Ernest Marshall

Independent filmmaker

Ernest Marshall was an imaginative and innovative filmmaker (and an engaging signer and storyteller) whose shoestring-budgeted films are fascinating and valuable documents—showcasing talented Deaf performers using ASL before it was even considered a language. Third-generation Deaf, he was born in Poughkeepsie and graduated from NYSD (Fanwood) in 1931. For 38 years, he worked as an interior decorator at Manhattan’s Mid-City Hotel. Off duty, he participated in local Deaf-theater groups—a pool of talent he utilized for his films. Between 1937 and 1962, he produced 7 feature films and 4 shorts, all at his own expense, directing most of them. His work was received enthusiastically by Deaf-club audiences, but remained largely unknown to the general public until fairly recently, when his work was “rediscovered” and he was accorded belated recognition for his contributions to the social and cultural life of the Deaf—and American—communities.

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