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Who Was James Wong Howe? Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Honored With Google Doodle

2 minute read

Today’s monochromatic Google Doodle celebrates the life of the Chinese-American cinematographer James Wong Howe, who won Oscars in 1955 and 1963 for his innovative work on movies The Rose Tattoo and Hud.

Howe, who was born in Guangzhou, China, but moved to Washington state in the U.S. aged five, was a professional prizefighter before he eventually got work as an assistant to prominent filmmaker Cecil B. De-Mille, according to TIME’s 1976 obituary.

He became known for his “constant efforts to achieve realism,” the obituary adds, and he once “filmed [the U.S. actor] John Garfield’s boxing scenes in Body and Soul by donning roller skates and darting around the ring for closeup shots.” He was also known for pioneering the use of wide-angle lenses as well as the crab dolly, a dolly best used on flat surfaces where three of the wheels turn in the same direction.

In spite of his success, Howe faced significant racial discrimination in his private life and became a U.S. citizen only after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, Google says.

The Google Doodle, which was created in partnership with Howe’s nephew, Don Lee, was initially rolled out in the U.S. last year, however it was withheld from running nationally when Hurricane Harvey struck the southern coast as a mark of respect to the events and relief effort.

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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com