James R. Morrison ’47

James R. Morrison ’47 died on November 14, 2021, in Spokane, Washington

(The following was provided by his family)

James Ryan Morrison ’47 died on the 14th of November, 2021. It was one day following his 97th birthday. The day before, he was visited by his children and grandchildren.

After graduating from the Taft School in 1943, Morrison joined the Army Air Corps, serving in World War II, fixing the engines of B25s; B17s, and P51 Mustangs in Africa. After the war, he attended and graduated from Bowdoin College (50, 51′) and traveled across Europe with a camera and began a career in movies and television that spanned more than seven decades. His work encapsulates cinematic moments that have secured their place in the US National Film Archives, The National Media Museum in Bradford, England, and in the annals of US advertising pop culture.

He was among the last surviving pioneers of Cinerama, the ground-breaking widescreen process introduced in the 1950s that projected images from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, curved screen. Morrison was editor on the first two Cinerama epics, “This is Cinerama” and “Cinerama Holiday.”  He served as assistant director on the Lowell Thomas production of “The Seven Wonders of the World.”

In 1956, he married Anne Sloan in Bedford, New York.  As an advertising exec with Campbell-Ewald in Detroit in the early 60s, Morrison wrote and produced the first six-minute commercial to run on US network television and hired a young composer named John Williams to score the soundtrack. Morrison produced dozens of iconic Chevrolet ads that permanently united the Chevy truck brand with the rugged beauty of the American West.

In 1969, he, Anne and their children moved from Connecticut to Colorado, and he founded The James Morrison Producing Company. He wrote, produced and directed corporate films and documentaries for AT&T, General Motors, Toyota, Delc,; MasterCard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the government of Saudi Arabia, and the Taft School.

He wrote four books, including: Treehouse, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War; The Stuff Americans are Made Of,  examining cultural forces that define the American social outlook; and Birdie, the biography of Birdie Tebbetts, the All-Star catcher of the Boston Red Sox. He completed his last novel in 2019: The Cost-Effective Life of Beno Bigelow, which he described as the story of an ‘adventurer who unwittingly becomes a part of all that he has met…from Pearl Harbor to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.’

He is survived by his daughters, Mandy Morrison, Lucy Phillips, and Emily Paroo; and his sons, George Morrison and Jameson O’Ryan,. His zeal persists in grandchildren Ruthie, Evan, Tallulah, Kahlil, and Noah.

‘It’s not the thing that’s beautiful,’ he said to his daughter once while driving around town in the ethereal glow of a Colorado sunset, ‘it’s the light that makes things beautiful, and you better catch it now because it will vanish in an instant…and then it’s gone.’

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