From interview

               

OSWALD MORRIS

Born: 22 November 1915, Hillingdon [Ruislip ?], Middlesex, UK, as Oswald ['Ossie'/'Oz'] Norman Morris.

Died: 17 March 2014, Fontmell Magna, Dorset, UK.

Education: Bishopshalt School [Uxbridge County School], Hillingdon, UK [until 1932].

Career: Entered the film industry as gofer/clapper boy at Wembley Studios in October 1932 [until spring 1933]. 'The routine at the studio was that they made a film a week. They started on a Monday, and it had to be finished by the week-end so they could begin the next one. These were the terrible quota quickies, budgeted at a pound a foot.' Subsequently worked at British International Pictures [at Elstree Studios]. Returned to Wembley Studios [taken over by Fox Films] as c.asst in 1933 [until 1938]. Served in the Royal Air Force during WWII. Was pilot of a Lancaster bomber and flew multiple raids over France and Germany. Was transferred to transport planes and made a world tour with Field Marshal Alan Brooke [Chief of the Imperial General Staff] in October-December 1945. In January 1946 he went to work as c.op with Independent Producers at Pinewood Studios. When doph Ronald Neame turned to directing, he got his chance as a doph with 'Golden Salamander'. Retired in 1979 but returned to the studio to ph 'The Great Muppet Caper' and 'The Dark Crystal' back-to-back in 1980-81.

Was an active and honorary member of the BSC.

Became Honorary Graduate of Brunel University, West London, in 1997. Received an O.B.E. [Officer of the Order of the British Empire] in 1998. The National Film and Television School named its new building after Oswald Morris.

His brother, Reginald Herbert Morris [1918-2004], long based in Canada, was a doph.

Wrote his memoirs [with Geoffrey Bull]: 'Huston, We Have a Problem: A Kaleidoscope of Filmmaking Memories' [Scarecrow Press, 2006].

Appeared in the doc's 'Norman Jewison, Filmmaker' [1971, Douglas Jackson; on the making of 'Fiddler on the Roof'], 'Cinema' [1972; ep tv-series dir by Richard Guinea; 30m], 'John Huston [: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick]' [1988, Frank Martin], 'Elstree. Britain's Hollywood' [1989, Chris Mohr], 'Glorious Technicolor' [1998, Peter Jones] & 'Inside: "The Man with the Golden Gun"' [2000, John Cork].

Awards: BSC Award [1953] for 'Moulin Rouge'; BSC Award nom [1956] for 'Moby Dick'; BAFTA Film Award [1964; b&w] for 'The Pumpkin Eater'; BAFTA Film Award [1965; b&w] for 'The Hill'; BSC Award [1966] & BAFTA Film Award [1966; b&w] for 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold'; BSC Award [1967] for 'The Taming of the Shrew'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1968] for 'Oliver!'; 'Oscar' AA [1971], BSC Award [1971] & BAFTA Film Award nom [1972] for 'Fiddler on the Roof'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1973] for 'Sleuth'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1975] for 'The Man Who Would Be King'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1978] for 'The Wiz'; John Alcott Memorial Award [1992]; ASC International Award [2000]; BSC Lifetime Achievement Award [2003].



> Go to FILMS


From video tribute to Sir Sydney Samuelson [2011]

Oswald Morris is one of the most innovative color cinematographers in history; it's just that some of his experiments predated the 1970's when everyone was noticing. Five must sees:

> 'Moulin Rouge' - 3-strip Technicolor shot through fog filters, smoke, and colored lighting to create the textures of a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec;

> 'Moby Dick' - Eastman Color photography but desaturated through unique Technicolor dye transfer process involving making b&w matrices with broad-cut instead of narrow-cut filters, causing separations to contain the other two colors, creating a pastel image when recombined. Then a silver key image was added in a fourth pass;

> 'The Taming of the Shrew' - one of the earlier examples of shadowless soft set lighting to create low-contrast painterly look. Colored soft lights and fog filters;

> 'Fiddler on the Roof' - shot entirely through a brown pantyhose - stretched over the lens and held with a rubber band - for a soft, earthy palette;

> 'The Wiz' - one of the most elaborate uses of colored flashing using a Lightflex device, combined with front-lighting sets and costumes using Scotchlite front-projection material. [David Mullen, May 2005]

With dir John Huston [right]

Oswald Morris was one of the great British cinematographers, innovative, risk-taking and articulate about his work. Always obsessed with movies, he began as a clapper-boy, working on 'quota quickies', rising to camera operator before being called up. Postwar, after service as a bomber pilot, he operated for, amongst others, Guy Green, on such notable films as 'Oliver Twist' (19 years later he would shoot 'Oliver!' for Carol Reed), before getting his first cinematographer credit on 'Golden Salamander' [1949], directed by his old mentor, Ronald Neame.

He rated Green and Neame as major influences, but in the 1950s he quickly established his own parity with them, especially on the films he did with director John Huston, starting with 'Moulin Rouge' [1952]. On this, he experimented with smoke and to get the impression Huston wanted of a film that might have been made by Toulouse-Lautrec, driving Technicolor executives mad in the process. Two years later, Huston set him another challenge: that of making 'Moby Dick' visually recall old etchings and whaling prints.

In another vein, his grainy realist work on René Clement's 'Monsieur Ripois/Knave of Hearts' led Tony Richardson to seek him out for the New Wave films, 'Look Back in Anger' and 'The Entertainer', to which he brought a harsh black-and-white realism, at least on the location-shot sequences.

Almost everything he did was notable, even when the films themselves were not; for instance, he thought 'Equus' [1976] was a 'terrible disappointment' but the way he lights the 'worshipping' sequences of boy with horse have a touch of real magic.

It is a remarkable career from an unpretentious artist who never grew complacent about his art. [Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film]

·····

Obituary [by Brian Baxter in 'The Guardian', Wednesday 19 March 2014]: Many of [Oswald] Morris's films are landmarks in the history of color cinematography. For 'Moulin Rouge' he used filters to create a style reminiscent of paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec. For 'Fiddler on the Roof', which won him an 'Oscar', he filmed with a silk stocking over the lens to give a sepia effect.

Morris also shot popular favorites such as 'The Guns of Navarone', 'Oliver!' and 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold', and photographed acting luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart. He was at the height of his profession for 30 years.

He was born in Hillingdon, West London. His father, a newsagent, would make one-minute films with Ossie [as he was always known] and his brother, Reg, in their garden in Ruislip, under the name of 'Bogside Productions' - so called because filming took place near the outside loo. Morris left school when he was 16 to enter the film industry. By his twenties he had graduated to camera operator.

His career was interrupted by the Second World War.

In 1945, he set about relaunching his career within the British film industry. His postwar experience as a camera operator was for the top flight directors of photography Wilkie Cooper and Guy Green. An important break came when cameraman-turned-director Ronald Neame upgraded Morris to lighting cameraman. Neame's film was a mundane actioner, 'Golden Salamander', but it had a good cast and credits.

Thanks to his hard work and enthusiastic flexibility, Morris enjoyed many productive partnerships. His next film, 'Moulin Rouge', proved to be his big break and the first of his eight films with [John] Huston. For this film, Huston, Morris and [special color consultant] Eliot Elisofon devised a style using special filters that - to the initial despair of the staid Technicolor laboratories - created muted, soft tones, a contradiction of everything normally demanded. Decades later it remains the outstanding aspect of an otherwise rather dull biopic.

Another stroke of luck came in 1953, when the French director and screenwriter René Clément, then at the height of his fame, came to Britain with Gérard Philipe to make 'Monsieur Ripois/Knave of Hearts'. Like Huston, Clément knew the value of an original shooting style and on this underrated black comedy opted for spontaneous, location-led photography that reflected his documentary background. The experience was invaluable to Morris.

He was reunited with Huston on another movie that also became a cult film, the starry but ill-fated 'Beat the Devil', and one year later they embarked on an ambitious color experiment with 'Moby Dick', seeking to reproduce whaling prints of the period. The effect of desaturation and special printing gave an etched feel to the color.

Morris was also in demand from other leading directors, Tony Richardson and Carol Reed. He worked, less happily, with [Stanley] Kubrick on 'Lolita'. In 1963, while he was shooting 'Of Human Bondage', Morris's wife, Connie, with whom he had three children, died suddenly. He left the production, but after returning from his grief immersed himself in work.

In the mid-sixties his mono work reached a peak with three successes. On 'The Pumpkin Eater' he provided Jack Clayton with a grainy, claustrophobic feeling to match the intense drama. For Martin Ritt on 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' his superbly lit locations and dramatic interiors reflected the somber events. Finest of all was his achievement on [Sidney] Lumet's blistering 'The Hill', set in a North African punishment camp for British soldiers. The rugged documentary tone with an emphasis on heat and unremitting glare contributed immeasurably to the tough performances.

He was called to Italy by Huston to complete 'Reflections in a Golden Eye' [begun by the great Italian cameraman Aldo Tonti]. Once again a desaturated effect was demanded by Huston, plus a golden hazy glow to heighten the story of heated passions and betrayal. Although it still looked stunningly effective on release, only one print was struck that adequately reflected the creator's intentions and sadly that was never seen commercially.

He ended the decade with three lavish musicals, 'Oliver!' for Reed, 'Goodbye, Mr Chips' for Herbert Ross, then 'Scrooge' for Neame. Even these were capped when 'Fiddler on the Roof' won him an 'Oscar' for best cinematography. He recalled that the director, Norman Jewison, had 'pushed me to my limit, and I need to be pushed when I'm working'. They achieved an unfussy style to reflect the simple humanity of the characters through the changing seasons.

The decade was completed with a steady stream of work, often with old pals - Huston, Neame and Lumet. There was also a Bond film, 'The Man with the Golden Gun', a [television] version of 'Dracula' and then, rather oddly, two collaborations with Jim Henson's puppet workshop, 'The Great Muppet Caper' and the ambitious fantasy 'The Dark Crystal'.

[In the 80's,] Morris decided to retire with his wife Elaine 'Lee' Shreyeck to their home in Dorset. His enthusiasm for the medium never diminished and he became involved with the film course at Bournemouth University, with the local film society and festivals, and lectured with enthusiasm about his craft.

He is survived by his children, Gillian, Christine and Roger, and by 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. 'Lee' died in 2003.



 FILMS

1949

Golden Salamander [Ronald Neame] b&w

1950

Cairo Road [David MacDonald] b&w

1950

The Adventurers/The Great Adventure/Fortune in Diamonds/South African Story [David MacDonald] b&w

1950

Circle of Danger [Jacques Tourneur] b&w; addph: Gilbert Taylor

Stuart Heisler - OM - Linda Darnell - "Saturday Island"

1951

Saturday Island/Island of Desire [Stuart Heisler] c

1952

The Card/The Promoter [Ronald Neame] b&w; ext ph: Ernest Steward

1952

South of Algiers/Golden Mask [Jack Lee] c

1952

So Little Time [Compton Bennett] b&w

1952

Moulin Rouge [John Huston] c; 2uc: Cyril Knowles; replaced scheduled doph Otto Heller; 'I was going to try to use color on the screen as Lautrec had used it in his paintings. Our idea was to flatten the color, render it in planes of solid hues, do away with the highlights and the illusion of third dimension which modeling introduced. I hired 'Life' photographer Eliot Elisofon to experiment with the use of this sort of color in still photography, and he and Oswald Morris, the cameraman, attempted to obtain with the motion-picture camera the effects we had in stills. Before shooting began, we made our final color tests. For interiors we used a filter that up until then had been employed only outside to simulate fog - and we added to that effect by actually lying in smoke so that scenes took on a flat monochromatic quality. The result was so striking that Technicolor wanted nothing to do with it. They told us to shoot in the conventional way, that they would create our special effects in their lab. We told them to go ahead and show us. We shot some film in the standard method, and they worked on it. It wasn't what we were after. We then declared our intention of doing it our way. Technicolor wrote to Romulus and United Artists, disclaiming all responsibility. But both Romulus and UA backed us up, and we proceeded. It turned out that this unique use of color was the best thing about the film. It was the first picture that succeeded in dominating the color instead of being dominated by it. [John Huston in 'An Open Book', 1980.]

1952

Stazione Termini/Terminal Station/Indiscretion of an American Wife/Indiscretions [Vittorio De Sica] b&w; 90m & 63m (US version 'Indiscretion of an American Wife/Indiscretions'; + 'prologue': 72m; restored in 1983); ph: G.R. Aldo; O. Morris was brought in by prod David O. Selznick to ph (uncred) close shots of the stars; James Wong Howe ph (uncred) the 9m 'prologue' to the US version (dir by William Cameron Menzies; featuring Patti Page singing 'Autumn in Rome' and 'Indiscretion' - these two songs, written by Sammy Cahn and Paul Weston, were based on Alessandro Cicognini's love theme from the film)

[Right] with actor Humphrey Bogart & make-up Constance Reeve - "Beat the Devil"

1953

Beat the Devil [John Huston] b&w

1953

Monsieur Ripois/Knave of Hearts/Lovers, Happy Lovers!/Lover Boy [René Clément] b&w

1953

Beau Brummell [Curtis Bernhardt] c; pfx: Tom Howard

1954

Moby Dick [John Huston] c; 2uc: Freddie Francis; + co-color style creator

1955

The Man Who Never Was [Ronald Neame] cs/c; pfx: Tom Howard

1956

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison [John Huston] cs/c; cph: Jack Cardiff

1957

A Farewell to Arms [Charles Vidor (replaced John Huston)] cs/c; started the film with dir John Huston, but exec prod David O. Selznick replaced him after 12 weeks and ph Piero Portalupi finished the film; uncred add int ph (for 4 days in Hollywood): James Wong Howe

1957

The Key [Carol Reed] cs/b&w

1958

The Roots of Heaven [John Huston] cs/c; 2uc: Skeets Kelly, Henri Persin & Gilles Bonneau; spec pfx: L.B. Abbott

[Right] with Tony Richardson - "Look Back in Anger"

1958

Look Back in Anger [Tony Richardson] b&w

[Left] with c.op Denys Coop and Carol Reed [right] - "Our Man in Havana"

1959

Our Man in Havana [Carol Reed] cs/b&w

1960

The Entertainer [Tony Richardson] b&w

1960

The Guns of Navarone [J. Lee Thompson (replaced Alexander Mackendrick, who left prod after 2 weeks filming)] cs/c; 2uc: John Wilcox

1961

Lolita [Stanley Kubrick] b&w

1961

Satan Never Sleeps/The Devil Never Sleeps/Flight from Terror [Leo McCarey] cs/c

1962

Tom Jones [Tony Richardson] active as doph during pre-production; replaced by Walter Lassally

1962

Term of Trial [Peter Glenville] b&w

1962

Come Fly with Me [Henry Levin] p/c

1963

The Ceremony [Laurence Harvey] b&w; 2uc: Antonio Macasoli

1963

Facing the Facts [Norman Walker] 16mm/b&w; 27m; ph: Douglas Ransom (new footage); incl re-edited seq from 'Golden Salamander' (1949)

1963

Of Human Bondage [Kenneth Hughes, Henry Hathaway (started film, but was replaced) & Bryan Forbes (fill-in for 1 week)] b&w; addph: Denys Coop, Freddie Francis (uncred) & Arthur Ibbetson (uncred)

1963

The Pumpkin Eater [Jack Clayton] b&w

1964

Mister Moses [Ronald Neame] p/c

1964

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita [Delmer Daves] p/c

1964

The Hill [Sidney Lumet] b&w

1965

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold [Martin Ritt] b&w

1965

Life at the Top [Ted Kotcheff] b&w

1965

Stop the World - I Want to Get Off [Philip Saville] Mitchell35 video-film system/b&w-c

1966

The Taming of the Shrew [Franco Zeffirelli] p/c; cph: Luciano Trasatti

1966

The Winter's Tale [Frank Dunlop] c; filmed stage play

1966

Reflections in a Golden Eye [John Huston] p/c; uncred cph (replaced A. Tonti); ph: Aldo Tonti

1967

Great Catherine [Gordon Flemyng] c

[Left] with Carol Reed - "Oliver!"

1967

Oliver! [Carol Reed] p/c; 2uc: Brian West

1968

Goodbye, Mr. Chips [Herbert Ross] p/c; 2uc: Brian West

1970

Fragment of Fear/Freelance [Richard Sarafian] c

1970

Scrooge [Ronald Neame] p/c; spec pfx: Jack Mills

With dir Norman Jewison [left] - "Fiddler on the Roof"

1970

Fiddler on the Roof [Norman Jewison] p (+ 70bu)/c

1971

Isabel de España/Isabella of Spain [Ronald Neame] prod abandoned

1972

Lady Caroline Lamb [Robert Bolt] p/c; 2uc: Patrick Carey

1972

Sleuth [Joseph L. Mankiewicz] c

[Right] with John Huston - "The Mackintosh Man" - photo Thys Ockersen Archive

1973

The Mackintosh Man [John Huston] p/c

1974

The Odessa File [Ronald Neame] p/c; 2uc: Atze Glanert

1974

The Man with the Golden Gun [Guy Hamilton] c; cph: Ted Moore (started the film, but fell ill); 2uc: John Harris

1975

The Man Who Would Be King [John Huston] p/c; 2uc: Alex Thomson

1975

The Deep [Peter Yates] was asked to ph the prod, but declined because of the many underwater scenes; ph by Christopher Challis in 1976

1976

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution [Herbert Ross] p/c; 2uc: Alex Thomson

1976

Equus [Sidney Lumet] c

1977

The Wiz [Sidney Lumet] c; 2uc: Jack Priestley; matte ph: Dennis Glouner & Bill Taylor

1979

Just Tell Me What You Want [Sidney Lumet] c

1980

The Great Muppet Caper [Jim Henson] c; uwph: Charles Lagus; aph: Albert Werry

1981

The Dark Crystal [Jim Henson & Frank Oz] p/c; miniature efx ph: Paul Wilson; matte ph: Neil Krepela


 TELEVISION

1973

Dracula [Dan Curtis] tvm; released theatrically outside USA


 FILMS AS CAMERA ASSISTANT/OPERATOR

1932

Born Lucky [Michael Powell] clapper boy; ph: Peter/Frank Goodliffe

1932

After Dark [Albert Parker] clapper boy; ph: Geoffrey Faithfull

1933

Money for Speed [Bernard Vorhaus] clapper-loader; ph: Eric Cross (int) & Freddy Ford (ext)

1933

Follow the Lady [Adrian Brunel] clapper-loader; ph: ?; 49m; a quota quickie, produced on commission from the Fox Film Company to allow them to meet their yearly quota

1933

Two Wives for Henry [Adrian Brunel] clapper boy; ph: ?; 45m; a quota quickie made at Wembley Studios by producer George Smith as part of a contract from Fox Film Company who needed a supply of films to distribute in order to comply with the terms of the quota

1934

Rolling in Money [Albert Parker] clapper boy; ph: ?

1934

Josser on the Farm [T. Hayes Hunter] clapper boy; ph: Desmond Dickinson (IMDb) or Alex Bryce (BFI)

1934

The Third Clue [Albert Parker] clapper boy; ph: Alex Bryce

1934

His Majesty and Co. [Anthony Kimmins] clapper boy; ph: Alex Bryce

1934

Blossom Time [- A Romance to the Music of Franz Schubert]/April Romance [Paul L. Stein] clapper boy; ph: Otto Kanturek

1934

Mr. Cinders [Fred (Friedrich) Zelnick] clapper boy; ph: Otto Kanturek

1935

Abdul the Damned [Karl Grüne] clapper boy; ph: Otto Kanturek

1935

Smith's Wives [Manning Haynes] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1935

The White Lilac [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1935

Old Roses [Bernard Mainwaring] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1935

All at Sea [Anthony Kimmins] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1935

Sexton Blake and the Mademoiselle [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1935

Late Extra [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Roy Kellino

1935

Blue Smoke [Ralph Ince] c.asst; ph: Alex Bryce

1936

Troubled Waters [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Roy Kellino

1936

Wedding Group/Wrath of Jealousy [Alex Bryce & Campbell Gullan] c.asst; ph: Arthur Crabtree

1936

The Big Noise [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1936

Blind Man's Bluff [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1936

Highland Fling [Manning Haynes] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1936

Café Mascot [Lawrence Huntington] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1936

The End of the Road [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Jack Parker & Stanley Grant

1936

Strange Experiment [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1937

The Black Tulip [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1937

The Biter Bit/Calling All Ma's [Redd Davis] c.asst; ph: Roy Kellino

1937

Concerning Mr. Martin [Roy Kellino] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1937

Variety Hour [Redd Davis] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1937

Against the Tide [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1937

The £5 Man [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1937

Catch as Catch Can/Atlantic Episode [Roy Kellino] c.asst; ph: Stanley Grant

1937

The Londonderry Air [Alex Bryce] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1938

Murder in the Family [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1938

Second Thoughts/The Crime of Peter Frame [Albert Parker] c.asst; ph: Ronald Neame

1938

Who Goes Next? [Maurice Elvey] c.op; ph: Ronald Neame

1939

I Met a Murderer [Roy Kellino] c.op; ph: Roy Kellino

1946

Green for Danger [Sidney Gilliat] c.op (cameraman); ph: Wilkie Cooper

1947

Captain Boycott [Frank Launder] c.op; ph: Wilkie Cooper

1947

Blanche Fury [Marc Allégret] c.op; ph: Guy Green (int) & Geoffrey Unsworth (ext)

OM - Guy Green - David Lean - "Oliver Twist"

1948

Oliver Twist [David Lean] c.op; ph: Guy Green

1948

The Passionate Friends/One Woman's Story [David Lean] c.op; ph: Guy Green

1948

Fools Rush In [John Paddy Carstairs] c.op; ph: Geoffrey Unsworth