ELMER FRYER: Iconic Hollywood Photographer



Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the web, whatever that is. My GRANDSON resurrected me for this blurb about my life. I died March 3, 1944. The last thing I remember is driving down Hollywood Blvd. in my Rolls Royce, and the last thing I heard was my damned assistant driving my car away as I took my last breath lying on the sidewalk at Hollywood and Vine – that slime ball.


I hovered around long enough to see some gal write cirrhosis of the liver on my death certificate, but don’t believe everything you read. I like a snoot as well as the next fellow, but I’d never been sick a day in my life, and to drop dead like that at the age of 45…well, it’s a mystery to me.

Before my inglorious ending, I had a swell time. I started my career as a cameraman at Vitagraph, moved on to Metropolitan Studio in 1927, which turned into Warner Bros. First National Studios, then later just Warner Bros.

FryerrobinsonStampBy 1934 I’d taken more than 160,000 portraits of all the major (and minor) stars like Errol Flynn, Joey Brown, Delores del Rio, Clark Gable, Betty Davis, Edward G. Robinson (who got his mug on a US stamp with one of my portraits), a B actor named Ronald Reagan, and thousands more in movie stills.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, me and my boys joined the Air Force to do our part and make war documentaries on the Warner Bros lot.

Speaking of films, I could mention a couple I worked on:







Joey Brown & Elmer Fryer (Center)

Along the way I became a charter member of THE AMERICAN SOCIETY of CINEMATOGRAPHERS , a proud member of THE WARNER CLUB, and THE MASQUERS.

Okay, I’ll admit it, those Masquers parties no doubt did some damage to my liver.

And since I died while in the Air Force while making those Warner Bros. war documentaries, I got myself a plot in The National Military Cemetery in Westwood. Not bad for a wood-cutter’s son born far away from the lights of Hollywood in the great state of Missouri.

Elmer & Isabelle Fryer
Elmer & Isabelle Fryer
Fryer at work…

Hollywoodland2®All Rights Reserved: The Elmer Fryer Family Archive

by C. Reeder for Roger S. Nichols (1944 – 2011)

10 thoughts on “ELMER FRYER: Iconic Hollywood Photographer

  1. I love the photo above of Elmer and Isabelle. . I’m their great niece. …Visited her often in Glendale, California as a child. Isabelle’s brother, Don Edwards, married into the Clark family. The Heritage House on the Fullerton State campus is my great grandfather’s and the Hargitt House in Norwalk is my great, great grandfather’s. I’m always interested in family history. Do you have any other photos of Elmer and Isabelle together for sale?

    1. Hi Anne,
      We are not selling pictures, and in fact, we just want to see them and archive them. My daughters, nieces, Melinda and I’d love to have a showing of Elmer’s work in Hollywood. We feel (and so did Roger), that Elmer didn’t get the accolades he deserved due to the circumstances surrounding his death. I have a tree for Roger (my husband and Shirley’s son) on ancestry.com. If you give me your email I’ll send you a link to view/edit. Thanks, Connie

  2. Hi, I have been cleaning out my grandparents old home and found a bunch of elmer fryer signed photographs and I’m looking to find some information on them. Maybe you could point me in the right direction?

  3. Hello, My name is April Hall and I lived in Reno, NV from 1966 to 1972. We lived on E Tayor Street and as a child I raked leaves for a gentleman who lived down the block. He gave me stills of the Movie “The Virginian”. Some of the stills are stamped Elmer Fryer. Others Eastman Studio 916 Main St Susanville, CAlif. Got any ideas who the Gentleman in Reno was?

  4. Hello. While going threw some of my fathers old family photos I found a signed Ronnald Reagan photo made out to my father. On the back is Elmer Fryers stamp. So, any idea how a boy from South Bend Indiana may have got one of Elmers photos all the way here in the northeast? I Grandmother did play in a band back in the 40’s but not out west.

    1. Sorry, people who don’t write things down or leave any oral history to pass down force us to puzzle things out without much success. Best regards, Connie

  5. We have been cataloging a series of photographs from the family of Bob Raphael, a very early member of the California Highway Patrol. One of the photos is of a group of CHP Officers, standing for inspection, next to their motorcycles and a patrol car. I’m guessing it was 1932 or 33 shortly after the L.A. Motor Police became CHP Officers. On the reverse is the Elmer Fryer Warner Bros. F.N. Studios stamp. I’m not sure why the studio took the photo but Elmer did a fine job of it.
    Thanks for keeping his memory alive and giving us some background on the photographer.

  6. Hello. I live in Prescott, Az. And had an aunt by the name of Lillian Wilhelm Smith. She was a semi famous artist, and did the illustrating for Zane Grey. I have a picture of her, with a stamp on the back that says “Kindly Credit Elmer Fryer Photographer”. I would like to know if anyone has any other photos of her. Plus, I know that her husband (Jess R. Smith), and her made some silent films and tried to sale them to Hollywood in the 30’s. If anyone can shine some light on this, I’d love to hear what you know.

  7. Hello! My mother, Katherine Haswell Bell (b. 1913), was the stepdaughter of Amy Haswell, Elmer’s mother. Katherine was about 8 (I think) when her Dad married Amy. My mom had many fond memories of Elmer and Isabelle. Elmer often took my mom to parties when she was young and she loved it. I have a portrait of my mother that Elmer took. So lovely.

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