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Robert Flaherty

Robert Flaherty

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Also Known As: Robert Joseph Flaherty, Robert J. Flaherty Died: July 23, 1951
Born: February 16, 1884 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Iron Mountain, Michigan, USA Profession: documentarian, director of photography, producer, narrator, editor, director, screenwriter, explorer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A mineralogist and explorer turned pioneering documentarist, Robert Flaherty shot material for his first film, a study of the Belcher Islands, in 1917 but the footage was accidentally destroyed by fire. Undeterred, he planned another film, on Eskimo life, and received backing from the Revillon Freres fur company to make "Nanook of the North" (1922). An engaging chronicle of the day-to-day existence of one family, "Nanook" became an international success despite initial skepticism on the part of distributors. It also represented a landmark in the development of the documentary, thanks to its use of elements associated with narrative film: Flaherty structured the work around a storyline, directed the Eskimos in scenes "staged" for the benefit of the camera, and made sophisticated use of techniques including close-ups, tilts and pans. The success of "Nanook" earned Flaherty studio backing to make the lyrical Polynesian documentary "Moana" (1926), which was praised by critics but justly attacked by anthropologists as a poetic fantasy rather than an accurate representation of island life. Flaherty went on to co-direct the narrative feature "White Shadows of the South Seas" (1928) with W.S. Van Dyke and to...

A mineralogist and explorer turned pioneering documentarist, Robert Flaherty shot material for his first film, a study of the Belcher Islands, in 1917 but the footage was accidentally destroyed by fire. Undeterred, he planned another film, on Eskimo life, and received backing from the Revillon Freres fur company to make "Nanook of the North" (1922). An engaging chronicle of the day-to-day existence of one family, "Nanook" became an international success despite initial skepticism on the part of distributors. It also represented a landmark in the development of the documentary, thanks to its use of elements associated with narrative film: Flaherty structured the work around a storyline, directed the Eskimos in scenes "staged" for the benefit of the camera, and made sophisticated use of techniques including close-ups, tilts and pans. The success of "Nanook" earned Flaherty studio backing to make the lyrical Polynesian documentary "Moana" (1926), which was praised by critics but justly attacked by anthropologists as a poetic fantasy rather than an accurate representation of island life.

Flaherty went on to co-direct the narrative feature "White Shadows of the South Seas" (1928) with W.S. Van Dyke and to collaborate with F.W. Murnau on "Tabu" (1931), though he withdrew from both projects before completion. In 1931 he immigrated to England, where he exerted a significant influence on John Grierson and the British "social documentary" movement of the 1930s. Flaherty's best-known British film was "Man of Aran" (1934), a lyrical study of an Irish fisherman and his daily struggle for survival.

Flaherty later returned to the US and made two more highly acclaimed documentaries, "The Land" (1942), for the US Information Service, and "Louisiana Story" (1948), for Standard Oil.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Louisiana Story (1948) Director
2.
  The Land (1942) Director
3.
  Elephant Boy (1937) Director
4.
  Man of Aran (1934) Director
5.
  English Potter, The (1933) Director
6.
7.
  Industrial Britain (1931) Director
10.
  Moana (1926) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 The Land (1942) Narrator
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Milestones close milestones

:
Served as explorer, surveyor and prospector for Candian Grand Trunk Railway and Canadian mining syndicates in the early 1900s
1910:
Carried out series of expeditions searching for iron ore deposits in Nastapoka Islands, east of the Hudson Bay in Northern Canada for industrial entrepreneur, Sir William Mackenzie of the Mackenzie-Mann Company
:
Took motion picture camera along on expedition for first time
1916:
Made first documentary film (negative destroyed by cigarette fire in editing room)
1920:
Returned to Eskimo country to make film
1922:
Made first feature documentary film, "Nanook of the North"
1926:
Hired by Jesse L. Lasky to make a film about Polynesian tribal life for Paramount, "Moana"
1928:
Began co-directing (with Willard S. Van Dyke) first dramatic feature film, "White Shadows of the South Seas" (left before production completed) for MGM
1937:
Went to Great Britain; first worked for John Grierson at Empire Marketing Board, then for Gaumont-British and finally for Alexander Korda's London Films
1939:
Returned to US and made "The Land" for Pare Lorentz's US Film Service
1942:
Joined Frank Capra's War Department Film Division
1944:
Commissioned by Standard Oil to film "Louisiana Story"
1950:
Formed Robert Flaherty Film Associates Inc. (date approximate)
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Education

Upper Canada College: Toronto , Ontario -
Michigan College of Mines: -

Notes

Awarded the Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the University of Michigan (1950).

The Robert Flaherty Foundation established in 1953 and later renamed International Film Seminars, Inc.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Frances Flaherty. Filmmaking collaborator; married on November 12, 1914.

Family close complete family listing

brother:
David Flaherty. Filmmaker. Directed three films for US Office of Price Administration (1944-45) which were supervised by Robert Flaherty.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Drawings of Ennoesweetok of the Sikosilingmiut Tribe of the Eskimo"
"The Captain's Chair"
"The White Master"
"My Eskimo Friends"
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