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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California




When your first big-time grip job is the Paul Newman classic Hud, chances are you’ve had an interesting career. In the case of retired key grip Carl Manoogian, interesting is an understatement.
Beginning in the biz in 1956, Manoogian was sworn into the IA while working on the gang at Paramount Studios. By 1960, laboring as a “high man” (still at Paramount, under Ralph Reese and Fred Johnson), a turning point came for the 35 year-old extra hammer when he was assigned work on the Jerry Lewis film Ladies Man. As one Lewis picture followed another, a decade of work together ensued on nearly a dozen classic comedy films and over time a close relationship grew between the two men.
From Cinderfella to The Nutty Professor, Manoogian looked out for his “stunt-laden” star. On one occasion, Manoogian, who had once played pro baseball on the same squad as Chuck Connors, tossed the ball with Lewis between shots. A pushy AD came over, clipboard and stopwatch in hand, and informed Jerry that playing catch was costing the studio lots of money. Jerry Lewis, who was the star, director and producer of the picture, continued to throw the ball back and forth and said, “So long as I’m signing the checks around here, I’ll play catch with my friend Carl whenever I like!”
“He noticed everyone and everything, and was curious, innovative and smart about the mechanics of making pictures,” Manoogian said with a warm smile. “I loved working with Jerry”.
The next 20 years of Manoogian’s career were anything but mundane. Keying films like The Last Picture Show, Hard Times, Oh God, and The Killer Elite, he did it all. “We thought Last Picture Show was going to be a dud,” Manoogian recalled. “But the way (director Peter) Bogdanovich did it, it leapt off the screen and became a huge hit.”
Gripping some 40 years in Hollywood — 98,000 hours to be exact — Manoogian became known for his easy manner on set and innovative camera rigs on boats, cars, trains and planes. For the Walter Hill action thriller The Driver (1978), Manoogian was called upon to devise a mount that could accommodate three cameras on one side of the car. “Did it with a pipe rig that ran the entire side of the Mercedes — bumper to bumper!” he said. “We jacked up the suspension on the opposite side so it could ride level. You coulda put five cameras on that thing!”
Surviving the era of disaster flicks like Airport and Earthquake throughout the 1970s, Manoogian finished his fifty-year, gold-card career doing TV movies and three-camera shows.
From plying his craft with favorite DP’s like Laszlo Kovacks, Lucien Ballard, James Wong Howe and Phil Lathrop, to the films worked with Lewis — they remain friends to this day — Manoogian was always true to his grip calling and was respected by his crews. A mentor to many who continue in the industry today, Manoogian loved what he did and it still shows. When asked for a few words of advice regarding success in the film biz, he said: “Learn the profession, so you’ll be prepared when you get a shot.”
Back in his packed machine shop, amid camera risers, hostess trays and crates of hardware, the 82-year-old grip began to tinker with a hood mount. “If you know anybody who could use these things,” Manoogian called to me as I began down his driveway, “they’re here for the asking.”
Did you hear that, USC Film School?

Written by Jim Udel

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