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Billy Bitzer

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Ethel Boddy

J.C. Bitzer


Billy Bitzer

Billy Bitzer Billy Bitzer White City Cinema

April 21, 1872 (
Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts

April 29, 1944, Hollywood, California, United States

The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, Orphans of the Storm

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D W Griffith, Robert Harron, Arthur V Johnson, Henry B Walthall, Mae Marsh

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Gottfried Wilhelm "Billy" Bitzer (April 21, 1872 – April 29, 1944) was a pioneering American cinematographer notable for his close association with D. W. Griffith.


Billy Bitzer Film Homage Billy Bitzer Miriam Cooper Intolerance 1916

home sweet home 1914 director d w griffith cinematographer billy bitzer


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Prior to his career as a cameraman, working as a motion picture projectionist, Bitzer developed early cinematic technologies for the American Mutoscope Company, eventually to become the Biograph Company. He admired and learned the art of motion picture photography from Kinetoscope inventor W.K.L. Dickson, who directed the early Biograph shorts on which Bitzer cut his teeth. Until 1903, Bitzer was employed by Biograph primarily as a documentary photographer, and from 1903 onward primarily as the photographer of narrative films, as these gained popularity. (Hendricks 1964, pp. 5)

Billy Bitzer Billy Bitzer Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

In 1908 Bitzer entered into his first collaboration with Griffith. The two would work together for the rest of Bitzer's career, leaving Biograph in 1913 for the Mutual Film Corporation where Bitzer continued to innovate, perfecting existing technologies and inventing new ones. During this time he pioneered the field of matte photography and made use of innovative lighting techniques, closeups, and iris shots.

Billy Bitzer Billy Bitzer Wikipedia

Bitzer provided assistance during Griffith's directorial debut, 1908's The Adventures of Dollie, which was shot by Arthur Marvin. He eventually succeeded Marvin as Griffith's regular cinematographer, working with him on some of his most important films and contributing significantly to cinematic innovations attributed to Griffith. In 1910, he photographed Griffith's silent short, In Old California, in the Los Angeles village of "Hollywoodland", qualifying Bitzer as, arguably, Hollywood's first Director of Photography. The apex of Bitzer and Griffith's collaboration came with The Birth of a Nation (1915), a film funded in part by Bitzer's life savings, and the epic Intolerance (1916).

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For all his innovation, Bitzer did not survive the industry's transition to sound, and in 1944 he suffered a heart attack and died in Hollywood in relative obscurity.

His autobiography, Billy Bitzer: His Story, was published posthumously in 1973.

In 2003, a survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild named him one of the ten most influential cinematographers in history. Bitzer, it is said, "developed camera techniques that set the standard for all future motion pictures." Among Bitzer's innovations were

  • the fade out to close a movie scene;
  • the iris shot where a circle closes to close a scene;
  • soft focus photography with the aid of a light diffusion screen;
  • filming entirely under artificial lighting rather than outside;
  • lighting, closeups and long shots to create mood;
  • perfection of matte photography.
  • Selected filmography

  • 2 A. M. in the Subway (1905)
  • The Lonely Villa (1909)
  • The Sealed Room (1909)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1909)
  • A Corner in Wheat (1909)
  • In the Border States (1910)
  • The Lonedale Operator (1911)
  • Enoch Arden (1911)
  • The Girl and Her Trust (1912)
  • The Female of the Species (1912)
  • A Beast at Bay (1912)
  • An Unseen Enemy (1912)
  • The Painted Lady (1912)
  • The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)
  • The House of Darkness (1913)
  • Death's Marathon (1913)
  • The Mothering Heart (1913)
  • The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1914)
  • Judith of Bethulia (1914)
  • The Avenging Conscience (1914)
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Intolerance (1916)
  • Hearts of the World (1918)
  • The Great Love (1918)
  • The Greatest Thing in Life (1918)
  • A Romance of Happy Valley (1919)
  • The Girl Who Stayed at Home (1919)
  • True Heart Susie (1919)
  • Scarlet Days (1919)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • The Greatest Question (1919)
  • The Idol Dancer (1920)
  • The Love Flower (1920)
  • Way Down East (1920)
  • The White Rose (1923)
  • America (1924)
  • Drums of Love (1927)
  • The Battle of the Sexes (1928)
  • Lady of the Pavements (1929)
  • References

    Billy Bitzer Wikipedia

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