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The Lion and the Giraffe: A Naturalist's Life in the Movie Business Paperback – May 31, 2010


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About the Author

Jack Couffer was born on Dec 7, 1924, in Upland, California. As a youth he became fascinated with natural history and raised hawks, owls, squirrels, and coyotes. During high school years, he worked as a student assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. On his 17th birthday, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Jack's museum mentor, an expert on bats, was approached by the War Department to research a secret project that would use bats as carriers of miniature incendiary bombs. As a part of this team, Jack was drafted into the army. Half of his military service was spent on this seemingly nutty, but surprisingly valid, idea. Jack has written of this bizarre scheme in his book "Bat Bomb, World War II's Other Secret Weapon".
The remainder of his military duty was as crew on high speed PT type air-sea rescue boats.
After the war, Jack worked as a commercial fisherman and paid crew on yachts.
In
December 1947, he married Joan Burger. Shortly thereafter, while living aboard their schooner, he enrolled at University of Southern California where at the new Department of Cinema Studies he fell to the teaching gift of department head, Slavko Vorkapitch. Jack collaborated with two fellow students, Conrad Hall and Marvin Weinstein, in a class project that won the first (now annual) ASC student film award and sold to TV. High with this success, the partners formed a production company and became entrepreneurs while still university students.

With his mixed abilities as a naturalist and film maker, Jack joined Walt Disney Studios as a cameraman on the early True Life Adventure, series. One of the great experiences of his early career was a Disney assignment in what was then one of the most remote and least-visited spots on earth. Jack and Conrad and a helper sailed a 28 foot ketch to the Galåpagos Islands where they lived off the land and filmed wildlife for nearly a year.
Jack's son Michael, now a biological consultant, was born in 1962. Jack worked at Disney for more than ten years in a variety of functions and participated there in the making of more than two dozen movies. Since then, he has worked on TV and feature films for many of Hollywood's production companies and independents. He has published twelve books of both fiction and non-fiction.
His filming travels took him to Africa where he fell in love with the country and a lady at the same time. He lived in Kenya for 32 years and Marchesa Sieuwke Bisleti was his companion until her death in February 2005.

Jack is now sharing his life in California with retired actress Jean Allison who was the ingénue in the first feature film he shot.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: BearManor Media (May 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593935382
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593935382
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,801,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Date of Birth
7 December 1924, Upland, California, USA

Mini Biography
Jack Couffer was born on Dec 7, 1924, in Upland, California. While growing up near the foothills in Glendale, he became fascinated with natural history and raised hawks, owls, squirrels, skunks and coyotes. During his high school years he worked afternoons as a student assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. It was on his 17th birthday, during a museum collecting trip to California's Channel Islands, that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The museum party was marooned for two weeks on Santa Rosa Island, as all West Coast ports were immediately closed following the attack. At the museum Jack's mentor, an expert on bats, was approached by the War Department to research a secret project that would use bats as carriers of miniature incendiary bombs. As part of this team Jack was drafted into the army in June 1943, a few months before high school graduation. Half of his military service was spent on this seemingly nutty, but surprisingly valid, idea. Jack has written of this bizarre scheme in his book "Bat Bomb, World War II's Other Secret Weapon". The remainder of his military duty was as a crewman on high-speed PT-type air-sea rescue boats.

After the war he worked for a few years as a commercial fisherman and paid crewman on yachts. In December 1947 he married Joan Burger. Shortly thereafter, while living aboard their schooner, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to major in zoology. However, he attended a lecture in the new Department of Cinema Studies and fell to the exciting teaching gift of department head Slavko Vorkapich. Jack collaborated with two fellow students, Conrad Hall and Marvin R. Weinstein, in a class project that won the first (now annual) ASC student film award and sold to TV. Flush with this success, the partners formed a production company, Canyon Films, and became entrepreneurs while still university students. At USC Jack became friends with practicing filmmaker/instructors Irving Lerner, Andrew Marton, Laslo Benedek and Stirling Silliphant. Lerner employed the partners of Canyon Films as the production team on a feature shot in South Carolina called Edge of Fury (1958). There Jack met young actress Jean Allison, who 45 years, three husbands (and two wives) later he would meet again. His son, Mike Couffer, now a biologist, was born January 7, 1962, and, as a teenager, collaborated with his father on a series of natural history adventure books for children.

With his abilities as both a naturalist and film maker, Jack joined Walt Disney Studios as a cameraman on the early "True-Life Adventure" series. One of the great experiences of their early careers was a Disney assignment in what was then one of the most remote and least-visited spots on earth. Jack and Conrad and a helper sailed a 32-foot ketch to the Galapagos Islands where they lived off the land and filmed wildlife for nearly a year. Jack worked at Disney for more than ten years in a variety of functions--writer, director, producer, cameraman--and participated there in the making of more than two dozen movies. He separated from Joan in 1975. Since then, he has worked on TV and feature films for most of Hollywood's major production companies and many independents. He has published 11 books of both fiction and non-fiction. His travels took him to Africa in 1972, where he fell in love with the country and a lady at the same time. He lived in Kenya for 32 years and 'Marchesa Sieuwke Bisleti' was his companion until her death in February 2005. Jack is now sharing his life in California with retired actress Jean Allison (Toorvald) who was the ingénue in the first feature film he shot.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hollywood is chock full of unsung heroes who bust their butts behind the scenes to create the films and television programs that we all enjoy. Jack Couffer's life story (so far) is engagingly told in this fascinating autobiography of a man who has made the most of everything life has offered to him. From building weapons during wartime to capturing animals on film, Couffer peppers his book with enjoyable, riveting anecdotes. His love of life, of his home-away-from-home in Africa, his family and friends, are covered in a fast-moving narrative. Pick up this book -- I hope you'll love it as much as I did!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike Couffer on November 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
American Cinematographer Magazine
The Lion and the Giraffe
By Jack Couffer
Reviewed by Jim Hemphill

Jack Couffer, ASC has told stories about the subject that consumes him above all others - nature - in an astonishingly broad array of media. He's worked as a director (both first and second unit) and cameraman on everything from low-budget documentaries to enormous Hollywood spectacles, he's written screenplays and novels, and he was a television pioneer with his work for Walt Disney. As one might expect from a filmmaker of such diverse interests and talents, Couffer's memoir The Lion and the Giraffe: A Naturalist's Life in the Movie Business covers a wide range of topics and experiences, from Couffer's personal life and filmmaking adventures to the minutiae of show business politics and the author's squabbles with unions and producers. The result is an entertaining and informative portrait of an enviably varied artistic life.

Couffer's life as a filmmaker begins with some fateful encounters at the USC film school, where in the late 1940s he meets student filmmakers Marvin Weinstein and future cinematography legend Conrad Hall. Together the three young cinema buffs form a production company and make their mark by shooting nature footage for Walt Disney's film and television productions, including the True Life Adventures and The Wonderful World of Disney series. Eventually the "three musketeers" split up to pursue different interests, but Couffer's path as a chronicler of nature is set, and his work for Disney takes him all over the world. It also puts him in contact with some colorful but dangerous characters (both human and animal), who Couffer describes in amusing detail throughout the memoir.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Emunki on July 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Much more than just an in depth study of the film industry, The Lion And The Giraffe is the story of and by a man who loves animals and possesses the unique ability to capture their moods, moves and natural wild instincts on film, often risking his own life to do so. Couffer is blessed with the creative ability to get what is needed against all odds, the man who gets the take, and he possesses a keen descriptive sense when relating his story through the written word. Animals, actors, directors, producers, moguls like Walt Disney all spring to life in this book, along with the many countries he has filmed in, his favorite being Africa, where he eventually settled. Real, gut wrenching and wonderful, Jack has documented his life, his loves, the pitfalls and triumphs of a life spent doing what he loved. You've seen his work in many films, he's worked with many of the biggest names in the film industry. Recommended reading for anyone who has ever had the courage to follow their heart and their dreams.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tortoise Lover on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book appeals to the reader with a wide variety of interests from animals to movie-making. There are vivid descriptions of the Galapagos Islands, Kenya, Scotland and other locations. Stories about various colorful and sometimes eccentric people are fascinating. The author shows his lifelong interest in and understanding of living creatures, while sharing his knowledge of how movies are made. This is an engaging book by an interesting author. I found it hard to put down and read it eagerly while ignoring my chores around the house and yard.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this book originally because my Uncle Rick has know the author for many years and they are still friends. When Jack visited my Uncle (the author Jack Couffer) left him a copy as a gift. My Uncle highly recommended I read about his friend's life. Not knowing what to expect, I purchased a copy then began reading the book and found it to be one of the most interesting autobiographies I've read in awhile. Especially liked the early years when Jack was sailing, this is when my Uncle first met him...they were young men then. Mr. Couffer went on to become an expert filming animals and was responsible for many of the Disney animal TV programs and movies; i.e. The Living Desert, etc. He tells about the people he's met, relationships with the women in his life and many entertaining stories about working in Hollywood, living in Africa and the animals he's met there and his world travels. A very entertaining book - I highly recommend it.
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