Cinematographer and Director. Nationality: British. Born: Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, 18 September 1914. Family: Married; three sons. Career: Child actor from age four to fourteen. 1928—joined British
World Window ( Rome Symphony ; The Eternal Fire ; Fox Hunting the Roman Compagna ; Jerusalem ; Petra ; Wanderers of the Desert ; Arabian Bazaar ; Ruins of Palmyra and Baalbek ; A Road in India ; River Thames—Yesterday ; Indian Temples ; Jungle ; Delhi ; The Sacred Ganges ; A Village in India ; Indian Durbar ) (Gentilomo, Francisci, Nieter, Blasetti, and Hanau—docs)
Paris on Parade (Fitzpatrick—short)
Main Street of Paris (Bernard—short)
Peasant Island (Taylor—short)
Green Girdle (Keene—short); Queen Cotton (Musk—short); Western Isles (Bishop—short); Plastic Surgery in Wartime (Sainsbury—short)
Colour in Clay (Catling—short); Border Weave (Curthoys—short); Out of the Box (Bishop—short); The Great Mr. Handel (Walker) (co); This Is Colour (Ellitt—short); The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ( Colonel Blimp ) (Powell and Pressburger)
Scottish Mazurka (Nieter—short)
Western Approaches ( The Raider ) (Jackson); Steel (Riley—short) (co)
Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal) (co)
A Matter of Life and Death ( Stairway to Heaven ) (Powell and Pressburger)
Black Narcissus (Powell and Pressburger)
The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger); Scott of the Antarctic (Frend) (co)
Under Capricorn (Hitchcock)
The Black Rose (Hathaway); Montmartre (Bernard—short)
Montmartre Nocturne (Bernard—short); Paris (Bernard—short); Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Lewin); The Magic Box (J. Boulting); The African Queen (Huston)
It Started in Paradise (Bennett)
The Master of Ballantrae (Keighley)
Il maestro di Don Giovanni ( Crossed Swords ) (Krims); The Barefoot Contessa (Mankiewicz)
War and Peace (K. Vidor); The Brave One (Rapper)
Legend of the Lost (Hathaway); The Prince and the Showgirl (Olivier)
The Vikings (Fleischer); The Diary of Anne Frank (Stevens) (co)
The Journey (Litvak)
The Girl on a Motorcycle ( Naked under Leather ; La Motocyclette ) (+ d, co-sc)
Ride a Wild Pony (Chaffey)
Death on the Nile (Guillermin); The Prince and the Pauper ( Crossed Swords ) (Fleischer)
Ghost Story (Irvin); The Dogs of War (Irvin)
Scandalous (Cohen); Wicked Lady (Winner)
Conan the Destroyer (Fleischer)
Cat's Eye (Teague); Rambo: First Blood, Part II (Cosmatos)
Million Dollar Mystery (Fleischer)
Call from Space (Fleischer)
Magic Balloon (Neame)
Vivaldi's Four Seasons
The Dance of Shiva (Payne)
Intent to Kill
Beyond This Place ( Web of Evidence )
Scent of Mystery ( Holiday in Spain ); Sons and Lovers
The Lion ; Satan Never Sleeps (additional segments only)
The Long Ships
The Mercenaries ( Dark of the Sun )
The Informer (Robison) (asst)
Loose Ends (Walker) (asst)
The Ghost Goes West (Clair) (cam)
As You Like It (Czinner) (cam); Wings of the Morning (Schuster) (cam)
Knight without Armor (Feyder) (cam)
On Under Capricorn in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), October 1949.
On The Black Rose in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1950.
Screen International (London), 7 February 1976.
Time Out (London), 1–7 August 1985.
Cinématographe (Paris), no. 117, March 1986.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1990.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1994.
Lightman, Herb A., on The Red Shoes in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1949.
Edwards, M., in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1951.
Cinéma (Paris), 1 November 1952.
Hill, Derek, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1956.
Cinéma (Paris), February 1968.
Filme Cultura (Rio de Janeiro), April/May 1970.
Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.
Luft, Herbert G., in Films in Review (New York), April 1974.
Films Illustrated (London), August 1974.
Reiss, D.S., in Filmmakers Monthly (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), March 1981.
In Camera (Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire), Spring 1990.
Filmfax (Evanston), April-May 1993.
Eyepiece (Greenford), vol. 15, no. 6, 1994/1995.
* * *
Like Freddie Francis, Jack Cardiff made the transition from director of photography to director in the 1960s and gradually drifted back to his old job in the 1970s and 1980s, leaving behind him an interesting but not especially successful body of directorial work, from the prestige of Sons and Lovers (for which, ironically, Francis won an Oscar for best cinematography) through the trendy idiocy of The Girl on a Motorcycle (also known, in honor of Marianne Faithfull's fetishist introductory scene, as Naked under Leather ) to the grotesque mad-scientist melodrama of The Mutations (a horror movie a good deal freakier, funnier, stupider, and trashier than Francis's run of professional and faintly stodgy contributions to the genre). Otherwise, Cardiff the director seemed mainly there to collect scraps from the table: allowed to finish Young Cassidy when John Ford fell ill, and doing what he could with the mismatch of Rod Taylor and Julie Christie in a project that meant a lot to Ford and nothing apparently to Cardiff; permitted to make in The Long Ships a sequel to The Vikings —a film he had photographed—and failing to match Richard Fleischer's bold swashbuckling approach to the original; stepping in to do additional sequences for Satan Never Sleeps , the ailing Leo McCarey's last film; stuck with the standing joke of Scent of Mystery , a gimmick attempt to introduce Odorama to the cinema 20 years before Polyester , with various smells and perfumes pumped into the auditorium to coincide with the on-screen action; and yet again unable to make Rod Taylor seem charismatic in the cut-price Bond imitation The Liquidator , although Cardiff and Taylor both seem to have been uncharacteristically enthused by Dark of the Sun .
Once the directorial doodles have been set aside, Cardiff has one of the most impressive records of pictorial achievement in the cinema, starting as a camera operator and second unit cameraman with Korda and the Archers in the 1930s—working on Knight without Armor , The Ghost Goes West , the early Technicolor Wings of the Morning (Britain's first full-color film), and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp before being promoted to director of photography with the documentary Western Approaches and the lavish, prestigious, slightly boring Caesar and Cleopatra . He first made himself noticed, however, with three color masterpieces for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, A Matter of Life and Death , Black Narcissus , and The Red Shoes . Here, in an atmosphere of fantasy, violence, and eroticism, Cardiff was allowed a very un-English lack of restraint, and came through with a procession of images that go beyond the chocolate-box prettiness of Technicolor into very dangerous areas indeed, especially in the striking use of strong reds—the scarlet of Kathleen Byron's dress and lipstick in Narcissus , the shoes themselves in The Red Shoes —and a knack for making unconventional beauties into screen goddesses. Kim Hunter, a most unlikely candidate, looks extraordinary in uniform in A Matter of Life and Death , and the later films find turbulent depths in the cool exteriors of Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron, all the more disturbing since they are supposed to be playing nuns, and Moira Shearer. Unsurprisingly, Cardiff would later be called in to highlight the faces and figures of Ava Gardner ( Pandora and the Flying Dutchman , The Barefoot Contessa ), Audrey Hepburn ( War and Peace ), Marilyn Monroe ( The Prince and the Showgirl ), Sophia Loren ( Legend of the Lost ), Janet Leigh ( The Vikings ) and Leslie Caron ( Fanny ).
After his period with the Archers, Cardiff became a prestige international director of photography, especially adept at American productions with a European or period flavor. Under Capricorn , for Alfred Hitchcock, is labyrinthine and elegant, the Hollywood Englishman calling upon some of the innovations of the Archers to reinvigorate his Selznicked-to-the-ground studio style. Pandora , directed by the delirious Albert Lewin with unrestrained Ava and uptight Flying Dutchman James Mason, is three degrees steamier even than Black Narcissus , to the point when its magic, eroticism, and monomania is almost, but not quite, ludicrous. The African Queen , made in color under grueling conditions, is unfussy about its exotic backgrounds, spirited in its action, and modestly competent when it comes to keeping its unglamorized stars center screen and registering the nuances of their performances. If some of the 1950s "big pictures"— The Magic Box , The Prince and the Showgirl , War and Peace , The Journey , The Brave One —look stuffy today, that has more to do with the then-prevalent ideas of "quality" than with any inherent limitations in Cardiff's approach. And before temporarily abandoning the camera for the megaphone, Cardiff did do his best for The Vikings , a still-underrated classic of the demented melodrama following up Cardiff's work on The Black Rose and The Master of Ballantrae . Here, Cardiff captured Kirk Douglas walking on the oars, Ernest Borgnine jumping into a pit of starving wolves, Tony Curtis ripping Janet Leigh's dress so she can row better, and plenty of Boys' Own boat and swordplay.
Returning in the 1970s and 1980s as a photographer, Cardiff found himself on familiar ground—swashbuckling and faraway places—with Scalawag , The Prince and the Pauper , Death on the Nile , and Conan the Destroyer , then perhaps recaptured some of the discomfort of The African Queen and sadomasochistic action man feel of The Vikings in Rambo: First Blood, Part II , in which he followed Stallone's glistening torso through mud, blood, leeches, machine gun bandoliers, electric torture, and nonstop jungle engagements. It was as if he had never been away.