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|Also Known As:||Died:||January 4, 2003|
|Born:||June 21, 1926||Cause of Death:||complications from bladder cancer|
|Birth Place:||Profession:||director of photography, camera operator, screenwriter, TV commercial director, camera assistant|
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Widely feted for his willingness to take artistic chances, Conrad L. Hall ranked high on the list of great American cinematographers working in the 1960s and 1970s. His list of credits was daunting, encompassing such exceptional movies as "The Professionals" (1966), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "In Cold Blood" (1967), and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) for which he won his first Academy Award. Challenging the cinematic norms of the time, he sometimes utilized overly hot contrasts that obscured detail and instances where light caused the camera lens to flare. Such things were previously deemed mistakes, while Hallâ¿¿s usage of such aberrations aided the atmosphere of the piece. He was also instrumental in increasing the believability of night sequences by obtaining excellent results in very low light, rather than the rarely convincing "day for night" technique. After additional duties on such pictures as "The Day of the Locust" (1975) and "Marathon Man" (1976), he took a decade-long break in order to produce commercials with fellow camera expert Haskell Wexler. The later years of his career featured some of Hallâ¿¿s most exemplary craftsmanship and he was rewarded with additional Oscars for...
Widely feted for his willingness to take artistic chances, Conrad L. Hall ranked high on the list of great American cinematographers working in the 1960s and 1970s. His list of credits was daunting, encompassing such exceptional movies as "The Professionals" (1966), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "In Cold Blood" (1967), and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) for which he won his first Academy Award. Challenging the cinematic norms of the time, he sometimes utilized overly hot contrasts that obscured detail and instances where light caused the camera lens to flare. Such things were previously deemed mistakes, while Hallâ¿¿s usage of such aberrations aided the atmosphere of the piece. He was also instrumental in increasing the believability of night sequences by obtaining excellent results in very low light, rather than the rarely convincing "day for night" technique. After additional duties on such pictures as "The Day of the Locust" (1975) and "Marathon Man" (1976), he took a decade-long break in order to produce commercials with fellow camera expert Haskell Wexler. The later years of his career featured some of Hallâ¿¿s most exemplary craftsmanship and he was rewarded with additional Oscars for "American Beauty" (1999) and "Road to Perdition" (2002), which proved to be his final effort. An innovative cinematographer whose talents bridged the more formal style of older Hollywood and the wave of experimentation that blossomed during the late 1960s, Hall made some of the most exceptional use of shadow and contrast ever captured on film.
Conrad "Connie" Lafcadio Hall (a name chosen in tribute to writers Joseph Conrad and Patrick Lafcadio Hearn) was born in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia on June 21, 1926 to a part-Polynesian mother. His father was writer James Norman Hall, best known for co-authoring the Bounty Trilogy, which included 1932â¿¿s renowned Mutiny on the Bounty, with Charles Nordhoff. After spending part of his childhood on the island, Conrad Hall attended private school in California and was accepted at the University of South California. He had initially planned to become a journalist, but eventually decided to switch his studies to film, which he figured would be an easier route to a degree. To his surprise, Hall soon developed a genuine passion for the power of cinematic imagery and decided to seek a career as a cameraman. After apprenticing under various seasoned cameramen, Hall earned his first motion picture DP credit with the crime drama "Edge of Fury," which was made in 1953 but sat unreleased for five years. Recurring employment came when producers Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano enlisted him as a regular director of photography on their classic horror/science fiction series "The Outer Limits" (ABC, 1963-65). Hall shot 15 episodes of the program, including such highly-praised episodes as "The Architects of Fear" and "The Man with the Power." Limited television budgets and schedules did not allow for the formal perfection that distinguished major studio production from the Golden Age of Hollywood, thus creative people were needed who could think on their feet and do the best with what was available. Hallâ¿¿s time on the program no doubt encouraged him to experiment and test the limits of what he could do with lighting and film stock, which would become one of his most distinctive trademarks.
Hall returned to motion picture assignments, earning his first Academy Award nomination for the World War II drama "Morituri" (1965). A second nomination came via Richard Brooksâ¿¿ superb "men on a mission" Western "The Professionals" (1966), for which Hall captured the various scorching desert vistas in impressive fashion while also doing an excellent job with low light exterior sequences filmed in actual near darkness, rather than the old "day for night" ruse that rarely convinced. He also provided somewhat less distinctive, but highly professional work on the Paul Newman hits "Harper" (1966) and "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). The latter was notable for including shots where sunlight shone into the camera creating "lens flare," something that was previously considered a photographic error and was almost always edited out. However, its use in "Luke" helped to emphasize the oppressively hot location where the storylineâ¿¿s prisoners were forced to labor and such flares eventually became a fairly common cinematic device. By 1967, Hollywood was moving away from black and white, but Hallâ¿¿s striking widescreen monochrome compositions were a highlight of "In Cold Blood" (1967), Richard Brooksâ¿¿ stark adaptation of the Truman Capote bestseller. The film was one of the strongest of its year and Hallâ¿¿s widely praised camerawork (which made superbly atmospheric use of contrast and deep black shadows and included an iconic set-up where reflected rain streamed down star Robert Blakeâ¿¿s face) earned him another Oscar nomination.
The statuette was finally his thanks to Hallâ¿¿s stellar lensing of the Newman and Redford blockbuster "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), a production also important in Hallâ¿¿s personal life, as female lead Katherine Ross would soon become his second wife. After taking a break from motion picture duties, Hall returned for John Hustonâ¿¿s "Fat City" (1972) and "Electra Glide in Blue" (1973), two offbeat efforts from the days when major studios routinely took chances on potentially uncommercial projects. Both were triumphs on technical and performance levels, but failed at the box office. Hall was also behind the camera for actor Patrick MacGoohanâ¿¿s directorial debut "Catch My Soul" (1974), but the rock opera version of
The mystery/thriller "Black Widow" (1987) marked Hallâ¿¿s return to features and his gorgeous compositions for Robert Towneâ¿¿s "Tequila Sunrise" (1988) earned yet another nomination. Hallâ¿¿s credits in the 1990s were on films whose plots generally did not call for dazzling camerawork, but "Class Action" (1991), "Jennifer Eight" (1992), and "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993) were among the movies that benefitted from his skills and a pair of additional nominations resulted. "American Beauty" (1999) was the directorial debut of Sam Mendes, who found an ideal collaborator in the veteran DP and the visually intoxicating drama won five Oscars, including Best Picture and a Best Cinematography statue for Hall â¿¿ who gave audiences one of the decadeâ¿¿s most memorable and ethereal shots with a naked Mena Suvari surrounded and covered by red rose petals. In light of their excellent relationship, Hall signed on to the directorâ¿¿s next project, "Road to Perdition" (2002). Set in 1930s Chicago, the graphic novel adaptation was well served by Hallâ¿¿s camerawork, which often dazzled without overwhelming the storyline or the performances. While it failed to duplicate the success of "American Beauty," "Road" was certainly a professional triumph for Hall and resulted in a third Oscar. Sadly, it proved to his final feature film credit as he succumbed to liver cancer on Jan. 4, 2003. In the months following his passing, Hall was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was chosen by the International Cinematographers Guild as one of the 10 Most Influential Cinematographers alongside such distinguished lensers as Gordon Willis, James Wong Howe, Haskell Wexler and Vilmos Zsigmond. His son, Conrad W. Hall, went on to establish his own career as a DP, with such features as "Panic Room" (2002), "The Punisher" (2004), and "Olympus Has Fallen" (2013) to his credit.
By John Charles
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CAST: (feature film)
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"I think one of the reasons people quit is because they're afraid they won't be able to get better and better; that they have come to a zenith of some kind. You feel like you've done everything and all there is left to do is to just do it well each time. But you know you haven't done it all because everything keeps evolving and changing; and you know you can evolve and change with it if you grow and develop as a human being. But the increments are smaller. I think everybody has that problem whether they're cinematographers or farmers." --Conrad Hall, quoted in "Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers" by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato (Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1984)
On one of his all-time favorite shots from "In Cold Blood": "I was lining up that shot with a light outside the window, which had rain and a little wind machine to mist over the window and keep the rain moving. I go to light the stand-in and I see these lines running down his eyes [shadows from the rain] that look just like tears. Wow! Talk about a happy accident. It was a perfect moment that no one could have ever thought of, let alone planned." --Hall quoted in Moviemaker, June-July 1998
"Lighting is so complex that it's hard to quantify. It's like playing the piano. How did I do that? What did my fingers do? I like to equate cinema to music. I'm performing a musical composition when lighting a scene. There are crescendos, allegros and pizzacatos. The visual language is an undulating language, and, like music it has to have its peaks and valleys. You can't just photograph everything beautifully; otherwise, how would you get the gasps? You can only get a gasp because the audience hasn't been paying attention to anything but the story and the actors. Then, suddenly there's something magical that grabs them. Those instances do something to the story and the individual watching, and its these rhythms [in the visual construction] that are important." --Hall quoted in American Cinematographer, January 1999
About his experience on "Love Affair": "I wanted out of it after Robert Towne [who cowrote it] left. But [producer-star] Warren [Beatty] is one of the most persuasive persons I've ever known. He took me to a Mexican restaurant and plied me with guacamole and margaritas. I felt seduced. I figured, hey, Warren directed 'Reds', how bad could this be? I do love him, and we're friends now, but we had fights like you couldn't imagine. I've never gone so ballistic on a picture in my life. Warren would drag me through relighting him over and over again. But Kate Hepburn sent me a wonderful little note complimenting me on how she looked." --Hall to Entertainment Weekly, October 8, 1999
Paul Newman appeared in four Hall films, starting with 1966's "Harper"; next in 1967's "Cool Hand Luke"; again in 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"; and ending in 2002 with "Road to Perdition."
"With 'Road to Perdition' you could virtually take every frame of his work and blow it up and hang it over your fireplace. It was like Rembrandt at work. Connie was not known for speed, but neither was Rembrandt. He was known for incredible genius." --"Perdition" producer Richard Zanuck to the Associated Press, January 6, 2003
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