MEMPHIS TN (IFS) -- Roger Heman, Sr. was one of the first pioneers to transform the silent films into the talking movies that we enjoy today, Heman also was a creative first and second camera director on many films.
Roger Heman, born in the hills of Kentucky in 1898, made his way west to LA at a very early age, arriving in 1915. Since he knew how to drive he got a job delivering furniture. One of these deliveries was to the Metro Studios in Boyle Heights. Impressed with his appearance and the fact he could read and write they gave him a job as a prop boy and gopher.
He did much travel and acted as location manager too. In 1925 with Goldwyn becoming the dominant force on the lot he became an Asst. Director starting with Stella Dallas (1925) where he befriended a younger Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who he would take to the movies while the rest of the crew went south of the border to party and continue with The Bat(1926) as well as working under Lubitch on Eternal Love (1929) with John Barrymoreand with Brenon on The Rescue (1929) which was Goldwyn's last silent picture.
United Artists was the last studio to convert to sound but when they did they chose Roger to lead the way by sending him to the new AMPAS School of Sound Recording where he graduated in Class 2 on December 16, 1929.It was the end of an era for Roger as well as the silent period and the 54 films he worked on during it. During the beginning of the sound period at UA, he distinguished himself with Vidor's Street Scene (1931) and Milestone's Rain (1932) with Joan Crawford.
At this same time a new company, 20th Century, not having a lot of its own, having been founded by a young Daryl Zanuck, newly fired from WB, was using the UA Sound Department for some of its first motion pictures The House of Rothschild (1934) and _Misérables, Les (1935)_ and Roger was recruited.
He spent the rest of his working life with 20th Century Fox, becoming the head of their Sound Re-Recording Department and a trusted Zanuck confidant often working directly with Zanuck from rushes as well as in post production. He was put in charge of the studio's 'A' pictures and handled special effects with Fred Sersen, dubbing and re-recording and musical scoring with Al Newman and Cyril J. Mockridge.
He shared the first Special Effects Oscar, given for The Rains Came (1939) and winning again for Crash Dive (1943). He was nominated individually numerous times and won for the studio Sound Oscars for Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and All About Eve (1950). He was credited by Zanuck for his help in developing Cinemascope ("you were a mountain of strength...") as well as for his efforts in using surround sound like effects for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) for scenes where the spaceship comes and goes and for Gort's death ray. He married the love of his life, Jesse, a prominent banker's daughter he courted for five years and had a son Roger Heman Jr., who, having been brought into the business by his father at a young age, spent 37 years with Universal and spent many years with Spielberg as he was starting out (he won an Academy Award for Jaws (1975)).
Roger worked until the 1960's when he had a devastating stroke. He passed away in the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, begun by his two close friends Mary Pickford and Jean Hersholt, in 1969.