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McAllister Dolly History

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I am restoring and modifying an old McAllister dolly . I am also preparing a web log on my project but would like some information on the history of these fine machines. What era where they in use? Pictures of the dolly on a set. Technical information. The company that built them. Anything I can get.


All I know, is these dollies were produced by the Motion Picture Equipment Corp. I can?t find any dates anywhere.


I once ran across one of these dollies in Orlando and the owner had found a call sheet stuffed down into the seat receiver from ?My Favorite Martian?. No such luck with mine.


If you or anyone you know has knowledge of these old Hollywood workhorses, please contact me.

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I was told that all hydraulic dollies are descendents of old world-war-II era bomb loaders, but does that mean there weren't any rambling around sets pre-WWII?


My tattered "Master Sales Catalog #20" from Alan Gordon lists the J.G. McAlister crab dolly used prices at $6000 to $8000 (1970-something dollars) but doesn't offer up any kind of history.


And for future reference, it's "McAlister" (one L) :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

J.G. McAlister Inc was based in Hollywood and is mentioned in the book The Mobile Mise En Scene: A Critical Analysis of the Theory and Practice of Long Take Camera ... By Lutz Bacher at :




These dollys had dual steering and wew made in the 50s and 60s


It looks like J.G. McAlister merged to form Bardwell & McAlister lighting and grip equipment and moved to Sun Valley Cal.




There is a Phone number on the site:


(818) 771-1281


They may not have parts, but they may be able to point you in the right direction


I don't know if this'll do you any good at all but that's all I could find.

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Actually the full name of the book is THE MOBILE MISE EN SCENE: A Critical Analysis of the Theory and Practice of Long-Take Camera Movement in the Narrative Film and it was written in 1978 Just FYI

Edited by James Steven Beverly
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  • 13 years later...

Hi Bret Allen 

I have a pristine Moviola I bought years ago. I have worked with the McCallister on several films. The McCallister camera doliies were used on studio lots into the 1980's.  The two main crab dollies in early Hollywood was the McCallister and Moviola.  There were many dolly jib and dolly crane versions by various companies that were used before the crab dolly in early Hollywood.  HydroDolly from 1940's was very popular in Hollywood.  The Moviola Crab Dolly was considered the Cadillac of all crab dollies and had a long running relationship with Crab dolly Operators and studios for more than 40 years.  I know Universal Studios in California removed all of there dollies from the Grip docks in late 1980's. By 1990 no studios carried Crab dollies. The Moviola was copied by both Chapman and J.l.Fisher dolly companies. It you compare these three dollies you will find many similarity The McCallister and Moviola Crab dollies were large studio dollies. During the independent film making movement around the late 1960 and early 1970 more films were being made out of the major studios systems. Independent films were being made more on locations and using practical sets the use of a crab dolly that was narrow enough to fit through a standard door way was needed.  The Larger Studio Crab Dollies were unable to fit thru a standard single door and locations scouts and the Grip Departments were needed to find other alternative ways to get the camera dolly inside. The McCallister and Moviola were difficult for locations. Other Companies started to create small dollies in all shape and sizes for this purpose.  Another downfall of these large crab dollies was the McCallister and Moviola had a two valve system that allowed the Crab Dolly Operator to open one valve to create the arm of the dolly to go up rising the camera than shut the value off and open the other value up to have the arm go down lower the camera.  When other compaines created the universal valve and patented this design allowing only one value to raise or lower the camera  these 2 large magnificent crab dollies became obsolete.

 I have found a dusty and abandoned McCallister dolly on and old independent studios in Hollywood with a metal tag rivited under the control arm.   its had this on the tag. Please note the spelling.

Crab Dolly Manufactured by Producers Equipment Center, formerly J.G. McCallister co. distributed by Motion Picture Equipment Distributing Corporation 5428 Satsuma Avenue, North Hollywood, Calif. 


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