Cinematographer. Nationality: British. Born: England, 1885. Family: Children: the actress Joan Marsh and the photographer Charles (Chuck) Rosher, Jr. Career: Lived in the United States after 1908, and in Hollywood after 1911; 1912—first film as photographer, Early Days Out West; worked on several Mary Pickford films, and later for MGM and other studios; made numerous technical innovations; 1918—founding member, American Society of Cinematographers. Awards: Academy Award for Sunrise, 1927–28; The Yearling, 1946. Died: In 1974.
Films as Cinematographer:
Early Days Out West (Turner)
With General Pancho Villa in Mexico ; In Bermuda (Dawley); The Oath of a Viking (Gordon); The Next in Command (Gordon); The Mystery of the Poisoned Pool (Gordon)
Gene of the Northland (Clarke); The Smugglers' Lass (Clarke); The Mad Maid of the Forest (Clarke)
The Dumb Girl of Portici (Smalley and Weber); Blackbirds (McGowan); Voice in the Fog (McGowan); Pudd'nhead Wilson (Reicher); The Sowers (W. De Mille); The Blacklist (W. De Mille); Anton the Terrible (W. De Mille); The Plow Girl (Leonard); The Clown (W. De Mille); Common Ground (W. De Mille)
On Record (Leonard); At First Sight (Leonard); Hashimura Togo (W. De Mille); The Primrose Ring (Leonard); Secret Game (W. De Mille); Mormon Main (Leonard); A Little Princess (Neilan) (co)
Too Many Millions (Cruze); The Dub (Cruze); Till I Come Back to You (C. DeMille) (co); Widow's Might (W. De Mille); One More American (W. De Mille); Honor of His House (W. De Mille); How Could You, Jean? (Taylor); White Man's Law (Young); Johanna Enlists (Taylor); Captain Kidd, Jr. (Taylor)
The Hoodlum (Franklin); Daddy Long Legs (Neilan); Heart o' the Hills (Franklin)
Pollyanna (Powell); Suds (Dillon)
The Love Light (Marion); Through the Back Door (Green); Little Lord Fauntleroy (Green and J. Pickford); Saint Ilario (Kolker)
Smilin' Through (Franklin); Tess of the Storm Country (Robertson)
Tiger Rose (Franklin); Rosita (Lubitsch)
Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (Neilan)
Little Annie Roonie (Beaudine) (co)
Sparrows (Beaudine) (co)
Sunrise (Murnau) (co); My Best Girl (Taylor)
Atlantic (Dupont); The Vagabond Queen (von Bolvary)
La Route est belle (Wolfe and Florey); Two Worlds (Dupont); Knowing Men (Glyn); War Nurse (Selwyn); Paid (Wood)
Dance, Fool, Dance (Milton); This Modern Age (Grinde); Laughing Sinners (Beaumont); Silence (Gasnier and Marcin); Beloved Bachelor (Corrigan)
Two against the World (Mayo); What Price Hollywood? (Cukor); Rockabye (Cukor)
Bed of Roses (La Cava); After Tonight (Archainbaud); Our Betters (Cukor); The Past of Mary Holmes (Thompson and Vorkapich); Silver Cord (Cromwell)
Flaming Gold (R. Ince); What Every Woman Knows (La Cava); Outcast Lady (Leonard); Moulin Rouge (Lanfield); The Affairs of Cellini (La Cava); After Office Hours (Leonard); The Call of the Wild (Wellman)
Broadway Melody of 1936 (Del Ruth)
Small Town Girl (Wellman); Little Lord Fauntleroy (Cromwell)
Men Are Not Gods (Reisch); The Woman I Love (Litvak); The Perfect Specimen (Curtiz); Hollywood Hotel (Berkeley) (co)
Hard to Get (Enright); White Banners (Goulding)
Espionage Agent (Bacon); Hell's Kitchen (Seiler and Dupont); Off the Record (Flood); Yes, My Darling Daughter (Keighley)
A Child Is Born (Bacon); My Love Came Back (Bernhardt); Three Cheers for the Irish (Bacon); Brother Rat and a Baby (Enright)
Four Mothers (Keighley); Million Dollar Baby (Bernhardt); One Foot in Heaven (Rapper)
Stand By for Action (Leonard); Mokey (Root); Pierre of the Plains (Seitz)
Swing Fever (Whelan); Assignment in Brittany (Conway)
Yolanda and the Thief (Minnelli)
The Yearling (Brown) (co); Ziegfeld Follies (Minnelli) (co)
Fiesta (Thorpe) (co); Song of the Thin Man (Buzzell); Dark Delusion (Goldbeck)
On an Island with You (Thorpe); Words and Music (Taurog) (co)
Neptune's Daughter (Buzzell); The Red Danube (Sidney); East Side, West Side (LeRoy)
Pagan Love Song (Alton); Annie Get Your Gun (Sidney)
Show Boat (Sidney)
The Story of Three Loves (Reinhardt and Minnelli) (co); Young Bess (Sidney); Kiss Me Kate (Sidney)
Jupiter's Darling (Sidney) (co)
By ROSHER: article—
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), February 1982.
On ROSHER: articles—
Sidney, George, on Show Boat in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1951.
Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.
Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1973.
Variety (New York), 30 January 1974.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1974.
BKSTS Journal (London), April 1974.
* * *
Charles Rosher first worked as a photographer of portraits, then he began filming westerns. It is therefore no surprise that when in 1913 the notorious Pancho Villa signed a film contract with Mutual Film Corporation, Rosher was chosen to do the filming.
Great Hollywood directors often have one actress who seems to bring out the best in them; for Lee Garmes it was Dietrich; for William Daniels, Garbo; for Rosher, Mary Pickford. The 1921 version of Little Lord Fauntleroy, starring Pickford, called forth considerable inventive genius on Rosher's part to achieve some intricate moving-camera shots.
His collaboration with Karl Struss on the cinematography of Sunrise led to a tour de force in photographing people against a landscape of lights. They photograph, in the country scenes, water reflecting light and, in the city scenes, glass. Sunrise visually bears comparison with the great French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, presenting a world which is realistic, and yet also inviting the viewer into the romantic world of the young lovers. This film's successful mixture of realism with romanticism is all the more miraculous when one considers that it was adapted from a novel of dismal and unrelieved naturalism. The film's superior qualities are in great part due to the cameramen. Except for Murnau's demands for a moving camera and his interest in reflected light, he allowed the cinematographers a free hand with the visuals. In order to achieve a shimmering effect, Rosher and Struss shot towards the sun. They sought twilight effects of light coming out of the doors of the village houses.
Rosher photographed the 1936 version of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Later in his career, he filmed musicals—Show Boat and Kiss Me Kate—in the Christmas-card technicolor that predominated then. Rosher's real talent, however, was working in black and white, during the silent era. Although many of Rosher's contributions to cinematography were made before there were Academy Awards, he did win Oscars for Sunrise and The Yearling.