Jack Cardiff Biography

(British Cinematographer, Photographer, and Film Director)

Birthday: September 18, 1914 (Virgo)

Born In: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK

Jack Cardiff was a British cinematographer and director who took British cinema to new heights with his mastery of the Technicolor technology. He worked for the production company run by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger to make movies which broke the shackles of European expressionism and American spectaculars and took British films to a new level of fantasy and romance. He had a huge gift for narrating a story in colors and used the red color to produce the maximum impact. This was evident from the close-ups of red dresses, red lipstick and red ballet shoes used by the female leads in many of his films. He found the eroticism in the most improbable places and used close-ups of moist lips and burning eyes to produce passionate depths even in demure actresses. He became famous while working for Powell and Pressburger’s production company which helped him work with great directors of the time. He was famous for making the actresses in his films look more beautiful with clever use of his camera and various colors. It was said that Jack Cardiff could paint the movies with different colors of his choice.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In September

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: 1938 - Dec. 27, 1944), 1997 till his death), Julia Lily Dutton, Niki O’Donahue (March 19), Sylvia Lisette Cecily Manson (Sep. 5)

father: John Joseph Cardiff

mother: Florence

children: John, Mason, Peter, Rodney

Directors Cinematographers

Died on: April 22, 2009

place of death: Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK

More Facts

awards: OBE (2000)
Honorary Oscar (2001)

Childhood & Early Life
Jack Cardiff was born John George James Gran in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK on September 18, 1914. He took his father’s stage name and changed it legally to Cardiff.
His father, John Joseph Cardiff and mother, Florence were music-hall comedians. Jack attended a number of schools. He had an elder brother who died in infancy.
At the age of four he appeared in a film where he played the role of a boy who dies after being run over.
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Jack Cardiff appeared in small roles in almost a dozen films at a very young age. He started work as a runner on the sets of ‘British International Studios’ in Elstree and later became a clapper boy for Claude Friese-Greene.
He soon became a camera operator for the ‘The Ghost Goes West’ directed by Rene Clair. After mastering the new technology of filming in Technicolor he made the first film in Technicolor in Britain titled ‘Wings of the Morning’ in 1937.
During the Second World War he filmed a documentary ‘Western Approaches’ in 1944 about the exploits of the British Merchant Navy.
He joined the production company run by Powell and Pressburger for whom he filmed ‘Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’ in 1943.
In 1946 he made ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ starring David Niven and Kim Hunter. It was a story about a dead pilot being given a second chance at life by a heavenly court.
He used his mastery over the camera and color in 1947 to produce magical environment for ‘Black Narcissus’ starring Kathleen Byron. It was adapted from a novel written by Rumer Godden. He won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his efforts.
He used the camera to superb effect to produce staged, natural and dream sequences in the film ‘The Red Shoes’, which starred Moira Shearer as an obsessive ballerina.
In 1951 he operated camera for ‘The African Queen’ starring John Huston.
He worked with great directors such as Alfred Hitchcock for the film ‘Under Capricorn’ in 1949, Albert Lewin for the film ‘Flying Dutchman’ in 1951, Richard Fleischer for ‘The Vikings’ in 1958 and Laurence Olivier for ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ in 1957.
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In 1956 Cardiff filmed the long battle scenes of ‘War and Peace’ for an American-Italian producer ‘King Vidor’. He won an Oscar nomination for his photographic efforts.
He moved to film-direction in 1968 by making the most hilarious comedy of the decade ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’. It was also known as ‘Naked Under Leather’ in which Marianne Faithful stars as a bimbo who puts on a black leather suit and drives off on a huge motorcycle to find the only man who can satisfy her.
‘The Scent of Mystery’ in 1960 was his next venture where the film was made in ‘Odorama’ which released odors during the show which could be ‘smelled’ by the audience.
His next film ‘Sons and Lovers’ in 1960 was a great success and received seven ‘Oscar’ nominations and a number of critics’ awards. The cast comprised of Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller and Mary Ure.
Cardiff directed ‘The Lion’ with William Holden in 1962, ‘The Long Ships’ in 1963 and ‘Young Cassidy’ in 1964.
His next projects were a set of romantic films set in exotic locations such as ‘Ride a Wild Pony’ in 1976, ‘Death on the Nile’ in 1978, ‘Tai Pan’ in 1986 and the horror movie ‘The Awakening’ in 1980.
In 1984 he directed another great movie titled ‘Conan the Destroyer’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in collaboration with director Richard Fleischer.
He took close-up shots of Sylvester Stallone’s body gleaming with sweat as he moves through mud, and heavy undergrowth in ‘Rambo: First Blood, Part II’ in 1984 for special effects.
He made another extraordinary film ‘Call from Space’ in 1988 which was directed by Richard Fleischer.
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Major Works
Jack Cardiff published an autobiography ‘The Magic Hour’ in 1996. The preface was written by Martin Scorsese.
Awards & Achievements
Jack Cardiff won an ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Photography’ in 1947 and a ‘Golden Globe Award’ in 1948 for the film ‘Black Narcissus’.
He received a an ‘Academy Award’ and ‘BSC Award’ nomination for the film ‘War and Peace’ in 1956.
He won an ‘NYFCC Award’ and an ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director’ for the film ‘Sons and Lovers’ in 1960. He also received nominations for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ and the ‘Directors Guild of America Award’ for the same film in 1961.
He received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for the film ‘Fanny’ in 1961.
Cardiff won a ‘BAFTA Award’ nomination for ‘The Far Pavilions’ in 1985.
He received a ‘BSC Lifetime Achievement Award’ and an ‘ASC International Achievement Award’ in 1994.
He was honored with the ‘Order of The British Empire’ (OBE) in 2000.
In 2001 he received an honorary ‘Lifetime Achievement Academy Award’.
He was a member of ‘American Society of Cinematographers’ and an honorary member of ‘British Society of Cinematographers’. He was also a Fellow of the ‘Royal Photographic Society and the patron of ‘Brighton Film School & Studio’.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Julia Lily Dutton but the couple later got divorced. They had three sons from this marriage named Mason, John and Rodney.
Cardiff married Sylvia Lisette Cecily Manson on September 5, 1938 and divorced her on December 27, 1944.
He married script consultant Niki O’Donahue on March 19, 1997 and was with her till his death. He had a son Peter from this marriage.
Jack Cardiff died in Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK on April 22, 2009 at the age of 94.
Jack Cardiff loved paintings and was greatly influenced by French impressionists which was evident in his films.

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