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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 22, 2009 at 4:18 PM

Cinematographer Jack Cardiff: the end of an era

The great British cinematographer of “The Red Shoes” (1948) and “Black Narcissus” (1947) died this week at age 94 — and saw in his long, fascinating life a complete transformation of the art of film. Jack Cardiff began his career as a four-year-old child actor in silent films and on stage (alongside his music-hall parents), and as a teenager learned to handle a movie camera. In 1937 he was a camera operator for Britain’s first Technicolor movie, “Wings of the Morning.” Quickly becoming a skilled director of photography, he won an Oscar for the beautiful color work of “Black Narcissus” — and should have won one for “The Red Shoes” (one of my favorite films of all time, and surely among the loveliest ever made — the colors are so rich you want to eat them), but wasn’t nominated. His distinguished career, unfolding over many decades, included “The African Queen,” the Marilyn Monroe comedy “The Prince and the Showgirl,” the 1956 “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda, 1968’s “The Girl on a Motorcycle” (which he also directed), and a late-career Hollywood run that included “Amityville 3-D,” “Cat’s Eye” and “Rambo First Blood: Part II.”
A lovely assortment of stills from Cardiff’s films, along with his comments on the work, is available at the British Film Institute site here. Cardiff received an honorary Oscar in 2001. Its announcement read simply, “To Jack Cardiff, master of light and color.”

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