Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 17:00 UK

Film-maker Cardiff dies aged 94

Jack Cardiff and Dustin Hoffman
Actor Dustin Hoffman presented Cardiff with his Honorary Oscar

Cinematographer and director Jack Cardiff, who actress Marilyn Monroe once described as "the best in the world", has died aged 94.

He was best known for his work on movies such as The African Queen and Sons and Lovers, and was awarded an Oscar for Black Narcissus in 1948.

The filmmaker was also presented with an Honorary Oscar in 2001.

Born to two music hall artists, he grew up in the theatre, resulting in a showbusiness career spanning 90 years.

He moved into film as a runner on the 1928 drama The Informer, then progressed to work as a camera operator and, eventually, cinematographer.

In an article for The National Gallery in 2007, Cardiff described his early film set experiences.

1918 Performed as an actor in the silent film My Son, My Son

1937 Cinematographer on Wings of The Morning, the first Technicolor movie shot in the British Isles

1946 Shot the post-war masterpiece A Matter of Life and Death, starring David Niven

1947 Won an Oscar for Black Narcissus

1950 Worked on The African Queen, directed by John Huston

1957 Worked with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl

1960 Directed Scent of Mystery, the first film in Smell-O-Vision

1960 Adapted DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, starring Trevor Howard

"I suppose I was much less than an apprentice when I first went behind the camera," he wrote.

"I was a runner, whose main job was to supply the German director with Vichy water because he had a problem with flatulence.".

He also described how, as a child, he used to watch art directors work in theatres, painting the backdrops and setting up the lights.

"I was fascinated by two men up in the wings, one on each side of the stage, following the actors with a spotlight," he wrote.

"I spent a lot of time with them and a stirring was born in me which I later recognised as an urge to create. Light and colour became my world."

In 1937 he shot Wings of the Morning, the first film in Britain to be shot in Technicolor.

He also worked with cinema greats Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in the 1957 movie The Prince and the Showgirl.

He was made an OBE in 2000.


In 2001, he took part in an interview with readers of the BBC news website, in which he revealed he would have been a painter if he had not worked in film.

Alain Delon and Marianne Faithful
Cardiff directed the 1968 movie Girl On A Motorcycle

In fact much of his work was inspired by impressionist painters - he said the lighting and colour palette of Black Narcissus "was inspired by Vermeer".

Cardiff was admired by many in the film industry, including Martin Scorsese.

The director once described the 18-minute dance sequence in 1948's The Red Shoes as "a moving painting".

Scorsese added the cinematographer could "paint with the camera".

When asked which films he was most proud of, Cardiff said the "successful" ones had really made their mark.

"Naturally, I am proud of successful films that I have enjoyed working on like The Red Shoes and the Black Narcissus and I have had a certain satisfaction from that.

"But the films that I am most proud of - the film for instance that I made under great difficulty, Sons and Lovers, I wanted to make it into a good film because the book is marvellous and I didn't want to let the author down."

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Obituary: Jack Cardiff
22 Apr 09 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Jack Cardiff films
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