Lawrence William Butler, 80; Hollywood Special-Effects Man

Retired movie special-effects director Lawrence William Butler, who shared a 1940 Academy Award for his work on “The Thief of Baghdad,” died Wednesday of a heart attack while driving near his Fallbrook ranch, his son said. He was 80.

Butler began his career at 15, working for his father, William Butler, who was a special and optical-effects director for Warner Bros. He then worked for producer Alexander Korda in England, where he did special effects for both “Jungle Book” and “The Thief of Baghdad.”

Butler went with Columbia after the war, working there for 28 years before retiring to an advisory position in 1973. His pictures there included “The Caine Mutiny,” “The Devil at 4 O’Clock” and “Marooned.”

In 1975, he won a scientific and technical award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “the concept of applying low inertia and stepping electric motors to film transport systems and optical printers for motion picture production.”


He was born in Akron, Ohio, and attended Burbank High School.

He leaves three sons: David, of Hawaii, an aerial special-effects director; Michael, a director of commercials in New York City, and Anthony, of Hawaii, who is retired. His wife, Mary, died in the early 1970s.

David Butler said a memorial service will be held at the ranch in early November.