Oscar-winning cameraman Hall succumbs to cancer at 76:
- the Oscar-winning cinematographer[‘s] … bold color experiments enriched such films as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “American Beauty” and 2002’s “Road to Perdition”…
…An expert in the use of light, Hall filmed nearly three dozen movies in a career that stretched 50 years. He was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning twice — for 1969’s “Butch Cassidy” and 1999’s “American Beauty.”
“I’m devastated,” said Sam Mendes, who directed “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition.” “Conrad was not only one of the greatest cinematographers who ever lived but was also a wonderful man who touched everyone he worked with. I will miss him more than I can say, both as a collaborator and as a friend.”
Starting in television, It took Hall a good many years to work his way up through the ranks as a cinematographer; his film work, beginning in the mid-’60s, was a reaction to the slick, hyper-colored style of the studio system.
An iconoclast, he claimed to prefer black and white to color for storytelling. He would sometimes overexpose the film for a distinctive look, most prominently in “Butch Cassidy.”
“Every film that he worked on was something beautiful to the eye, and very imaginative,” said producer Richard D. Zanuck, who was head of production at 20th Century Fox when Hall made “Butch Cassidy” and worked with him on “Perdition.”
“With ‘Road to Perdition’ you could virtually take every frame of his work and blow it up and hang it over your fireplace. It was like Rembrandt at work,” Zanuck said. “Connie was not known for speed, but neither was Rembrandt. He was known for incredible genius. And that he did, and that he was in that field.”
…Hall was born in Tahiti in 1926, the son of “Mutiny on the Bounty” co-author James Norman Hall. He entered USC to study journalism before switching over to film.
“He was always concerned about the story. In that sense, he was his father’s son,” said Robert Towne, director of “Without Limits” and “Tequila Sunrise,” which Hall lensed. “He would always say, ‘Tell me the story. Let me see what you see, and then I’ll show you how everyone’ll see what you see.”
With two other USC graduates, Hall formed a small company called Canyon Films after having sold a class project, “Sea Theme,” to television.
Canyon worked on all kinds of films, from industrials to nature pictures. The company even shot some footage for Disney’s 1953 film “The Living Desert.”
In 1954, with his partners, Hall shot the film “My Brother Down There” for $150,000 — an experience he credited with starting him on the road to becoming a fully fledged cinematographer. He was made director of photography on the TV series “Stoney Burked” and, after that, “The Outer Limits.”
He was cited as co-photographer on 1958’s “Edge of Fury,” receiving his first full-fledged credits for 1965’s “The Wild Seed” and “Morituri,” a complex film shot aboard a freighter in which Hall lit every piece of equipment on board, often shooting day for night.
It earned him his first Oscar nomination. The following year, his craftsmanship was further in evidence in the Paul Newman detective thriller “Harper,” and his feel for topography was demonstrated in Richard Brooks’ widescreen Western “The Professionals,” which brought a second Oscar nomination.
He complained that the lush color of “Cool Hand Luke” was not to his liking (or his choice), particularly considering that it was a Southern chain gang film; he was more pleased with the stark blacks and whites of “In Cold Blood,” which was shot in Panavision and earned him another Oscar nomination. [Variety]
An astonishing list of credits – the look of American Beauty was the real subject of the film, referenced explicitly by the on-camera video work of the creepy next door neighbor, who finds beauty everywhere, even in death.
Butch Cassidy director George Roy Hill died just last week.