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Charles Rosher

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Charles Rosher
Born(1885-11-17)17 November 1885
London, England
Died15 January 1974(1974-01-15) (aged 88)
Lisbon, Portugal
Years active1912–1955
TitleA.S.C. Founding Member
AwardsBest Cinematography
1928 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (co-winner Karl Struss)
1946 The Yearling

Charles G. Rosher, A.S.C. (17 November 1885 – 15 January 1974) was an English-born cinematographer who worked from the early days of silent films through the 1950s.

He was Mary Pickford's favourite cinematographer and a personal friend, shooting all of the films in which she starred from 1918 to 1927, before they had a falling out during production of Coquette (1929).[1][2] He was the first cinematographer to receive an Academy Award, along with Karl Struss, for Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), and won again for The Yearling (1946), with Leonard Smith and Arthur Arling. He was also nominated four times.


Rosher with Mary Pickford (1921)

Charles Rosher was born in London in 1885. According to an interview of him in the documentary The Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers, he was originally unhappily studying naval architecture, but enrolled in London Polytechnic's school of photography, photography being a hobby of his.[3] He eventually became an assistant to Richard Speaight, the official photographer of the British royal family.[1]

After attending a conference in Rochester, New York in 1908, he decided to stay in the United States, as the pay was much better and he did not have to wear a morning coat.[3] He became a newsreel cameraman. In 1910, he went to work for David Horsley in his production company in New Jersey.[1] Because early film was largely restricted to using daylight, Horsley relocated his production company to Hollywood in 1911, taking Rosher with him, and opened the first movie studio there. This made Rosher the first full-time cameraman in Hollywood.[citation needed]

In 1913, Rosher went to Mexico to shoot newsreel footage of Pancho Villa's rebellion.[citation needed] In January 1919, he was one of the 15 founders of the American Society of Cinematographers and served as the group's first vice-president. In the 1920s, he was one of the more sought-after cinematographers in Hollywood, and was a personal favourite of stars such as Mary Pickford, working with her, first on A Little Princess (1917), then on all the films she acted in from How Could You, Jean? (1918) to My Best Girl (1927).[1]

However, they had a falling out over the restrictions the sound department wanted to impose in shooting Coquette (1929), Pickford's first talking picture, and Karl Struss took over the cinematography.[3] His work with Struss on F. W. Murnau's 1927 film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is viewed as a milestone in cinematography[citation needed] and won the pair the first Academy Award for cinematography in 1929. He shot five films for producer David O. Selznick, including Rockabye (1932), Our Betters (1933) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936).

Rosher worked at several studios, but spent the last 12 years of his career exclusively at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, shooting such films as Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate, and The Yearling.

He was rumoured to have been Anna May Wong's lover when she was 20.[4][5]

Rosher is the father of actress Joan Marsh and cinematographer Charles Rosher Jr. (1935–2015), who filmed 3 Women (1977) and A Wedding (1978) for Robert Altman, as well as Semi-Tough (1977), The Onion Field (1979) and Independence Day (1983).[6]


Rosher died of an accidental fall in Lisbon, Portugal, on 15 January 1974. He was 88 years old.


In addition, Rosher received Photoplay magazine's Gold Medal, and the only fellowship awarded by the Society of Motion Picture Engineers.


* indicates a Pickford film.


  1. ^ a b c d "Charles Rosher". Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers.
  2. ^ Barnes, Mike (27 October 2015). "Charles Rosher Jr., Cinematographer on Robert Altman Films, Dies at 80". Variety.
  3. ^ a b c The Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers at IMDb
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (9 January 2005). "Anna May Wong Did It Right". Time.
  5. ^ Chan, Anthony B. (2007). Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong (1905–1961). Scarecrow Press. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-4616-7041-4.
  6. ^ "Charles Rosher Jr". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

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