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Embarras Valley Film Festival


Gregg TolandROOTS IN CHARLESTON, ILLINOIS Gregg Wesley Toland was born to Frank A. Toland and Jennie Turman Toland in Charleston, Illinois in 1904. The Toland and Turman families were residents of Coles County as early as the 1840s. Various characteristics were seen throughout both families ranging from fine upstanding individuals in society to a fugitive from the law. As of 2004, Coles County was still home to several members of the Toland and Turman families. Gregg Toland and his mother left Charleston, Illinois for California around 1914 never to return. However, Toland and his mother remained in contact with family members throughout the remainder of his short life. Toland biographies have only mentioned his birthplace in passing. So much more about him and his family has been discovered and documented by local historians and film scholars. In order to flesh out Toland's Charleston roots, the Gregg Toland Day Festival was held at Charleston, Illinois in September, 2004. The success of Gregg Toland Day led to the establishment of an annual event now known as the Embarras Valley Film Festival.

CINEMATIC CAREER At the age of 15, Gregg Toland began working as an office boy for movie mogul William Fox. Within five years, he designed a soundproof camera housing which allowed directors to film without having to contend with the sound of the winding film. By the age of 27, Toland was the youngest first-unit cameraman in Hollywood. Toland was awarded the 1939 Academy Award for Cinematography for his work on Wuthering Heights. Toland's innovative lighting techniques are evident in Dead End and The Grapes of Wrath. Writer/Director Orson Welles allowed Toland to exercise and fine-tune his deep focus technique on 1941's Citizen Kane. Additionally, he revamped the Mitchell BNC camera to include a new anti-noise device which allowed even greater flexibility of movement and control, eliminating the need to intercut between scenes and enabling Welles to create long, continuous shots. Toland used the deep focus technique in The Little Foxes, The Best Years of Our Lives and numerous other films.


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Eastern Illinois University

600 Lincoln Ave,
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 581-2223

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