Burnett Guffey


Director Of Photography

About

Also Known As
Bernie Guffey
Birth Place
Del Rio, Tennessee, USA
Born
May 26, 1905
Died
May 30, 1983

Biography

The genius of this celebrated American director of photography was in his use of lighting which served him well through dozens of dark crime flicks, yet he was also able to demonstrate a great sensitivity and external representation of internal human emotions. Adept at both black-and-white and color photography, Burnett Guffey is particularly remembered for his two Academy Award winning ...

Biography

The genius of this celebrated American director of photography was in his use of lighting which served him well through dozens of dark crime flicks, yet he was also able to demonstrate a great sensitivity and external representation of internal human emotions. Adept at both black-and-white and color photography, Burnett Guffey is particularly remembered for his two Academy Award winning efforts: "From Here to Eternity" (1953), in which the desires of the characters oozed from their lighted pores; and "Bonnie & Clyde" (1967), in which the lighting offered not just a sense of the period, but a subtle irony as well.

Guffey, who lived past the studio system to shoot such froth as "Gidget" (1959), was a favored cinematographer of such directors as Will Jason, Joseph H. Lewis, Henry Levin, Phil Karlson, David Swift, and Don Siegel. Additionally, he worked with Fritz Lang ("Human Desire" 1954), Fred Zinnemann ("From Here to Eternity"), Robert Rossen ("All the King's Men" 1950), Arthur Penn ("Bonnie & Clyde"), Gordon Parks ("The Learning Tree" 1969), and Martin Ritt ("The Great White Hope" 1970).

Raised in Etowah, Tennessee, Guffey was already in California at age 18 when he found a job at Fox working as an assistant cameraman, and his resume in that capacity includes such silent films as "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (1923), and "The Iron Horse" (1924), for which he also did second unit photography and which brought him into contact with John Ford for the first time. By 1928, Guffey was a camera operator for Paramount and seven years later worked under Joseph H. August, on the John Ford-directed "The Informer." As such, Guffey learned the Hollywood and American adaptation of expressionistic lighting methods which had been prevalent through the gangster cycle at Warner Bros. in the early 1930s, and which reached greater heights during the film noir period of the 40s. (Among his other notable credits as camera operator is Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 drama "Foreign Correspondent.")

Guffey was finally elevated to director of photography in 1944 with "The Soul of a Monster" at Columbia, where he spend the bulk of his career. "Soul," like many of Columbia's films at the time, was a low-budget programmer, but it allowed the cinematographer the opportunity to develop his style through which the visual elements of the films could speak the event of the scene perhaps better than the dialogue. Guffey was frequently assigned to films of Will Jason, Henry Levin and Joseph H. Lewis, handling all genres, including adventure yarns and musicals, with aplomb. As seen in the film collaboration with Levin in particular, the DP had an intuitive sense for lighting that revealed the psychological levels of the characters -- a key goal of expressionism. This was particularly true with "All the King's Men" (1950) for director Robert Rossen, where the lighting reflects the darkening of the Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) character as he is corrupted. Stark is first seen in dusty, almost pastoral light at his farm, but by film's end, the darkness is almost cloying.

As the studio system crumbled in the 50s, directors of photography scrambled to become freelancers, and genre-typing almost disappeared. Because of his flexibility, Guffey was well-suited to handle such efforts as the sweet, light comedy Danny Kaye vehicle "Me and the Colonel," the playful "Gidget" (1959), and a return to the camera-as-analyst with "The Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962). Guffey worked with first-time feature director Gordon Parks in 1969 on "The Learning Tree," blending the stunning framing for which the director had been celebrated as Life magazine photographer with the enveloping, telling lighting for which the DP was heralded. Guffey's last working years were full of triumphs such as "The Great White Hope" (1970), and transcended even in the silliest of vehicles such as "Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came" (1969) and "The Steagle" (1971).

Filmography

 

Cinematography (Feature Film)

The Steagle (1971)
Director of Photography
Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came (1970)
Director of Photography
Halls of Anger (1970)
Director of Photography
The Great White Hope (1970)
Director of Photography
Some Kind of a Nut (1969)
Director of Photography
Where It's At (1969)
Director of Photography
The Learning Tree (1969)
Director of Photography
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
Director of Photography
The Split (1968)
Director of Photography
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Director of Photography
The Ambushers (1967)
Director of Photography
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
Director of Photography
The Silencers (1966)
Director of Photography
King Rat (1965)
Director of Photography
Flight From Ashiya (1964)
Cinematographer
Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
Director of Photography
4 for Texas (1963)
2nd unit Photographer
Kid Galahad (1962)
Cinematographer
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
Director of Photography
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Director of Photography
Cry for Happy (1961)
Director of Photography
Homicidal (1961)
Director of Photography
The Mountain Road (1960)
Director of Photography
Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960)
Director of Photography
Hell to Eternity (1960)
Director of Photography
Edge of Eternity (1959)
Director of Photography
They Came to Cordura (1959)
Director of Photography
Gidget (1959)
Director of Photography
Me and the Colonel (1958)
Director of Photography
Screaming Mimi (1958)
Director of Photography
The True Story of Lynn Stuart (1958)
Director of Photography
Nightfall (1957)
Director of Photography
Decision at Sundown (1957)
Director of Photography
The Strange One (1957)
Photography
The Brothers Rico (1957)
Director of Photography
The Harder They Fall (1956)
Director of Photography
Battle Stations (1956)
Director of Photography
Storm Center (1956)
Director of Photography
The Violent Men (1955)
Director of Photography
Tight Spot (1955)
Director of Photography
Count Three and Pray (1955)
Director of Photography
Three Stripes in the Sun (1955)
Director of Photography
The Bamboo Prison (1955)
Director of Photography
Private Hell 36 (1954)
Director of Photography
Human Desire (1954)
Director of Photography
The Last Posse (1953)
Director of Photography
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director of Photography
The Sniper (1952)
Director of Photography
Scandal Sheet (1952)
Director of Photography
Sirocco (1951)
Director of Photography
Two of a Kind (1951)
Director of Photography
The Family Secret (1951)
Director of Photography
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Director of Photography
All the King's Men (1950)
Director of Photography
Emergency Wedding (1950)
Director of Photography
Convicted (1950)
Director of Photography
Father Is a Bachelor (1950)
Director of Photography
And Baby Makes Three (1949)
Director of Photography
The Undercover Man (1949)
Director of Photography
The Reckless Moment (1949)
Director of Photography
Knock on Any Door (1949)
Director of Photography
The Gallant Blade (1948)
Director of Photography
The Sign of the Ram (1948)
Director of Photography
To the Ends of the Earth (1948)
Director of Photography
Framed (1947)
Director of Photography
Johnny O'Clock (1947)
Director of Photography
A Close Call for Boston Blackie (1946)
Director of Photography
Night Editor (1946)
Director of Photography
The Notorious Lone Wolf (1946)
Director of Photography
Meet Me on Broadway (1946)
Director of Photography
So Dark the Night (1946)
Director of Photography
Gallant Journey (1946)
Director of Photography
Eve Knew Her Apples (1945)
Director of Photography
My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)
Director of Photography
The Fighting Guardsman (1945)
Director of Photography
Eadie Was a Lady (1945)
Director of Photography
Blonde from Brooklyn (1945)
Director of Photography
I Love a Mystery (1945)
Director of Photography
The Gay Senorita (1945)
Director of Photography
The Girl of the Limberlost (1945)
Director of Photography
Sailor's Holiday (1944)
Director of Photography
The Unwritten Code (1944)
Director of Photography
U-Boat Prisoner (1944)
Director of Photography
The Soul of a Monster (1944)
Director of Photography
The Impatient Years (1944)
Photography
Kansas City Kitty (1944)
Director of Photography
Letter of Introduction (1938)
Camera
Night Life of the Gods (1935)
2nd Camera
The Conquerors (1932)
Camera Operator
The Iron Horse (1925)
Addl Photographer

Life Events

1923

First film as assistant camera, "The Courtship of Miles Standish"

1923

Took break from entertainment industry working as a messenger in a bank.

1924

First film as 2nd unit cinematographer "The Iron Horse"

1928

First film as camera operator

1935

Was camera operator on "The Informer"

1944

Began working as a cinematographer with "The Soul of a Monster"

1953

Won Academy Award for "From Here to Eternity"

1959

Demonstrated versatility as DP of "Gidget"

1967

Won Academy Award for "Bonnie & Clyde"

1971

Release of final film, "The Steagle"

Videos

Movie Clip

Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - MacNamara's Band With his informally adopted clan (Gary and Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow and Mary Jane Saunders), drifter and singer Johnny (William Holden, dubbed by the popular singer Buddy Clark, who had died in a plane crash by the time the picture was released) offers the 1889 Irish music-hall standard (by Shamus O’Connor and John J. Stamford) , producing an unexpected job offer (from Sig Ruman), in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - We Don't Have Shoes! Still not committed to the Chalotte kids (Gary Gray with Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow and Mary Jane Saunders) who have mostly adopted him, drifter-singer Johnny (William Holden) is assailed by do-gooder Prudence (second billed Colleen Gray, in her first scene) in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - I Kinda Steer Clear Of Houses After an opening scene singing in blackface in a minstrel-medicine show, in which his colleague (Charles Winninger) wound up jailed, Johnny (William Holden) takes up fishing and meets the Chalotte kids (Mary Jane Saunders, Gary Gray and Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow) in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Split, The (1968) - I'll Blow Your Face Off After staging real-world encounters with Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Donald Sutherland and Warren Oates (as Klinger, Kifka, Negli and Gough) planner Gladys (Julie Harris) explains why heist-man McClain (Jim Brown) has brought them together, in The Split, 1968, also starring Gene Hackman.
Split, The (1968) - You Get The Parade SPOILER here in that the outcome of the heist and a murder are revealed, but also the introduction of Gene Hackman, about 70 minutes into the feature, as cop Brill, confronted by head thief McClain (Jim Brown), demanding to know what the cops know, in the all-star football-themed caper The Split, 1968.
Sniper, The (1952) - Open, Law Enforcement Is Helpless Journalistic and inflammatory, the dramatized quasi-factual prologue, and the introduction of Arthur Franz as the title character, in producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk’s first collaboration, The Sniper, 1952, also starring Adolphe Menjou and Richard Kiley, shot largely in San Francisco.
Sniper, The (1952) - Getting Tough With Women Kind of chance meeting at San Francisco Chinese joint, cop Kafka (Adolphe Menjou) meets getting-jaded criminologist Kent (Richard Kiley) who holds forth what we already know is spot-on reasoning about the thus-far unsuspected perp, in director Edward Dmytryk’s The Sniper, 1952.
Sniper, The (1952) - Young Fool! Continuing the initial solo scenes profiling the title character, Arthur Franz as troubled Eddie, whom we’ve seen taking aim at strange women with his rifle, cruising his neighborhood, Danni Sue Nolan the cashier at the soda shop, in The Sniper, 1952, from Harry Brown’s script and story by Edna & Edward Anhalt.
Sniper, The (1952) - I Think It's Brandy After burning himself on the stove in a bid for attention, and mostly failing, we join Eddie (Arthur Franz, title character) at work for the first time, a delivery man (working on location) in San Francisco, Marie Windsor his benevolent and alluring customer, in Edward Dmytryk’s The Sniper, 1952.
Sniper, The (1952) - It'll Turn Out To Be Her Boyfriend Second appearance for Adolphe Menjou as Lt. Kafka and Gerald Mohr as Sgt. Ferris, after the crime scene, now at the home of the victim, terse chat even as the perp Eddie (Arthur Franz) calculates whether he should deliver the cleaning for the gal he murdered, in The Sniper, 1952, shot on location around Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, Paul Marion the debriefed boyfriend.
Ambushers, The (1967) - I've Got Relatives There Now in Acapulco, Dean Martin as photographer-playboy secret agent Matt Helm with Janice Rule as Sheila, the rescued formerly brainwashed astronaut helping him find her abductors, posing as newlyweds, observing the chopper arrival of villain Albert Salmi, when Francesca (Senta Berger) introduces herself, in the 3rd Helm feature, The Ambushers, 1967.
Ambushers, The (1967) - I Go Pretty Fast Little besides clever skimpy outfits for the first scene with Dean Martin in the lead role in the third film in the Matt Helm spy-spoof series, first with Linda Foster, then Janice Rule whom we saw captured and maybe-brainwashed in the opening, in The Ambushers 1967, also starring Senta Berger.

Trailer

Split, The - (Original Trailer) Jim Brown heads an all-star cast in The Split (1968), about a heist planned during an L.A. Rams game.
Gidget - (Original Trailer) A young girl (Sandra Dee) dreams of winning acceptance from a gang of surfers.
Bamboo Prison, The - (Original Trailer) An undercover agent investigates atrocities at a Korean P.O.W. camp in The Bamboo Prison (1955).
Assignment - Paris - (Original Trailer) Dana Andrews is a foreign correspondent searching for leads in Communist Hungary in Assignment - Paris (1952).
And Baby Makes Three - (Re-issue Trailer) Barbara Hale and ex-husband Robert Young battle over their unborn baby in the comedy And Baby Makes Three (1949).
All The King's Men (1949) - (Re-issue Trailer) Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor went to All The King's Men (1949) based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren.
Mr. Sardonicus - (Original Trailer) A man whose face is frozen in a horrible smile forces a doctor to treat him in William Castle's Mr. Sardonicus (1961).
My Name Is Julia Ross - (Original Trailer) A young girl finds herself entrenched in a murder cover-up when she goes to work for a wealthy widow in My Name Is Julia Ross (1945).
Sirocco - (Original Trailer) Humphrey Bogart is back in another North African city full of intrigue, Sirocco (1951) co-starring Lee J. Cobb and Zero Mostel.
Homicidal - (Teaser Trailer) A nurse and her husband conspire to collect a rich inheritance in William Castle's Homicidal (1961).
Mountain Road, The - (Original Trailer) An American officer (James Stewart) helps villagers against the Japanese during WWII on The Mountain Road (1960).
Birdman of Alcatraz - (Original Trailer) Burt Lancaster stars as Robert Stroud, the prison lifer who became an expert on birds in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), featuring a music score by Elmer Bernstein.

Bibliography