Harryhausen, Ray 1920-

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PERSONAL: Born June 19, 1920, in Los Angeles, CA; married; wife's name, Diana; children: Vanessa. Education: Attended Los Angeles City College.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

CAREER: Special-effects technician, producer, and actor. Director and producer of short films, including Mother Goose Presents Humpty Dumpty, 1946; (and animator) The Story of Little Red Riding Hood, 1949; Hansel and Gretel, 1951; Rapunzel, 1951; The Story of King Midas, 1953; and The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare, 2002. Visual effects technician for feature films, including Mighty Joe Young, 1949; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953; It Came from beneath the Sea, 1955; Animal World, 1955; Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956; (and actor) Twenty Million Miles to Earth, 1957; (and writer) Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, 1958; The Three Worlds of Gulliver, 1960; Mysterious Island, 1961; (and associate producer) Jason and the Argonauts, 1963; First Men in the Moon, 1964; One Million Years B.C., 1966; and (and associate producer) The Valley of Gwangi, 1969. Coproducer of Clash of the Titans, 1981. Actor in films, including Spies like Us, 1985; Beverly Hills Cop III, 1994l; Flesh and Blood, 1997; and Mighty Joe Young, 1998. Has also appeared in video and television productions. Military service: U.S. Army Signal Corps; served during World War II.

AWARDS, HONORS: Gordon E. Sawyer Award for Technical Achievement, 1992.


The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (screenplay), Columbia, 1958.

(And associate producer) The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (screenplay), Columbia, 1974.

(And associate producer) Sinbad and the Eye of theTiger, Columbia, 1977.

Film Fantasy Scrapbook, A. S. Barnes (South Brunswick, NJ), 1972, third edition, 1981.

(With Tony Dalton) Ray Harryhausen: An AnimatedLife, introduction by Ray Bradbury, Billboard Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Cinefantastique, Starburst, Film, Cinema TV Today, Kinoscope, Film Making, Horror Elite, Film Comment, Ecran Fantastique, American Cinematographer, Cinefex, Photoplay, and Cinema Papers.

SIDELIGHTS: Ray Harryhausen's stop-action dynamation, while employing techniques that are as prehistoric as his memorable T-Rex in The Valley of Gwangi in comparison to modern computerized animation, thrilled moviegoers for nearly four decades during the latter part of the twentieth century. Harryhausen perfected the art of moving models from frame to frame, creating the illusion of action, and among his creations are the giant ape in the early version of Mighty Joe Young and the giant crab in Mysterious Island. In his memoir, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, the special-effects innovator tells of his early inspirations and his career, and he provides a great deal of detail about each of his films. The introduction is provided by long-time friend Ray Bradbury. Harryhausen includes hundreds of rare photographs and drawings that make the book a feast for fans of film history and technology. He also offers comments on the newest computer-generated special effects, saying that the creatures are "too realistic" and lack the "dream quality" of the early versions.

Harryhausen was thirteen years old when he saw the black-and-white film King Kong, an event that changed his life. He learned from Willis O'Brien, Kong's animator, and nearly two decades later created his own ape for Mighty Joe Young. Sea monsters reigned in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and It Came from beneath the Sea, B-movies still enjoyed today. At mid-century movies were filmed in black and white; these colorful, fantastic creatures made them memorable. As with the five-armed octopus of Beast, that attacked San Francisco and wrapped its tentacles around the Golden Gate Bridge, Harryhausen's integration of animation and live action made it a believable fantasy, and the film began a quarter-century collaboration between Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer. In another of his movies, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, the opening scene features a spaceship that swoops down behind a car on a lonely desert highway, a sequence that capitalized on the space alien paranoia of the 1950s.

First Men in the Moon, an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel, was a color film and the last of Harryhausen's strictly science-fiction films. He worked on a number of productions that feature prehistoric creatures, including Mysterious Island, One Million Years B.C., and the Valley of Gwangi, which, with its combination of dinosaurs and cowboys, did not live up to its creators' expectations. With Jason and the Argonauts, Harryhausen came closest to capturing the power of myth; in the creaking movements of the statute Talos, in the attack of the harpies, and in Jason's fight with seven skeletons, he created a sense of incredible magic for his audiences.

Among Harryhausen's most popular movies are his three "Sinbad" films. Each has outstanding examples of animation: the skeleton fight in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, the six-armed Kali of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and the Minotaur or troglodyte in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Clash of the Titans, one of Harryhausen's most popular films, had an A-list cast, including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Harry Hamlin, whose part, Harryhausen notes in his memoir, was originally to be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, "whose muscled physique would have reflected the 1950s and 1960s Italian epics, . . . an image we desperately tried to avoid." Harryhausen's One Million Years B.C. featured up-and-coming starlet Raquel Welch. Harryhausen also notes in his book the difference in the costs incurred in creating the monsters of yesteryear versus the monsters of today, and writes that the giant octopus in Beast was produced for $26,000, "which by today's budgets would be the cost of coffee for the crew."

Commenting on the filmmaker's memoir, a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Harryhausen "has brought magic to millions; this terrific book is a fitting capstone to his brilliant career." Gregory McNamee wrote in Hollywood Reporter that "film buffs will find behind-the-scenes insights into his productions to be the best part of Harryhausen's memoir, though those of a more technical—or literalist—bent will enjoy his musings on such things as the problems of color correcting old films and the existential questions raised by battles with demons and monsters ('how do you kill skeletons?')." Booklist critic Gordon Flagg concluded that "in the age of CGI and digital animation, Harryhausen may be old school, but his art retains it appeal."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 8, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.

Harryhausen, Ray, and Tony Dalton, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, Billboard Books (New York, NY), 2004.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 4: Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Booklist, March 15, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, p. 1254.

Hollywood Reporter, April 22, 2004, Gregory McNamee, review of Ray Harryhausen, p. 15.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of RayHarryhausen, p. 164.

Library Journal, April 1, 2004, Michael Rogers, review of Ray Harryhausen, p. 95.

Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2004, review of RayHarryhausen, p. 75.*