Jack Cardiff, the renowned cinematographer, has died aged 94. The son of music hall entertainers, he acted in silent movies as a child. His earliest credits behind the camera were on Wings Of The Morning (1937), the first Technicolor film made in Britain, and a series of public information films during World War II.
Cardiff’s breakthrough came as second cameraman on the Powell and Pressburger masterpiece, The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), and he became their chief cinematographer, winning an Oscar for Black Narcissus (1947), and a Golden Globe for The Red Shoes (1948.) In 1951 he worked with director John Huston on The African Queen.
In 1956, Cardiff photographed Marilyn Monroe for The Prince And The Showgirl, also starring, and directed by, Laurence Olivier. Monroe and Olivier did not get along, but she declared Cardiff ‘the best in the business.’ They became good friends, and created a series of portraits in the style of Renoir that revealed Marilyn’s timeless beauty.
They never collaborated again, though Cardiff later visited Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love, two years before her death. She once gave him a signed photo of herself, writing, ‘Dear Jack, if only I could be the way you have created me.’
Cardiff went on to direct several films, including Sons And Lovers (1960), an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s classic novel, and the cultish Girl On A Motorcycle (1968) with Marianne Faithfull, and he also shot Hollywood blockbusters ranging from Death On The Nile (1978) to Rambo (1985).
In his autobiography, Magic Hour, Cardiff recalled his first meeting with Marilyn and her husband, Arthur Miller:
A door opened behind me; there was a blur of soft material as Marilyn sped swiftly into Miller’s arms, not looking at me until she was hugged in his bear-like embrace. Then she slanted a shy, sleepy smile at me. I had never seen this Marilyn before, in any film or photo. This was no hot sex symbol; this was a little girl, with her face pressed into Daddy’s chest, shyly curious of a visitor.
Her face was still rosy, flushed from sleep, and her buttercup-gold hair tangled like a Botticelli cherub. Her eyes had the unreal clarity of the porcelain eyes in a doll; large, wondering, wide apart and slightly turned down at the outsides; and the mouth, timorously half-parted lips; the saucy turned-up nose – here indeed was a delightful evocation of Renoir.
She didn’t say anything to me at all – not even ‘hello’. She just looked at me with a kind of possessiveness, like a child showing Daddy her prize handiwork from school, and Daddy cuddled his baby with proud tenderness. Still no word to me. Only a soft murmur to Miller, as she gazed at me in cosy triumph.
‘Isn’t it wonderful, darling? He’s the greatest, and I’ve got him!’
Ian D Smith said:
I didn’t realise there was a link between the brilliant Monroe photos and the amazing Powell / Pressburger films. Fantastic.
I wish Cardiff had directed Marilyn, he seemed to connect with her 😉
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