GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#1: [Courtesy of Cheryl Bredell]

#2: [Left] with actor Burt Lancaster & dir Robert Siodmak - "The Killers" [1946]

 

   


ELWOOD 'WOODY' BREDELL

 

Born: 24 December 1902, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, as Elwood 'Woody' Bailey Bredell (birth name: Jesse B. Bredell Jr.).

Died: 26 February 1969, Newport Beach, Orange County, Calif., USA.

Career: Started as actor. Was still ph at RKO and Paramount (1931-34).

Was a member [first as still ph, later as doph] of the ASC.



GO TO FILMS

[Courtesy of Cheryl Bredell]

 

Woody Bredell, whose career in feature films spanned the mid-'30s through the mid-'50s, photographed movies in most genres [except Westerns], including comedy, musicals, and horror, and even did his share of Technicolor work. It was in the field of thrillers and film noir, however, that he made his biggest mark. Bredell was employed at Universal from 1937 through 1946 and starting with 'Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror' in 1942, he revealed his skills at evoking the dark side of a drama. His striking use of shadows in that film's major sequences [especially the finale] turned a clever detective film into a memorably atmospheric piece of cinema, with several startling scenes that overcame some obvious model shots and other budgetary shortcomings. Robert Siodmak's 'Phantom Lady' gave Bredell a chance to paint dark, threatening, disquieting images for the duration of an entire feature and the film was virtually a symphony of shadows, composed by Bredell. He later repeated this triumph in Siodmak's 'The Killers' and it can be argued that, along with Deanna Durbin's performance, Bredell's photography was the most successful component of the actress' change-of-pace thriller, 'Lady on a Train'. Bredell joined Warner Bros. in 1947 and was assigned to bigger budgeted, higher prestige movies such as the late-day Errol Flynn swashbuckler 'Adventures of Don Juan' and the Danny Kaye vehicle 'The Inspector General'. After a brief stay at 20th Century Fox in the early '50s, he returned to his favorite cinematic environment with the film noir 'Female Jungle', which was notable as the first starring vehicle for blonde bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield. A production of screenwriter Burt Kaiser, 'Female Jungle' was shot on a low budget in Chicago and later bought up by American International Pictures. The movie has the texture of an alcohol-induced nightmare, which is exactly what its booze-hound police detective hero experiences as the suspect in a murder, and Bredell's photography makes every frame look like it was lifted off a page of a Jim Thompson story. [Bruce Eder in 'All Movie Guide'.]


The Hollywood classic 'The Killers' [see photos below], first released in 1946 and based on a 12-page short story by Hemingway, is notable for giving breakout roles to both Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. Director Robert Siodmak provides an object lesson in film noir, from the brilliant opening scene of two killers entering a diner to the oppressive fatalistic atmosphere in which Lancaster's ex-boxer 'the Swede' falls for Gardner's sultry underworld Circe. Cinematographer Woody Bredell's single-source lighting creates the kind of brooding chiaroscuro – the inky shadows, the flaring whiteness of Gardner's skin – that could stand comparison with 'Citizen Kane'. [Anthony Quinn]

 

 

'The Killers' definitely belongs among the top rung of noir classics. All the elements are present in spades: from the femme fatale, to the doomed protagonist, to the hardened gunsels, to the ultimate double-cross. Most of all, this tour-de-force of deepening shadows, and cheap perfume gets its aura from the masterful photography of Woody Bredell and the complex camera set-ups of German director Robert Siodmak. Credit should also go to maverick producer Mark Hellinger who had a real feel for the material, while the script by Anthony Veiller snaps and crackles with appropriate innuendo and menace, punctuated by a terrific score from composer Miklos Rozsa. Hellinger took a real chance telling so much of the story in alternating flashback, a definite departure for the more linear-minded audiences of the day. But the strategy works, as the pieces come powerfully together at film's end. The opening sequence is as tense and taut and brilliantly photographed as any on record, with an air of menace and doom so thick that the killing comes as ecstatic release. This early noir entry set the pace and was never surpassed [though the very last shot seems badly misjudged]. Anyone wondering what the fuss over this quintessentially 40's genre was all about should scope out 'The Killers', for a glimpse into the elusive heart of darkness, a glimpse, as it were, that came to define the entire species. [Douglas Doepke]


What has 'Laura' got that 'The Unsuspected' [1947] hasn't? All the romantic, mid-range melodramatic elements that make for an essentially safe, polished, none-too-threatening entertainment experience. You won't find any of these things in 'The Unsuspected'. What you have instead is the noir mastery of director Michael Curtiz and cinematographer Woody Bredell, who take aspects of the 'Laura' plotline into new levels of intricacy and darkness, fueled by an almost lapidary sense of frame and scene construction. The camerawork and lighting in 'The Unsuspected', particularly in the studio scenes [inside the Croton mansion where most of the action takes place] is possibly the most sublimely sinister cinematography in the entire noir canon. What lifts 'The Unsuspected' out of its derivativeness? Curtiz and Bredell, first and foremost, who twist opulence into a half-world of endless shadows and shifting shapes, with an amazing series of trick reflections and intricately diffused lighting. The one problem for the film is that its romantic couple [Caulfield and North] is low-wattage compared to the rest of the proceedings. Curtiz and Bredell seem to sense this, however, and keep the Caulfield-North scenes as brief and tight as possible, all the while surrounding them with increasingly shadowy menace. In the 'Noir of the Year - 1947' voting, 'The Unsuspected' ranked 15th. I'd have to say that even in that deep class of notable noirs, this ranking is too low. In particular, Woody Bredell's lenswork is on a par with that of the great John Alton - but because of the relative obscurity of this film, Bredell wasn't even nominated for Best Cinematographer in '47. That is a most regrettable oversight. What we have here is the apex of noir style wedded to the glossy studio system approach. From a formalist perspective, 'The Unsuspected' is unquestionably in the top ten of best photographed noirs. That doesn't make it a great picture - it's merely very, very good - but it makes it one that will give lasting pleasure to those who respond to noir's unique visual allure. [From article by Steve-O on the 'Noir of the Week' website, 2006]


 

 FILMS

1927

Snowbound [Phil Stone] b&w; 6 reels; cph: Joseph Dubray & Earl Walker; prod Tiffany Productions

1937

West Bound Limited [Ford Beebe] b&w; uncred cph: Jerry Ash

1937

That's My Story! [Sidney Salkow] b&w; 62m

1937

Behind the Mike [Sidney Salkow] b&w; 68m

1937

Forbidden Valley [Wyndham Gittens] b&w; 68m

1938

Reckless Living [Frank McDonald] b&w; 65m

1938

Little Tough Guy [Harold Young] b&w

1938

Freshman Year [Frank McDonald] b&w; 65m

1938

Swing That Cheer [Harold Schuster] b&w; 63m

1938

Strange Faces [Errol Taggart] b&w; 65m

1938

Secrets of a Nurse [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 69m

1938

Swing, Sister, Swing [Joseph Santley] b&w; 63m

1938

Code of the Streets [Harold Young] b&w

1939

Spirit of Culver/Man's Heritage/Two Smart Boys [Joseph Santley] b&w

1939

Big Town Czar [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 61m

1939

Ex-Champ/Golden Gloves [Phil Rosen] b&w

1939

Two Bright Boys [Joseph Santley] b&w; 69m

1939

Call a Messenger [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 65m

1939

The Big Guy/Warden of the Big House [Arthur Lubin] b&w

1939

Danger on Wheels [Christy Cabanne] b&w; 61m

1939

Honeymoon Deferred [Lew Landers] b&w; 59m

1939

Double Alibi [Phil Rosen] b&w; 60m

1939

Black Friday [Arthur Lubin] b&w; filmed 1939-40

1940

Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me [Harold Schuster] b&w; 61m

1940

La Conga Nights [Lew Landers] b&w; 60m

1940

I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 61m

1940

Boom Town [Jack Conway] the magazine 'Film Daily' credits Bredell with ph, but the onscreen credits mention Harold Rosson; the film is a MGM prod and Bredell was working for Universal

1940

Gangs of Chicago [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 66m

1940

You're Not So Tough [Joe May] b&w

1940

The Mummy's Hand [Christy Cabanne] b&w; 67m

1940

Argentine Nights [Albert S. Rogell] b&w

1940

I'm Nobody's Sweetheart Now [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 64m

1940

Sandy Gets Her Man [Otis Garrett & Paul Girard Smith] b&w

1940

Dark Streets of Cairo [Leslie (= László) Kardos] b&w; 59m

1940

The Invisible Woman [A. Edward Sutherland] b&w; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; optical ph: Roswell Hoffmann

1940

Meet the Chump [Edward F. Cline] b&w; 60m

1940

Man Made Monster/The Electric Man/The Atomic Monster [George Waggner] b&w; 59m; spec pfx: John P. Fulton

1941

Music à la King [Reginald Le Borg] b&w; mus short/18m

1941

Hold That Ghost [Arthur Lubin] b&w; cph: Joseph Valentine

1941

Horror Island [George Waggner] b&w; 60m

1941

[Damon Runyon's] Tight Shoes [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 67m

1941

Jail House Blues [Albert S. Rogell] b&w; 62m

1941

Swing It Soldier/Radio Revels of 1942 [Harold Young] b&w; 66m

1941

Mob Town [William Nigh] b&w; 62m

1941

Hellzapoppin' [H.C. Potter & (add comedy/mus seq) Edward Cline] b&w

1941

South of Tahiti/White Savage [George Waggner] b&w

1941

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx [William Nigh] b&w; 66m

1941

Tough As They Come [William Nigh] b&w; 63m

1941

[Edgar Allan Poe's] Mystery of Marie Roget/Phantom of Paris [Phil Rosen] b&w; 61m

1941

The Ghost of Frankenstein/Frankenstein's New Brain/The Trial of Frankenstein [Erle C. Kenton] b&w; 67m; cph: Milton Krasner; filmed 1941-42

1942

Butch Minds the Baby [Albert S. Rogell] b&w

1942

Escape from Hong Kong [William Nigh] b&w; 60m

1942

Eagle Squadron [Arthur Lubin] b&w; 2uc; ph: Stanley Cortez

1942

Private Buckaroo [Edward F. Cline] b&w; 68m

1942

Strictly in the Groove [Vernon Keays] b&w; 60m; ph 'Dinning Sisters' mus numbers (1 day); ph: John W. Boyle

1942

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror/Voice of Terror [John Rawlins] b&w; 65m; 1st film of 12-part 'Sherlock Holmes'-series (Universal, 1942-46)

1942

The Amazing Mrs. Holliday [Bruce Manning (replaced Jean Renoir, who started the film)] b&w

1942

How's About It? [Erle C. Kenton] b&w; 61m

1942

Cowboy in Manhattan [Frank Woodruff] b&w; 60m; filmed 1942-43

1943

Follow the Band [Jean Yarbrough] b&w; 61m

1943

Hers to Hold/Three Smart Girls Join Up [Frank Ryan] b&w; 3rd film of 3-part 'Three Smart Girls'-series (Universal, 1936-43)

1943

So's Your Uncle [Jean Yarbrough] b&w; 64m; cph: Milton Krasner

1943

His Butler's Sister/My Girl Godfrey [Frank Borzage] b&w

1943

Phantom Lady [Robert Siodmak] b&w

1943

[W. Somerset Maugham's] Christmas Holiday [Robert Siodmak] b&w; spph: John P. Fulton; filmed 1943-44

 

EB - Deanna Durbin - prod Frank Shaw - dir Frank Ryan - "Can't Help Singing"

 

1944

Can't Help Singing [Frank Ryan] c; cph: W. Howard Greene

1944

The Beautiful Cheat/What a Woman! [Charles T. Barton] b&w; 59m

1945

Lady on a Train [Charles David] b&w; spph: John P. Fulton

1945

Tangier [George Waggner] b&w

1945

Smooth as Silk [Charles T. Barton] b&w; 64m; cph: Charles Van Enger; filmed 1945-46

1946

The Cat Creeps [Erle C. Kenton] b&w; uncred cph (?); ph: George Robinson

 

 

1946

Ernest Hemingway's The Killers [Robert Siodmak] b&w; spph: D.S. Horsley; see above

1947

The Unsuspected [Michael Curtiz] b&w; sfx ph: Robert Burks; see above

 

[Left/visor] with Michael Curtiz [jacket], Eric Blore [doctor] and Doris Day

"Romance on the High Seas"

 

1947

Romance on the High Seas/It's Magic [Michael Curtiz] c; sfx: Robert Burks, Wilfred M. Cline & David Curtiz

1947

Adventures of Don Juan/The New Adventures of Don Juan [Vincent Sherman] c; filmed 1947-48

1948

The Inspector General [Henry Koster] c; sfx: Edwin DuPar

1951

Journey Into Light [Stuart Heisler] b&w

1954

Christmas Hymns [Edgar Fairchild & Charles Previn] b&w; mus short/8m; ed from 'Lady on a Train' (1945) and 'Mad About Music' (1937-38; ph: Joseph Valentine)

1954

Female Jungle/The Hangover [Bruno VeSota] b&w; 2uc: Fred West

 

 FILMS AS [2ND] CAMERA OPERATOR

 

Doph Joseph Valentine [top left] - ? - ? - ? - Joel McCrea - Joan Bennett

"Two in a Crowd" - Courtesy of Cheryl Bredell

 

1936

Two in a Crowd [Alfred E. Green] 2nd c.op; ph: Joseph Valentine

1936

Three Smart Girls [Henry Koster] c.op; ph: Joseph Valentine; 1st film of 3-part 'Three Smart Girls'-series (Universal, 1936-43)

 

 FILMS AS STILL PHOTOGRAPHER

1930

The Texan [John Cromwell] co-still ph; ph: Victor Milner

1931

The Secret Call [Stuart Walker] ph: David Abel

1931

Panama Flo [Ralph Murphy] ph: Arthur Miller

1932

Hold 'em Jail [Norman Taurog] ph: Leonard Smith

1932

Madison Sq. Garden [Harry Joe Brown] ph: Henry Sharp

1932

The Devil Is Driving [Ben Stoloff] ph: Henry Sharp

1932

The Billion Dollar Scandal [Harry Joe Brown] ph: Charles Stumar

1932

She Done Him Wrong [Lowell Sherman] ph: Charles Lang

1933

I Love That Man [Harry Joe Brown] co-still ph; ph: Milton Krasner

1933

Song of the Eagle/The Beer Baron [Ralph Murphy] ph: Henry Sharp

1934

Thirty Day Princess [Marion Gering] ph: Leon Shamroy

1934

Now and Forever [Henry Hathaway] ph: Harry Fischbeck

1935

The Crusades [Cecil B. DeMille] co-still ph; ph: Victor Milner

 

 FILMS AS ACTOR

1916

It Happened in Honolulu [Lynn Reynolds] as ?; ph: ?; prod Red Feather Photoplays (Universal Film Manufacturing Company [UFMC])

1917

Southern Justice [Lynn Reynolds] as Daws Anthony; ph: Clyde Cook; prod Bluebird Photoplays, Inc.

1917

A Young Patriot [Louis Chaudet] as ?; ph: ?; prod UFMC

1917

Your Boy and Mine [Roy Clements] as ?; ph: ?; prod Victor Film Company

1917

Up or Down? [Lynn F. Reynolds] as Boy; ph: Clyde Cook; prod Triangle Film Corporation

1918

The Magic Eye [Rea Berger] as Cordy (cred as Elwood Burdell); ph: John Brown; prod UFMC