Nicholas Musuraca: Master of Chiaroscuro

Nicholas Musuraca

Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca was born in Riace, Italy, in 1892, emigrated to the U.S. in 1907, and shot his first movie in 1922. However, he only came into his own in his fifties (love late bloomers) at RKO Pictures, where his supreme gift for contrasting shadows and light (chiaroscuro) was essential to the look of the studio’s seminal film noirs such as “Out of the Past” and the feel of producer Val Lewton’s horror movies like “Cat People” and “The Seventh Victim.” His invaluable lensing on Robert Siodmak’s marvelous horror/thriller “The Spiral Staircase” was influenced by the German Expressionist cinema of the early 1920s while he dispensed with shadows entirely for the crisp black-and-white of director George Steven’s first film after returning from World War 2; “I Remember Mama,” for which he received his only Oscar nomination.

1939Golden BoyRouben MamoulianB-
1940Stranger on the Third FloorBoris IngsterC+
1942Cat PeopleJacques TourneurB
1943The Seventh VictimMark RobsonB-
The Spiral Staircase (Nicholas Musuraca)
1946The Spiral StaircaseRobert SiodmakA-
1946The LocketJohn BrahmC+
Out of the Past (Nicholas Musuraca)
1947Out of the PastJacques TourneurA-
1947The Bachelor and the Bobby-SoxerIrving ReisB
I Remember Mama (Nicholas Musuraca)
1948I Remember Mamma*George StevensB
1948Blood on The MoonRobert WiseC+
1952Clash by NightFritz LangC-
  • Academy Award nomination for best black-and-white cinematography.

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