Mystery of Mitchell Standard Number 5 Solved

Thanks to Mitchell Camera Corporation records — and legwork by Steve Gainer, ASC — we know who owned this unique camera donated to the ASC Museum.

David E. Williams

The Mitchell Standard camera recently donated to the ASC Museum by Red Digital Cinema founder and ASC associate member Jim Jannard — serial number 5 — arrived at the Clubhouse in Hollywood with a minor mystery: Who originally owned that particular unit?

The answer was supplied by ASC Museum curator Steve Gainer, ASC: The great George S. Barnes, ASC. His evidence is the Mitchell Camera Company’s sales records, which lists Number 5 as being purchased new by Barnes on April 8, 1922, in some connection with United Artists. (Note that Number 8 was sold to UA co-founder Mary Pickford about a month later.)

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers:

An artist of great versatility, George S. Barnes was one of the masters of Hollywood cinematography, his handsome, stylish work best served in visually lush melodramas like Rebecca, Jane Eyre and Frenchman's Creek. Barnes excelled in many genres — musicals, westerns, or science-fiction — but could also create a darker, more realistic visualization for social drama and film noir.

Born in 1892 in Pasadena, California, the cinematographer’s other feature credits that could have been shot with Mitchell Number 5 include The Love Piker, Alice Adams, Desire, Yolanda, Zander the Great, The Dark Angel, The Eagle, Mademoiselle Modiste, The Son of the Sheik, The Devil Dancer and Bulldog Drummond, among many others.

The production image at the top of this page from The Love Piker (1923) shows Barnes with Number 5, standing by while director E. Mason Hopper (center) confers with stars Robert Frazer and Anita Stewart. The picture was made by Cosmopolitan Productions (1919-’39), which was a subsidiary of William Randolph Hearst’s International Film Service Company.

In these shots from the production of The Eagle (1923) are (from left) director Clarence Brown and Barnes, star Rudolph Valentino, the director, the cinematographer, and the director's daughter, Adrienne. 

Barnes earned eight Academy Award nominations for his work (including three in 1929 alone), winning the Oscar in 1941 for Rebecca, considered by many to be director Alfred Hitchcock's most beautiful picture. 

Barnes unexpectedly died in 1953 due to complications from surgery.

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