MAE WEST said her favorite cinematographer was Karl Struss because he made her look more beautiful onscreen than anyone else. Like her, he was of German descent.
• • The son of a wire manufacturer, cinematographer Karl Struss was born in New York City on 30 November 1886 and studied photography at Columbia University. Hal Mohr — — a fellow film cameraman — — called Struss one of the greatest still photographers who ever lived.
• • In 1914, he took over the portrait studio of Clarence White [1871 — 1925] at 5 West 31st Street, which was then the heart of the photography district. Struss maintained a flourishing business there until 1918, when (at the outset of the war) he voiced a pro-German sentiment. The damning information given to the authorities came from other members of the PPA [Pictorialist Photographers of America]. In 1918 he was asked to resign from the PPA and was struck from their membership. Though he vigorously defended his patriotism and even spent time at Fort Leavenworth as a guard, his studio closed, clients vanished, and his reputation was damaged. Disillusioned with New York, Struss realized that it would be difficult to re-establish himself as a photographer. Therefore, he decided to go straight to Los Angeles in 1919 as soon as he was discharged from the Army.
• • In 1919, Karl Struss was first hired as a still photographer by Cecil B. DeMille. Climbing to the top in relatively short order, Struss worked most often in collaboration with Charles Rosher; he and Rosher shared the first-ever Best Photography Academy Award for their eye-popping work on F.W. Murnau's Sunrise .
• • Many of Struss' own innovations were often mistakenly credited by film historians to directors. For instance, it was Struss and not director Rouben Mamoulian who came up with the idea of using infrared filters for the transformation scenes in 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During his many years at Paramount Pictures, Struss helped train some of the best cameramen of the 1950s.
• • When film historians cite his best work, Goin' to Town starring Mae West is, alas, not one of the motion pictures referenced.
• • In the month of December — — on 15 December 1981 — — 95-year-old Karl Struss died in Los Angeles.
• • Goin' to Town — — Paramount production and release. Stars Mae West. Directed by Alexander Hall. Produced by William LeBaron. Original by Marion Morgan and George B. Dowell; screenplay and dialog. Miss West. Songs, Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal; camera, Karl Struss. At the Paramount N.Y. — — week of 10 May 1935. Running time, 75 mins.
• • Cast:
• • Cleo Borden . . . Mae West
• • Edward Barrington . . . Paul Cavanagh
• • Ivan Veladov . . . Ivan Lebedeff
• • Taho . . . Tito Coral
• • Mrs. Crane Brittony . . . Marjorie Gateson
• • Buck Gonzales . . . Fred Kohler, Sr.
• • Fletcher Colton . . . Monroe Owsley
• • Winslow . . . Gilbert Emery
• • Young Fellow . . . Grant Withers
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West's cameraman • • Karl Struss in 1937 • •