Ted Tetzlaff

Director, Director of photography, Lab assistant
Talented cinematographer of lustrous black-and-white imagery who, after 20 years behind the lens in the 1930s and 40s, moved into the director's chair and showed a flair for suspense. Tetzlaff began as a lab and camera ... Read more »
Born: 06/02/1903 in Los Angeles, California, USA


Camera, Film, & Tape (10)

Notorious 1946 (Movie)


Road to Zanzibar 1940 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)

Rhythm on the River 1939 (Movie)


Tropic Holiday 1937 (Movie)


Easy Living 1936 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)

Swing High, Swing Low 1936 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)

My Man Godfrey 1935 (Movie)


Love Affair 1931 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)

Arizona 1930 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)

Men Are Like That 1930 (Movie)

(Director of Photography)
Director (1)

The Young Land 1958 (Movie)



Talented cinematographer of lustrous black-and-white imagery who, after 20 years behind the lens in the 1930s and 40s, moved into the director's chair and showed a flair for suspense. Tetzlaff began as a lab and camera assistant before sharing cinematography credits on half a dozen minor films in 1926-27. He joined Columbia in 1928, working regularly with good contract directors Erle C. Kenton ("The Last Parade" 1931), Roy William Neill ("Behind Closed Doors" 1929), and the up-and-coming Frank Capra. Tetzlaff shot three films for Capra, starting with the enjoyable "The Power of the Press" (1928). He was prolific, too, lensing a dozen films in 1929 and eleven each in 1930 and 1931.

It was at Columbia that Tetzlaff first worked with rising star Carole Lombard, on loan from Paramount, on "Brief Moment" (1933) and "Lady by Choice" (1934). Late in 1934, he moved to Paramount, where he was soon reunited with Lombard, now a top name, for "Rumba" and the especially delightful romantic comedy "Hands Across the Table" (both 1935). Tetzlaff was now an 'A' budget cinematographer, and would shoot the glamorous comedienne in ten films including "The Princess Comes Across" (1936) and "True Confession" (1937). Lombard even took him with her when she was loaned out to other studios, and so Tetzlaff's glossy images enhanced Universal's landmark screwball "My Man Godfrey" (1936).

Tetzlaff continued at Paramount through 1941 before serving in WWII. Just before war service, he took a first shot at directing, but the Hollywood-set comedy, "World Premiere" (1941), despite some good ingredients, was more frantic than funny. He signed with RKO near the war's end and soon racked up one of his finest credits, one which would set a pattern for his best future work. Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946) was a model collaboration, with sensuous low-key lighting mixing with fluid tracking, crane and POV shots to build a gripping web of intrigue.

Tetzlaff obviously learned from Hitchcock when he became a director for good: after treading water on several minor credits, he struck pay dirt with the spine-tingling film noir "The Window" (1949), about a boy fond of crying wolf who isn't believed when he actually witnesses a murder. Tetzlaff stayed with RKO into the early 50s and later free-lanced until 1959, working only as a director; his credits were all B-films or modestly budgeted A's, but the best (the mountain adventure "The White Tower" 1950 and "Terror on a Train" 1953, about defusing bombs) show the same admirably craftsmanlike qualities which marked his best work as a cinematographer.



Excerpt Tetzlaff directed from "Seven Wonders of the World" used in the compilation documentary, "The Best of Cinerama"


Directed last film, "The Young Land"


Was one of the five directors of the episodic travel documentary, "Seven Wonders of the World", shot in the widescreen process Cinerama


Directed for the NBC/ABC TV anthology series, "Screen Director's Playhouse"; credited as Ted R. Tetzlaff (date approximate)


Left RKO and freelanced for his remaining few feature credits


Directed his best-known feature film, "The Window", a hit at the box office in its day


Became a director full-time at RKO with "Riffraff"


Last credit as cinematographer, "Notorious", an RKO film directed by Alfred Hitchcock


Joined RKO; first film there, "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945) (date approximate)


Returned briefly to Columbia when he shot four films there


Directed a first feature film, "World Premiere", but otherwise kept working as a cinematographer


Shot last of ten Carole Lombard pictures, "Fools for Scandal", made while on loan to Warner Bros.


First worked with actor Carole Lombard on the Columbia feature, "Brief Moment"


First solo credits as cinematographer, "Pitfalls of Passion" and "Polly of the Movies"


Shot four films in collaboration with cinematographer Ernest Miller, "Sunshine of Paradise Alley", "Eager Lips", "The Ladybird" and "Ragtime"


First feature credits as cinematographer, "Atta Boy"; screen credit shared with William Reese and Blake Wagner

Worked for Columbia Pictures

First worked in Hollywood as a lab assistant, beginning in the early 1920s

Worked for Paramount Pictures

Served as a major in the US Air Corps during WWII (date approximate)

Later worked as a lab assistant