Monday, July 15, 2013

The Singular Case Of Roy J. Pomeroy's Missing Oscar

While Katie-Bar-The-Door and I were vacationing in Alaska, I received an e-mail from Kate Corbett Pollack, a researcher with the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association in Syracuse. Appropriately enough, given her place of employment, she's been researching Roy J. Pomeroy and she asked if I would spread word of his story and of a special request from the Association.

You remember Roy Pomeroy, don't you? If you're a silent film buff and an amateur Oscar historian like me, you immediately thought "Ah, yes, he won the first Oscar for special effects." Engineering effects, it was called then. He provided the sound effects for Wings, the first movie to win the Oscar for best picture, and invented what I guess you'd call rear-projection or maybe blue screen—dropping in a background behind an actor without requiring the actor to film on location.

He also worked, uncredited (nobody much got a credit in those days), on the special effects for Cecil B. DeMille's silent version of The Ten Commandments—remember the parting of Red Sea, using Jell-o? That was Pomeroy. And he was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). For his efforts, he made over a $1 million a year in salary.

All around, well done, Mr. Pomeroy.

But then, as is often the case with triumphs, the world continued to turn and discovered it could live without Roy J. Pomeroy, particularly his salary demands and his autocratic behavior. Paramount fired him, no other studio would work with him, and his attempts to form his own company, Pomeroy Laboratories, were largely fruitless.

On September 3, 1947, Pomeroy was found dead in his laboratory of an apparent suicide. He was fifty-five.

And there the story of Roy J. Pomeroy sat until a few years ago when AMPAS began looking for Pomeroy's Oscar. Turns out no one has any idea where it is or even if Paramount forwarded the Oscar to him after it fired him.

"We would love to gain more readership for this story," Kate writes, "and perhaps an answer to the mystery of Roy's death (which looks like a suicide) and the missing Oscar. I thought by contacting others who write about Old Hollywood, this could be a way to do it."

So what say you, faithful Monkey readers? Can we spread the word and write a happy ending to Roy Pomeroy's story?


Ford Fairlane said...

Roy J. Pomeroy?

I fucked him !

Anonymous said...

No you didn't - I'm still alive... faked my death in 55 so I could go back to my birthplace to live to this ripe old age; who do you think started Bollywood?