One of the last newsreel photographers has died. SFBAPPA’s oldest Life Member Les Thomsen passed away on November 8, 2010just two days before his 70th wedding anniversary. He was 97.
In the ’50s he became a newsreel cinematographer for Paramount Pictures. Since then he worked for Hearst Metrotone News, Movietone News, USIA, NBC, & CBS. In addition to filming seven U.S. presidents, he also filmed many historic events beginning with the 1939 World’s Fair and including the 1960 Winter Olympics. Sporting events included Rose Bowls, World Series, and world record setting track events. His favorite job was being a cinematographer for Walt Disney, filming the opening ceremonies of Disneyland in 1955 and many Mickey Mouse Club newsreel stories. Les traveled the world, filming in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.
He shot in mostly 16mm and 35mm film. In later years, he built a movie theater and cinematographic museum in his home and a 7Â½” gauge railroad in his backyard. He was an active member of several train clubs and the International Cinematographers Guild, local 600.
Les was born in San Francisco in 1912 and spent his childhood on Rose Street in Berkeley. In elementary school he developed an interest in cinematography when he became the school projectionist.
He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, five children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Eleanor would love to hear recollections of Les via email: les-Thomsen@pacbell.net
SFBAPPA Life Membership Chairman