- Monday, Feb. 22, 2016
Douglas Slocombe, the chameleonic British cinematographer who filmed the Nazi invasion of Poland, the adventures of "Indiana Jones" and the madcap farce of Ealing comedies, has died. Slocombe was 103.
His daughter, Georgina Slocombe, said Slocombe died early Monday in a London hospital. A recent fall led to setbacks that ended with his death, she said.
"He said the other day that he loved every day of his work, every day on the set," said Georgina Slocombe, a photographer. "He really enjoyed his work and his life."
Slocombe was one of British cinema's most acclaimed cinematographers. He shot some 80 films, working with directors as varied as George Cukor, John Huston, Norman Jewison and Roman Polanski. His career began with the famed Ealing black comedies of the late 1940s and early '50s, and ended with three "Indiana Jones" films for Steven Spielberg.
"Dougie Slocombe was facile, enthusiastic, and loved the action of filmmaking," Spielberg said. "Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones in front of the camera, but with his whip-smart crew, Dougie was my behind the scenes hero for the first three Indy movies."
The London-born, France-raised Slocombe was nominated for three Academy Awards and won three from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for 1974's "The Great Gatsby," 1963's "The Servant" and 1977's "Julia." The British Society of Cinematographers gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1995.
While in his 20s, Slocombe documented Germany's 1939 Polish invasion as a newsreel cameraman. His footage was used in Herbert Kline's documentary, "Lights Out in Europe."
"I had no understanding of the concept of blitzkrieg. I had been expecting trouble but I thought it would be in trenches, like WWI," he told the BBC in 2014. "The Germans were coming over the border at a great pace."
After the war, he became the house cinematographer for Ealing Studios, lensing many of its classic comedies, such as "Kind Hearts and Coronets," ''The Man in the White Suit" and "The Lavender Hill Mob."
Following Ealing's demise, Slocombe signed on to a number of CinemaScope releases, such as "A High Wind in Jamaica" and "Guns at Batasi." Other credits through the '60s and '70s included "The Lion in Winter," ''The Italian Job" and "Rollerball."
"A lot of cameramen try to evolve a technique and then apply that to everything," Slocombe once said. "But I suffer from a bad memory and could never remember how I'd done something before, so I could always approach something afresh. I found I was able to change techniques on picture after picture."
Later, Spielberg, for whom Slocombe shot scenes of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," enlisted him for "Raiders of the Lost Ark," as well as two "Indiana Jones" sequels. His last film was 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."