Sitcom progenitor Dann Cahn dead at 89


Dann CahnThe second generation in a legendary entertainment family has passed; sitcom pioneer Dann Cahn has passed away. He was eighty-nine years old.

Cahn was the visionary behind the classic three-camera method of recording sitcoms, beginning with his work on 'I Love Lucy' in 1951. The last surviving member of the original Desilu production team that oversaw the legendary series, Cahn had to get creative when it came to the editing of a sitcom that had been recorded by three cameras at once, producing a swath of footage that overwhelmed editors at the time.

So why use multi-camera format at all? The staging of three motion picture cameras around the set allowed for the actors to play through a scene continuously; if one camera missed one of Lucy's (Lucille Ball) trademark "WAAAAHH!"s, you could rest assured that one of the other two cameras Cahncaught it beautifully. This allowed the actors the freedom to treat the scene as though it were a stage play, giving more for the studio audiences to enjoy.

So what was the problem? The sheer amount of footage overwhelmed traditional film editing techniques. To answer this growing concern, Cahn turned to a monster: a cutting-edge device created for the gameshow 'Truth or Consequences' that reared four massive heads (pictured). The Moviola has been known as the monster ever since Cahn dubbed it such when the machine couldn't even fit in the production studio editing room--it took roost in the prop room instead. The four heads were each necessary: three for the footage from each camera and a fourth for sound. This monster managed to streamline the editing of the mountain of footage, allowing for the seamless and beautiful cuts that made 'I Love Lucy' so groundbreaking.

Thanks to his ingenuity, Cahn was made editing supervisor at Desilu. Cahn was the son of Philip Cahn, also an editor, and a man who co-founded the Motion Picture Editors Guild in 1937, a union to protect these under-appreciated film mavens. Dann Cahn is survived by his only son, Daniel Cahn, who is currently president of the very guild his grandfather helped to found.

Cahn also worked on 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' 'The Real McCoys,' 'The Adventures of Jim Bowie,' and countless other landmarks in television.


- I Love Lucy
- The Real McCoys
- The Beverly Hillbillies
- Dann Cahn
- Daniel Cahn
- Philip Cahn

Written by: bad_subject
Nov 26th, 2012, 7:33 am

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