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Cinematography By Ernest Laszlo
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Ernest Laszlo Profile

Best-known for his striking black-and-white cinematography for directors Robert Aldrich and Stanley Kramer, cinematographer Ernest Laszlo was a painstaking technician and a true artist who eschewed Hollywood glamour to bring a refreshing naturalism to his films. He got his start at Paramount as a camera operator on the Oscar®-winning silent film Wings (1927) and perfected his skills at that studio, where he served as a director of photography for 10 years beginning in 1944. Among his many outstanding works were Hold Back the Dawn (1941), The Major and the Minor (1942), D.O.A. (1950) and Stalag 17 (1953).

Laszlo began working for Aldrich in 1954 with two Technicolor Burt Lancaster Westerns, Apache and Vera Cruz. The gritty black-and-white style associated with the two collaborators was established with Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Aldrich's film-noir treatment of the Mickey Spillane crime thriller. Other memorable Aldrich/Laszlo collaborations in this vein included The Big Knife (1955) and Ten Seconds to Hell (1959).

Laszlo shot five films for Stanley Kramer and won four of his eight Oscar® nominations for those collaborations: Inherit the Wind (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and Ship of Fools (1965). The latter film, adapted from Katherine Anne Porter's novel, brought Laszlo the award itself. All these films except Mad World were shot in luminous black and white.

Four of Laszlo's nominations were for color films, proving that he worked just as effectively with a full palette. The science-fiction adventures Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Logan's Run (1976) gave full rein to his colorful imagination.

Laszlo (1898-1984) was born in Budapest and came to the U.S. in 1926. He was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and served as the group's president from 1972 to 1974.

by Roger Fristoe

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