Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Film World Mourns Lee Garmes, Asc

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Film World Mourns Lee Garmes, Asc

Article excerpt

When Lee Garmes, ASC, passed away on August 31, following a brief illness, his many friends were not only shocked and saddened, but some of them were also surprised to discover that he was 80 years old.

Their surprise is understandable, because if there was one quality which he radiated constantly it was an unabashed youthfulness. Although having spent four-score eventful years on this earth, he remained young in spirit, young in attitude and young in his enthusiasms up until the last day of his life. Moreover, he had a great affinity for young people. He was an avid admirer of such young film geniuses as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and he spent a great deal of time lecturing to film students in colleges and universities throughout the country. His kindness in helping many of these novice filmmakers on a personal basis was legendary in Hollywood.

Recently in these pages, Mr. Garmes' colorful 60-year career as a cinematographer, producer and director was reviewed in some detail (see American Cinematographer, September 1978), but certain facts bear repeating. He began his film career in 1916 with the New York Motion Picture Co. and joined Thomas H. Ince on the West Coast shortly afterward. Going to work, he used to take the famous "Red Car" trolley from Hollywood to Santa Monica, where he transfered to a horse-drawn shuttle for the final run to "Inceville" on the beach.

Rising to the top of his profession as a cinematographer, he photographed such outstanding films as: "SCARFACE", "DISRAELI", "THE JUNGLE BOOK", "LILIES OFTHE FIELD", "MOROCCO", "SINCE YOU WENT AWAY", "LOVE LETTERS", "SPECTER OF THE ROSE", "THE SCOUNDREL", "THE BIG FISHERMAN", "DUEL IN THE SUN" and "THE SHANGHAI EXPRESS", for which he won an Academy Award.

Although officially uncredited, he also photographed a considerable portion of "GONE WITH THE WIND".

While maintaining a very busy professional schedule, Mr. Garmes foujjd,..time to contribute to the motion picture iriddstry in many constructive ways.

The much-honored Mr. Garmes was recently accorded a "Tribute to Lee Garmes, ASC" by the Tucson Museum of Art and the University of Arizona, and the mayor of Tucson proclaimed May 25th, 1978 as "Lee Garmes Day". A few weeks later he was honored on an even larger scale by the Directors Guild of America, in association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Many of the most prominent stars, directors and producers in Hollywood turned out to salute him on the evening of June 2nd.

The high esteem in which he was held by his colleagues is evident in the following excerpts from tributes paid him in person, on tape and by telegram on that occasion:

Ben [Hecht] and Charlie [MacArthur] used to declare that with Lee Garmes you didn't need a director; he could make the actors' performances with his camera ... Well, feeling as they did about Ruth and Lee Garmes, it's no wonder they lured him away from all the money of Hollywood to come to New York and work with them on two pictures that have become classics, "CRIME WITHOUT PASSION" and "THE SCOUNDREL", in which Noel Coward starred. Together they made some mighty fine pictures and I'm very happy to send this greeting to Lee Garmes.


All the members of our A. S. C. Board of Governors send their love and respect to Lee tonight. Lee is noted so much for his enthusiasm and youthfulness in everything that we get into, and he is most progressive. It's like talking to a young boy when you get into new things with him . .. It is a pleasure working with Lee, and I hope there will be many more years of such association. …

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