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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Biography
  • Arrangement of the Collection
  • Indexing terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Abstract: The collection consists of production files; television files; client and project files; correspondence; contracts; financial information; notebooks and photographs concerning special effects for various films, including those from RKO in the 1940s; and material documenting Dunn’s lectures and presentations at festivals and colleges. There is also extensive material on Film Effects of Hollywood, including contract files and financial statements.
    Collector: Dunn, Linwood G.
    Dates: 1902-2001
    Dates: 1944-1977
    Collection number: 426
    Collection Size: 43 linear ft. of papers 201 item(s) of artworks
    Repository: Margaret Herrick Library. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Available by appointment only.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the Margaret Herrick Library. Researchers are responsible for obtaining all necessary rights, licenses, or permissions from the appropriate companies or individuals before quoting from or publishing materials obtained from the library.

    Preferred Citation

    Linwood G. Dunn papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Nancy Dunn, 1999-2014, and Pam Carlisle, 2009

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    The Linwood G. Dunn papers span the years 1902-2001 (bulk 1944-1977) and encompass 43 linear feet. The papers consist of production files, television files, stage files, subject files, lecture files, and oversize material.
    The production files contain scripts, clippings, correspondence, financial information, and production information. There is extensive documentation of Dunn’s matte work for RKO during the 1940s which includes matte shot cards specifying a scene that needs matte work, worksheets containing handwritten notes as to how the matte work should be done, and photographs of blacked-out areas which needs matte work followed by photographs of the scene with the matte. Films in the collection highlighting his matte work include TENDER COMRADE (1943), DAYS OF GLORY (1944), IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), NOTORIOUS (1946), HONEYMOON (1947), and I REMEMBER MAMA (1948). There is also extensive production material on IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), HAWAII (1966), and THE BIRTH (1970) which was shown in “Astrorama” at Expo ’70. Of special note is correspondence discussing the possession scene in THE EXORCIST (1973), production art for WEST SIDE STORY (1961), and a drawing of the washroom scene from HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (1967) with a note citing Cary Grant as being in the scene. The unproduced files include a script and correspondence for COLD WAR IN A COUNTRY GARDEN and production material for the unrealized project WONDER CIRCUS which was to star Charles Ruggles.
    The television files contain agreements, clippings, correspondence, financial information, and production material. Of interest, is production material regarding special effects to be used in episodes of STAR TREK (1966-1969).
    The stage files contain scripts, clippings, financial information, production material, programs, and miscellaneous files for “The Happy Time” which incorporated special film scenery and “The Osmonds Show” which involved filming a live concert.
    The subject files contain agreements, brochures, clippings, correspondence, financial information, legal papers, meeting minutes, miscellaneous papers, personal material, and transcripts. Correspondence includes letters regarding the disappearance of his first wife Eleanor Dunn, correspondence from Elmo Williams discussing his working on location for THE BIG GAMBLE (1961), a letter from Wally Gentleman discussing his problems with Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), a letter from Dunn discussing his reaction upon viewing color television for the first time, and a letter from Dunn regarding his meeting with Steven Spielberg. Also of interest is a letter from Dunn to Elmo Williams discussing his work as a production camera assistant on the set of HELL’S ANGELS (1930).
    Other items include a handwritten list of films viewed by Dunn as a teenager from 1918 to 1919, original notes on the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer, two in-depth interviews with Dunn from the 1970s, extensive material on Film Effects of Hollywood, including correspondence of executive employees Don Weed and Cecil Love, documentation on formats and color processes such as 3-D and Dynavision, and information regarding the development of the Electronic Composite Printer. Also of interest is a technical bulletin sent out to film exhibitors regarding installation of 70mm projectors for a screening of SPARTACUS (1960).
    The lecture files contain correspondence, lists, and notes regarding lectures delivered by Dunn at conferences, festivals, and universities.
    The oversize material includes a newspaper prop used in THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER (1967) from STAR TREK (1966-1969).


    Linwood G. Dunn (1904-1998) was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1923, he worked as a projectionist in New York City for the American Motion Picture Corporation. In 1925, he began working as an assistant cameraman for his uncle Spencer Gordon Bennet on the Pathé serial THE GREEN ARCHER (1925) and continued working on serials including SNOWED IN (1926) and HAWK OF THE HILLS (1927) until becoming first cameraman on the Pathé serial QUEEN OF THE NORTHWOODS (1929). After Pathé ran into financial difficulties, Dunn freelanced for a period during which he served as an extra cameraman on FLIGHT (1929) and HELL'S ANGELS (1930). In 1929, Howard Hurd offered Dunn a position as assistant cameraman at the newly-formed Photographic Effects Department at RKO where he would remain until 1957. During this time, Dunn worked in various capacities on the creation of the RKO logo, and films such as THE CASE OF SERGEANT GRISCHA (1930), DANGER LIGHTS (1930), CIMARRON (1931), THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOOD (1932), ACES OF ACES (1933), FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933), KING KONG (1933), CITIZEN KANE (1941), CAT PEOPLE (1942), RINGSIDE (1949), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), THE THING (1951), and THE NARROW MARGIN (1953).
    In 1942, Eastman Kodak commissioned Dunn to work on an optical printer for the Armed Forces Photographic Unit. By 1944, Dunn and Cecil Love, along with Acme Tool Manufacturing Company, invented the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer which became the standard printer used in the industry. For their efforts they received a technical award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1957, Dunn expanded his special effects company Film Effects of Hollywood which was originally founded in 1946. His company created special effects for WEST SIDE STORY (1961), IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), THE GREAT RACE (1965), HAWAII (1966), and AIRPORT (1970). The company worked on the opening sequence and other special effects for STAR TREK (1966-1969) as well as films for world fairs. He sold the company in the 1980s. During the 1970s, Dunn devoted more time to lecturing at colleges and film societies. In 1983, he worked on “The ASC Treasury of Visual Effects” written by George Turner. In addition to a number of other honors bestowed by the Academy, Dunn received the 1984 Gordon E. Sawyer Award. The Linwood Dunn Theater in the Academy’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood, California is named in his honor.

    Arrangement of the Collection

    1. Production files, subseries A-B as follows: A. Produced; B. Unproduced; 2. Television files, subseries A-B as follows: A. Produced; B. Unproduced; 3. Stage files; 4. Subject files, subseries A-B as follows: A. General; B. Lectures; 5. Oversize; 6. Additions, subseries as follows: A. Received 2016; B. Received 2019; 7. Awards

    Indexing terms

    Dunn, Linwood G.
    Special effects
    Technical advisors