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Morris, Errol M.


MORRIS, ERROL M. (1948– ), U.S. director, producer, editor, and writer. Born in Hewlett, Long Island, Morris received a history degree from the University of Wisconsin and attended Princeton University and then the University of California at Berkeley to earn his Ph.D. in philosophy. Morris' first film, Gates of Heaven (1978), was created after German film director Werner Herzog said he would eat his shoes if Morris made a documentary about pet cemeteries. Morris won the bet and Herzog kept his end of the bargain, which is documented in Les Blank's Werner Herzog Eats His Shoes (1980). Morris' next documentary, Vernon, Florida (1981), recorded the eccentric lives of the small town residents. Morris worked as a private detective for two years, a profession that helped him direct and write The Thin Blue Line (1988), a documentary about a man wrongly accused of murder. The man was eventually released. In Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (1997), Morris used his own invention, the Interrotron. A play-off of teleprompters, the Interrotron lets Morris project his image onto a screen in front of the camera, allowing the interviewee to look straight into the lens, not off to the side. It creates what Morris calls "the true first person." Morris used it in his tv series First Person (2000–1) and for his Academy Award winning documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003). Other Morris films are The Dark Wind (1991), A Brief History of Time (1991), and Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999), about an execution device inventor who testified on behalf of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. Beyond films, Morris makes commercials and won an Emmy in 2001 for a pbs ad.

[Susannah Howland (2nd ed.)]

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