Struss, Karl, 1886-1981

Alternative names
Birth 1886-11-30
Death 1981-12-16

Biographical notes:

Struss (1886-1981) was a cinematographer for over fifty years. He graduated from Columbia University in 1912, worked as a photographer for several years, and developed the Struss soft-focus lens. In 1919, Struss went to Hollywood, where he worked for Cecil B. DeMille for three years and in 1925 he went to Rome to film "Ben Hur." He won the first Oscar for cinematography for "Sunrise" in 1927 and received Oscar nominations for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1932) and "Limelight" (1950). Other Struss films include "Coquette" (1929) and "The Great Dictator" (1940).

From the description of Papers, 1921-1977. (University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center). WorldCat record id: 32213994

Karl Struss (1886-1981) was an American photographer and Academy Award-winning cinematographer. Born in New York, New York, Struss studied photography with Clarence H. White and belonged to Alfred Stieglitz's "291" photo-pictorialist group. By 1914 his photographs were appearing regularly in popular magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Harper's Bazaar . In 1919 he moved to Los Angeles where he took a job as a cameraman for Cecil B. DeMille. Over his career he worked on more than one hundred films, including Ben Hur, Coquette (Mary Pickford's first sound film), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln, Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1927.

Struss was very interested in what was then called "stereo cinematography," what would today be called "3-D movies." Much of his work in this media was done in Italy (he also did regular 2-D films there, including one with Sophia Loren) and not released in the United States.

Struss was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the Stereo Division of the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and the Stereo Club of Southern California (SCSC).

From the guide to the Karl Struss Photographs, 1920-1921, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • Radio, television, film
  • Popular culture
  • Photography
  • Motion pictures
  • Actresses--Photographs
  • Cinematography


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