Cinematography by James Wong Howe

Cinematography by James Wong Howe

26 Episodes

When the opening credits read “Cinematography by James Wong Howe,” it’s a sure sign of quality. A brilliant innovator whose career spanned from the silent era to the 1970s, the Chinese American trailblazer became one of golden-age Hollywood’s preeminent cameramen, renowned for his mastery of light and shadow and pioneering use of deep-focus cinematography, low-key lighting (earning him the nickname Low-Key Howe), wide-angle lenses, and dolly shots, always in service of enhancing a film’s dramatic and psychological impact. Witness the Weegee-like tabloid punch he gives to the sleazy New York cityscapes of the noir classic SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS; the fantastical, phosphorescent colors of the witchy romantic romp BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE; and the distorted expressionist flourishes he brings to John Frankenheimer’s paranoiac nightmare SECONDS for a taste of Wong Howe’s inimitable artistry.

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Cinematography by James Wong Howe
  • Bradford Young on James Wong Howe

    Episode 1

    This introduction by cinematographer Bradford Young was recorded in 2022.

  • Cinematography by James Wong Howe Teaser

    Episode 2

  • Manhattan Melodrama

    Episode 3

    Directed by W. S. Van Dyke • 1934 • United States
    Starring Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy

    Famous today as the film that gangster John Dillinger had just watched when he was shot to death by federal agents coming out of a Chicago movie theater, this pre-Code crime drama stars Clark Gable ...

  • Whipsaw

    Episode 4

    Directed by Sam Wood • 1935 • United States
    Starring Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Harvey Stephens

    The live-wire chemistry between stars Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy propels this snappy tale of romance and jewel thieves. When FBI Agent Ross McBride (Tracy) goes undercover to join a gang of criminals ...

  • The Prisoner of Zenda

    Episode 5

    Directed by John Cromwell • 1937 • United States
    Starring Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, C. Aubrey Smith

    The most acclaimed of the many film adaptations of Anthony Hope’s classic adventure novel brings together the star power of Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Dav...

  • Shining Victory

    Episode 6

    Directed by Irving Rapper • 1941 • United States
    Starring James Stephenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp

    In this stirring, unsung blend of romance and medical drama, Dr. Paul Venner (James Stephenson), a brilliant psychiatrist, escapes from Budapest to Scotland, where he continues his rese...

  • The Strawberry Blonde

    Episode 7

    Directed by Raoul Walsh • 1941 • United States
    Starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth

    This delightful, turn-of-the-century-set slice of Americana stars James Cagney as Biff Grimes, a hot-headed knickerbocker in naughty nineties New York whose love for flirtatious society girl ...

  • Out of the Fog

    Episode 8

    Directed by Anatole Litvak • 1941 • United States
    Starring John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell

    John Garfield and Ida Lupino star in the big-screen adaptation of Irwin Shaw’s play “The Gentle People,” a pre–World War II allegory warning of the seductive allure and danger inherent in preten...

  • Kings Row

    Episode 9

    Directed by Sam Wood • 1942 • United States
    Starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan

    It’s a quaint turn-of-the-century small town of shady streets and swimming holes, complete with the Sunday afternoon clip-clop of horse and buggies. But that peaceful exterior conceals human lives t...

  • Yankee Doodle Dandy

    Episode 10

    Directed by Michael Curtiz • 1942 • United States
    Starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston

    James Cagney is a singing, dancing, flag-waving force of nature in the role that won him an Academy Award: vaudeville entertainer turned legendary Broadway songwriter George M. Cohan. Celebrating ...

  • Air Force

    Episode 11

    Directed by Howard Hawks • 1943 • United States
    Starring John Ridgely, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy

    Howard Hawks brings his flair for muscular action and vivid characterization to this thrilling aviation drama, a rousing World War II flag-waver based on a true event. On December 6, 1941, the flying...

  • The Hard Way

    Episode 12

    Directed by Vincent Sherman • 1943 • United States
    Starring Ida Lupino, Dennis Morgan, Joan Leslie

    When Bette Davis turned down the lead role in this juicy, dark-hearted backstage melodrama (a decision she later regretted), it paved the way for Ida Lupino to take on one of her finest dramatic sh...

  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

    Episode 13

    Directed by H. C. Potter • 1948 • United States
    Starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas

    The comic chemistry of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy propels this subtly sophisticated satire of postwar America’s search for a middle-class utopia. City-slicker advertising executive Jim Blandings (Grant) ...

  • The Baron of Arizona

    Episode 14

    Directed by Samuel Fuller • 1950 • United States

    In one of his own favorite roles, Vincent Price portrays legendary swindler James Addison Reavis, who in 1880 concocted an elaborate and dangerous hoax to name himself the "Baron" of Arizona, and therefore inherit all the land in the state. Samuel...

  • He Ran All the Way

    Episode 15

    Directed by John Berry • 1951 • United States
    Starring John Garfield, Shelley Winters, Wallace Ford

    John Garfield’s final film before his blacklisting and untimely death is a slam-bang pulp noir crackling with tightly wound tension. In one of his finest performances, Garfield plays a hardened so...

  • Come Back, Little Sheba

    Episode 16

    Directed by Daniel Mann • 1952 • United States
    Starring Burt Lancaster, Shirley Booth, Terry Moore

    This devastating drama lays bare the tensions beneath the rosy surface of 1950s America. Shirley Booth, reprising her Tony Award–winning Broadway turn, won a best actress Oscar for her film debut, ...

  • Picnic

    Episode 17

    Directed by Joshua Logan • 1955 • United States
    Starring William Holden, Kim Novak, Betty Field

    William Holden and Kim Novak make sparks in this torrid adaptation of William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play. Holden is the handsome stranger who drifts into a small Kansas town to visit an old fr...

  • The Rose Tattoo

    Episode 18

    Directed by Daniel Mann • 1955 • United States
    Starring Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Marisa Pavan

    Tennessee Williams’s hot-and-heavy study of sexual repression gets a smoldering screen adaptation courtesy of the larger-than-life talents of Burt Lancaster and Italian superstar Anna Magnani. Maki...

  • Sweet Smell of Success

    Episode 19

    Directed by Alexander Mackendrick • 1957 • United States
    Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison

    In the swift, cynical SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster stars as the vicious Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as Sidney ...

  • Bell, Book and Candle

    Episode 20

    Directed by Richard Quine • 1958 • United States
    Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon

    The same year that they costarred in Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, James Stewart and Kim Novak teamed up for this imaginative romantic comedy based on the Broadway hit. Novak is Gillian Holroyd, a norma...

  • The Old Man and the Sea

    Episode 21

    Directed by John Sturges • 1958 • United States
    Starring Spencer Tracy, Felipe Pazos, Harry Bellaver

    In this eminently faithful adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s classic, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, an aging but indomitable Cuban fisherman (Spencer Tracy) battles against the elements of the sea...

  • Hud
    1:51:44
    Episode 22

    Hud

    Episode 22

    Directed by Martin Ritt • 1963 • United States
    Starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal

    In one of his defining roles, Paul Newman stars as the titular “man with the barbed-wire soul,” the rotten-through-and-through progeny of a Texas ranchman (Melvyn Douglas) whose hard-drinking, woma...

  • Seconds

    Episode 23

    Directed by John Frankenheimer • 1966 • United States
    Starring Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph

    Rock Hudson is a revelation in this sinister, science-fiction-inflected dispatch from the fractured 1960s. SECONDS, directed by John Frankenheimer, concerns a middle-aged banker who, dissatisfi...

  • This Property Is Condemned

    Episode 24

    Directed by Sydney Pollack • 1966 • United States
    Starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Charles Bronson

    Repressed desires, sultry women, sweltering weather, and a handsome new stranger in town—this is playwright Tennessee Williams at his very best. Depression-era Dodson, Mississippi, is particu...