Otto Heller - Writer




Cinematographer. Nationality: British. Born: Prague, 3 September 1896; became British citizen 1945. Military Service: 1916—made first film (of Emperor Franz Josef's funeral procession) while in Austrian army; 1940—joined Czech airforce and settled permanently in Britain. Career: While still in teens, worked as a cinema usher and projectionist in Prague; 1918—became professional cameraman; 1928–30—cinematographer in Czechoslovakia and Germany; 1930–35—worked in Germany. Award: British Academy Award for The Ipcress File , 1965. Died: In London, 17 February 1970.


Films as Cinematographer:

1918

Československý ježíšek ( Small Czechoslovak Icon ) (Branald) (co)

1919

Alois vyhrál los ( Alois Won a Prize ) (Branald) (co); Vzteklý ženich ( The Mad Bridegroom ) (Lamač) (co); Probuzené svedomí ( Roman lásky a pomsty ; The Awakened Conscience ; Story of Love and Revenge ) (Zdráhal); Palimpest (Jencik); Záhadný případ ( The Strange Case ) (Marten); Krasavice Ka a ( Beautiful Katya ) (Binovec)

1920

Dráteníček ( The Little Tinker ) (Šimek); Komediantka ( The Comedienne ) (Rovenský); Odplata ( Retaliation ) (Winter); Plameny života ( Ráj a peklo bohemy ; The Flames of Life ; Heaven and Hell of Bohemia ) (Binovec) (co); Zpev zlata ( Song of Gold ) (Kolar); Za svobudu národa ( For the Fredom of the People ) (Binovec) (co)

1921

Nad propastí ( Above the Abyss ) (Majer); Příchozí z temnot ( Arrival from the Dark ; Redivivus ) (Kolar) (co); Otrávené svetlo ( Poisoned Light ) (Kolar); Trny a kveti ( Žabec ; Thorns and Flowers ; A Lass ) (Pištek); Cesty k výšinam ( Way to the Heights ) (Sotek); Moderní Magdalena (Orlicky and Kolar); Kríž u potoka ( The Cross by the Brook ) (Kolar); Stíny ( Záhada Noci ; Shadows ; Mystery of the Night ) (Pražský); Manželé paní Mileny ( Navrat mrtvého ; Pyrrhovo vítezství ; Madame Milena's Husbands ; Dead Man's Return ; Pyhrric Victory ) (Majer)

1922

Harémy kouzla zbavené ( Maharadžovo potešení ; Harems Devoid of Magic ; The Maharajah's Pleasures ) (Anton)(+ ro); Jejich svatební noc ( Their Bridal Night ) (Leopold); Mrtví žijí ( The Dead Live ) (Kolar); Poslední polibek ( The Last Kiss ) (Anton); Proudy ( Proudem stržna ; Streams ; Carried Away by the Current ) (Pistek); Koryatovič ( Zacearovaný klíček karpatsky ; A Spell on the Carpathian Key ) (Rust-Rozvoda); Proč se nesmeješ ( Why Aren't You Laughing? ) (Piala)

1923

Tu Ten Kámen ( Tutankhamen ; How to Have Love Flame on the Spot, even for the Deceased ) (Anton); Muž bez srdce ( Man without a Heart ) (Horňák and Koebner); Únos bankére Fuxe ( The Kidnapping of Banker Fuxe ) (Anton) (co); Za opunu smrti ( The Miraculous Doctor ) (Futurista)

1924

Bílý Ráj ( The White Paradise ) (Lamač); Chytte ho! ( Lupič nešika ; Catch Him! ; The Clumsy Robber ) (Lamač)

1925

Píseň života ( Song of Life ) (Krňanský); Vdavky Nanynky Kulichovy ( Marriage of Nanynky Kulickova ) (Krňanský); Syn hor ( Son of the Mountains ) (Slavínsky) (+ ro); Lucerna ( The Lantern ) (co); Josef Kajetán Tyl (Innemann)

1926

Dobry voják Švejk ( The Good Soldier Svejk ) (Lamač); Hrabenka z Podskalí ( Countess from Podskali ) (Lamač); Příbeh jednoho dne ( Story of One Day ) (Krňanský); Falešná kočička ( The False Kitten ) (Innemann); Švejk na fronte ( Svejk at the Front ) (Lamač); Lásky Kaňenky Strnadové ( Loves of Kacenky Strnadova ) (Innemann); Aniceko, vrate se! ( Tulák ; Anicka, Come Back! ; Vagabond ) (Pištek)

1927

Pantáta Bezoušek ( Old Man Bezouska ) (Lamač); Loupezeníci na Chlumu ( Robbers on the Hill ) (Hajjsky) (co); Kreutzerova sonáta ( Kreutzer Sonata ) (Machatý); Werther ( Utrpení mladé lásky ; Sorrows of Young Love ) (Hajsky); Kvet ze Šumavy ( Flowers from the Sumava ) (Lamač); Kilenky starého kriminálníka ( Loves of an Old Criminal ) (Innemann); Sladká Josefínka ( Sweet Little Josefina ) (Lamač); Saxophon- Susi (Lamač)

1928

Dcery Eviny ( A Married Daughter ; Eve's Daughters ) (Lamač); Evas Töchter (Lamač); Der erste Kuss (Lamač); Kedlubnový kavalír v ráji ( A Gentleman in Paradise ) (Bondy)

1929

Známosti z ulice ( Acquaintances of the Street ) (Medeotti-Boháč); Hřích ( The Sin ) (Lamač); Páter Vojtech ( Father Vojtech ) (Frič); Sündig und Süss (Lamač); Das Mädel mit der Peitsche (Lamač); Adjunkt Vrba (Krňanský); Die Kaviarprinzessin (Lamač)

1930

Starý hřích ( The Old Sin ) (Krňanský); Svatý Václav (Kolár)(co); Pradlenka Jeho Jasnosti ( Her Highness' Young Washer- woman ) (Sauer); Das Mädel aus U.S.A. (Lamač); Erzehog Otto und das Wäschermadel ( Wiener Herzen ) (Sauer); Eine Freundin so goldig wie Du (Lamač); Das Kabinett des Dr. Larifari (Wohlmuth) (co); Die von Rummelplatz (Lamač) (co); Der falsche Feldmarschall ( Der K und K Feldermarschall ) (Lamač)

1931

Monsieur Le Maréchal (Lamač); Die Privatsekretärin (Thiele)(co); On a jeho sestra ( He and His Sister ) (Lamač andFrič); Er und seine Schwester (Lamač); Dactylo (Thiele)(co); Le Chauve-souris (Lamač and Billon); Die Fleder- maus (Lamač); Der Zinker (Lamač and Frič); To neznáte Hadimršku ( So Nobody Knows Hadimrsku ) (Lamač andFrič) (+ ro); Mamsell Nitouche (Lamač); Une Nuit au paradis (Lamač and Frič)

1932

Wehe, wenn er losgelassen ( Unter Geschäftsaufsich ) (Lamačand Frič); Anton Špelec, ostrostřelec ( Anton Spelec, Sharp- shooter ) (Frič); Funebrák ( Funeral Attendant ; What a Fu- neral ) (Lamač) (co); Kantor Idéal ( Ideal Teacher ) (Fric); Die grausame Freundin (Lamač); Faut-il les marier? (Lamačand Billon); Lelíček ve službách Sherlocka Holmes ( Lelicek in the Service of Sherlock Holmes ) (Lamač); Le Roi bis (Beaudoin) (co); Před maturitou ( Before Matriculation )(Vanceura and Innemann); Der Hexer (Lamač); Baby (Lamač); Kiki (Lamač); Zapadlí vlastenci ( Forgotten Patri- ots ) (Krňanský)

1933

La Fille du régiment (Lamač and Billon); Die Regimentstochter (Lamač and Zerlett) (co); Betragen ungenuend (Frič); Dobrý tramp Bernasek ( Good Tramp Bernasek ) (Lamač); Jindra, hrabenka Ostrovínová ( Jindra, Countess Ostrovin )(Lamač); Jsem devče s čertem v tele ( The Girl with the Devil in Her ) (Anton) (co); Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen (Lamač) (co); Pobočník jeho výsosti ( His Highness' Adju- tant ) (Frič); Der Adjutant seiner Hoheit (Frič); Prodaná nevesta ( The Bartered Bride ) (Kvapil, Innemann and Pollert); S vyloučenim veřejnosti ( Behind Closed Doors ) (Frič)(+ ro); Das verliebte Hotel (Lamač) (co)

1934

Anita v Ráji ( Anita in Paradise ) (Sviták); Hej rup! ( Heave Ho! ) (Frič); Nezlobte dedečka ( Don't Make Grandfather Angry ) (Lamač); Die vertauschte Braut (Lamač) (co); L'Amour en cage (Lamač and de Limur); Karneval und Liebe (Lamač) (co); Klein Dorrit (Lamač) (co); Zena, která ví, co chce ( The Woman Who Knows What She Wants )(Binovec) (co); Tři kroky od tela ( Three Steps Away from Me ) (Innemann); Polenblut (Lamač); Polská krev ( Polish Blood ) (Lamač)

1935

A Život jde dál ( And Life Goes On ) (Junghans); Bařbora rádí ( Angry Barbara ) (Cikán); Bezdetná ( Childless ) (Krňanský); Knock Out ; Ein junges Mädchen—ein junger Mann (Lamačand Zerlett); Grossreinemachen (Lamač) (co); Jedenácté preikazání ( The Eleventh Commandment ) (Frič)

1936

Jízdní hlídka ( The Horse Patrol ) (Binovec) (co); Na ty louce zeleny ( On the Green Meadow ) (Lamač); Port Arthur (Farkas) (co); Ulička v Ráji ( An Alley in Paradise ; Crumbs for the Poor ) (Frič); Uličnice ( Gamine ; Street Urchin )(Slavínský) (co); The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss ( Ro- mance and Riches ) (Zeisler)

1937

Litomyšl (+ co-d with Pecenka); Secret Lives ( I Married a Spy ) (Greville); The High Command (Dickinson); Bílá nemoc ( The White Scourge ) (Haas); Devčata, nedejte se! ( Don't Give In, Girls! ) (Haas); Mademoiselle Docteur ( Under Secret Orders ) (Greville); Svet patří nám ( The World Belongs to Us ) (Frič); Duvod k rozvodu ( Cause for Divorce ) (Lamač); Filosofská historie ( Philosophical Story )(Vávra); Karel Hynek Mácha (Molas) (co)

1938

Ducháček to zaridi ( Duchacek Will See to It ) (Lamač); Krok do tmy ( A Step to Darkness ) (Frič); Slávko, nedej se! ( Slavka, Don't Give In! ) (Lamač) (co); Treti zvoneni ( The Third Bell ) (Sviták); Vertig Jaren ( Forty Years ) (Greville)

1939

Le Grand Élan (Christian-Jaque) (co); L'Enfer des anges (Christian-Jaque) (co); Menaces (Greville) (co)

1940

De Mayerling á Sarajevo (Max Ophuls); L'Empreinte de Dieu (Moguy); Soyez les bienvenus (de Baroncelli); Vingt-quatre heures de perm' (Cloche)

1942

Alibi (Hurst); Tomorrow We Live ( At Dawn We Die ) (King); The Night Invader (Mason)

1943

The Dark Tower (Harlow); They Met in the Dark (Lamač); The Hundred Pound Window (Hurst); Candlelight in Alge- ria (King)

1944

One Exciting Night ( You Can't Do without Love ) (Forde); Mr. Emmanuel (French); Flight from Folly (Mason)

1945

I Live in Grosvenor Square ( A Yankee in London ) (Wilcox); Gaiety George ( Showtime ) (King); Night Boat to Dublin (Huntington)

1947

They Made Me a Fugitive ( I Became a Criminal ) (Cavalcanti); Temptation Harbour (Comfort)

1948

Bond Street (Parry); Noose ( The Silk Noose ) (Greville); The Queen of Spades (Dickinson); The Last Days of Dolwyn ( Woman of Dolwyn ) (Williams)

1949

Now Barabbas Was a Robber . . . ( Now Barabbas ) (Parry); Three Men and a Girl (Parry)

1950

The Woman with No Name ( Her Panelled Door ) (Vajda andO'Ferrall); I'll Get You for This ( Lucky Nick Cain ) (Newman)

1951

Flesh and Blood (Kimmins); Never Take No for an Answer (Cloche and Smart)

1952

The Crimson Pirate (Siodmak); The Man Who Watched Trains Go By ( The Paris Express ) (French)

1953

The Square Ring (Dearden); His Majesty O'Keefe (Haskin)

1954

The Rainbow Jacket (Dearden); The Divided Heart (Crichton)

1955

The Ladykillers (Mackendrick); Richard III (Olivier)

1956

Who Done It? (Dearden); Child in the House (de Latour); Circus Friends (Thomas); The Passionate Stranger ( A Novel Affair ) (Muriel Box); Kings and Queens (Czinner)

1957

The Silent Enemy (Fairchild); The Truth about Women (MurielBox); The Vicious Circle ( The Circle ) (Thomas); Manuela ( Stowaway Girl ) (Hamilton)

1958

The Duke Wore Jeans (Thomas); The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (Walsh); Hello London (Smith)

1959

Ferry to Hong Kong (Gilbert); The Rough and the Smooth ( Portrait of a Sinner ) (Siodmak); A Dog of Flanders (Clark); Peeping Tom (Powell)

1960

The Singer Not the Song (Baker); An heiligen Wassern (Weidenmann)

1961

The Big Show (Clark); Victim (Dearden); Light in the Piazza (Gren)

1962

Tiara Tahiti (Kotcheff); Life for Ruth ( Walk in the Shadow )(Dearden); We Joined the Navy (Toye)

1963

West 11 (Winner); What a Crazy World (Carreras)

1964

Woman of Straw (Dearden); The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (Carreras); A Gift for Love (de Latour); Masquerade (Dearden)

1965

The Ipcress File (Furie); Alfie (Gilbert)

1966

That Riviera Touch (Owen); Funeral in Berlin (Hamilton)

1967

The Naked Runner (Furie); I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name (Winner); Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (Paris)

1968

Duffy (Parrish)

1969

Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (Newley); Bloomfield ( The Hero )(Harris); In Search of Gregory (Peter Wood)



Publications


On HELLER: articles—

Film a Doba (Prague), vol. 11, no. 769–771, 1959.

Obituary in Today's Cinema , no. 9781, 20 February 1970.

Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.

Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1982.


* * *


Otto Heller is one of the many distinguished cameramen to have come from the Czechoslovak region (others include Freund, Planer, Ondricek, Kucera, Stallich, and Vich). His output is extremely wide-ranging and prolific: credited with over 250 films, he worked in Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Holland, France, and England.

Heller's career began in earnest in 1918, after he filmed the triumphal entry into Prague of the founder President of Czechoslovakia, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. He contributed to many of the most famous Czech films; Machatý's Kreutzer Sonata , Innemann's Pred maturitou , and the films of Voscovec and Frič— Hej rup! and Svet patří nám . He was especially associated with the films of Anny Ondra and her husband Karl Lamač with whom he worked in many countries. Ironically, he was not appreciated as he should have been in his native country and was often teamed with another cameraman.

He extended his experience in Germany, and in the Berlin Film Lexicon of 1931 he is said to be esteemed for his technical knowledge and refined taste, and capable of producing striking effects for any subject. His exile to England in 1935 gave him the opportunity of filming a wide range of subjects by many different directors, but perhaps his greatest achievement was the exquisite work he did on Thorold Dickinson's Queen of Spades , where Oliver Messel's superb sets were seen at their best through Heller's creative lens. In 1955, he filmed Mackendrick's The Ladykillers and Olivier's Richard III . His technical knowledge and expertise in colour extended his previous success in black-and-white photography.

—Liam O'Leary



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