M Peter Keane 1910 - 2014
M Peter Keane was born in 1910, the youngest of four children: Helen (Happy 1901), Leonore (Lee 1903), and Irving (Irv 1905). His parents, Saul and Mamie Kahn met in New York where they had immigrated as children from Poland and Russia, respectively, at the end of the 19th century.
As a youth living in Manhattan, Peter was introduced to something that would become important to him throughout his life – cameras – initially through his relationship with Uncle Bennie (Benjamin Talbot Babbitt Hyde), the Boy Scouts, and the Museum of Natural History.
Peter attended Cornell University (Class of 1932) where he became involved with the early sound recording at the Laboratory of Ornithology. His involvement with the Lab, and interest in birds, lasted his whole life. Bird songs that Peter recorded and an interview with him about the early years of the Lab can be found here:
Upon graduating from Cornell, Peter began his long career in the photo/film/video industry by taking a job in New York as an assistant to photographer Margaret Bourke-White and later Paul Hesse. In 1935, Peter followed his cousin, actor Sam Jaffe, out to Hollywood. Sam introduced him to many people in the business and he ended up working as the assistant Technicolor cameraman on films such as Gone with the Wind, Robin Hood (with Errol Flynn), and God’s Country and the Woman.
With the outbreak of WWII, Peter joined the Army Signal Corps as a lieutenant (later promoted to captain), working first for a year in military film production in New York City before being transferred to Australia. Once in the Pacific theater, he led a camera crew to New Guinea, Hawai’i, Guadalcanal, Johnson, Guam, Okinawa, and finally Honshu, the main island of Japan, arriving there just after the surrender in 1945.
With the war over, Peter returned briefly to New York to see family, then drove cross-country to Hollywood in an old Ford where he worked as a photographer at a commercial studio owned by Valentino Sarra. When Sarra closed the studio in 1951, Peter moved back to New York where he continued in the film business at Screen Gems and then Columbia Pictures. He married Lucille Fouillet, a young fashion designer from Paris, in 1954, had two children, Karin (1955) and Marc (1958), and moved with his new family out to Rye NY. Peter and Lucille moved back to New York City in 1976 and were divorced shortly thereafter.
In the 1970s, Peter moved from film into the incipient video industry, first with Sony in 1970 and then Cartridge Television, Norelco, Reeves, and finally HBO where he worked from 1975 until his retirement in 2001.
Peter was married for a second time to Elisabeth Thompson in 1984. They moved to Westport, CT, where Peter continued to live after retirement until his death in February of 2014.