Gregg Toland (Gregg Wesley Toland)

Gregg Toland

Gregg Toland, A.S.C. (May 29, 1904 – September 28, 1948) was an American cinematographer noted for his innovative use of lighting and techniques such as deep focus, examples of which can be found in his work on Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and John Ford’s The Long Voyage Home. Toland was born in Charleston, Illinois on May 29, 1904 to Jennie, a housekeeper, and Frank Toland. His mother moved to California several years after his parents divorced in 1910. He first demonstrated his chiaroscuro, side-lit style on the short film The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra, on which one of the two 400W bulbs they had available burned out, leaving only a single bulb to light with. During the 1930s, Gregg Toland became the youngest cameraman in Hollywood but soon one of its most sought-after cinematographers. Over a seven-year span (1936–1942), he was nominated five times for the “Best Cinematography” Oscar, including a win in 1940 for his work on Wuthering Heights. He worked with many of the top directors of his era, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, Erich von Stroheim, King Vidor, Orson Welles, and William Wyler. Gregg Toland died in Los Angeles, California on September 28, 1948 of coronary thrombosis at age 44. He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Just before his death, he was concentrating on the “ultimate focus” lens, which makes both near and far objects equally distinct. “Just before he died he had worked out a new lens with which he had made spectacular shots. He carried in his wallet a strip of film taken with this lens, of which he was very proud. It was a shot of a face three inches from the lens, filling one-third of the left side of the frame. Three feet from the lens, in the center of the foreground, was another face, and then, over a hundred yards away was the rear wall of the studio, showing telephone wires and architectural details. Everything was in focus, from three inches to infinity.”

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Born

  • May, 29, 1904
  • USA
  • Charleston, Illinois

Died

  • September, 28, 1948
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • coronary thrombosis

Cemetery

  • Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  • Hollywood, California
  • USA

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