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Jack Cardiff

Jack Cardiff

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Also Known As: John Cardiff Died: April 22, 2009
Born: September 18, 1914 Cause of Death: age-related causes
Birth Place: Yarmouth, England, GB Profession: director of photography, director, actor, focus puller, clapper boy, camera operator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The son of vaudevillians, Jack Cardiff began his long and distinguished career as a child actor in silent films. When he hit his teens, he moved to behind-the-scenes work and earned his first screen credit as a glorified 'go-fer,' billed as fourth assistant director on "The Informer" in 1929. He quickly rose through the ranks from clapper boy to focus puller to second-unit cameraman. He was a camera operator on what is reputedly the first British Technicolor feature, "Wings of the Morning" (1937). As he emerged as a major director of photography in the 1940s, Cardiff garnered a reputation for his bold use of color. He shot the Powell-Pressburger masterpieces "Stairway to Heaven/A Matter of Life and Death" (1946), "Black Narcissus" (1947) - for which he won a Best Cinematography Oscar - and "The Red Shoes" (1948). Cardiff went on to become one of the finest practitioners of cinematography, skillfully utilizing color to enhance such features as John Huston's "The African Queen" (1951), Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954) and King Vidor's "War and Peace" (1956), for which he earned an Oscar nomination.Cardiff also proved equally adept working in black-and-white as evidenced by George...

The son of vaudevillians, Jack Cardiff began his long and distinguished career as a child actor in silent films. When he hit his teens, he moved to behind-the-scenes work and earned his first screen credit as a glorified 'go-fer,' billed as fourth assistant director on "The Informer" in 1929. He quickly rose through the ranks from clapper boy to focus puller to second-unit cameraman. He was a camera operator on what is reputedly the first British Technicolor feature, "Wings of the Morning" (1937). As he emerged as a major director of photography in the 1940s, Cardiff garnered a reputation for his bold use of color. He shot the Powell-Pressburger masterpieces "Stairway to Heaven/A Matter of Life and Death" (1946), "Black Narcissus" (1947) - for which he won a Best Cinematography Oscar - and "The Red Shoes" (1948). Cardiff went on to become one of the finest practitioners of cinematography, skillfully utilizing color to enhance such features as John Huston's "The African Queen" (1951), Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954) and King Vidor's "War and Peace" (1956), for which he earned an Oscar nomination.

Cardiff also proved equally adept working in black-and-white as evidenced by George Stevens' "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959). He moved to the director's chair and helmed an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's autobiographical novel, "Sons and Lovers" (1960), which featured superb camerawork by Freddie Francis. For his work, Cardiff earned a Best Director Oscar nomination and his career seemed to be poised for bigger and better things, but his subsequent efforts proved run-of-the mill. By the late 1960s, he had effectively retired, but Kirk Douglas persuaded him to return as a cinematographer on Douglas' directorial debut, "Scalawag" (1973). Since Cardiff had proved a master of Technicolor, a process that had fallen out of favor, most of his later work - while well shot - was inferior to his earlier efforts. He retired a second time in 1990 but published a memoir, Magic Hour: The Life of a Cameraman in 1996. In 2000, he was made an Officer of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and a year later, at age 86, was given an honorary lifetime achievement Academy Award - the first technician to be given the honor. Cardiff, who spent over 90 years in the business, died on April 22, 2009 at the age of 94.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Mutation, The (1974) Director
2.
  Dark of the Sun (1968) Director
3.
4.
  The Liquidator (1966) Director
5.
  Young Cassidy (1965) Director
6.
  The Long Ships (1964) Director
7.
  Satan Never Sleeps (1962) Dir addl seq
8.
  The Lion (1962) Director
9.
  My Geisha (1962) Director
10.
  Scent of Mystery (1960) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Glorious Technicolor (1998) Interviewee
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Milestones close milestones

1918:
Was a child actor in films, including "Tiptoes"
1928:
First film as camera operator assistant
1936:
Was camera operator for London Films
1936:
Early feature credit, the photography for "As You Like It," directed by Paul Czinner
:
Debut as short film director of photography, "Rome Symphony/Sinfonia di Roma"; first of 15 films Cardiff shot for travelogue series called "World Window Productions/Fascinating Journies"
1939:
Did uncredited work as director of photography (location shooting only) on "The Four Feathers"
1942:
First feature credit as co-director of photography, "The Great Mr. Handel"
1942:
Shot "additional photography" on "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"
1944:
First feature-length film (semi-documentary) as director of photography, "Western Approaches/The Raider" (directed by Pat Jackson)
1946:
First fiction feature as sole director of photography, "A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven"; also first collaboration with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
1947:
Won first Oscar for work on the Powell-Pressburger film "Black Narcissus"
1951:
Was director of photography for John Huston's "The African Queen"
1953:
Began directing "William Tell" starring Errol Flynn; project abandoned after a few weeks of shooting
1956:
Won acclaim and an Oscar nomination for work on King Vidor's "War and Peace"
1958:
Feature directing debut, "Intent to Kill"
1960:
Won critical praise and several accolades (including a Best Director Oscar nomination) for "Sons and Lovers," based on the D. H. Lawrence novel
1961:
Earned Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography (Color) for "Fanny"; last film as cinematographer for over a decade
1964:
Assumed direction of "Young Cassidy" when John Ford fell ill
1973:
Returned to work as director of photography on Kirk Douglas' directorial debut, "Scalawag"
1974:
Last feature as director, "The Mutation"
1984:
First TV work as cinematographer, "The Far Pavillions" (HBO) and "The Last Days of Pompeii" (ABC)
1996:
Published memoirs, <i>Magic Hour: The Life of a Cameraman</i>
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Notes

Made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in December 1999

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Julia Lily Mickelboro. Married in 1940.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John Joseph Cardiff. Vaudevillian.
mother:
Florence Cardiff. Vaudevillian.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Magic Hour: The Life of a Cameraman"

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