Flaherty, Robert Joseph

Flaherty, Robert Joseph

Flaherty, Robert Joseph (flăˈərtē), 1884–1951, American explorer and film producer. He was born in Michigan and grew up in Canada. He explored (1910–16) subarctic E Canada and in 1922 completed the first feature-length documentary film, Nanook of the North. Though Flaherty approached his subjects with sympathy and respect, his method blended documentary and dramatic techniques, sometimes at the expense of the strict truth. His films include Moana (1925), Elephant Boy (1936), The Land (1941), and Louisiana Story (1949).


See biographies by A. Calder-Marshall (1963, repr. 1970), F. Flaherty (1960, repr. 1972), and R. Griffith (1953, repr. 1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Flaherty, Robert Joseph


Born Feb. 16, 1884, in Iron Mountain, Mich.; died July 23, 1951, in Dummerston, Vt. American film director.

Flaherty studied at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology. He began exploring the Canadian polar regions in 1910, and in 1918 he made an amateur documentary film about the life of the Eskimos. His Nanook of the North (1922) became a classic of the documentary cinema. A work of profound humanity, it tells about the struggle for existence of a people living in the severe conditions of the polar regions. The film extended the principles of the director’s art to documentary cinematography. In 1923 and 1924, Flaherty lived on the island of Savai’i in the Pacific Ocean and made a film, Moana (1926), about the way of life, work, and ceremonies of the Polynesians; the film was a poetic expression of the unity of man and nature. Among Flaherty’s best films were Industrial Britain (1933, with J. Grierson), Man of Aran (1934), and Louisiana Story (1948).


Drobashenko, S. “Mir Roberta Flaerty.” In the collection Voprosy kinoiskusstvo, part 9. Moscow, 1966. Pages 237–58.
Griffith, R. The World of Robert Flaherty. New York–Boston [1953].
Michalek, B. Sztuka faktów: Z historii filmu dokumentalnego. Warsaw, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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