Norman O. Dawn (1884–1975) was a relatively obscure yet historically significant early special effects cinematographer, inventor, artist, and motion picture director, writer, and producer. He worked with many important film pioneers including Mack Sennett, Carl Laemmle, Irving Thalberg, and Erich von Stroheim. The Dawn collection features 164 display cards that illustrate over 230 of the 861 special effects Dawn created in more than 80 movies. Also present is a small amount of manuscript material, including correspondence, drawings, and reminiscences.
Constructed personally from his own field notebooks and methodical records, the display cards contain original oil, watercolor, pencil, and ink sketches used to sell the effects to skeptical film executives and directors; production and personal photographs; detailed camera records; film clips and frame enlargements; movie reviews, advertisements, and other trade press clippings; explanatory texts and recent sketches to illustrate his methods; and pages from an unpublished autobiography. Each display card documents one of his special effects, most often a refinement or improvement of a matte shot process.
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