❝ Douglas Slocombe, who has died aged 103, was one of Britain’s greatest cameramen – an award-winning cinematographer noted for his high contrast shooting and a key figure in British and American film from the heyday of Ealing Studios in the 1940s and 50s onwards.
One of the greatest cameramen in the history of the genre, IMHO.
Slocombe, who was entirely self-taught, had a career spanning more than 40 years and 80 films. He was nominated for Oscars for Travels With My Aunt (1972), Julia (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Bafta recognised him with awards for The Servant (1963), The Great Gatsby (1974) and Julia, nominations for Guns at Batasi (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), and a lifetime achievement award in 1993.
❝ Born in London, Slocombe spent his childhood in Paris, where his father was a diplomatic and foreign correspondent for London newspapers, entertaining politicians and such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. He graduated in mathematics from the Sorbonne, but his two preoccupations were film and journalism. When work on a French Alexander Korda production did not materialise because he lacked a work permit and his hopes of joining a Gainsborough Studios apprenticeship scheme were dashed, Slocombe ended up as a junior news editor at British United Press in London for three years, also writing (from London) a Paris newsletter under a pseudonym.
To compensate for this not terribly exciting job, he continued his childhood passion, photography, which had begun at the age of seven with a Kodak Box Brownie. He increasingly sold his pictures internationally…
In 1939 he persuaded Life to send him to Danzig (the semi-autonomous city state that became the modern Polish port of Gdańsk), which was acquiring the reputation of being the most dangerous place in Europe. On his return, Herbert Kline, who was producing a documentary to be entitled Lights Out in Europe, asked Slocombe to return to Danzig to film. It was crucial this was done before his powerful photographs of, among others, black- and brownshirts terrorising the city, were published….
I suggest you RTFA for his tales of daring in WW2…filming under Goebbels nose in one instance.
So many of his films are lifetime favorites for me: Lion in Winter, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit. During his freelance career, he did A High Wind in Jamaica, The Italian Job and the Indiana Jones trilogy. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was his last project.
He will be missed.