Hoefler, Paul L. (Paul Louis), 1893-1982

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Paul L. Hoefler was a cinematographer and adventurer who in 1925 produced the earliest motion picture showing Bushmen of southern Africa and in 1931 the earliest sound documentary film, also set in Africa. Both African film expeditions were organized and carried out while he lived in Denver. Paul Louis Hoefler was born in 1893 in Spokane, Washington. He started in photography at an early age and by his late teens was active in Hollywood in bit parts and behind a film camera. His first big assignment was cameraman for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Later that year his family moved from California to Denver, Colorado, where he soon opened a commercial studio. In 1918 he married Maudie Bush of Denver, the first of three wives, and they had a daughter in 1920. About that time he closed his studio and went to work for the Denver Post newspaper as a reporter and press photographer. Intrigued by Africa since childhood, Hoefler read all he could about it and yearned to go there. Backed financially by influential friends and acquaintances, he convinced Frederick G. Bonfils, owner and flamboyant editor of the Denver Post, to sponsor an expedition to study the Bushmen of southern Africa. The Denver African Expedition departed in July 1925 with an ethnologist from the University of Denver, Professor C. Ernest Cadle, as leader, Hoefler as cinematographer, and a small group of Denver businessmen. Joined by two South African anthropologists, the group succeeded in making contact with several tribes of Bushmen. Hoefler shot some 12,000 feet of motion picture film and made a movie entitled "Lost Tribe of the Kalahari Desert." At that time very little was known about the Bushmen and Hoefler's film is reportedly the first to record them. Unfortunately the film has been lost. Hoefler arranged a second trip to Africa with an even bolder objective, to cross the center of the continent and film many of its wild animals and oddities. Hoefler was leader and cinematographer on the Colorado African Expedition of 1928-1929. He used two flatbed trucks to drive from Mombasa on the Indian Ocean to Lagos on the Atlantic, actually covering some 13,000 miles. It was a bold adventure and logistic masterpiece, as at that time there were very few roads and almost no filling stations. Hoefler shot miles of film and recorded many of the sounds on his journey. The resulting movie, "Africa Speaks" released in 1931, was the first documentary film with sound ever made. It was an immense success, playing around the world to large audiences. Hoefler wrote a book about the adventure, also named "Africa Speaks," published by The John C. Winston Co. in 1931 and translated into 13 languages. For this endeavor Hoefler was elected to the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society of London. During World War II Hoefler served with the US Army Air Corps in aerial photography in eastern Africa and as Director of Public Relations in the Middle East. After the war he settled in southern California and produced documentary and educational films, receiving numerous awards. He died in 1982 in San Diego.

From the description of Paul L. Hoefler papers 1925-1982. (Denver Museum of Nature & Science). WorldCat record id: 69382673

Paul L. Hoefler was a cinematographer and adventurer who in 1925 produced the earliest motion picture showing Bushmen of southern Africa and in 1931 the earliest sound documentary film, also set in Africa. Both African film expeditions were organized and carried out while he lived in Denver.

Paul Louis Hoefler was born in 1893 in Spokane, Washington. He started in photography at an early age and by his late teens was active in Hollywood in bit parts and behind a film camera. His first big assignment was cameraman for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Later that year his family moved from California to Denver, Colorado, where he soon opened a commercial studio. In 1918 he married Maudie Bush of Denver, the first of three wives, and they had a daughter in 1920. About that time he closed his studio and went to work for the Denver Post newspaper as a reporter and press photographer.

Intrigued by Africa since childhood, Hoefler read all he could about it and yearned to go there. Backed financially by influential friends and acquaintances, he convinced Frederick G. Bonfils, owner and flamboyant editor of the Denver Post, to sponsor an expedition to study the Bushmen of southern Africa. The Denver African Expedition departed in July 1925 with an ethnologist from the University of Denver, Professor C. Ernest Cadle, as leader, Hoefler as cinematographer, and a small group of Denver businessmen. Joined by two South African anthropologists, the group succeeded in making contact with several tribes of Bushmen. Hoefler shot some 12,000 feet of motion picture film and made a movie entitled Lost Tribe of the Kalahari Desert . At that time very little was known about the Bushmen and Hoefler???s film is reportedly the first to record them. Unfortunately the film has been lost.

Hoefler arranged a second trip to Africa with an even bolder objective, to cross the center of the continent and film many of its wild animals and oddities. Hoefler was leader and cinematographer on the Colorado African Expedition of 1928-1929. He used two flatbed trucks to drive from Mombasa on the Indian Ocean to Lagos on the Atlantic, actually covering some 13,000 miles. It was a bold adventure and logistic masterpiece as at that time there were very few roads and almost no filling stations. Hoefler shot miles of film and recorded many of the sounds on his journey. The resulting movie, Africa Speaks, released in 1931, was the first documentary film with sound ever made. It was an immense success, playing around the world to large audiences. Hoefler wrote a book about the adventure, also named Africa Speaks, published by The John C. Winston Co. in 1931 and translated into 13 languages. For this endeavor Hoefler was elected to the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society of London.

During World War II Hoefler served with the US Army Air Corps in aerial photography in eastern Africa and as Director of Public Relations in the Middle East. After the war he settled in southern California and produced documentary and educational films, receiving numerous awards. He died in 1982 in San Diego.

From the guide to the Paul Hoefler Papers, 1925-1993, (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

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Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Paul Hoefler Papers, 1925-1993 Denver Museum of Nature and Science,
creatorOf Hoefler, Paul L. (Paul Louis), b. 1893. Paul L. Hoefler papers 1925-1982. Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Alfred M. Bailey Library
creatorOf [Paul Hoefler, biographical materials] University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn Africa speaks film opening. Getty Research Institute
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associatedWith Denver African Expedition (1925-1926) corporateBody
associatedWith Troyer, Jacqueline person
associatedWith Troyer, Jacqueline. person
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Denver African Expedition (1925-1926)
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Birth 1893

Death 1982

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