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Overview for Jack Cardiff
Jack Cardiff

Jack Cardiff



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Also Known As: John Cardiff Died: April 22, 2009
Born: September 18, 1914 Cause of Death: age-related causes
Birth Place: Yarmouth, England, GB Profession: Cinematography ... director of photography actor director clapper boy camera operator focus puller


The son of vaudevillians, Jack Cardiff began his long and distinguished career as a child actor in silent films. When he hit his teens, he moved to behind-the-scenes work and earned his first screen credit as a glorified 'go-fer,' billed as fourth assistant director on "The Informer" in 1929. He quickly rose through the ranks from clapper boy to focus puller to second-unit cameraman. He was a camera operator on what is reputedly the first British Technicolor feature, "Wings of the Morning" (1937). As he emerged as a major director of photography in the 1940s, Cardiff garnered a reputation for his bold use of color. He shot the Powell-Pressburger masterpieces "Stairway to Heaven/A Matter of Life and Death" (1946), "Black Narcissus" (1947) - for which he won a Best Cinematography Oscar - and "The Red Shoes" (1948). Cardiff went on to become one of the finest practitioners of cinematography, skillfully utilizing color to enhance such features as John Huston's "The African Queen" (1951), Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954) and King Vidor's "War and Peace" (1956), for which he earned an Oscar nomination.

Cardiff also proved equally adept working in black-and-white as evidenced by George Stevens' "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959). He moved to the director's chair and helmed an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's autobiographical novel, "Sons and Lovers" (1960), which featured superb camerawork by Freddie Francis. For his work, Cardiff earned a Best Director Oscar nomination and his career seemed to be poised for bigger and better things, but his subsequent efforts proved run-of-the mill. By the late 1960s, he had effectively retired, but Kirk Douglas persuaded him to return as a cinematographer on Douglas' directorial debut, "Scalawag" (1973). Since Cardiff had proved a master of Technicolor, a process that had fallen out of favor, most of his later work - while well shot - was inferior to his earlier efforts. He retired a second time in 1990 but published a memoir, Magic Hour: The Life of a Cameraman in 1996. In 2000, he was made an Officer of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and a year later, at age 86, was given an honorary lifetime achievement Academy Award - the first technician to be given the honor. Cardiff, who spent over 90 years in the business, died on April 22, 2009 at the age of 94.

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