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]



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.]



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


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


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


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


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


The Out-of-Towners [Arthur Hiller] c


Lovers and Other Strangers [Cy Howard] c


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


Jennifer on My Mind [Noel Black] c


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


Class of '44 [Paul Bogart] p/c


Countdown at Kusini/Cool Red [Ossie Davis] c


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


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


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


The Warriors [Walter Hill] c


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


Southern Comfort [Walter Hill] c


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

With actor Sylvester Stallone - "First Blood"


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


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


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


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


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


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)


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


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


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


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


Newsies/Newsboys [Kenny Ortega] p/c


Deerslayer [Bill Lowry] announced; status unknown



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)


The Beatles at Shea Stadium [Dick Fontaine] mus special/48m; c.op: Gordon Willis, Warren Rothenberger, Harvey Genkins, a.o.; filmed 15 August 1965 (Shea Stadium, New York City); for ABC-tv


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


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


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


Daphne [Gerald Mayer] ?; for CBS-tv


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


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


Black Water Gold [Alan Landsburg] tvm


Vietnam Veterans Easter Special with Ed Sullivan [?] special; for CBS-tv


The Man Without a Country [Delbert Mann] tvm


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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