Few people likely associate the classic Hollywood movie “Gone with the Wind” with “Star Trek: The Original Series,” but there is a vitally important connection between them. Ernest Haller, according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers, was the co-cinematographer on the Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh drama, and he later served as the director of photography on “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the second “Star Trek: The Original Series” pilot, which famously convinced NBC to order “Star Trek” to series. According to the site Memory Alpha, Haller returned to “Star Trek: The Original Series” during its third and final season to work for one day — uncredited — on the episode “Requiem for Methuselah,” after the usual director of photography, Al Francis, had fallen ill.
Haller, according to the Internet Movie Database, was born on May 31, 1896 — or 126 years ago this week. A biography of him on IMDB notes that “he started in the industry in 1914 as an actor with Biograph after leaving his first job as a bank clerk. Within one year he discovered his true calling: being on the other side of the camera. By 1920, he had become a full director of photography and would go on to handle prestigious pictures, such as the Samuel Goldwyn-produced ‘Stella Dallas’ (1925). In 1926, Haller signed with First National and was still there when the studio was absorbed by Warner Brothers in 1930. Despite prolific output, it took him several years to create a reputation; however, his breakthrough eventually came with the lavishly produced period drama ‘Jezebel’ (1938), starring Bette Davis. For this, he received the first of five Academy Award nominations.”
The Classic ‘Gone with the Wind’ Trailer
Internet Movie Database lists 184 credits for Haller as a cinematographer. He worked on eight movies that were nominated for Academy Awards in the Best Picture category: “Captain Blood” (1935), “Jezebel” (1938),” Four Daughters” (1938), “Dark Victory (1939),” “Gone with the Wind,” “All This, and Heaven Too” (1940), “Mildred Pierce” (1945), and “Lilies of the Field” (1963). “Gone with the Wind” was the only one of those to win the golden statuette, and Haller and Ray Rennahan shared the Oscar that year as well for Best Cinematography (Color) for their work on “Gone with the Wind.” He also served as director of photography on such other classics as “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)
Haller’s path to “Star Trek: The Original Series” was as unlikely as it was serendipitous. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, Desilu executive in charge of production Herbert F. Solow, and assistant director/co-producer Robert H. Justman, couldn’t secure a director of photography for the second “Star Trek” pilot, and the clock was ticking as the start date was fast approaching. According to the account by Solow and Justman in their book, “Inside Trek: The Real Story,” published in 1996, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” director James Goldstone wanted to hire “an experienced cameraman who had photographed complicated films.” Haller arrived for a meeting in Justman’s office that also included the participation of Roddenberry and Solow.
The ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before Trailer’
Justman, it’s noted in “Inside Trek,” had his concerns, as he knew nothing about Haller. “After the usual amenities, Solow broke the ice,” the passage on Haller reads. “‘Could you tell us what you’ve done? Recently?’ Haller took a long time to respond. ‘Not much, recently. I’ve been sort of semiretired.’ ‘Sort of semiretired?’ Now, Justman was very worried. Solow was persistent. ‘Well, have you done anything that, you know, we might have heard of?’ ‘Well, yes. I did do a picture you might have heard of. Back in thirty-nine.’ Justman and Solow looked at each other. They both quickly calculated. ‘Let’s see, it’s now 1965. If he’s talking 1939, that’s… Christ, that’s twenty-six years ago!’ Then it was Ernie Haller’s turn to break the ice. ‘It was called ‘Gone with the Wind.'”
Realizing that they were in the company of a seasoned professional who had indeed worked on complicated films, Roddenberry, Solow, and Justman hired Haller on the spot. He was soon on set shooting “Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Desilu Culver, which once had been owned by David O. Selznick, the producer of… “Gone with the Wind.” It was there, according to “Inside Trek,” Haller had shot “Gone with the Wind.”
Sadly, as noted by Memory Alpha, Internet Movie Database, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers, Haller died in a car accident in Marina del Ray, California, on October 21, 1970. He was 74 years old.