Haskell Wexler


Director Of Photography

About

Birth Place
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Born
June 02, 1922

Biography

Haskell Wexler initiated his feature filmmaking career as a cinematographer in the late 1950s, having previously shot educational and industrial films. The Chicago native had traveled to California to attend Berkeley, but dropped out after one year. He served as a merchant seaman during WWII and then returned to Illinois. Wexler and his father purchased and refurbished an armory in Des P...

Family & Companions

Nancy Ashenhurst
Wife
Divorced; mother of two of his children.
Marian Witt
Wife
Divorced.
Rita Taggart
Wife
Actor. Married in 1989.

Notes

"I think that film, motion picture film, and I'm including television because television is what people see, is the most potent force to influence people's habits. . . . the media have an opportunity to change people's ideas about what is propoer, what is right, what is desirable. THe potential for social change is there." --Wexler quoted in "Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers" by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato (University of California Press, 1984)

Biography

Haskell Wexler initiated his feature filmmaking career as a cinematographer in the late 1950s, having previously shot educational and industrial films. The Chicago native had traveled to California to attend Berkeley, but dropped out after one year. He served as a merchant seaman during WWII and then returned to Illinois. Wexler and his father purchased and refurbished an armory in Des Plaines, turning it into a film studio. The venture was unsuccessful and Wexler set out to learn about film production, beginning as a cameraman and eventually working up to cinematographer. "Stakeout on Dope Street" (1958) marked his first (although uncredited) work as a cinematographer. He went on to shoot several features; many, like "The Hoodlum Priest" (1961), were noted for their social themes. Wexler stated that Elia Kazan's "America, America" (1963) marked the turning point in his Hollywood career and includes "some of the best photography" that he shot. He went on to shoot the intense, claustrophobic black and white images of Mike Nichols' "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966), which earned him an Oscar, as well as providing memorable and distinctive looks to Norman Jewison's "In the Heat of the Night" (1967), George Lucas' "American Graffiti" (1973) and Milos Forman's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975). His beautiful rendering of the muted tones of the American Dust Bowl (including several storms) in Hal Ashby's "Bound for Glory" (1976) earned him a second Oscar for Best Cinematography. Wexler also lensed Ashby's Vietnam-era "Coming Home" (1978), John Sayles' union-busting tale "Matewan" (1987), the urban gang drama "Colors" (1988), the biopic "Blaze" (1989) and "The Babe" (1992), Sayles' Irish fable "The Secret of Roan Inish" (1994) and the period crime drama "Mulholland Falls" (1996). Wexler also produced, written, directed and/or photographed a number of documentary films in his long career. Among the highlights are "The Bus" (1965) and its sequel, "Bus II" (1983), the Oscar-winning short "Interviews With My Lai Veterans" (1970), "Brazil: A Report on Torture" (1971), "Introduction to the Enemy" (1974), co-directed with Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden and Bill Yahrans, "CIA: Case Officer" (1978) and "At the Max" (1991), which recorded the 1990 European tour of the Rolling Stones. Wexler was also one of several directors of photography interviewed for the superlative "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography" (1992). A passionate liberal, Wexler produced, directed, wrote and photographed one of the most devastating and technically sophisticated anti-establishment films ever made, "Medium Cool" (1969). Drawing on the stylistic and theoretical advances made by such vanguard figures as Jean- Luc Godard, and taking its title almost straight from the mouth of media guru Marshall McLuhan, "Medium Cool" was set and filmed during the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention. It chronicles-- in striking, neo-documentary style--the affairs, both professional and amorous, of a detached TV news cameraman (Robert Forster) as he becomes increasingly aware of the political ramifications of his work. The film remains a landmark of political cinema, and an insightful essay on the "cool medium." Wexler also helmed "Latino" (1985), a taut drama about an Hispanic Vietnam veteran (Robert Beltran) assisting in the training of the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua. The film divided critics and audiences along partisan political lines. For TV, Wexler shot footage of the Special Olympics included in the Beau Bridges- directed longform "The Kid From Nowhere" (NBC, 1982), worked with renowned cinematographer Robert Richardson on the second unit work of the thirty-minute film "To The Moon, Alice" (Showtime, 1990) and was primary director of photography for the Japan tour sequences of the documentary "Benny Carter: Symphony in Riffs" (A&E, 1992). Meanwhile, Wexler was the subject of the documentary, "Tell Them Who You Are" (2005), directed by his son, Mark. Wexler maintained a steady working pace for the rest of his career, including the political documentary "Four Days in Chicago" (2013), covering a 2012 protest at a NATO summit by the Occupy movement. Haskell Wexler died of undisclosed natural causes on December 27, 2015 at his home in Santa Monica, California. He was 93.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Who Needs Sleep? (2006)
Director
Bus Riders Union (2000)
Director
Latino (1985)
Director
Bus II (1983)
Director
No Nukes (1980)
Segment Director
Brazil: A Report on Torture (1971)
Director
Medium Cool (1969)
Director
The Bus (1965)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Something's Gonna Live (2009)
No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008)
The Man Who Shot Chinatown: The Life and Work of John A. Alonzo (2007)
Manufacturing Dissent (2007)
Himself
Cinematographer Style (2006)
Tell Them Who You Are (2004)
Himself
Look out Haskell, It's Real! The Making of 'Medium Cool' (2001)
Himself
At Sundance (1995)
Himself
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1992)
Himself
Underground (1976)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? (2010)
Cinematographer
Something's Gonna Live (2009)
Cinematographer
Good Kurds, Bad Kurds (2007)
Cinematographer
Who Needs Sleep? (2006)
Cinematographer
Silver City (2004)
Director Of Photography
61* (2001)
Director Of Photography
Bus Riders Union (2000)
Cinematographer
The Man on Lincoln's Nose (2000)
Director Of Photography
Bread and Roses (2000)
Camera
Mexico (2000)
Cinematographer
Limbo (1999)
Director Of Photography
The Rich Man's Wife (1996)
Director Of Photography
Mulholland Falls (1996)
Director Of Photography
Canadian Bacon (1995)
Director Of Photography
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
Director Of Photography
The Babe (1992)
Director Of Photography
Other People's Money (1991)
Director Of Photography
At The Max (1991)
Camera Operator
Through the Wire (1990)
Director Of Photography
Three Fugitives (1989)
Director Of Photography
Blaze (1989)
Director Of Photography
Colors (1988)
Director Of Photography
The Man who Loved Women (1983)
Director Of Photography
Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)
Director Of Photography
Lookin' to Get Out (1982)
Director Of Photography
Second-Hand Hearts (1981)
Director Of Photography
No Nukes (1980)
Cinematographer
Coming Home (1978)
Director Of Photography
Bound for Glory (1976)
Director Of Photography
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Director Of Photography
The Conversation (1974)
Director of Photography
Introduction to the Enemy (1974)
Cinematographer
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972)
Director of Photography
Gimme Shelter (1970)
Director of Photography
Medium Cool (1969)
Director of Photography
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Director of Photography
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Director of Photography
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Director of Photography
The Loved One (1965)
Director of Photography
The Bus (1965)
Director of Photography
The Best Man (1964)
Director of Photography
America America (1963)
Director of Photography
Lonnie (1963)
Director of Photography
A Face in the Rain (1963)
Director of Photography
The Intruder (1962)
Camera
Angel Baby (1961)
Director of Photography
The Hoodlum Priest (1961)
Director of Photography
The Savage Eye (1960)
Photography
Five Bold Women (1960)
Cinematographer
Stakeout on Dope Street (1958)
Director of Photography

Writer (Feature Film)

This Revolution (2005)
Source Material
Latino (1985)
Screenwriter
Medium Cool (1969)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Bus Riders Union (2000)
Producer
Bus II (1983)
Producer
Underground (1976)
Producer
Brazil: A Report on Torture (1971)
Producer
Medium Cool (1969)
Producer
The Bus (1965)
Producer
The Loved One (1965)
Producer

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

Steal Big, Steal Little (1995)
Photography
The Black Stallion Returns (1983)
Photography
The Kid From Nowhere (1982)
Photography
The Rose (1979)
Photography
Days of Heaven (1978)
Additional Photography
CIA: Case Officer (1978)
Photography
American Graffiti (1973)
Photography
Three Blondes in His Life (1961)
Golden Film Associate

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

A Few Good Men (1992)
Thanks

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Manufacturing Dissent (2007)
Other
Tell Them Who You Are (2004)
Other
Look out Haskell, It's Real! The Making of 'Medium Cool' (2001)
Other
At Sundance (1995)
Other
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1992)
Other
At The Max (1991)
Consultant
Through the Wire (1990)
Other
Colors (1988)
Other
Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)
Other
No Nukes (1980)
Other
Coming Home (1978)
Dp/Cinematographer
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Dp/Cinematographer
Introduction to the Enemy (1974)
Other

Director (Special)

Marc Anthony: The Concert From Madison Square Garden (2000)
Director

Cast (Special)

George Lucas: Creating an Empire (2002)
Hollywood, D.C.: A Tale of Two Cities (2000)
Steve McQueen: King of Cool (1998)

Cinematography (Special)

Bastards of the Party (2007)
Cinematographer
Marc Anthony: The Concert From Madison Square Garden (2000)
Director Of Photography
Sandra Bernhard: I'm Still Here... Damn It! (1998)
Director Of Photography
Benny Carter: Symphony in Riffs (1992)
Director Of Photography
To the Moon, Alice (1990)
Director Of Photography

Special Thanks (Short)

Din of Celestial Birds (2006)
Thanks

Life Events

1958

Landed first film as director of photography (uncredited), "Stakeout on Dope Street"

1959

Scored first on-screen credit for cinematography, "Five Bold Women"

1965

Made documentary directing and screenwriting debut, "The Bus" (also producer; director of photography)

1965

Co-produced (with John Calley) Tony Richardson's "The Loved One" (also director of photography)

1969

Made feature film writing and directing debut (also director of photography; producer), "Medium Cool"

1976

Made first film appearance in "Underground" (documentary)

1996

Received Star No. 2062 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (February 28)

2001

Earned Emmy nomination for lensing of the HBO movie "61*"

2013

Directed documentary feature "Four Days in Chicago"

2016

Was honored by the George Lucas Family Foundation's installation of the Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary at The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

Videos

Movie Clip

Thomas Crown Affair, The (1968) - You Won't Like Her Cop Eddy Malone (Paul Burke) frustrated, Steve McQueen (title character) delivering to the Swiss banker (Michael Shillo) and insurance man Jamie (Gordon Pinsett) decides to call in financial crime specialist Vicki (Faye Dunaway, her first scene), in Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968.
Thomas Crown Affair, The (1968) -- Let's Play Something Else After the pantomime with the chess pieces, Vicki (Faye Dunaway) and Steve McQueen (title character) in the often-mocked "360" shot, in Norman Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968, photography by Haskell Wexler.
Thomas Crown Affair, The (1968) - Blessed Are The Pure In Heart The climax of the elaborate opening bank heist in Boston, Erwin (Jack Weston), the literal bag-man, delivers loot to a suburban cemetery where mastermind and title character Steve McQueen awaits in his Rolls-Royce, in director Norman Jewison’s original The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968.
Thomas Crown Affair, The (1968) - Whose Head Are You After? Bostonian Steve McQueen (title character), whose hobby is bank robbery, makes a point of meeting Vicki (Faye Dunaway) at an art auction, having noticed her photographing him earlier at a polo match, whereupon she reveals her own game, in Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968.
Bound For Glory (1976) - 30 More Pickers For Today Famous shot from Bound For Glory, 1976, Hal Ashby directing David Carradine as folk singer Woody Guthrie, in a California labor camp, with pal Randy Quaid, the first use of a Steadicam in a major motion picture, by inventor and operator Garrett Brown.
Bound For Glory (1976) - Oklahoma Hills Musician and union activist Ozark (Ronny Cox) rescues new pal Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) as the strike breakers descend on a California farm labor camp, then introduces him to a radio producer (John Lehne), in Hal Ashby's Bound For Glory, 1976.
Bound For Glory (1976) - Fortune Teller Opening scene from director Hal Ashby, Woody Guthrie (David Carridine) and pals meet an inquisitive businessman (Beeson Carroll), in Pampa, Texas, 1936, in the bio-pic Bound For Glory, 1976.
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966) - The Boy Who Had Shot His Mother Separated from their wives during their all-night alcoholic warfare, hard to imagine an actor better than Richard Burton, as professor George, to relating this tale to new colleague Nick (George Segal), Mike Nichols directing from Edward Albee’s play, in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, 1966.
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - The Boxing Match We Had Ominously soused Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) getting sloppy over guest Nick (George Segal), ignoring his wife Honey (Sandy Dennis), and prompting her professor husband George (Richard Burton) to action, in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, 1966.
In The Heat Of The Night (1967) - What Does That Make Him? Visiting Philadelphia detective Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) pressed into service, has just finished speaking with the murder victim's widow (Lee Grant), and is skeptical when Mississippi sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger) et al bring in suspect Harvey (Scott Clark), in In The Heat Of The Night, 1967.
Bound For Glory (1976) - Union Maid Director Hal Ashby recreates the on-the-spot composition of the union anthemn Union Maid in a California labor camp, David Carradine as Woody Guthrie, Ronny Cox as colleague Ozark Bule, in Bound for Glory, 1976
In The Heat Of The Night (1967) - I'll Pay For The Call Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), hauled in as a murder suspect, reveals his identity to Mississippi Sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger), who summons deputy Wood (Warren Oates), early in Norman Jewison's In The Heat Of The Night, 1967.

Trailer

Family

Simon Wexler
Father
Jerry Wexler
Brother
Real estate magnate.
Katherine Wexler
Daughter
Mother, Nancy Ashenhurst.
Jeffrey Wexler
Son
Mother, Nancy Ashenhurst.
Mark Wexler
Son
Mother, Marian Witt.

Companions

Nancy Ashenhurst
Wife
Divorced; mother of two of his children.
Marian Witt
Wife
Divorced.
Rita Taggart
Wife
Actor. Married in 1989.

Bibliography

Notes

"I think that film, motion picture film, and I'm including television because television is what people see, is the most potent force to influence people's habits. . . . the media have an opportunity to change people's ideas about what is propoer, what is right, what is desirable. THe potential for social change is there." --Wexler quoted in "Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers" by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato (University of California Press, 1984)