By Osmond Borradaile
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Additional info for Life through a Lens: Memoirs of a Cinematographer
This nearly got me into a lot of trouble. Turning into an uninviting entranceway, he led me up a flight of stairs and knocked at the door of a room where a woman lay in bed under a blanket covering her from head to toe. After an animated exchange with my young guide, she beckoned me to join her in bed. Confused and apologetic, I lost no time in backing my way out and scurried back to the bus where Christiane waited patiently, besieged by people gesturing eloquently for her to get off. After that disconcerting incident, I pocketed my pride and relied on Christiane's superior communicative skills to lead us through the potential minefields of local culture.
My most exciting experience with Leo Nomis took place in Death Valley in 1925. He had being flying a solo stunt sequence for the film Air Mail, when his propeller suddenly disintegrated, causing the motor to race and the crankshaft to snap. He managed to sit his open cockpit doublewinged kite skillfully down among the sand dunes. On assessing the overall damage, which was considerable, he took some water and biscuits from the plane and headed out on foot, stumbling into Rhyolite, Nevada, an old ghost town, two days later.
So great was his influence that the cops personally chauffeured me back to work in one of their own cars. In the course of my years at Paramount Studios, I worked with most of the stars of that early period. Many I got to know quite well: Pola Negri, Ethel Clayton, Mary Miles Minter, Dorothy Davenport, Constance Talmadge, Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, Billy Dove, Jeannette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier, Jack Holt, Wally and Noah Beery, Theodore Roberts, Lon Chancy, and Harry Houdini. Indeed, as the autographed photographs in my albums attest, the list could go on and on, for the number of people employed in the industry was rapidly expanding.
Life through a Lens: Memoirs of a Cinematographer by Osmond Borradaile