George E. Turner is a familiar name among serious movie buffs – a pivotal figure in the realm of film scholarship, as influential these many years after his death as he was during a lengthy prime of productivity. George’s authorship alone of a book called The Making of King Kong (and known in its newer editions as Spawn of Skull Island) would be sufficient to cinch that credential.
But add to that George’s hitch during the 1980s and ’90s as editor of The American Cinematographer magazine and resident historian of the American Society of Cinematographers, and you come up with a pop-cultural impact of formidable staying power, beyond the reach of trendy distractions.
Where George preferred to limit his interests to the prehistory of filmmaking and the first couple of generations of Old Hollywood, he nonetheless kept a hand in current developments: His last job in a seven-year span of purported retirement was that of storyboard artist and second-unit director on the hit network teleseries Friends. And as a fan, he was as fluent in the continuing story-lines of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as he was in the history of RKO-Radio Pictures or the careers of Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, Tod Browning and Val Lewton.
The Friends storyboarder hitch is significant: Even those who are most familiar with George Turner’s film scholarship – for example, a chronic-to-acute genre-history series that he and I launched in 1979 with a book called Forgotten Horrors – scarcely know of his parallel career as a commercial artist and gallery painter, a comics artist and newspaper illustrator, and overall an accomplished talent in practically any medium one might care to mention. His higher degrees, after all, were in commercial illustration (from the American Academy of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago), and before he re-invented his career in Hollywood during 1978-80 he had spent some 27 years as the editorial art director of a daily newspaper in Northwest Texas.