With dir Francis Ford Coppola

"You're a Big Boy Now" [1966]

[Left] with dir Walter Hill - "Southern Comfort" [1980]

Photo by Ronald Grant [Thys Ockersen Archive]

                

 ANDREW LASZLO

Born: 12 January 1926, Pápa, Hungary, as András László.

Died: 7 October 2011, Bozeman, Montana, USA.

Career: His education in one of Hungary's best private schools was interrupted by the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944. Shortly after, he was conscripted into a forced labor unit of the Hungarian Army. He escaped twice and was recaptured and transported to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany, and from there to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. Having survived the camps but losing his family, he immigrated to the United States on January 17, 1947. He became freelance still ph and photo lab asst. Drafted in the US Army Signal Corps [1950-52]. Was combat ph in Korea. After his military service, he became still ph, then in-plant ph for a company manufacturing wallpaper. Did movie work for an industrial film producer in Pittsburgh. Became c.op on the tv-series 'Naked City'. Became doph on the same series in 1963.

Formed Andrew Laszlo Productions producing commercials.

Taught cinematography at workshops, seminars and universities, e.g. Regent University, Virginia Beach, and the Montana State University.

Was a member of the ASC since November 1965. His son Jeffrey is a c.op.

Wrote the books 'Every Frame a Rembrandt - Art and Practice of Cinematography' [Focal Press, 2000], 'Footnote to History' [autobiography; University Press of America, 2002], 'The Seven Graces of God' [novel; PublishAmerica, 2003], 'It's a Wrap!' [on his films; ASC Press, 2004], 'The Rat Catcher' [novel; Dan River Press, 2004], 'A Fight of No Consequence' [novel, 2006] & 'Banjin' [novel, 2008].

Appeared in the doc 'Cinematographer Style' [2005, Jon Fauer; ph: J. Fauer, Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller & David Morgan].

Awards: 'Emmy' Award nom [1973] for 'The Man Without a Country'; 'Emmy' Award nom [1980] for 'Shogun' [for ep #4]; Worldfest, Houston, 'Lifetime Achievement Award' [2001].


Obituary: There are fundamentally two types of cinematographers in American mainstream cinema: hired hands who simply point at and shoot what the director tells them to, and those who work closely with the director to make a substantial contribution to the 'look' of a movie. On the whole, Andrew Laszlo, who has died aged 85, qualified as the more creative type.

Consequently, Laszlo declared that the peak of his career and his happiest working relationship was as Walter Hill's director of photography on three of the director's best films: 'The Warriors' [1978], 'Southern Comfort' [1980] and 'Streets of Fire' [1983]. He was also proud of his work on 'Rambo: First Blood' [1981], probably the most recognizable title in his filmography. Because of the latter, Laszlo gained a reputation as a consummate cinematographer of filmed-on-location action sequences. It was a long way from Laszlo's beginnings in Mitteleuropa to the forests around the small middle-American town of Hope, where the Vietnam veteran Rambo [Sylvester Stallone] is pursued by the vicious sheriff and his deputies.

He was born András László in Sombor, Yugoslavia, into a Hungarian family, though some sources say he was born in Pápa in Hungary, the city to which his well-off family moved when he was a child. He was educated at one of Hungary's best private schools - Pápa reformed church college - before becoming a camera apprentice at a Budapest film studio.

This ceased when Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944.

In 1947, Laszlo immigrated to the US. With hardly any English, he managed to get jobs as a freelance still photographer and photography laboratory assistant in New York. He was drafted at the beginning of the Korean war in 1950 and spent two years in the US Army Signal Corps as a combat cameraman with the rank of sergeant. In 1952, while still in the service, he married Ann Granger, whose family owned a large ranch in Montana. After being honorably discharged from the service, Laszlo returned to still photography for some years before working as a cameraman on TV series such as 'Naked City'.

Laszlo made his feature film debut with another movie newcomer - the 24-year-old director Larry Peerce - on 'One Potato, Two Potato' [1963], a low-budget drama about the problems of an interracial marriage. The moving independent film, shot in luminous black and white, on a subject no Hollywood studio would touch at the time, gained attention at Cannes, and prompted the 28-year-old Francis Ford Coppola to employ Laszlo on his first non-exploitation movie, 'You're a Big Boy Now' [1966].

Taking his cue from the French and British new wave, Coppola got Laszlo to shoot a lot of the film with a handheld Arriflex camera in order to follow the young hero through the New York streets uninhibited. Laszlo also shot some scenes at night from a convertible, without camera lights, using Eastman's new high-speed 5251 color film. This location shooting all over the city is one of the major strengths of this youthful, freewheeling comedy.

'The Night They Raided Minsky's' [1967] was both Laszlo's and William Friedkin's first big-budget movie. It evoked some of the seedy charm of New York's Lower East Side in the 1920s and the famed Minsky's Burlesque, in DeLuxe color and sepia-tinted inserts, with especially effective lighting of the theatre scenes.

More significant was Laszlo's first encounter with Walter Hill. 'The Warriors', set and shot mainly in the New York subways, told of one night's odyssey of a street gang on their way back to their own territory. In keeping with the director's highly stylized conception, Laszlo used strong reds, yellow and blues. He also had to bring his own fluorescent lights on to the subway trains, and placed lights between graves in a cemetery and on trees.

Hill's 'Southern Comfort', which follows a platoon of National Guardsmen trying to find their way through hostile territory, required arduous but rewarding shooting in the Louisiana bayou. A laconic, violent and claustrophobic tale [it seldom leaves the swamps], it echoed the war in Vietnam. For 'Streets of Fire', a rock fantasy of street gangs, set in downtown Chicago in the early 50s, Laszlo's cinematography and the art direction made up for the lack of depth and coherence of the film.

Some of the best sequences in 'Rambo: First Blood' take place in the woods, where the hunted hero becomes the hunter, disappearing into the greenery only to emerge to make an attack. It was an example of Laszlo's belief that lighting and photography manipulate the emotions as much as music on the soundtrack.

Special effects rather upstaged some of Laszlo's later work, on such films as 'Poltergeist II: The Other Side' [1985], Joe Dante's 'Innerspace' [1986] and 'Star Trek V: The Final Frontier' [1988], despite the atmospheric cinematography and his continued experimentation.

'I discovered that I could overlook certain standards of what is considered to be good photography, and not only get away with it but achieve certain artistic results by discarding convention,' Laszlo wrote in his book 'Every Frame a Rembrandt - Art and Practice of Cinematography' [2000]. In addition, the extremely eloquent Laszlo lectured extensively on his craft throughout the world. [From obituary by Ronald Bergan in 'The Guardian', 11 November 2011.]



 FILMS

1963

One Potato, Two Potato [Larry Peerce] b&w

1966

You're a Big Boy Now [Francis Ford Coppola] c

1967

The Night They Raided Minsky's [ William Friedkin] c; 2uc: Peter Garbarini

1968

Popi [Arthur Hiller] c; Florida ph: Ross Lowell

1969

The Angel Levine [Jan Kadar] c; cph: Dick Kratina

1969

The Out-of-Towners [Arthur Hiller] c

1969

Lovers and Other Strangers [Cy Howard] c

1970

The Owl and the Pussycat [Herbert Ross] p/c; took over from doph Harry Stradling Sr., who died during prod

1971

Jennifer on My Mind [Noel Black] c

1971

To Find a Man/Sex and the Teenager [Buzz Kulik] c

1972

Class of '44 [Paul Bogart] p/c

1975

Countdown at Kusini/Cool Red [Ossie Davis] c

1975

Thieves [John Berry (replaced by Al Viola] c; cph: Arthur Ornitz

1976

Angela [Boris Sagal] c; ?; ph: Marc Champion

1977

Somebody Killed Her Husband [Lamont Johnson] p/c; cph: Ralf Bode

1978

The Warriors [Walter Hill] c

1980

The Funhouse/Carnival of Terror [Tobe Hooper] p/c; addph (uncred): Daniel Pearl

1980

Southern Comfort [Walter Hill] c

1981

I, the Jury [Richard Heffron] c; 2uc: Peter Passas

With actor Sylvester Stallone - "First Blood"

1981

First Blood/Rambo: First Blood [Ted Kotcheff] p/c; 2uc: Rod Parkhurst & John Holbrook; hph: Thomas Neuwirth

1982

Comeback/Passion and Valor [Hall Bartlett] c; uwph: Al Giddings; shown on tv in modified version as 'Love Is Forever'

1983

Streets of Fire [: A Rock & Roll Fable] [Walter Hill] c

1983

That's Dancing! [Jack Haley Jr.] scope/c; comp film/105m; co-addph: Paul Lohmann

1984

Thief of Hearts [Douglas Day Stewart] c; addph: Paul G. Ryan

1984

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins/Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous [Guy Hamilton] c; 2uc: James Contner (New York), Jon Fauer (New York + title seq) & David Worth (Mexico)

1985

Poltergeist II: The Other Side [Brian Gibson] p/c

1986

Innerspace [Joe Dante] c; 2uc: David Worth; vfx ph: Don Dow, Pete Kozachik & Kim Marks

1988

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier [William Shatner] p/c; matte ph: Marc Sawicki

1989

Ghost Dad [Sidney Poitier] c; 2uc: David Nowell; aph: Michael Kelem; vfx ph: John E. Sullivan

1991

Newsies/Newsboys [Kenny Ortega] p/c

1997

Deerslayer [Bill Lowry] announced; status unknown


 TELEVISION

1957

You'll Never Get Rich/The Phil Silvers Show/Sergeant Bilko [ep #71 'Bilko's Merry Widow' dir by Aaron Ruben] 144-part sitcom series/b&w, 1955-59 (CBS-tv); 3rd season; the original title of the series was 'You'll Never Get Rich', which remained as the subtitle when the series became 'The Phil Silvers Show' less than 2 months after its premiere

1958

High Adventure [with Lowell Thomas] [e.g. ep filmed in Venezuela; prod: Lowell Thomas Jr.] adventure/travelogue series, 1957-59 (CBS-tv); reruns in 1964

1958

The Twentieth Century/The 20th Century/The 21st Century (since 1967) [2-part ep 'The Addicted' ('Profile of [an Addict] [a Young Addict]' & 'Criminal or Patient?') dir by Paul Wasserman] doc series, 1957-70 (CBS-tv); 2nd season/b&w

1958

The Ed Sullivan Show/Toast of the Town [ep #544 'From Alaska', #549 'Fidel Castro' (6m segment filmed in Cuba), #557 'Ireland' & #558 'From Portugal' dir by Robert Precht] variety series, 1948-71 (CBS-tv); 12th season, 1958-59

1962

Naked City [10 ep dir by various] 138-part police series/b&w, 1958-63 (ABC-tv); 4th season, 1962-63; filmed on location in New York City

1963

The Nurses/The Doctors and the Nurses (since 1964) [e.g. ep #54 'The Imperfect Prodigy' dir by James Sheldon] 98-part medical series/b&w, 1962-65 (CBS-tv); 2nd season, 1963-64; filmed on location in New York City

1963

Give Me Your Poor [?] ?; with Ray Milland

1964

The Doctors and the Nurses/The Nurses [e.g. ep #78 'So Some Girls Play the Cello' dir by Stuart Rosenberg] 3rd season, 1964-65; see 1963

1965

Coronet Blue [pilot 'A Time to Be Born' dir by Paul Bogart + 8 ep dir by various] 13-part (2 unaired) mystery series; aired in 1967 (CBS-tv)

1965

The Beatles at Shea Stadium [Dick Fontaine] mus special/48m; c.op: Gordon Willis, Warren Rothenberger, a.o.; aired by ABC-tv in January 1967

1965

The Happeners: You Gotta Have Charisma, Baby! [David Greene] originally prod as a pilot for ABC-tv; eventually syndicated and aired by WPIX-tv in March 1967

1965

Gene Kelly in New York, New York [Charles Dubin] mus special, 1966 (CBS-tv)

1966

The Cliff Dwellers [Boris Sagal] unsold pilot/60m; aired in August as ep #3 of series 'Preview Tonight' (ABC-tv)

1966

Daphne [Gerald Mayer] ?; for CBS-tv

1966

The Bell Telephone Hour [ep #? 'Easter Sunrise Services' dir by ? & #? (52m/1967) '[Handel's] Messiah' dir by ?] music variety series, 1959-68 (NBC-tv)

1968

Teacher, Teacher [Fielder Cook] tvm; ep #209 'Hallmark Hall of Fame'-series

1969

Black Water Gold [Alan Landsburg] tvm

1970

Vietnam Veterans Easter Special with Ed Sullivan [?] special

1972

The Man Without a Country [Delbert Mann] tvm

1973

Miracle on 34th Street [Fielder Cook] tvm; New York ph; ph: Earl Rath

1974

From Sea to Shining Sea [ep #? 'The Unwanted' dir by Lawrence Doheny] syndicated docudrama series, 1974-75

1977

Washington: Behind Closed Doors [Gary Nelson] 6-part miniseries; 2uc; ph: Joseph Biroc & Jack Swain

1977

The Dain Curse/Private Eye [E.W. Swackhamer (replaced Barry Shear)] 3-part miniseries

1978

Hunters of the Reef [Alexander Singer] pilot for unsold series 'Peter Benchley's Mysteries of the Deep'; 2uc: Jordan Klein

"Shogun"

1978

Shogun [Jerry London] 5-part miniseries; also released theatrically (119m, 125m & 159m)

1979

Top of the Hill [Walter Grauman] 2-part tvm; ep 'Operation Prime Time'

1980

Thin Ice [Paul Aaron] tvm; addph: Norman Leigh


 FILMS & TELEVISION AS CAMERA OPERATOR

1955

You'll Never Get Rich/The Phil Silvers Show/Sergeant Bilko [Nat Hiken] sitcom series; ph: William Miller; see Television (1957)

1956

Joe & Mabel [Ezra Stone & Daniel Petrie] 2 pilots (1955) + 13-part sitcom series/b&w, 1956 (CBS-tv)

1956

Mama [Al De Caprio] 13-part (2 unaired) comedy/drama series, 1956-57 (CBS-tv; followed the live series, 1949-56)

1958

Brenner [various] 25-part police drama series/b&w, 1959 & 1964 (CBS-tv); filmed entirely on location in New York City

196?

Naked City [various] police series; ph: J. Burgi Contner & Jack Priestley; see Television (1962)

1976

Rockshow/Wings Over America [Paul McCartney (uncred); concert film] co-cameraman (c.op); ph: Jack Priestley; filmed May/June (USA); released 1980; restored 2013