Born in New York City, Rosson began his career in film in 1908, when there was still a vibrant movie industry on the East Coast. He started as an actor with the Vitagraph Company in Brooklyn, though soon switched to the other side of the camera, in a wide range of beginner's jobs. He was a cinematographer's assistant at the Metro studio in both California and New York. After service in the U.S. Army during World War I, Rosson was hired by Mary Pickford in 1920 to make movies for her brother.
Rosson was again with Metro in 1924, when the studio became part of the new MGM. He worked on the 1936 color film The Garden of Allah, and shared a special 1937 Academy Award with W. Howard Greene for that achievement. He received the first of his five Academy Award nominations for The Wizard of Oz. On that project he was assisted by two cameramen from Technicolor, but MGM relied on Rosson's skill rather than hire a Technicolor First Cameraman.
Rosson was also a member of a remarkable Hollywood family. Both of his brothers, Arthur and Richard, were film directors; among their sisters, Queenie was in silent films while Helene was an actress in Westerns, and Gladys was Cecil B. DeMille's secretary. Rosson, who had filmed Jean Harlow to great effect in Bombshell (1933), was also married to Harlow from 1933 to 1935. Brother Arthur had been the first husband of the wife of Victor Fleming, the Oz director; this fact did not prevent Fleming from working productively with Hal Rosson on seven films.
- ↑ Aljean Harmetz, The Making of the Wizard of Oz, New York, Delta edition, 1989; pp. 229-33.