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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

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The son of "Mutiny on the Bounty" co-author James Norman Hall, American cinematographer Conrad Hall initially intended to follow in his father's footsteps as a writer, but a bad grade in a journalism class at the University of Southern California turned him in the direction of filmmaking instead. Forming a small production company with two fellow USC classmates, he entered the business when they sold their prize-winning class project "Sea Theme" to television. They shot a little bit of everything (i.e., industrials, commercials), including footage for Disney's acclaimed feature documentary "The Living Desert" (1953) before deciding to do a low-budget outdoors feature, "My Brother Down There/Running Target" (1956). The three drew the top three positions (producer, director, cinematographer) out of a hat, and Hall's picking cinematographer propelled him further down the cameraman's road. There was another low-budget feature ("Edge of Fury" 1958) before he embarked on life as an assistant cameraman, apprenticing with the likes of Ted McCord, Robert Surtees and Ernest Haller. After working on the ABC TV series "Stoney Burke" (1962-63) and "The Outer Limits" (1963-65), Hall made his feature debut as...

The son of "Mutiny on the Bounty" co-author James Norman Hall, American cinematographer Conrad Hall initially intended to follow in his father's footsteps as a writer, but a bad grade in a journalism class at the University of Southern California turned him in the direction of filmmaking instead. Forming a small production company with two fellow USC classmates, he entered the business when they sold their prize-winning class project "Sea Theme" to television. They shot a little bit of everything (i.e., industrials, commercials), including footage for Disney's acclaimed feature documentary "The Living Desert" (1953) before deciding to do a low-budget outdoors feature, "My Brother Down There/Running Target" (1956). The three drew the top three positions (producer, director, cinematographer) out of a hat, and Hall's picking cinematographer propelled him further down the cameraman's road. There was another low-budget feature ("Edge of Fury" 1958) before he embarked on life as an assistant cameraman, apprenticing with the likes of Ted McCord, Robert Surtees and Ernest Haller.

After working on the ABC TV series "Stoney Burke" (1962-63) and "The Outer Limits" (1963-65), Hall made his feature debut as director of photography on "The Wild Seed" (1965) and immediately drew critical praise, earning Oscar nominations for that year's "Morituri" and "The Professionals" (1966), his first collaboration with director Richard Brooks. Hall's decision to use anamorphic lenses on Brooks' bitterly monochromatic "In Cold Blood" (1967) placed the picture slightly outside of the documentary style inherent in filming on the exact locations where the famous murders had transpired, thereby involving the audience more deeply on a dramatic, storytelling level.

Despite his start in black-and-white, Hall began learning the "color" ropes with "Harper" (1966) and won Oscar three years later for the hazy, desaturated, mythic look he brought to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", shooting through smoke, steam, branches, anything to help accomplish the effect. He also used extremely long zoom lenses to dehumanize the relentless posse chasing the bandits, so that zooming in on them at a distance of five miles left them a faceless presence. His inspired work on John Huston's "Fat City" (1972), however, did not help it at the box office, and he has often used the film as a teaching aid, studying it to see why nobody went to see it.

Hall's cinematography for John Schlesinger's "The Day of the Locust" (1975), long considered by his contemporaries as a perfect example of visual mood wedded to dramatic content, garnered him a fifth Oscar nomination, but after shooting Schlesinger's "Marathon Man" (1976), he "retired" from big screen work until he accepted the position of director of photography on "Black Widow" (1987). In the interim, he partnered with Haskell Wexler in a commercials production house and even helmed numerous TV spots while hoping to develop a project with which to make his feature directorial debut. Hall was back in the running for the Academy Award with Robert Towne's "Tequila Sunrise" (1988), ratcheting the golden romanticism of "The Day of the Locust" a few notches higher to upstage the lackluster script. If working with first-time director Steve Zaillian on "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993) showcased his facility for human-scale films emphasizing the close-up, he was equally at home on his second outing with the writer-director, the much larger-in-scale "A Civil Action" (1998), in which he contrasted the world of rural New England with that of Boston, achieving the effect through naturalistic lighting and an almost monochromatic color palette. For his efforts on both films, Hall racked up his seventh and eighth Academy Award nominations. He wove a similar magic working with first-time filmmaker Sam Mendes on the universally-praised "American Beauty" (1999), employing three distinct styles in the course of the movie--tightly composed tension-inducing movements for the main scenes, fluid movements for the fantasy sequences and handheld video footage for the films shot by Wes Bentley's character. The overall effect was to find corresponding visual stylings to the film's emotional narrative which he did brilliantly, earning his second Academy Award for his efforts. Although Hall had yet to make his feature directing debut, his planned adaptation of William Faulkner's "The Wild Palms" stood ready in the pipeline just waiting for a "go". Hollywood would never see the fruits of Hall the director, however; his last film work would be as director of photography for Mendes' gangster opus "Road to Perdition" (2002), for which Hall's work was praised to the heavens--even at his advanced age, Hall filmed throughout weeks of long nights, including a sequence where the whole crew, himself included, was knee-deep in freezing mud . Indeed, at the time of his death in early 2003 Hall had already won or been nominated for several awards for his final project, including a 2002 Academy Award.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Love Affair (1994) Director (2nd Unit) (Tahiti)
2.
  Jennifer Eight (1992) 2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Tell Them Who You Are (2004) Cast
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born on family estate in Tahiti
:
Formed Canyon Films, a small production company with two USC classmates (Marvin R Weinstein and Jack C Couffer); made industrials, commercials, etc; entered industry by selling prize-winning class project, "Sea Theme", to television
:
Shot footage for feature films including Disney's "The Living Desert" (1953)
1956:
First film as director of photography, "My Brother Down There/Running Target"; also shared screenplay credit with director Weinstein and producer Couffer
1958:
Shared cinematography credit on "Edge of Fury" with Weinstein and Couffer
:
Served as an assistant cameraman and camera operator for Robert Surtees, Ted McCord and Ernest Haller, among other directors of photography
:
Worked as director of photography on the ABC series "Stoney Burke" (1962-1963) and "The Outer Limits" (1963-1965)
1965:
First mainstream feature as director of photography, "The Wild Seed"
1965:
Received first Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) for "Morituri"
1966:
Initial film with actor Paul Newman, "Harper"; also first association with screenwriter William Goldman; marked first film shot in color
1966:
Earned second Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography (Color) for "The Professionals"; first film with director Richard Brooks
1967:
Shot "Cool Hand Luke", starring Newman
1967:
Garnered an Oscar nod for Brooks' "In Cold Blood", shot in black-and-white; first year only one cinematography award given
1969:
Reteamed with Brooks for "The Happy Ending"
1969:
Won Best Cinematography Oscar for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", which reteamed him with both Newman and Goldman
1972:
Served as director of phootography for John Huston's "Fat City"
1975:
First film with director John Schlesinger, "The Day of the Locust"; earned a Best Cinematography Academy Award nomination
1976:
Reteamed with Schlesinger for "Marathon Man", scripted by Goldman; last film as director of photography for over a decade
:
With Haskell Wexler formed Wexler-Hall Inc in the mid-1970s; company produced commercials for clients like Buick and Miller Beer
:
Directed TV commercials during his hiatus from feature films
1979:
Contributed additional photography to "The Rose"
1987:
Returned to features as director of photography on "Black Widow"
1988:
Earned sixth Oscar nomination for Robert Towne's "Tequila Sunrise"
1992:
Included as a subject of the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography"
1993:
Served as director of photography for Steve Zaillian's directorial debut "Searching for Bobby Fischer"; earned seventh Academy Award nomination
1993:
Honored with the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award
1994:
Was director of photography on "Love Affair", the third screen version of this romantic story; directed by Glenn Gordon Caron; Robert Towne was one of the screenwriters
1998:
Again collaborated with Towne for the writer-director's "Without Limits"
1998:
Received eighth Oscar nomination for work on "A Civil Action", written and directed by Zaillian
1999:
Served as director of photography on Sam Mendes' "American Beauty"; garnered second Oscar
2002:
Served as Kodak cinematographer in residence at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television
2002:
Acted as director of photography for Mendes' " Road to Perdition"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California - 1949

Notes

"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

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Katharine Ross. Actor. Together from the late 1960s to the early 70s; married c. 1969; divorced 1975; Hall allowed her to operate a camera on a multi-camera setup during the filming of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) resulting in director George Roy Hill banning her from the set except to shoot her scenes.
wife:
Susan Hall.

Family close complete family listing

father:
James Norman Hall. Writer. Co-author of "Mutiny on the Bounty".
sister:
Nancy Rutgers.
daughter:
Kate Hall-Feist. Actor, screenwriter.
daughter:
Naia Hall-West.
son:
Conrad Win Hall. Cameraman. Born November 13, 1958.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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