Mary Pickford / Charles Rosher's first Mitchell

Feel free to discuss any topic related to the Mitchell Camera. Both 35 mm and 16 mm models are welcomed here. Also consider posting topics of other major motion picture cameras that you feel are important to the development of the Mitchell Camera. Feel free to upload a photo from the option on each new post.

Mary Pickford / Charles Rosher's first Mitchell

Post by pickfordfan » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:15 pm

Yowza, yowza to this blog. I am a United Artist fan and by that I mean, from their earliest days. And as many of you know, Mary Pickford and friends started it all. As I understand it, one of the first things UA did was go out and buy a Mitchell Standard. Which back in the good 'ol days, cost them a fortune. To that end, I give you Mary Pickford and her Mitchell Standard. Yowza, yowza, yowza!

mary pickford standard.jpg

Posts: 57
Joined: Wed May 15, 2013 10:03 am

Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by mitchellbnc » Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:01 pm

Hey good on you Henry! I was just talking with Bruce Morgan today (an authority on Mitchell Camera history) in regards to Mary Pickford and her Mitchell Standard. So nice to see your timely post. She plays a pivotal role in the emergence of the Mitchell and its popularity with Hollywood studios.
pickford mitchell 2.jpg
Theodore Wilhelm administrator


Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by pickfordfan » Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:04 am

Members: Reposted here from the Wikipedia website:

In 1919, she (Pickford) increased her power by co-founding United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband, Douglas Fairbanks. Before UA's creation, Hollywood studios were vertically integrated, not only producing films but forming chains of theaters. Distributors (also part of the studios) then arranged for company productions to be shown in the company's movie venues. Filmmakers relied on the studios for bookings; in return they put up with what many considered creative interference.

United Artists broke from this tradition. It was solely a distribution company, offering independent film producers access to its own screens as well as the rental of temporarily unbooked cinemas owned by other companies. Pickford and Fairbanks produced and shot their films after 1920 at the jointly owned Pickford-Fairbanks studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. The producers who signed with UA were true independents, producing, creating and controlling their work to an unprecedented degree. As a co-founder, as well as the producer and star of her own films, Pickford became the most powerful woman who has ever worked in Hollywood.

By 1930, Pickford's acting career had largely faded.[19] After retiring three years later, however, she continued to produce films for United Artists, and she and Chaplin remained partners in the company for decades. Chaplin left the company in 1955, and Pickford followed suit in 1956, selling her remaining shares for three million dollars,

Yowza, yowza, yowza!,


Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by » Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:16 am

Love the early history of the Mitchell Standard. One of the best resources that I've found documenting this time period is the ground breaking article from the July/December 1997 issue of "Operating Cameraman." It was authored by Sprague Anderson and titled "MITCHELL – The Standard."

In his article, he relates that Charles Rosher was Mary Pickford's cameraman and started shooting her silent films in 1922 with her Mitchell camera, which was number 8 (see the photo credit in the second photo regarding Charles Rosher.) Given that information, I can only assume that we are seeing her looking through Mitchell number 8 in the first photo.

The article goes on to say that Rosher bought his own Mitchell Standard in 1922 which was number 61. But Anderson also believes that Rosher was responsible for shooting Pickford's very first feature: "The Love Light" with a Mitchell before they started using serial numbers.

~ Tom


Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by samsonwillerd » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:13 am

Yowza back to ya! Here is a great shot of famous cameraman, Charles Rosher and a Mitchell Standard. If you Google his name, you will find tons of information about Mr. Rosher. He left a huge legacy as a cinematographer.

Charles Rosher Shooting.jpg
Charles Rosher Shooting.jpg (32.14 KiB) Viewed 3375 times

Site Admin
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue May 22, 2012 7:13 pm

Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by admin » Fri Aug 29, 2014 10:19 am

The very first Mitchell camera was introduced in 1920 and had a total production run of approximately 60 machines which ended in 1924. This first camera was not called the "Standard" but referred to only as the Mitchell Camera (1). Many cameramen who worked in the early silent era referred to this model as the Mitchell/Leonard camera (2).

1. Mitchell Camera Corporation; Sales Brochure "Describing the Mitchell Motion Picture Camera." 17 pages, circa 1920, Mitchell Camera Corp, Sun Vally, Calif.
2. Clarke, Charles G., ASC; correspondence with Laurence J. Roberts 1979-1981


Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:26 am

Hey, thank you for the "fun" factoid. I did not know that! Keep up the great work.

~ Tom

Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by » Wed Sep 10, 2014 4:27 pm

Salutations group! Charles Rosher and Mary Pickford made quite a team back in the days of silent pictures. I have attached an article where Ernst Lubitsch praises Charles Rosher for his recent work on the Pickford film "Rosita."
American Cinematographer magazine article
What draws my eye and interest as well, is that picture. Which shows what is most likely, Rosher's personally owned Mitchell Standard. And sure enough, we see the hand crank as this is period correct.

Remember that back in the days of silent films, it was the camera men who purchased the cameras. In the case of a Mitchell Standard - it's cost was equivalent to that of buying several houses. Think: very expensive.



Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by pickfordfan » Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:53 pm

Hello forum. Yowza, yowza! Nice to see this thread getting more interest. Below is a photo from the set of Rosita. The man directly behind the Mitchell Standard is indeed Charles Rosher. I suppose there is no need to point out Ms. Pickford. However, the gentleman pointing his finger is Ernst Lubitsch.
pickford rosher mitchell.jpg
Although the clipping in the above post where Lubitsch lavishes praise upon Rosher, Pickford was not as kind towards Lubitsch and his treatment of the production of Rosita. Pickford said, "It's the worst picture I ever did, it's the worst picture I ever saw." Source: Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. Page 95.

In the next photo, Rosher takes refuge under an umbrella while Lubitsch implored more action. This was Lubitsch's first film produced in America. Pickford on the far left already appears unimpressed with Lubitsch.
rosher mitchell rosita.jpg
Yowza, yowza, yowza!


Re: United Artists and their first Mitchell Standard

Post by lolly » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:24 pm

Hello all. I found this text about Charles Rosher from the September 1941 issue of American Cinematographer in an article called:

Aces of the Camera IX.

If you were a movie goer during the years when Mary Pickford was "America's Sweetheart," you probably saw many a 24 sheet billboard advertising her films. And on these billboards, in addition to Miss Pickford's name, the title of the picture, and mention of the supporting cast, you'd see, in letters every bit as large and prominent as those naming the director, "Photographed by Charles Rosher." It wasn't, as it would be today, "Charles Rosher, A.S.C," because at that time there simply wasn't any A.S.C. for Rosher or any-body else to belong to. He remedied that in 1919 when, with Victor Milner, Arthur Edeson, and a handful of other topflight cinematographers, he founded what has since become the world's foremost cinematographic organization.
Charles Rosher 1941
Mary Pickford's insistence on crediting and publicizing Rosher coequally with her director was another instance of that Pickford business sense which has become legendary in Hollywood. After all, when you strip all the glamor and romanticized publicity away from it, a movie star's fortune is literally wrapped up in the way she appears on the screen. And "Little Mary" safe guarded hers by entrusting it to Rosher who, then as now, was one of the industry's acknowledged masters of the intangible art of photographically glamorizing women. Directors and leading men might come and go, but for more than a dozen years — right up to her retirement — no one but Charlie Rosher could be trusted to photograph the First Lady of Hollywood.

More than a few other picture wise stars have felt the same way about Rosher's skill: Joan Crawford, Constance Bennett, and plenty of others right up to such representative of America's 1941 sweethearts as Martha Scott and Priscilla Lane have insisted that Rosher photograph them. And they've reason enough! Go to see any picture that has come from his camera: it may be a spectacularly pictorial job like "Sunrise" which, back in 1927 won for Rosher and Karl Struss, A.S.C, the very first Academy Award for photography, or like any of the many more recent releases which have pushed his name repeatedly among the Academy Award nominees and "preview poll" winners. Or it may be a strictly unpretentious programme-picture of the sort which offers the cinematographer little or no chance for personal distinguishment. But you'll have to look mighty closely before you see any player given even a second's unflattering photography!

For that's the way Rosher attacks a picture. "After all," he says, "there are pictures — and pictures. Sometimes things
will play into the cinematographer's hands: the locale or period may be one that will give him spectacular settings and costumes; or the story may be such as to give him an opportunity for spectacular dramatic mood and effect lightnings. In a case like that, the man at the camera can hardly help turning in a spectacularly pictorial job of camera work.

"But on the other hand, there are other pictures — not all of them, by any means, in the 'B' or programme classification — which inherently offer the cinematographer nothing pictorial. The setting may be prosaic or downright ugly; the action may be light comedy drama in a mood which can only be given conventional, crisp, high-key treatment. "But there are always the people! And they're the element the public buys its way into the theatre to see. So it stands to reason that we should concentrate our photographic efforts on them — on keeping them looking always as attractive as the public wants them to be.

"Both technically and psychologically, this is a challenge. You've got to know what is the right mental approach to
the task of photographing each star just as much as you must know the right technical means to employ. And what's
right with one star may be utterly wrong with another one who has a different temperamental makeup. That, I think,
is one reason why a star, given a choice between two or three cinematographers of actually equal attainments, may insist on one certain man in preference to others.

"For example, you'll find some stars who approach their work from a technician's viewpoint. They know certain angles or actions are good, and that certain others make them photographically unattractive. They want you to tell them just what to do and what not to do — and on the set they give a fine performance even though all the time they're carefully avoiding doing those things you've warned against.

"On the other hand there are other players — every bit as capable — who just aren't made that way mentally. If you tell them that this angle or that movement is bad for the camera, they'll become so over conscious of it that in their effort to avoid it, they'll freeze right up and give a performance much below what they really can do. The critics simply say the actor has given a bad performance; but maybe it was the cinematographer's psychological technique that was really at fault.

"Some of our modern equipment and methods have given us a remarkable advantage when we're working with players like this. For example, a few years ago I made a number of pictures with a star who had a particularly square jaw: to get the best results, it was necessary to soften or shade the front light when she turned to certain angles, or when the camera dollied to her in certain ways. The most effective method, I found, was to mount a special lamp on the dolly, and sit beside it with a little paddle with which I could shade the light as necessary during the action. I've no doubt it was disturbing to the people on the other side of the camera — but it was the most effective method available then. Today, we can simply mount a "Dinky Inky" on the camera, and manipulate it by remote control through a dimmer. Your lighting control will be equally precise — but the player will be much less conscious of it.

"And in that direction, I think, lies one of the most interesting trends I've noticed during the years I've been active in
cinematography. We hardly realize it at the time, we're so close to it all: but each successive technical advance that has come along has tended in some measure to make conditions on the set more natural. When I first entered the profession, we had weirdly artificial looking makeup, sets that were often unnaturally colored to suit the old ortho film, and glaring, flickery arc lights. Today, makeup is all but unnoticeable; panchromatic film makes it possible to photograph natural-appearing sets, and the nature and intensity of our lighting are rapidly approaching normal room level standards, so that, all told, the actor can feel he is under much more nearly normal surroundings than ever before.

"In fact, in some instances, he can actually do his work under strictly normal surroundings. In my most recent film, "One Foot in Heaven," we filmed several important sequences in this story of a clergyman's life actually within one of Los Angeles' finest churches. Not so many years ago, it would have been impossible to do this. In the first place, the church would scarcely have tolerated picture people working there; in the second place, it would have been technically impossible to light such an edifice photographically and yet obtain a natural result. But times have changed. We made our scenes there: photographically they're even more effective than any set could have been — and believe me, our players were so conscious of the surroundings that they gave more convincing performances than they might have given on a studio set. And as a result of this combination of technically and psychologically fitting surroundings, I am sure the results on the screen will prove more dramatically convincing than any of us could have obtained a few years ago." END.

Hope you enjoyed it,

Post Reply