Cinematographer. The favorite cameraman of director Sergei Eisenstein, he helped create some of the most memorable images in world cinema. Eduard Kazimirovich Tisse was born in Lithuania, to parents of Russian-Swedish background. As a young man he claimed to be a German from either Stockholm or Latvia, a bit of mystification that would later get him into trouble with the Communist regime. Entering films in 1914, he gained much experience as a newsreel cameraman and was director of photography for "The Signal" (1918), the first theatrical feature produced in the new Soviet Union. For a time he was associated with Dziga Vertov's "Cinema-Eye" documentary movement. When Eisenstein, already a controversial stage director, was preparing his feature debut "Strike" (1924), he was bursting with ideas but lacked technical knowledge of filmaking; he found an ideal collaborator in Tisse, who from then on resented working with anyone else. He stood by the Soviet master throughout his tumultuous career and was cinematographer for all his subsequent films: "Potemkin" (1925), "October" (1928), "The Old and New" (1929), "Que Viva Mexico!" (unfinished, 1930 to 1931), "Bezhin Meadow" (unfinished, 1935 to 1937, footage lost), "Alexander Nevsky" (1938), and "Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II" (co-photography, 1944, 1946). A visual artist of great elegance and versatility, Tisse relished having his ingenuity tested by Eisenstein's innovative demands. For the legendary Odessa Steps sequence in "Potemkin" he strapped cameras to falling bodies and built a camera track the length of the steps to capture one of the first dolly shots in Russian films; his visuals of the February revolt in "October", adapted from news photographs, have often been mistaken for documentary footage. For the "Battle On the Ice" in "Alexander Nevsky" he devised special filters to make the scenes (shot during a summer heat wave) appear wintry. From 1929 to 1932 he accompanied Eisenstein on his disastrous trip to Western Europe, Hollywood, and Mexico, and while none of their projects fully materialized, the sun-baked images Tisse created for "Que Viva Mexico!" are mesmerizing. During the World War II-era production of "Ivan the Terrible, Part I" in Alma-Ata, Tisse was put under house arrest for months while the secret police investigated his alleged German origin, and Eisenstein was obliged to continue with another cameraman, Andrei Moskvin; after his release he and Moskvin co-photographed "Ivan the Terrible, Part II", which boasted an early (for Soviet films) scene in color. The partnership, one of the richest in any art form, ended only with Eisenstein's premature death in 1948. Tisse's other credits include "Aerograd" (1935), "Meeting On the Elbe" (1949), and "The Composer Glinka" (1952). He also co-directed two films, "Woman Happy, Woman Unhappy" (in Switzerland, 1930), and "The Immortal Garrison" (1956). From 1943 until his death he was professor of cinematography at the Moscow Film School (VGIK).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards