Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Late Great Howard A. Anderson Jr.: The Man Who Made the Enterprise Fly

Howard A. Anderson Jr., a special effects wizard and cinematographer best known for his work on the original Star Trek, died September 27 2015 at the age of 95.

Howard A. Anderson Jr. was born on March 21 1920 in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Culver City. His father was Howard A. Anderson Sr., a special effects pioneer who worked on such films as The King of Kings (1927), Scarface (1932), and Brewster's Millions (1945).  It was in 1927 that Howard Anderson Sr. founded the Howard Anderson Special Photographic Effects Company.

Howard A. Anderson Jr. attended first Alexander Hamilton High School and then Hollywood High School in Los Angeles. While in high school he joined the  U.S. Navy Reserve. Howard A. Anderson Jr. and his brother Darrell A. Anderson began working part-time for their father's special effects company in the Thirties. After graduating high school Howard A. Anderson Jr. attended the University of California, Los Angeles where he participated in the university's  Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. He left UCLA after two years to get married. For a time he shot industrial films for the Douglas Aircraft Company. During World War II he served in the United States Navy.

After World War II Mr. Anderson joined his father's special effects company. He and his brother took the company over in 1954. He served as a cinematographer on Riders of the Pony Express (1949) and provided special effects for Prehistoric Women (1950). During the Fifties he provided special effects for the films The Man with My Face (1951), Slaughter Trail (1951), Phantom from Space (1953), Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956), Nightmare (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and The Time Machine (1960). He was a cinematographer on Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (1956) .

It was in 1964 that the Howard Anderson Special Photographic Effects Company was hired to create special effects for the pilot for Star Trek, "The Cage". Not only did the company create the effects of the Enterprise flying through space, but also the phaser beams and the transporter effect. Howard A. Anderson Jr. and his firm continued to provide special effects for Star Trek until it went off the air in 1969. He also worked on the opening sequences of many TV shows, including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Get Smart, and The Mod Squad. Howard A. Anderson Jr. provided special effects for the movies Jack the Giant Killer (1962), Taras Bulba (1962), Tobruk (1967), and The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968). He also provided photographic effects for the TV show My World and Welcome To It.

In the Seventies Mr. Anderson provided special effects for the failed pilot Earth II and served as cinematographer on the film The Dirt Gang (1972). He worked on the opening sequences of such shows as Kung Fu, The Waltons, Happy Days, Charlie's Angels, and The Love Boat. In the Eighties he worked on the opening sequences of such shows as Cheers and The A-Team. He retired from special effects in 1990, but continued to run his company until 1994.

Howard A. Anderson Jr. was one of the best special effects men ever to work in television.  His work on Star Trek is enough to remove any doubt of this. While many of the creature effects look campy today (Howard A. Anderson's company was not responsible for them), its visual effects hold up fairly well even now. Indeed, it must be pointed out that something like the transporter effect had never even been done before. Beyond his work on Star Trek, Mr. Anderson did a good deal of remarkable work, particularly on openings of TV shows. Some of the most memorable opening sequences in television history were created by him.

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