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Charles Rosher

Charles Rosher

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Also Known As: Chuck Rosher, Charles A Rosher, Charles G. Rosher Died: January 15, 1974
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: England, GB Profession: director of photography, photographer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Pioneering cinematographer who developed many of the "tricks" of "star" lighting, Rosher began his career in London film laboratories, and as photographer to the Court of St. James, before moving to the US in 1908 and settling in Hollywood in 1911. Rosher enjoyed two exceptionally creative periods during his 40-year career. In the silent era he was responsible for several important technical innovations, shot several Mary Pickford vehicles (including "Little Lord Fauntleroy" 1921 and "Sparrows" 1926), and was co-photographer, with Karl Struss, of F.W. Murnau's visually haunting "Sunrise" (1927), for which they shared the first Academy Award for cinematography. In the 1940s and 50s, he again asserted himself as one of the foremost artists in his field with the lush color compositions of features such as "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), "Show Boat" (1951), and "Kiss Me Kate" (1953). To say Rosher is a pioneer of filmmaking is an understatement. While films were first shot in Hollywood in 1908, Rosher arrived and began working in the town in 1911, two years before DeMille and Lasky shot the first feature film. Beginning in 1916 he was, for 12 years, personal DP for Mary Pickford, lighting her so the audience...

Pioneering cinematographer who developed many of the "tricks" of "star" lighting, Rosher began his career in London film laboratories, and as photographer to the Court of St. James, before moving to the US in 1908 and settling in Hollywood in 1911. Rosher enjoyed two exceptionally creative periods during his 40-year career. In the silent era he was responsible for several important technical innovations, shot several Mary Pickford vehicles (including "Little Lord Fauntleroy" 1921 and "Sparrows" 1926), and was co-photographer, with Karl Struss, of F.W. Murnau's visually haunting "Sunrise" (1927), for which they shared the first Academy Award for cinematography. In the 1940s and 50s, he again asserted himself as one of the foremost artists in his field with the lush color compositions of features such as "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), "Show Boat" (1951), and "Kiss Me Kate" (1953). To say Rosher is a pioneer of filmmaking is an understatement. While films were first shot in Hollywood in 1908, Rosher arrived and began working in the town in 1911, two years before DeMille and Lasky shot the first feature film. Beginning in 1916 he was, for 12 years, personal DP for Mary Pickford, lighting her so the audience could not tell she was still playing the sweet young thing while far past the age of ingenue. Rosher compiled a list of many classic films, but his mark as a DP rests not on his mastery of lighting, or being able to reveal the internal thoughts of the actors through shadows. Rather, his fame rests on the many innovations attributed to him. Rosher had a keen understanding of the star power of the Hollywood system, and was the first DP to use stand-ins for actors in order to insure "star" lighting. He also developed reflectors to aid towards the same purpose. Rosher also was able to use dummies in action sequences and light and shoot them so the audience was none the wiser, releasing the actors from dangerous stunts. In the 1921 version of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" starring Pickford, Rosher was able to develop the rudiments of the system which allowed Pickford to kiss herself on screen (through split screen). Some sources also credit Rosher as being the first DP to successfully use artificial light to boost the natural sources for outdoor sequences. Among the many classic films on which Rosher was associated were the original "Pollyanna" (1920), "Tess of the Storm Country" (1922), "What Price Hollywood?" (1932), "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (Freddie Bartholomew; 1936), "Neptune's Daughter" (1949), and "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950). Rosher retired from filmmaking in 1960, departed Hollywood and moved to Jamaica, purchasing the Errol Flynn plantation. A founder of the American Society of Cinematographers, he oft appeared at film festivals and lectured at colleges and film schools. Rosher is the father of cinematographer Charles Rosher Jr., who has worked extensively in TV, and actress Joan Marsh, who co-starred in numerous films of the 30s and 40s. In 1938, Rosher was sentenced to a jail term for failing to pay child support to his first wife for Marsh, a case dating back to the early 30s. Rosher claimed that as although Marsh was under 18, she was earning thousands of dollars as an actress and Rosher failed to see why he should give his ex-wife the child support checks.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Was a photographer at the Court of St James in the United Kingdom
1908:
Immigrated to USA
1911:
Began working in Hollywood
1916:
Selected by Mary Pickford as her personal cameraman
1919:
Was one of the founders of the American Society of Cinematographers
1927:
Worked on "Sunrise"; won Academy Award
1936:
Was director of photography on Freddie Bartholomew version of "Little Lord Fauntlerory"
1946:
Won second Academy Award for work on "The Yearling"
1951:
Was cinematographer on color "Show Boat"
1960:
Retired from filmmaking
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Rosher's nickname for Mary Pickford was 'Old Monkey Face'.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lolita Rosher. Divorced in 1923; mother of Joan Marsh.
wife:
Doris Rosher. Second wife.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Charles Rosher Jr. Cinematographer. Often works on TV programs ("Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman").
daughter:
Joan Marsh. Actor. Acted under name of Dorothy Rosher for short period.

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