Howe, James Wong

Alternative names
Birth 1899-08-28
Death 1976-07-12

Biographical notes:


From the description of Reminiscences of James Wong Howe : oral history, 1971. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122481335


James Wong Howe was born Wong Tung Jim on August 28, 1899 in Kwantung (Canton), China. He moved to the United States at age 5. After pursuing a career as a professional boxer in the Northwest, Howe moved to Los Angeles and became a delivery boy for a commercial photographer. In 1917 Howe entered the Hollywood film industry and soon became an assistant cameraman, working with such notable directors as Cecil B. DeMille. In 1922 he became a director of photography and quickly established a reputation as an inventive and meticulous craftsman. Initially known as James Howe, his Chinese name was added by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in hopes that a more exotic-sounding name appearing on film credits would enhance publicity for both Howe and the studio. In industry circles, Howe acquired the nickname of Low Key Hoe for his distinctive application of low-key photography. Howe also pioneered the use of deep focus and the hand-held camera. Howe won Academy Awards for his cinematography for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1963). Throughout his career Howe was also active as a still photographer. James Wong Howe died in 1976.

Other notable films featuring the cinematography of Howe include Peter Pan (1924), The Thin Man (1934), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), They Made Me a Criminal (1939), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Body and Soul (1947), He Ran All the Way (1951), Come Back Little Sheba (1953), Picnic (1956), The Sweet Smell of Success (1957), The Old Man and the Sea (1958), and Funny Lady (1975).

From the guide to the Photographs of San Francisco's Chinatown, Taken by James Wong Howe, 1944, (The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.)


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Ark ID:


  • Chinese--Photographs
  • Cinematographers--Interviews
  • Cinematography
  • Motion picture producers and directors
  • Motion picture industry
  • Actors


not available for this record


  • California--San Francisco (as recorded)
  • Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.) (as recorded)