May 7, 2013

In Memoriam: Ray Harryhausen

Visual Effects Pioneer was a Lecturer and Alum

Ray Harryhausen, an alum and former lecturer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), died on May 7th in London. Harryhausen is known for pioneering visual effects work on films that include Mighty Joe Young (1949), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), the original Clash of the Titans (1981) and on several Sinbad films. His breakthrough effects featured in the film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), inspired the monster movie genre.

“In losing Ray Harryhausen, we have lost a true movie pioneer, and a dear friend,” said USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. “Many of the great movies he contributed to were successful because of his inventive nature and his passion for using visual effects to create new possibilities. His legacy will be that generations of filmmakers will continue to be inspired by the groundbreaking results of his work.”

Harryhausen began taking night classes at USC while still a high school student. While his primary passion was in visual effects, he took classes in art direction, photography and editing under the newly formed Department of Cinematography. In 1942, Harryhausen worked with USC staff member Richard L. Bare on the short film So You Want to Give Up Smoking.

Of his time at USC, Harryhausen said, “[USC] had just started night classes and I thought I could learn more about films if I enrolled. I learned a lot about editing and photography. We also had various art directors giving lectures on different nights and I also learned how to cut film and all of those sorts of things.”

Harryhausen was a prime influence of Trojan filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.