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April 21, 2015

In Memoriam: Richard L. Bare

Alum, Professor, and Iconic Director

Richard L. Bare, an SCA alum and former professor of cinematography and directing, died on March 28 at his Newport Beach home. The 101-year-old’s prolific career most notably included all six seasons of Green Acres and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Maverick—he’s often credited for discovering actor James Garner. Bare’s family announced the industry icon’s passing last week.

Among the first generation of Cinematic Arts students, Richard Bare arrived at USC in 1933 with an already well-honed technical understanding of filmmaking. Using a 35mm camera given to him by his father, Bare directed his first film, West of the Rio Grande, as a sixteen-year-old student at Modesto High School with the assistance of classmate George Lucas, Sr., father of the SCA alum whose name the Cinematic Arts building now bears.

Bare’s ambition and entrepreneurial spirit led him to direct the School’s very first student film, The Oval Portrait, based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. The $400 production earned the first and only Paul Muni Award, physically awarded by Muni himself as part of a student competition sponsored by Warner Brothers, and continued to screen for two weeks at the Egyptian Theatre.

Bare returned to USC in 1940 as a professor of cinematography and directing. At the encouragement of Department Director Warren Scott, Bare assembled a student crew and used the School’s soundstage to direct his first professional work, So You Want to Give Up Smoking, a comedy short Bare had developed some years back about a bumbling Everyman named Joe McDoakes. The film was shot by fellow professor and future visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who was also a close friend and frequent collaborator. This would mark the first faculty-led project to provide students hands-on experience on a professional production, a practice that would become increasingly common for the School in subsequent decades. When Warner Bros. purchased So You Want to Give Up Smoking for $2500 and asked Bare to make a second—So You Think You Need Glasses—this would mark yet another milestone for the School as Bare officially became the first professional director to come out of the SCA program. Warner Bros. offered Bare a ten-year contract to continue making the Joe McDoakes comedy shorts, catapulting Bare’s directorial career as he would go on to make 61 more So You Want… films during that span.

It was in television, however, where Bare would truly leave his mark. Bare directed 166 episodes of the hit 1960s television series Green Acres, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as two fish-out-of-water New Yorkers who move to the countryside and live with a few farmers and pig named Arnold. “For a long time, I was the best pig director in Hollywood,” Bare once joked. “There was nobody that could direct a pig like I could.”

There was also no one who could direct a show like he could. Bare’s 166 episodes for Green Acres still hold the record for most episodes of a series directed by a single director, yet remains but only a fraction of his tremendous legacy.