Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Searching for Pergola

Screw Indiana Jones. I wanna watch a movie about this guy!



Here's what we know...
"James Pergola, 37, of Bronxville, New York, Pathe News cameraman, who was among the nineteen persons listed aboard the palatial 1937 cross-country airplane reported sighted at Evanston, Wyo. After being missing for more than twelve hours, the United Airlines westbound "mainliner" with 16 passengers and a crew of three, was last heard over Rick Spring the night of October 17. Mr Pergola joined Pathe News in 1930. In 1933 he spent five months filming the Cuban Revolution. In 1932 and again in 1935, he toured the United States during political campaigns with President Roosevelt."
A cursory search of the interweb turns up little else about this pioneering lenslinger, other than the fact that he was aboard the flight that killed him because he was filming a newsreel on... airline safety. Ironic, yes - but I'm more interested in how this swashbuckler lived than how he died. What little we do know could already fill a few sequels...

Anybody know more about the late, great James Pergola?

(Photo on loan by Amanda Emily)

UPDATE from Emily:


Mr Pergola, who was thirty-seven years old, was one of the leading camera men of his concern, specializing in feature assignments. He joined the Pathe staff in 1918 as assistant camera man, and had been a full fledged operator since 1924. Previously he had been connected with motion picture studios in Long Island City, joining Fox Movietone with the coming of sound films. Mr Pergola was said to have been the first to make a sound film of the late John D. Rockefeller.

6 comments:

Amanda Emily said...

Thanks Stewart. I have his NYT obit I'll forward in a bit. Apparently he was one of the top photogs Pathe News had at the time.

A bit of disclosure for those who are visiting, I'm the one who owns the original photo.

Amanda Emily said...

The NYT obit reads:

"Two newsreel men, passengers on the United Air Lines transcontinental transport plan which crashed southwest of Evanston, Wyo., were heading to the West Coast to complete the work they had begun on a film showing "The Safety of Transcontinental Flying," it was learned yesterday.

They were William Pitt, 31, newly appointed news editor of Pathe News, Inc., and James Pergola, veteran Pathe camera man who filmed the Cuban revolution of 1933 and toured the country for his company with President Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936.

Both, it was said yesterday at the Pathe offices, had been assigned to complete a film showing the history of air transport and the steady increase in safety measures and safety devices which have made transcontinental flights possible.

Sequences of the film already had been made and Mr. Pitt and Mr. Pergola were to take others. Whether they had taken motion pictures during the flight of the ill-fated plane was not known, but at the Pathe offices it was said last night that this was possible.

Mr. Pitt, who previously had resigned from Pathe News as assistant news editor, resumed his connection with the company July 1. A graduate of Columbia, '27, he spent three years as a statistician for Hendrickson & Co., 61 Broadway, before joining Pathe in 1931. He resigned to become head of the picture department of Carl Byor & Associates. Unmarried, Mr. Pitt lived at 204-18 111th Street, Hollis, Queens.

Mr Pergola, who was thirty-seven years old, was one of the leading camera men of his concern, specializing in feature assignments. He joined the Pathe staff in 1918 as assistant camera man, and had been a full fledged operator since 1924. Previously he had been connected with motion picture studios in Long Island City, joining Fox Movietone with the coming of sound films.

Mr Pergola was said to have been the first to make a sound film of the late John D. Rockefeller. He lived on Palmer Avenue, Bronxville, was married and had a son, 4 years old."

============

According to another article, Pergola is buried in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, NY.

Miami fan said...

Great entry Mr. P!

Someone worth knowing something about.

I wonder if he worried about being called a cameraman or a videographer?

Me thinks he preferred "cameraman".

Just like me!

Amanda Emily said...

Though I haven't been able to dig up anything else on Pergola, I believe I may have found the original "Book of Lenslinger" written by a Fox Movietone (now Fox News) photographer, Charles Peden, way back in 1931. I have the original print version, but there's a digital copy online.

http://www.archive.org/stream/newsreelman011497mbp

Start at page 18, chapter 2 "Getting the News"

Oh BTW Stewart, I uploaded a photo of a 1914 presser to my Flickr account that I acquired recently.

James Pergola, ASC said...

My name is James Pergola, ASC and I am the son of the beloved and renown cameraman, James Pergola, who died in the crash of a UAL airliner in the Uintah
Mountains in Utah. It was the biggest air fatality of that era, circa 1937.

My father was considered an "ace" cameraman by his peers and a cherished and revered friend by many of his personal and professional associates. While I was apprenticing at FOX Movietonews in NYC in 1955 under the tutelage of another great cameraman, John Francis Painter, ASC, I had the opportunity to meet some of the "old timers" who knew and respected my father. To a man they all remembered him fondly and regaled me with some exciting tales of his daring exploits to film a great news story.

The photograph shown in this article of my Dad is a picture taken while he was covering the steel strikes in Pittsburgh. When he covered the Cuban revolution he was reported to have been killed twice. My mother was relieved to know the report of his death was fortunately premature.

Thanks to the gracious assistance of my Father's many friends I managed to follow in his footsteps
and worked as a cameraman on feature films, MOWs, and television series for 45 years.

It is gratifying to know that he is still remembered
fondly today.

James Pergola, ASC

Amanda Emily said...

James, there's a retired photog who may want to talk to you than for a book she is working on.

Her name is Cyndy Green and her contact info is on her blog at http://cyndygreen.wordpress.com/

I'm the one who has that photo in my possession, and its wonderful to put stories to the people in these photographs I've been slowly acquiring. You hear all about the folks in front of the lens, but not the ones behind.