Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer

Presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council

Featuring a screening of a newly struck print of “Citizen Kane” from the Academy Film Archive

Hosted by Academy governor Craig Barron

With special guests Nancy Dunn, Jonathan Erland, Michael Fink, Garrett Smith and Tech Council co-chair Bill Taylor.

The work of visual effects pioneer Linwood Dunn (1904-1998) was explored during an evening that included a close examination of the techniques he used in creating optical effects for Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane.”

Long before computer-generated effects were possible, Dunn created some of the most astounding and indelible images in the history of film, working on “Cimarron” (1931), “King Kong” (1933), “Citizen Kane” (1941), “Mighty Joe Young” (1949), “West Side Story” (1961), “Hawaii” (1966), “The Exorcist” (1973) and many, many other movies. He was honored by the Academy in 1944, and again at the 1980 Academy Awards, for the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer he designed in the ’40s with machinist Cecil Love. Dunn received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award in 1984 for his lifetime of contributions to the art and technology of motion pictures. In 2004, six years after his death, the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood was dedicated in his honor.

Dunn introduced Orson Welles to the optical printer during production of “Citizen Kane,” and under Welles’s direction the device was used “like a paintbrush” to help drive the visual narrative of the film. Instead of jarring cuts, optical dissolves were used to slip between scenes, and sometimes between shots within scenes; and during post-production, new elements such as miniatures effects and matte paintings were added to previously photographed scenes on an unprecedented scale. These effects, together with Gregg Toland’s landmark cinematography, make “Citizen Kane” a visual masterpiece.

The evening included rare recorded interviews with Dunn and an onstage discussion with his daughter, Nancy Dunn; Science and Technology Council member Garrett Smith, who was mentored by Dunn; and visual effects artists who were influenced by his work, including Jonathan Erland, Michael Fink and Bill Taylor. 

Event Information

Friday, October 9, at 8 p.m.
Linwood Dunn Theater
1313 Vine Street
Hollywood, CA 90028

Academy governor Bill Taylor; Nancy Dunn, daughter of Linwood Dunn; visual effects supervisor Michael Fink; Academy governor Craig Barron; council members Peter W. Anderson, Jonathan Erland, Don Rogers, Garrett Smith; and Academy president Tom Sherak.

Michael Fink, Jonathan Erland, Craig Barron, Nancy Dunn, Garrett Smith and Bill Taylor.

Don't Show Again