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Harry Redmond Jr. dies at 101

Effects maven worked on 1933 'King Kong'

Harry Redmond Jr., a special effects artist and producer whose movie career reached back to the dawn of talkies, died of natural causes in Los Angeles on May 23. He was 101.

Redmond grew up in New York, where his father ran Metropolitan Studios on Long Island. In 1926 Redmond moved with his family to California and soon followed his father, movie and special effects pioneer Harry Redmond Sr., into the film business. Starting in the prop department at First National, he moved to RKO Radio Pictures, where he transitioned into the special effects field and worked on pics of the late 1920s and 1930s including “The Last Days of Pompeii,” “She,” several Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers pairings and the original “King Kong.”

After four years at RKO, Redmond went independent, creating effects for a range of movies including Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon,” Orson Welles’ “The Stranger,” Howard Hawks’ “Only Angels Have Wings,” Howard Hughes’ “The Outlaw” and Fritz Lang’s “The Woman in the Window.” He would often work one-on-one with the director to provide a specific desired effect; in “The Woman in the Window,” Redmond and Lang together worked out the striking transition shot of Edward G. Robinson at the film’s end, doing it all in real time, on camera, with no cuts or post-production work.

While working on “The Prisoner of Zenda” for David O. Selznick, he met Dorothea Holt, a pioneering production illustrator, who was designing the interiors for “Gone With the Wind” and “Rebecca.” They were married in 1940.

When the U.S. entered WWII, Redmond left Hollywood and traveled to Fort Monmouth, N.J., to design and build a studio for the Army Film Training Lab.

After the war he resumed his effects career in Hollywood with such films as “A Night in Casablanca,” “Angel on My Shoulder,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “A Song Is Born” while Dorothea continued in pre-production on “Limelight,” “The Bishop’s Wife” and seven Hitchcock films.

In the early 1950s, Redmond’s work on “Storm Over Tibet” initiated a long and prolific association with producer Ivan Tors spanning not only Tors’ early sci-fi features, such as “Gog” and “The Magnetic Monster,” but also popular television shows including “Science Fiction Theater,” “Sea Hunt” and “Daktari.” Having assumed the role of Tors’ associate producer for the films “Flipper,” “Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion” and “Zebra in the Kitchen,” Redmond increasingly chafed at the movie industry’s skyrocketing above-the-line costs and retired from films in the late 1960s.

Dorothea Holt Redmond died in 2009. Redmond is survived by his son Lee Redmond, daughter Lynne Jackson, three granddaughters and three great-grandsons. A memorial service will be held at at 1:30 p.m. June 21 at Forest Lawn Glendale’s Wee Kirk o’ the Heather Chapel.

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