Sunday, January 25, 2009

Producer Charles H. Schneer and Model Jim Horne Pass On

Producer Charles H. Schneer, who worked with stop motion legend Ray Harryhausen on the majority of his classic films, passed on January 21 at the age 88.

Charles H. Schneer was born in Norfolk, Virginia on May 5, 1920. Much of his youth was spent in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Columbia University. He began his career at Columbia Pictures. During World War II he served in the United States Army Signal Corps producing training films.

Schneer served as associate producer on his first film, The 49th Man, in 1953. His first work with Ray Harryhausen came when he served as producer on his first film It Came from Beneath the Sea in 1955. The idea came to Schneer when he thought of an image of a giant octopus pulling down the Golden Gate Bridge. Schneer and Harryhausen would make two more science fiction films together (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles to Earth) before making a conscious shift to fantasy. Together Schneer and Harryhausen would make such classic fantasy films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island (1961), and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). They would also make First Men in the Moon (1964), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981) together.

Schneer also produced movies without Harryhausen. He produced the Ronald Reagan camp classic Hellcats of the Navy, the film noir The Case Against Brooklyn, the Western Good Day for a Hanging (1959), the biopic Werener von Braun (AKA I Aim for the Stars), and the musical Half a Sixpence.

Unlike many producers, Charles H. Schneer did not simply handle the money, but also played a part in the creative process. Besides coming up with the idea for It Came from Beneath the Sea, he also came up with the idea for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers after reading about UFOs in newspapers. Of the films he and Ray Harryhausen made together, he considered Jason and the Argonauts to be the best.

I cannot deny that Charles H. Schneer had an enormous impact on my life. The first movie I remember watching as a child was Jason and the Argonauts. As a producer he was arguably responsible for more hours of the finest fantasy films than any other. In the hands of another producer, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts may not be the classics we now know and love. He and Harryhausen made a formidable team.

While most people probably don't recognise his name, most people probably recognise the face of Jim Horne. Starting in the late Forties, he became the most photographed male model of all time. He passed on December 29 at the age of 91.

Jim Horne was born James Wesley Horne Jr. on March 28, 1917 in Glendale, California. His father was director James W. Horne, who directed many silent films, as well as Laurel and Hardy in Way Out West and The Bohemian Girl among other films, Charlie Chase in various comedy shorts, and such serials as The Spider's Web and The Shadow. His mother was silent movie actress Cleo Ridgely, well known for beauty (she played Beauty in a 1912 version of Beauty and the Beast). Jim Horne's twin sister, June, appeared in bit parts in movies and married actor Jackie Cooper. His sister Victoria Horne was an actress who appeared in such films as Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Claw, Secret Agent X-9, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Harvey.

Given his family's career, Horne appeared in uncredited roles in movies from Gunga Din to A Place in the Sun. He had tried out for the role of Joe Bonaparte in the 1939 adaptation of Golden Boy, but the role would go to William Holden. William Holden would later be his bunkmate when the two went through basic training for the United States Army during World War II. Horne served as a combat photographer in the Army. He received the Bronze Star twice.

After the war Horne would try his hand at acting in movies again, making little progress. In the late Forties he also became a male model. His image appeared in magazine and newspaper advertisements, on billboards, in catalogues, and even industrial brochures. With the advent of television on a wide scale in the Fifties, he began appearing in television commercials. Horne's appearance proved extremely adaptable. He could be a businessman, a doting father, a sharp dressed man, a ladies' man, a wealthy sophisticate, and, closest to Horne in reality, the rugged outdoorsman. Over the years he appeared in ads for Budweiser, Chrysler, Lucky Strike, Marlboro (in the days before the Marlboro Man), Macy's, Remington, and The Saturday Evening Post. He appeared on covers of such magazines as Gentleman's Quarterly (now known as GQ). Horne would continue modelling into the Sixties, when he appeared in ads directed at mature men. In the end, Jim Horne would be the most photographed male model in history. When his modelling career ended, Horne became a salesman and spokesman for an apparel company. He later founded his own company, manufacturing leather belts.

Jim Horne appeared in literally thousands of ads from the late Forties to early Sixties. Curiously the one shot of him that has persisted is the one shown here, in which he has a worrisome look as if he has a headache. The photograph has been used repeatedly since it was taken in 1953, in ads for aspirin, stress relievers, hangover remedies, and even tax services. For many today it may be familiar in the internet from a famous meme, in which the photograph is accompanied by the legend "Aw jeez, not this s*** again!" or more simply "Ah jeez!"

Sadly for many of we younger folk (and I use the term relatively here), Jim Horne may be best remembered as the "Aw jeez" guy. But there was a time when his image was ubiquitous. In the Fifties there was probably no escaping Jim Horne. His image was on magazines, in newspapers, on television, in catalogues. At the time he was probably one of the most famous faces around, even though no one outside of the advertising world recognised his name. In this respect he made a very real contribution to American pop culture. It is perhaps for this he should be remembered.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

Thanks for posting the "Aww, geez" picture of Mr. Horne, Merc. When I read the obit in the Times today, I was wishing they had published it since they pegged the wrap-up on it.