3.75 x 4.75” Black and white photo of Marcel Picard (1887-1952) with cowboy star behind. Circa 1917. Camera ready to go. Cigar in hand. Train caboose behind. One of over 100 images from this archive. Never published.
Also known as Marcel Le Picard, cinematographer Marcel Picard’s solid Hollywood career lasted from 1915 to 1953. An unsung pioneer, he left an archive of candid shots of the early days of cinema that portray the excitement and freedom and easy camaraderie between the men and women who invented the movies. Noted for his work on the early Will Rogers shorts (“Jes’ Call Me Jim” ,”Cupid The Cowpuncher”…), and with the Bowery Boys, and Bela Lugosi, as well as on countless oaters (with Tim McCoy and Tex Ritter among many others), he also left love letters to his mistress in addition to his delightful on-set photography. We only post this one example to protect the value of this important archive.
“Born in 1887 — practically before there were “motion pictures” as we know them today — cinematographer Marcel Le Picard ended up carving out a niche for himself in Hollywood across almost four decades. Born Andre Marcel Le Picard in Le Havre, France in 1887, he joined the American film industry practically before there was a Hollywood, in 1915, at age 38, when he photographed The Outlaw’s Revenge, starring Mae Marsh and a young Raoul Walsh. Le Picard (whose name was sometimes credited as “LePicard,” Picard, and also Pickard) went on to photograph dozens of movies in the silent era, working on as many as six (or more) a year. He quickly developed a reputation as a fast, highly efficient shooter who could deliver quality results on schedule. Although the pace of his early work — which involved all manner of subjects, but was weighted toward westerns and other outdoor and adventure films — slackened in the mid-1920s, he continued to work regularly in the years of the transition from silents to talkies, albeit on as few as one or two movies a year. But by the second half of the 1930s he was back to the same grueling pace of his silent-era work. These were all low-budget productions, and included vehicles for such figures as African-American film star and singer Herb Jeffries, horror movie legend Bela Lugosi in his declining years, and also such notorious low-budget pieces as Child Bride (1938). His late 1930s work was principally for Poverty Row independent producers, such as M & A Alexander and Equity Pictures.
Much of Le Picard’s work from the early 1940s onward was shot for Monogram Pictures, and he seemed to work most often with director William Beaudine — although with his ubiquitous list of credits it is difficult to quantify such matters. Amid his work with Beaudine (which included Kroger Babb‘s notorious exploitation film Mom And Dad), Le Picard may well also have been more closely associated with the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys movies than anyone other than the director and stars Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. And for all of his speed, Le Picard also knew how to get impressive results when something special was called for — his shooting on Spooks Run Wild gave that movie a convincing old-style ghost story look that translated well to the small-screen in the 1960s, while Smugglers’ Cove had a dark, ominous look throughout, Angels In Disguise a classic noir-ish visual tone, and Ghost Chasers a moody lyricism that made it one of the better later Bowery Boys pictures. He also got to shoot in color on at least two occasions, on the Bela Lugosi vehicle Scared To Death — a horror film in which the Cinecolor shooting looks more than a little eerie — and his final film, the independently produced western Born To The Saddle.” ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
(Bruce Eder is a reviewer, feature writer, and researcher for Goldmine, Video Magazine, Video Review, Interview, The Village Voice, Newsday, and Current Biography. He has worked on a variety of film, laserdisc, and DVD productions, including the reissues of a great many CDs (soundtracks in particular); has contributed to The Rolling Stones Singles Collection, London Bo Diddley Sessions, Kiss Me Kate (soundtrack), Far From the Madding Crowd, Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers, the Byrds box, and the Monterey Pop laserdisc. He was a vice president and co-founder of the Society for British Music, is a soundtrack expert, and has been producer for Sony Music Special Products; he is also currently a producer/narrator for The Criterion Collection on DVD. )