Monday, February 9, 2015

Close Up: Irving Ries and his Brothers

Irving Ries

Irving Ries, cinematographer for Wilbur Durborough's On the Firing Line with the Germans (1915),  features in a recent article by Robert Peters for the New England Journal of Photographic History on the Ries brothers and their place in Hollywood history. The story on how the Ries brothers contributed to the American film industry is in a word fascinating. The brothers had a number of "firsts" in the film industry.

Awarded with the Iron Cross

Before he went to Germany to cover the First World War Irving Ries filmed in Mexico. He was the only American cinematographer awarded the Iron Cross by the German army. The article also has more on the infamous "counterfeit" Ries who forged his passport and was sent to Britain as a German spy.  Around 1956, Irving was nominated for an Academy Award for the special effects in Forbidden Planet. He also did the photographic effects for MGM's The Mysterious Island, a Technicolor movie from 1929 that was released ten years before the Wizard of Oz.

The next eldest brother, Ray, did the special effects in two 1939 blockbuster movies: The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.  One of the brothers, Paul, invented the Ries tripod which was marketed from 1936 and used by many professional cinematographers. The camera tripod is still being made today. For more information go to

The article on the Ries brothers can be read and downloaded here.