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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.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
"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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