions; prod FFC

1929

The Black Watch/King of the Khyber Rifles [John Ford] b&w

1929

Salute [(uncred) John Ford & David Butler] b&w

1929

Seven Faces [Berthold Viertel] b&w; cph: Al Brick

 

Behind the camera while shooting a sequence from the Navy adventure "Men Without Women" are cinematographer Joseph August, ASC and director John Ford [with megaphone]. Standing behind Ford is then-bit player John Wayne [wearing knit cap], who had an uncredited role as a radio operator. [Courtesy of the American Society of Cinematographers]

 

1929

Men Without Women [John Ford] b&w

1930

Double Cross Roads [Alfred L. Werker] b&w; 64m; cph: Sol Halprin; silent & sound versions; prod FFC

1930

Man Trouble [Berthold Viertel] b&w

1930

On Your Back/Clothes and the Woman [Guthrie McClintic] b&w

1930

Up the River [John Ford] b&w

1930

Seas Beneath [John Ford] b&w

1930

Mr. Lemon of Orange [John G. Blystone] b&w

1931

Quick Millions [Rowland Brown] b&w

1931

The Black Camel [Hamilton MacFadden] b&w; cph: Daniel B. Clark; 3rd film in 28-part 'Charlie Chan'-series (Fox/20thCF, 1929-42)

1931

The Brat [John Ford] b&w; 60m

1931

Heartbreak [Alfred Werker] b&w; 63m

1931

Charlie Chan's Chance [John G. Blystone] b&w; + prod; 4th film in 28-part 'Charlie Chan'-series (Fox/20thCF, 1929-42)

1931

The Silent Witness [Marcel Varnel & R.L. Hough] b&w

1932

Mystery Ranch/The Killer [David Howard] b&w; 56m; cph: George Schneiderman

1932

That's My Boy [Roy William Neill] b&w

1932

Vanity Street [Nick Grinde] b&w; 67m

1932

No More Orchids [Walter Lang] b&w

1932

As the Devil Commands [Roy William Neill] b&w

 

 

1933

Parole Girl [Edward F. Cline] b&w; 67m

1933

The Circus Queen Murder [Roy William Neill] b&w; 63m

1933

Cocktail Hour [Victor Schertzinger] b&w

1933

Man's Castle [Frank Borzage] b&w

1933

Master of Men [Lambert Hillyer] b&w; 65m

1933

No Greater Glory [Frank Borzage] b&w

1934

School for Romance [Archie Gottler] b&w; mus short/20m

1934

Sisters Under the Skin/The Romantic Age [David Burton] b&w; 65m

1934

Whirlpool/The Forgotten Man [Roy William Neill] b&w; co-uncred cph; ph: Benjamin H. Kline

1934

Twentieth Century [Howard Hawks] b&w

1934

Woman Haters [Archie Gottler] b&w; short/21m; with The Three Stooges

1934

Stars in the Making [Archie Gottler] b&w; short/20m

1934

Susie's Affairs [Archie Gottler] b&w; short/18m

1934

Black Moon [Roy William Neill] b&w; 68m

1934

The Defense Rests [Lambert Hillyer] b&w

1934

Tripping Through the Tropics [Archie Gottler] b&w; short/18m

1934

Among the Missing [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 62m

1934

The Captain Hates the Sea [Lewis Milestone] b&w

 

 

1934

The Whole Town's Talking/Passport to Fame [John Ford] b&w

1935

I'll Love You Always [Leo Bulgakov] b&w

1935

The Informer [John Ford] b&w

1935

Love Me Forever/On Wings of Song [Victor Schertzinger & (opera seq) Reginald Le Borg] b&w; uncred cph; ph: Joseph Walker

1935

After the Dance [Leo Bulgakov] b&w

1935

Sylvia Scarlett [George Cukor] b&w

1935

Muss 'em Up/The House of Fate/Sinister House [Charles Vidor] b&w; cph: J. Roy Hunt

1935

Every Saturday Night [James Tinling] b&w; 58m

1936

Mary of Scotland [John Ford & (uncred fill-in) Leslie Goodwins] b&w; uncred cph: Jack MacKenzie; spec pfx: Vernon L. Walker

1936

Grand Jury [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 61m

1936

The Plough and the Stars [John Ford & (uncred retakes) George Nichols Jr.] b&w

1936

Sea Devils [Benjamin Stoloff] b&w; cph: J. Roy Hunt

1936

The Soldier and the Lady/The Adventures of Michael Strogoff [George Nichols Jr.] b&w; 22 scenes from the 1935 French version ('Michel Strogoff' - d: Richard Eichberg & Jacques de Baroncelli - ph: Ewald Daub & Adolf Otto Weitzenberg) were used

1937

There Goes My Girl [Ben Holmes (replaced Edward Killy)] b&w; uncred cph: Nicholas Musuraca

1937

Fifty Roads to Town/Fifty Races to Town [Norman Taurog] b&w

1937

Super-Sleuth [Benjamin Stoloff] b&w

1937

Music for Madame [John G. Blystone] b&w

1937

A Damsel in Distress [George Stevens] b&w; uncred cph: J. Roy Hunt

1938

This Marriage Business [Christy Cabanne] b&w

1938

The Saint in New York [Ben Holmes] b&w; cph: Frank Redman; 1st film in 7-part 'The Saint'-series (RKO, 1938-41)

1938

Gun Law [David Howard] b&w; 60m

1938

Border G-Man [David Howard] b&w; 60m

1938

The Jitters [Leslie Goodwins] b&w; short/20m

1938

Beaux and Errors [Charles E. Roberts] b&w; short/18m

1938

Gunga Din [George Stevens (replaced Howard Hawks)] b&w; 2nd cam (efx): Clifford Stine; spec efx: Vernon L. Walker

1939

Man of Conquest [George Nichols Jr.] b&w; uncred fill-in ph (last week of filming when J. August was hospitalized): Frank Redman

1939

Nurse Edith Cavell [Herbert Wilcox] b&w; cph: F.A. Young

 

 

1939

The Hunchback of Notre Dame [William Dieterle] b&w

1939

Primrose Path [Gregory La Cava] b&w

1940

Dance, Girl, Dance [Dorothy Arzner (replaced Roy Del Ruth)] b&w; uncred cph (?); ph: Russell Metty

1940

Melody Ranch [Joseph Santley] b&w

1941

All That Money Can Buy/The Devil and Daniel Webster/Daniel and the Devil [William Dieterle] b&w

1942

The Battle of Midway [John Ford] 16mm-35bu/c; doc/18m; cph: John Ford, Jack MacKenzie & Kenneth Pier

 

The World War II drama "They Were Expendable", chronicling the exploits of daring P.T. boat crews in the Pacific, was directed by John Ford [center/cap, then a captain in the US Naval Reserve] and photographed by Joseph H. August, ASC [behind the camera, obscured by the matte box, then a lieutenant commander in the USRN]. The two filmmakers developed a professional and personal relationship during the war, and both were wounded while shooting combat for the documentary "The Battle of Midway" [1942]. [Courtesy of the American Society of Cinematographers]

 

1945

They Were Expendable [John Ford & (uncred fill-in) Robert Montgomery] b&w; spec efx: A. Arnold Gillespie; as Joseph H. August Lt. Comdr. U.S.N.R.

 

 

1947

Portrait of Jennie/Jennie/Tidal Wave [William Dieterle] b&w/tinted/c (last shot); uncred cph (finished film after death of J. August): Lee Garmes; 2u ice skating seq ph: Don Malkames; spec efx: Clarence Slifer; released in 1949