Horror History: Mark Robson

MarkRobsonMark Robson
Born Dec. 4th, 1913 – Died June 20th, 1978

Robson started his career in the film industry at 20th Century Fox in the prop department. The rumor goes that his career there was ended when he asked studio head Darryl Zanuck for a promotion, which got him fired. He then moved to RKO Pictures and was trained how to be an editor, becoming an assistant to Robert Wise on editing Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane. He was later assigned to work as the editor on the B-horror films of Val Lewton, where he did that for two years, working on films like The Cat People, Journey into Fear, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man.

After the success of those films, RKO was going to move Lewton up to the A-picture budgets, but only if he uses their choice of directors on his next picture, The Seventh Victim. But Lewton had already decided that he wanted to give Robson a shot at directing. And because Lewton stood behind his people, he sacrificed his chance to increase his budgets and gave Robson that chance. Robson would go on to direct three more titles for Lewton: The Ghost Ship, Isle of the Dead, and Bedlam.

A short time after that, RKO didn’t pick up Robson’s contract and he was out of work for two years. Then an independent producer hired him to direct the boxing movie Champion, which got its star,  Kirk Douglas, an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. After that film, he was sought after for bigger budgeted films. In his career, Robson directed seven different actors in Oscar nominated performances, such as Susan Hayword and Russ Tamblyn.

Robson was credited or at least co-credited with creating the famous “Lewton Bus” technique in the film The Cat People, which is still referred to today in the industry.

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