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Thursday
Mar202014

Oswald Morris (1915-2014)

We just celebrated the career of cinematographer Oswald Morris this past November on his birthday with a visual tribute. I regret to inform that the fine DP has passed away at 98 on St. Patrick's Day.

Director John Huston (left) and Oswald Morris (right) size up a scene

I first became a fan of his, without knowing I was (you know how that is at the beginning of cinephilia) when I saw the puppet classic The Dark Crystal (1982) which was his last film. That film was so technically ambitious at the time and a visual triumph in many ways. I've been meaning to watch it again just to feel the presence of actual objects with weight and shadow in the time of CGI. 

In the obit at The Telegraph he tells a good story about one of his true breakthroughs: Moulin Rouge (1952):

In 1952, Morris “broke every rule in the book” while shooting Huston’s Moulin Rouge. On being interviewed for the job at the Dorchester Hotel Morris asked Huston how he envisaged the completed film would look. “I would like it to look as though Toulouse-Lautrec had directed it himself,” replied Huston. Morris shot using strong, light-scattering filters on the camera, which had never been used before. “We also filmed every set full of smoke so that the actors always stood out from the background,” he recalled. “The Technicolor people hated it.” Their tune changed, however, on the film’s positive reception. “The head of Technicolor in America wrote to Technicolor in London congratulating them on the wonderful colours in the film. No mention of me.”

Curiously, though he shot several famous films other than Moulin Rouge like Lolita, Equus, The Taming of the ShrewThe Pumpkin Eater and won three consecutive BAFTAs in the 60s for black and white pictures, he was only ever Oscar-nominated for his colorful work on musicals: The Wiz, Oliver!, and Fiddler on the Roof, winning for the latter. 

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Reader Comments (1)

RIP

March 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

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