Leslie George Bowie was born on 10 November 1913 in Vancouver, Canada.
Before the advent of computer-generated special effects, pioneers in the field managed to create movie magic, despite often restrictive budgets. Les Bowie was one of the best. He began work as a scenic artist at Denham, Pinewood and Shepperton studios in 1946. Bowie made his initial mark by developing a faster technique for creating matte shots in a single day. He was rewarded by being pushed up the ladder to chief matte artist for the Rank Organisation. In 1950, Bowie turned freelance and established his own FX unit in partnership with Vic Margutti and A. Val Elsey. This was later expanded to become Bowie Films Ltd., ultimately Britain’s leading FX unit, with a staff of 75 people at work creating miniatures, mechanical devices, trick photography and matte paintings.
Bowie was best known for his work at Hammer, beginning with The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), for which he created the monster. He worked on many of the best films for the studio, producing innovative re-usable models. He was also responsible for numerous clever trick effects, including the demises of Count Dracula and assorted minions. Bowie did superb matte work on The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Captain Clegg (1962), to mention but a few. He also supervised the creation of earth in just six days (on a budget of £1000 pounds) for One Million Years B.C.(1966) and destroyed it in The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). Bowie’s ambition to work on an A-grade production was finally fulfilled, when he was tasked with making models, mattes and composites for Superman (1978). Sadly he died just minutes before receiving his Special Achievement Award at the Oscars.
He is credited with the invention of the “glass shot.” This was a method of painting added scenery on a pane of clear glass placed in front of the camera
Les Bowie died from lung cancer, in Gerrard’s Cross, Buckinghamshire on 27 January 1979, he was 65.