The Unfamous of Hollywood — Elmer Dyer — Lens On Wings (1934) 🇺🇸
Elmer Dyer, tall and dark and rangy, with a little waxed moustache, is a cameraman. He shot Hell’s Angels, “Dawn Patrol,” “Young Eagles,” Dirigible, “Flight,” Air Mail, Air Hostess, “Central Airport,” “Lost Squadron,” White Sister, Today We Live, and “Night Flight.” From the air.
by Jack Jamison
His camera bolted out in the wind on a plane fuselage. It was Elmer’s lens in front of which Omar Locklear and Skeeter Elliott crashed to death in 1920. He cracked on a pilot flying over a dummy plane, loaded with dynamite, which blew up and shattered him. He shot a stunt man, trying to jump from plane to train. as he was dragged to death along the car-roofs. He dove and photographed Chub Campbell when his parachute tore off and he plummeted, kicking and clawing, to a hard pavement a mile below. He shot a girl doubling for Ruth Elder who forgot to open her chute. He shot a kid trapped in a plane when a pilot jumped and left him to stare at controls he had never seen before.
Once when he flew over Mt. McKinley at 17,000 feet his face and his camera froze solid.
During “The Lost Squadron,” mechanics disconnected a gas-line on his plane to make room for the camera. The second tank went dry — 3,000 feet up. Right over Hollywood. Only house-tops and crowded boulevards to land on. Elmer side-slipped to a driving-range for amateur golfers and landed the dead plane three yards from a cement wall. The driving-range proprietor bawled him out. Said it was against the law to land on private property.
Making “Hell’s Angels” twenty planes took off together, one foggy morning, circling up to get through the clouds. Dead ahead Elmer spied a looming, rushing black shape. Zoom! His wheels rolled over the upper wing of a giant Fokker, circling the wrong way.
Once as he was landing’ a wheel crumpled. The plane rolled over and over in the dust. A wing folded and sliced across, whish! Elmer ducked in time to keep his head from being chopped off.
Flying a DeHaviland home on “Air Circus,” a crankshaft snapped. Clatter, bang. The ship trembled, bucked, started to fall to pieces. Nosing half over, it settled fast. Elmer climbed out to jump. “We may make it,” the pilot yelled. Elmer settled hack in his seat. They made it.
Dick Grace once landed a plane right on him. He was standing on the ground, in a camera car, and looked up to see the propeller whirling in his face. He bopped. The car, the plane, and three Bell-and-Howell cameras were demolished. Elmer got up.
That’s only a bit of his career. “But don’t weep too many tears for us when we go,” he shrugs. “It’s our business.”
When his turn comes, all he asks people to say is: “There goes Elmer. He expected it.”
Source: New Movie Magazine, February 1934
This article is part of our Unfamous of Hollywood series: Gilmor Brown, Natalie Bucknell, Bebe Daniels & Pauline Gallagher, Howard Dietz, Elmer Dyer, George Hurrell, Billy Hill, Sally Rand, Murray Spivack, George E. Stone
Source: Cinematographic Annual, 1934