Ernest B. Schoedsack

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Ernest B. Schoedsack
Schoedsack during the production of The Most Dangerous Game in 1932
Ernest Beaumont Schoedsack[1]

June 8, 1893
DiedDecember 23, 1979(1979-12-23) (aged 86)
Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Film producer, cinematographer, film director
Years active1914–1952
SpouseRuth Rose

Ernest Beaumont Schoedsack[1] (June 8, 1893 – December 23, 1979) was an American motion picture cinematographer, producer, and director.[2][3] Schoedsack worked as a cameraman in World War I, where he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. At the conclusion of the war, he stayed in Europe to further his career. He worked on several films with Merian C. Cooper including King Kong, Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, and The Most Dangerous Game. He also collaborated with screenwriter and actress Ruth Rose, whom he later married. Schoedsack died on December 23, 1979, at age 86.

Early life[edit]

Ernest B. Schoedsack was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 8, 1893.[4] He ran away from home at age fourteen and worked with road gangs.[5] He went to San Francisco, where he worked as a surveyor.[6] He grew to be 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m), and his friends called him "Shorty".[7]

Film career[edit]

Schoedsack began his career thanks to his brother Felix that helped him get a job as a cameraman in films in 1914 for Mack Sennett.[8] He continued working as a cameraman in World War I.[9] He served in the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army in France in 1918.[10] He also flew in combat bombing missions.[5] After the war, he stayed in Europe furthering his career as a cameraman.[6] His eyesight was severely damaged in World War I, yet he continued to work in films afterward.[11] In 1920, Schoedsack helped refugees in Poland escape the Polish–Soviet War. He worked with the American Red Cross.[12] During 1921 and 1922, he also helped refugees from the Greco-Turkish War. After training at the Columbia University School of Military Cinematography, he was hired by The New York Times as a cameraman on an expedition around the world.[6][13]

Chang and early films[edit]

Schoedsack began as a co-director with Merian C. Cooper.[3] He first met Cooper in 1918 in Vienna.[5] They both later worked for The New York Times, but decided to make their own films.[7] Their first collaboration was on Grass, which was produced in 1925.[3] That same year, Schoedsack met screenwriter and former actress Ruth Rose,[6] and would later marry her in 1926.[10] They met on an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, where Schoedsack was the cameraman, and Rose was the official historian.[6]

In 1927, Cooper and Schoedsack produced the film Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness together, which depicts a man's survival in the Northern Siamese jungle. Schoedsack and Cooper spent 18 months in the jungle in order to produce the film and photograph certain scenes.[3] While producing the film, stampeding elephants that are featured in the movie almost ran over Schoedsack and his crew. The risk was worth it, however, and Chang was later nominated for Best Picture at the first Academy Awards show.[6] Schoedsack kept a print of a Bengal tiger pouncing with its jaws open in his office. When asked by a reporter about the photo, Schoedsack said that the tiger had sprung and he shot it.[14]

In 1929, the duo worked to create The Four Feathers film. It was the first fiction film that Schoedsack and Cooper collaborated on. It was also one of the last silent films of Hollywood.[6]

King Kong and early 1930s films[edit]

While Schoedsack and Cooper made several other films together, they are most known for directing the 1933 film King Kong.[9] After finishing production on The Most Dangerous Game, Schoedsack joined Cooper in the production of King Kong. Schoedsack focused on scenes with human actors, while Cooper headed the special effects. Schoedsack, Cooper, and Rose inspired the characters of John Driscoll, Carl Denham, and Ann Darrow, respectively.[6] The script was co-written by Schoedsack's wife, Ruth Rose. This film marked a transition in the working relationship of Schoedsack and Cooper. After the film, Schoedsack only directed films, while Cooper produced them. Their partnership ended, however, in the late 1930s.[9]

In 1933, after filming King Kong, Schoedsack worked on shooting for a film that was never completed called Arabia. For this project, Schoedsack went to shoot on location in Syria.[6] Another film was made in the King Kong franchise. Rose wrote the screenplay for the next film, Son of Kong, which was released in 1933 by RKO. Schoedsack was the sole director of the film. Also in 1933, Rose and Schoedsack collaborated on the film Blind Adventure.[6]

Later work[edit]

Schoedsack directed several other films in the 1930s including The Last Days of Pompeii, Trouble in Morocco, and Outlaws of the Orient. In 1940, Schoedsack directed Dr. Cyclops, which was Hollywood's first science fiction film in technicolor. In 1949, the film Mighty Joe Young was released by RKO and directed by Schoedsack. It was a reunion film of the main King Kong creative team of Cooper, Schoedsack, and Ruth Rose. This would be the last film that Schoedsack would direct due to eye injuries received in World War II from testing photography equipment.[6]

Later life[edit]

Ruth Rose died on Schoedsack's birthday on June 8, 1978. Schoedsack died on December 23, 1979, in Los Angeles.[11] They are interred together at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[15]


Film Year released Contribution
The Lost Empire 1924 Director of photography[16]
Eagle Squadron 1924 Background photographer[16]
Grass 1925 Producer, Director[16]
Greed 1925 Director of photography[16]
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness 1927 Producer,[17] director[16]
Gow, The Head Hunter 1928 Director of photography[16]
The Four Feathers 1929 Film editor, director, director of photography[16]
Rango 1931 Writer, director, producer in Sumatra, editor, photographer[16]
The Most Dangerous Game 1932 Director[16]
King Kong 1933 Director[9]
Son of Kong 1933 Director[16]
Blind Adventure 1933 Director[9]
The Monkey's Paw 1933 Director of prologue[16]
Long Lost Father 1934 Director[9]
The Last Days of Pompeii 1935 Director[18]
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer 1935 Photographer and director of shooting of background location shooting in India[9]
Outlaws of the Orient 1937 Director[9]
Trouble in Morocco 1937 Director[9]
Dr. Cyclops 1940 Director[9]
Mighty Joe Young 1949 Director[9]
This Is Cinerama 1952 Director[19]


  1. ^ a b "Ernest B. Schoedsack". Hollywood Walk of Fame. October 25, 2019. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  2. ^ Richards 1973, p. 120-123.
  3. ^ a b c d Hall, Mordaunt (April 30, 1927). "The Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  4. ^ "Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Aitken, Ian (February 2013). The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. Routledge. ISBN 9780415596428.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ernest B. Schoedsack". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Von Gunde, Kenneth (October 2001). Flights of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films. McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 9780786412143.
  8. ^ "Ernest B. Schoedsack | American director | Britannica". Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ernest B. Schdoedsack". Turner Classic Movies. Time Warner Company. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Schoedsack, Ernest B." Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Ernest B Schoedsack". Classic Monsters. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  12. ^ Veeder, Gerry K. (January 1, 1990). "The Red Cross Bureau of Pictures, 1917–1921: World War I, the Russian Revolution and the Sultan of Turkey's harem". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 10 (1): 47–70. doi:10.1080/01439689000260031. ISSN 0143-9685.
  13. ^ "Hidden Histories of Columbia". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  14. ^ Erb, Cynthia (April 2009). Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780814334300.
  15. ^ "Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery". Geni. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ernest B. Schoedsack: Complete Filmography". TCM. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "Now Showing: Chang". Altoona Tribune. May 19, 1928. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via
  18. ^ Reddington, John (October 17, 1935). "The Screen: 'Last Days of Pompeii" at the Center Theater". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via
  19. ^ "Ernest B. Schoedsack". MUBI. Retrieved June 1, 2016.

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