- Camera and Electrical Department
Born in Illinois in 1904, the only child of Jennie and Frank Toland, Gregg and his mother moved to California several years after his parents divorced in 1910. Through Jennie's work as a housekeeper for several people in the movie business, Gregg may had gotten a $12-a-week job at age 15 as an office boy at William Fox Studios. Soon he was making $18 a week as an assistant cameraman. When sound came to movies in 1927, the audible whir of movie cameras became a problem, requiring the cumbersome use of soundproof booths. Toland helped devise a tool which silenced the camera's noise and which allowed the camera to move about more freely. In 1931, Toland received his first solo credit for the Eddie Cantor comedy, "Palmy Days." In 1939 he earned his first Oscar for his work on William Wyler's "Wuthering Heights." In the following year he sought out Orson Welles who then hired him to photograph "Citizen Kane." (Toland was said to have protected the inexperienced Welles from potential embarrassment by conferring with him in private about technical matters rather than bringing these up in front of the assembled cast and crew.) For "Kane" Toland used a method which became known as "deep focus" because it showed background objects as clearly as foreground objects. (Film theorist Andre Bazin said that Toland brought democracy to film-making by allowing viewers to discover what was interesting to them in a scene rather than having this choice dictated by the director.) Toland quickly became the highest paid cinematographer in the business, earning as much as $200,000 over a three year period. He also became perhaps the first cinematographer to receive prominent billing in the opening credits, rather than being relegated to a card containing seven or more other names. Tragically, Toland's career was cut short in 1948 by his untimely death at age 44. Toland had a daughter, Lothian, by his second wife and two sons, Gregg jr. and Timothy, by his third. Lothian became the wife of comic Red Skelton.