|1920s : Hollywood and Everest Conquered|
Virtually all feature films made in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century were shot using Cooke lenses.
1921 Cooke Speed Panchro
Horace W. Lee designed the Cooke Speed Panchro, a cine prime lens that chromatically enhanced an image when filming under restricted illumination. Developed several years before ‘talkies’ came into being, the advent of sound films created a great demand for faster lenses because arc lamps could no longer be used, making much existing equipment obsolete. Cooke Speed Panchros combined a relative aperture as wide as f2.0 with an angular field of view and definition previously impossible with much smaller apertures.
Before the Speed Panchro, Cooke Series VIIIB Telephoto Anstigmat, f 3.5 lenses "were used extensively at Hollywood for Cinematograph film production," according to an early Cooke lens catalog.
September 9, 1926, Kinematograph Weekly, The Observation Window column reports: "Over a hundred Taylor-Hobson Cooke lenses of various focal lengths are used by the photographic department of the Famous Players-Lasky studios. This interesting information is contained in a letter, copy of which has been forwarded by Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, Ltd. to the Bell and Howell Company of America from Frank E. Carbutt, Famous’ director of photography. It is a concrete fact which emphasizes the world reputation of British-made lenses and their recognized superiority for all classes of photography. Mr. Carbutt adds that these lenses have, without, exception, given perfect satisfaction and that they have yet to find a poor Cooke lens."
The magnitude of The Famous Players-Lasky’s use of Cooke lenses is vast considering the following: The Famous Players-Lasky dominated theatrical distribution through its ownership of production, distribution agencies and theatre holdings. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigated the company for restraint of trade. According to excerpted testimony from The New York Telegraph, April 24, 1923, "this combination of effort stifles competition, inasmuch as its competitors are unable to secure first run showings of their pictures. The complaint also charges that the corporation is the largest theatre owner in the world, and controls showings of the pictures through its ownership of Paramount Pictures, the distribution corporation." At the time, Paramount was releasing sometimes two features a week. Famous Players Lasky, through their various companies including Paramount and Artcraft produced all of the films starring Mary Pickford from 1913 to 1919.
Cooke lenses were also used to document the Mt. Everest expeditions in 1922 and 1924. Captain John Noel, the expedition's photographer, used a Newman Sinclair camera, specially made by Mr. Newman, weighing 40 pounds. It's rigid frame construction was designed to hold 400 feet of 35mm film and a specially made 20 inch Cooke Series VIII f5.6 Telephoto lens. A Cooke product catalog of 1930 said that the lens "made a fine reputation when they were used for motion pictures of the climbers from a distance of two miles."
A letter to the company from Captain Noel in 1985 says that the highest station he reached at Everest was 23,000 feet and another was a rock ledge at 22,000 feet. He was able to get a "very clear view "of the signal sent to them at base camp number 3 "by Odell at No. 4 camp to tell us of the death of Mallory & Irvine, last seen ascending only 600 feet from the very top of Everest then hidden by the driving snow."
Twenty-nine years later, Tom Stobart, official filmmaker for John Hunt's Mt. Everest Expedition with Sir Edmund Hillary, achieved 35mm standards of quality while shooting "Conquest of Everest" entirely with 16mm Cooke lenses.
Captain John Noel, official photographer to the Mallory and Irvine 1922 Mt. Everest Expedition at 23,000 feet using a 20 inch f5.6 Cooke Series VIII Telephoto lens fitted to a Newman Sinclair camera. Copyright John Noel Photographic Collection.
"For every branch of photography in all climates and conditions they are unrivalled." The nuances of the 1914 Shackleton expedition were captured so successfully by Captain Frank Hurley that Cooke lenses were chosen again for the 1922 expedition to the Antarctic. Frank Hurley (left) and Ernest Shackleton shown in ad photo above at Patience Camp.
On 26 April 1923 at Westminster Abbey, a Cooke lens captures the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth, now known as the Queen Mother).
Whilst there was no broadcast to the nation as with present day Royal weddings -- because authorities feared that "disrespectful people might hear it whilst sitting in public houses with their hats on" -- a Cooke lens captured the event, and the beautiful architecture of the Abbey in glorious detail.
The Duke and Duchess of York, 26 April 1923 on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, taken with a Cooke 20 inch Telephoto lens.
The Graflex Series C camera was "one of the most desirable Graflexes ever produced," according to Richard P. Paine in his book A Review of Graflex published 1981. That camera was supplied with a Cooke 6 1/2 inch, f 2.5 anastigmat for film size 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 , and was considered the "fastest lens ever built into a Graflex," according to Paine. The camera was made from 1926 to 1935.
The Cooke Series III, f 6.5 lens was made for the Auto Graflex (1906 to 1923), Auto Graflex Jr. (1906), Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1906 to 1908), 3A Graflex (1907 to 1926), and Press Graflex (1907-1923). The Cooke Series IIIa, f 6.5 fit the Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1909-1941). The Cooke Series IV, f 5.6 fit the Revolving Back Auto Graflex as well as the 1A Graflex (1909-1925) and Home Portrait Graflex (1912-1940). The Cooke Series II, f 4.5 fit the Telescopic Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1912-1914), the Speed Graphic "Top Handle" (1912-1927), Auto Graflex Junior (1914-1924), Telescopic Revolving Back Graflex (1915-1923), Revolving Back Graflex Junior (1915-1923) and Compact Graflex (1915-1925). The Cooke 11 inch, f 5.6 telescopic lens fit the Revolving Back Graflex Series B. The Cooke 158mm, f 3.5 fit the Revolving Back Graflex Series D (1928-1947).
May 28, 1926, From the British Journal of Photography