Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jack Cardiff

I’ve sounded off on these pages before about the genius of cinematographers like Roger Deakins, Chris Menges and Robert Elswit. Yesterday, one of the giants of the art, Jack Cardiff, died of natural causes at the age of 94.

His debut as director of photography was Powell & Pressburger’s timeless classic ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, lensing half the film in sumptuous technicolour and the other half in steely monochrome. Of his two subsequent collaborations with Powell & Pressburger, ‘Black Narcissus’ and ‘The Red Shoes’, the former won him an Oscar.

He worked with Hitchcock on ‘Under Capricorn’, John Huston on ‘The African Queen’ and Laurence Olivier on ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’.

Jack Cardiff’s achievements in directing peaked early, with his D.H. Lawrence adaptation ‘Sons and Lovers’ in 1960. His fifth film as director, it was to be his greatest achievement in the field. Although he continued directing for another decade an a half, helming another nine films, perhaps the only standouts are boy’s-own action thriller ‘The Mercenaries’ (from a Wilbur Smith novel) and the Marianne Faithfull ogle-fest ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’.

He continued working as cinematographer, either in films or on prestige TV series such as ‘The Far Pavilions’, until he was in his 90s. IMDb gives his last credit as 2007 - 68 years after he took his first job in the industry (as a clapper boy!) in 1929.

He published an autobiography, ‘Magic Hour’, in 1996 and received an OBE in 2000.

in memoriam Jack Cardiff, 18th September 1914 – 22nd April 2009

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