American Film

Robert Parrish’s "flashback" to master cinematographer James Wong Howe, which appeared in the April 1986 American Film, begins with a reversal of fortune and ends with a revealing anecdote about the mistake of underestimating this Asian American film legend. Howe, who won Academy Awards® for THE ROSE TATTOO (1956) and HUD (1964), was nominated for seven others over a span of five decades, beginning with ALGIERS (1938) and ending with FUNNY LADY (1975), made the year before his death. "Jimmie" Howe emigrated from Guangzhou, China at age five and, as a teenager, worked as a "slate boy" for director Cecil B. DeMille. Given a chance to show his camera skills, Howe photographed silent star Mary Miles Minter, whose pale blue eyes never looked so go on film as when Howe devised a black velvet camera attachment to cast a shadow over them. Howe was elevated to the position of "lighting cameraman," now known as Director of Photographer or DP, on Minter’s DRUMS OF FATE (1923) – the first of 139 films shot by Howe during his distinguished career.