Walter Lassally - Writer




Cinematographer. Nationality: German. Born: Berlin, 18 December 1926; emigrated to England, 1939; used the pseudonym John Walters on some early films. Career: Clapper boy for Riverside Studios; 1946—directed first film, Smith , Our Friend ; 1950—first film as cinematographer, Every Five Minutes ; TV work includes the series The Commanding Sea , 1981. Awards: Academy Award for Zorba the Greek , 1964.


Films as Cinematographer:


(shorts)

1950

Every Five Minutes (M. Anderson)

1951

From Plan into Action (Alexander) (co); Forward a Century (Napier-Bell) (co)

1952

Festival (York); At Whose Door? (Napier-Bell); We Who Are Young (Simmons); The Pleasure Garden (Broughton); Three Installations (L. Anderson); Wakefield Express (L. Anderson)

1953

Power Signal Lineman (M. Anderson); High Speed ; Sunday by the Sea (Simmons); One Great Vision (Simmons); Thursday's Children (L. Anderson and Brenton)

1954

Bow Bells (Simmons); Friend of the Family (Thomson)

1955

Green and Pleasant Land (L. Anderson); Henry (L. Anderson); Continuous Observation (Thomson); The Children Upstairs (L. Anderson); A Hundred Thousand Children (L. Anderson); Foot and Mouth (L. Anderson)

1956

Together (Mazzetti) (co); The Brighton Story (Wilcox); The Gentle Corsican (Simmons); Momma Don't Allow (Reisz and Richardson); Return from the Sun (Casparius); Simon (Zadek); The Simpson and Godlee Story (Casparius); Children's Corner ( Day Nursing ) (+ ed, co-d with Nadelmann)

1957

Every Day Except Christmas (L. Anderson); A River Speaks (Casparius); Ten Bridges (Luke); George Bernard Shaw (Shaw-Ashton); A Sculptor's Landscape (Read)

1958

Blue Peter (Fernhout); A.B.C. ( Aruba, Bonaire, Curazao ) (Fernhout); Alone with the Monsters (Nour); A Song for Prince Charlie (O'Leary)

1959

Refuge England (Vas); Enquiry into General Practice (Dickson)

1960

Midsummer Music (Swift)

1961

Let My People Go (Krish); Why Bri? (Napier-Bell) (co); London University (Napier-Bell) (co)

1964

The Peaches (Gill); Lila (Raggett) (co); Dublin through Different Eyes (Carr)

1965

Mao le veut ; Dan (+ pr, co-d with Campbell); The Greeks (+ pr, co-d with Campbell)

1967

Labyrinth (Kroiter, Low, and O'Connor)

1970

Henry Moore at the Tate Gallery (+ co-d with Sylvester)

1971

Can Horses Sing? (Sussex); Bilocation ( Within Hail ) (Cornu); Paris Restaurants (Sher)

1974

Carved in Ivory (Gill); W.S.P. (J. Anderson)

1976

Ernst Fuchs (Jasny)


(features)

1954

The Passing Stranger (Arnold)

1955

To koritsi me ta mavra ( A Girl in Black ) (Cacoyannis); Another Sky (Lambert)

1957

To teleftaio psemma ( A Matter of Dignity ) (Cacoyannis)

1958

We Are the Lambeth Boys (Reisz); Jago hua savera ( Day Shall Dawn ) (Kardar) (co)

1959

As Dark as the Night (Young)

1960

Beat Girl ( Wild for Kicks ) (Greville); Maddalena (Dimopoulos); Eroica ( Our Last Spring ) (Cacoyannis); Aliki sto naftiko ( Aliki in the Navy ) (Sakellarios)

1961

Electra (Cacoyannis); I Liza kai i alli ( Liza and Her Double ) (Dimopoulos); A Taste of Honey (Richardson)

1962

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Richardson)

1963

Tom Jones (Richardson)

1964

Psyche 63 (Singer); Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis)

1966

Assignment Skybolt (Tallas)

1967

The Day the Fish Came Out (Cacoyannis); Oedipus the King (Saville)

1968

The Adding Machine (Epstein); Joanna (Sarne); Three into Two Won't Go (Hall); Anichti epistoli ( Open Letter ) (Stambolopoulos); Olimpiada en Mexico ( The Olympics in Mexico ) (Isaac); Battleship Potemkin Survivor (Montaldi—for TV)

Walter Lassally
Walter Lassally

1969

Twinky ( Lola ) (Donner)

1970

Something for Everyone ( Black Flowers for the Bride ) (Prince)

1971

To Kill a Clown (Bloomfield)

1972

Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilisation (Ivory); Savages (Ivory); Gun before Butter (Zadek)

1973

"The Highest" ep. of Visions of Eight (Penn); Happy Mother's Day . . . Love George (McGavin); The Seaweed Children ( Malachi's Cove ) (Herbert)

1974

The Wild Party (Ivory); Après le vent des sables ( The Web ) (Zaccai); Henry Cotton: This Game of Golf (Raeburn); The World of Sam Smith (Zetterling)

1975

Autobiography of a Princess (Ivory); Ansichten eines Clowns ( The Clown ) (Jasny); Requiem for a Village (Gladwell) (co); In the Beginning (Gill)

1976

Pleasantville (Locker and Polon); Fluchtversuch ( I vo ) (Jasny)

1977

Shenanigans ( The Great Georgia Bank Hoax ; The Great Bank Hoax ) (Jacoby); Morgensterne ; The Blood of Hussain (Dehlavi)

1978

Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (Ivory); Too Far to Go (Cook); Die Frau gegenüber ( The Woman across the Way ) (Noever)

1979

Something Short of Paradise (Helpern)

1980

The Pilot (Richardson); Der Preis fürs Überleben ( The Price of Survival ) (Noever); Life on the Mississippi (Hunt); Gauguin the Savage (Cook)

1981

Memoirs of a Survivor (Gladwell); Engel aus Eisen ( The Iron Angel ) (Brasch); The Private History of a Campaign that Failed (Hunt); The Mysterious Stranger (Hunt)

1982

Heat and Dust (Ivory); Tuxedo Warrior (Sinclair); Mystery at Fire Island (Fuest)

1983

Private School (Black); The Case of Marcel Duchamp (Rowan); Pudd'nhead Wilson (Bridges)

1984

The Bostonians (Ivory); Children in the Crossfire (Schaefer) (co); The Bengal Lancers (Weeks)

1985

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Hunt); Stone Pillow (Schaefer—for TV); Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (Schaefer—for TV)

1987

Indian Summer (Forder)

1988

The Perfect Murder (Hai); The Deceivers (Meyer)

1989

Fragments of Isabella (O' Leary); Kamilla og tyven II

1991

The Ballad of the Sad Café (Callow)

1992

The Man Upstairs (Schaefer—for TV)

Other Films:

1946

Smith, Our Friend (co-d with York—short, + co-pr)

1947

Dancing with Crime (Carstairs—short) (asst ph); This Was a Woman (Whelan—short) (asst ph)

1948

What's in a Number (Krish—short) (asst ph); Things Happen at Night (Searle—short) (asst ph)

1950

Night and the City (Dassin—short) (asst ph)

1953

House of Blackmail (Elvey) (asst ed)



Publications


By LASSALLY: book—


Itinerant Cameraman , London, 1987.


By LASSALLY: articles—

"Subjective Cinema: An Analysis of the MGM Film Lady in the Lake ," in Film Industry , April 1947.

With Richard Kohler, "The Big Screens," in Sight and Sound (London), January/March 1955.

Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1956.

"The Dead Hand," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1960.

Film (London), no. 37, 1963.

Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1965.

Film (London), no. 51, Spring 1968.

Journal of the University Film Association (Carbondale, Illinois), vol. 26, no. 4, 1974.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), February 1975.

Deutsche Kameramann (Munich), April/May 1976.

Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1980.

On Heat and Dust in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), January 1984.

"Ford Fever," in Sight and Sound (London), November 1992.

Jeune Cinéma , no. 224, October 1993.

"Of Guilds and Unions and Long Hours," in Eyepiece (Greenford), vol. 17, no. 1, 1996.

"Call For a New Standard Format," in Eyepiece (Greenford), vol. 17, no. 2, 1996.

"Desert Island Flicks," in Eyepiece (Greenford), vol. 17, no. 4, 1996.


On LASSALLY: articles—

Films and Filming (London), December 1954.

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

On Heat and Dust in Film (London), April/May 1984.

Film Dope (Nottingham), November 1985.

Baker, Rick, "Rockport Lighting Seminar: Walter Lassally, BSC," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), November 1989.


* * *


The evolution of Walter Lassally from clapperboy to lighting cameraman with a world reputation makes a fascinating story. His father was an industrial filmmaker in Berlin and his mother was of Polish origin. Fleeing from the Nazi menace in 1939, his father set up a one-man film unit in London, so film was in Lassally's blood. Cutting short his science studies, he took up the job of clapperboy in the Riverside studios where he found that theory and practice did not run hand-in-hand. A young man with high ideals, his experience in the film industry fell short of these. When the studio went bankrupt he began freelancing. Around this time (1954), the Sequence magazine group was absorbed into the British Film Institute and there was a ferment of ideas in this quarter where the young Lassally met people such as Lindsay Anderson, Gavin Lambert, and Karel Reisz. It was among this group that the British Free Cinema Movement was born, and Lassally photographed many of their films. They tried to illuminate the life about them and break away from the stereotyped view of the commercial cinema. In 1954 he got his first major lighting camera job on a feature film, Gavin Lambert's beautiful, if neglected, Another Sky , shot on location in Morocco. The young film buff now chose the more adventurous path of the independent, low-budget film, open to a personal and creative approach. As he said himself: "Atmospheric photography is still one of my criteria when I decide what projects to accept." It has been for him a gratifying choice as he has worked with such directors as Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson, Michael Cacoyannis, James Ivory, and Arthur Penn. He has an international awareness of cinema and he deplores the narrow chauvinistic approach of many national film industries.

While his film style is straightforward, he has not hesitated to break the conventions on occasion, as in Tom Jones , directed by Tony Richardson, and in his mixture of color, sepia, and black and white in James Ivory's Savages . Lassally is especially at home with natural settings, and shot the first British film to be filmed totally on location, A Taste of Honey , also directed by Richardson. Nearly 30 years later, Lassally's filming of The Perfect Murder , shot on location in Bombay, received critical praise, as did his work on The Ballad of the Sad Café , in which he used filters to create stark Edward Hopper-like lighting effects.

In 1964 he won an Academy Award for his photography of Zorba the Greek directed by Cacoyannis, thereby setting a seal on a career that was further added to by the films he made for James Ivory, including Heat and Dust . Lassally, whose Itinerant Cameraman is an autobiography crammed with technical knowledge and observations about film, is a cinematographer who writes about his craft. His beliefs have led him to work primarily on quality intellectual films and adaptations, rather than on Hollywood blockbuster spectacles.

—Liam O'Leary, updated by Thomas L. Erskine



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