Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Douglas Slocombe, 1913-2016

British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe died yesterday at the age of 103. His is one of those names that I'd seen on the screen a bunch of times, but otherwise knew next to nothing about. It turns out he had a pretty interesting life.

Slocombe started off as a photojournalist, which is how he wound up in Poland with a movie camera at the end of August 1939. You should be able to figure out that the date September 1, 1939, is when the Nazis invaded Poland, setting off World War II, so Slocombe was a first-hand witness to the start of the war as he tried to escape the country. Making propaganda movies for the British government during World War II is what got himhis entry into the regular movie business, getting off to a pretty big bang with his first real feature film being Alberto Cavalcanti's horror classic Dead of Night.

A decade of work at Ealing followed, where he was behind the camera for some of the greatest movies to come out of that studio, such as Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Lavender Hill Mob. After the demise of Ealing, Slocombe worked, making a number of British movies distributed by Fox, such as Guns at Batasi or A High Wind in Jamaica. Slocombe's career continued through the 1980s when he did the first three Indiana Jones movies.

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