Jack Cardiff, Oscar-winning cinematographer of Black Narcissus, dies aged 94
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 April 2009 17.13 BST
Jack Cardiff, the Oscar-winning British cinematographer who began his career in the silent era, has died at the age of 94. The man who went by the nickname “Jack O’Lantern” shot films for Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston and was once hailed as “the best in the world” by Marilyn Monroe.
Born to a family of music-hall entertainers, Cardiff began his career as a clapper-boy and production runner in the 1920s, before finding fame as a cinematographer for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. He brought a sensual, otherworldly glow to A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes, and won an Oscar for his work on Black Narcissus, recreating the Himalayas on a soundstage at Pinewood studios. His other films include The Vikings, The Barefoot Contessa and The African Queen.
Cardiff branched into directing in the late 1950s and scored a global hit with his adaptation of Sons and Lovers. In 1968 he rustled up a cult, counter-culture road movie with Girl on a Motorcycle, featuring Marianne Faithfull as a libidinous girl biker.
Cardiff continued to work until well into his dotage, with his last credit as a cinematographer coming on the 2007 miniseries The Other Side of the Street. He was awarded an honorary Oscar for his services to film in 2001. “Simplicity,” he once reflected, “that’s the secret of good lighting and good cinematography. Always keep it simple.”
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