Edouart, Farciot

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EDOUART, Farciot

Special Effects Technician. Nationality: American. Born: California, 1895. Family: Married. Military Service: U.S. Army Engineers, Camouflage Division of Corps of Engineers during World War I, then with the Signal Corps. Career: 1915—joined Realart Studio as assistant cameraman; then worked for the Red Cross in Europe until 1921; 1922—joined Lasky Company, and worked as special effects photographer after it became Paramount, until 1974. Awards: Academy Award for I Wanted Wings, 1941, Reap the Wild Wind, 1942; Technical Academy Award, 1937, 1939, 1943 (2 awards), 1947, 1955 (2 awards); Special Academy Award, 1938. Died: In Kenwood, California, 17 March 1980.

Films as Special Effects Photographer (selected list):


Alice in Wonderland (McLeod)


Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway)


Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway)


The Texans (Hogan); Spawn of the North (Hathaway)


Union Pacific (DeMille)


Dr. Cyclops (Schoedsack)


I Wanted Wings (Leisen); Virginia (Griffith); Sullivan's Travels (P. Sturges); Aloma of the South Seas (Santell)


Reap the Wild Wind (DeMille)


So Proudly We Hail (Sandrich)


The Story of Dr. Wassell (DeMille)


The Lost Weekend (Wilder)


The Virginian (Gilmore)


Unconquered (DeMille)


The Emperor Waltz (Wilder)


Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)


Ace in the Hole (Wilder); When Worlds Collide (Maté)


Artist and Models (Tashlin)


The Mountain (Dmytryk)


The Colossus of New York (Lourié); The Space Children (Arnold); Vertigo (Hitchcock); Houseboat (Shavelson)


Blue Hawaii (Taurog); Breakfast at Tiffany's (Edwards); One-Eyed Jacks (Brando); The Pleasure of His Company (Seaton)


Donovan's Reef (Ford); Hud (Ritt); It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Kramer)


The Carpetbaggers (Dmytryk); The Disorderly Orderly (Lewis)


In Harm's Way (Preminger); Red Line 7000 (Hawks); Ship of Fools (Kramer); Village of the Giants (Gordon)


This Property Is Condemned (Pollack)


Barefoot in the Park (Saks); El Dorado (Hawks); Warning Shot (Kulik)


Rosemary's Baby (Polanski)


On EDOUART: articles—

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), June 1942, July 1974.

Fry, Ron, and Pamela Fourzon, in The Saga of Special Effects, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1977.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 26 March 1980.

Obituary in Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (Scarsdale), July 1980.

* * *

The name most closely associated with classic rear-screen projection effects is Farciot Edouart. Rear-screen projection is a technique which composites studio sequences with location or effects shots by projecting images on a screen behind the live action and then simultaneously photographing them. Developed during the late 1920s, it was first used in Just Imagine in 1930. According to American Cinematographer, Edouart was the second technician to employ rear-screen projection in feature films.

Edouart's concentration and expertise in this field is made clear by the ten Academy Awards he received between 1937 and 1955. Seven of the awards were technical and directly involved improvements on the rear-screen projection process, most notably his improvement of the triple-headed background projector and a process which transferred color transparencies to glass plates, then projected and rephotographed them.

Edouart's filmography avoids much overt science-fiction or fantasy. This fact is not all that surprising, since rear-screen projection as practiced by Edouart was used to render a heightened reality and project authenticity of locale, as in Spawn of the North, Union Pacific, Aloma of the South Seas, Ace in the Hole, The Mountain, and Blue Hawaii. However, some of his best-remembered work foregrounds technology as it plays with the unreal. Dr. Cyclops and When Worlds Collide (both created by Edouart and Gordon Jennings, a frequent collaborator) used rear-screen projection to depict the very small in an oversized environment: the 12-inch-tall explorers struggling to survive in a world usually taken for granted (Dr. Cyclops) or the scientists coping with Earth's destruction by a renegade planet (When Worlds Collide). Vertigo and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World employed similar techniques to visualize the private fantasies of the film's protagonists: the morbid obsession to recreate the lost ideal woman (Vertigo) or the comic lunacy of the promise of untold wealth (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World).

Edouart stands as an expert technician whose efforts were made in the service of a film's overall design. Professionalism prevented him from creating special effects for their own end and consequently much of his work passes undetected. Although this may deny recognition by the general public, it actually attests to Edouart's consummate skills.

—Greg. S. Faller