Douglas Slocombe: Master Cinematographer

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Douglas Slocombe’s long and fruitful career can be divided into four stages.

Stage 1: The Master of Ealing

Dead of Night.

He was the cinematographer at Ealing Studios, where he worked with all five great Ealing directors on several classic movies and most of the Ealing comedies. One of his first was the still very frightening anthology horror “Dead of Night” (1945) and its climactic Alberto Cavalcanti-directed “Ventriloquist Dummy.”

The Lavender Hill Mob

Charles Crichton’s “Hue and Cry,” “The Titfield Thunderbolt,” and Ealing’s most successful film and only Oscar winner, “The Lavender Hill Mob” (for T. E. B. Clarke’s Original Screenplay).

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Robert Hamer’s most excellent film, “KH&C,” is Slocombe’s masterpiece from the Ealing era.

The Man in the White Suit

He also shot Alexander Mackendrick’s “The Man in the White Suit” and “Mandy” and Basil Dearden’s “The Captive Heart” and “Saraband for Dead Lovers.”

The L-Shaped Room: Douglas Slocombe

Stage 2: The Great British Cinematographer of the Sixties.

His stunning black and white cinematography on Bryan Forbes’ kitchen sink drama “The L-Shaped Room” with Leslie Caron and Joseph Losey’s “The Servant” with Dirk Bogart and James Fox, both from 1963, mark one of the high points of British cinema.

The Great Gatsby: Douglas Slocombe

Stage 3: Cinematographer on the world stage.

He moved to the world stage after his first Oscar nomination at sixty for George Cukor’s “Travels with My Aunt” in 1972. During this period, his color cinematography on Jack Clayton’s underrated 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby” and Fred Zinnemann’s Julia” (second Oscar nomination) are justly praised. Although the latter, which we now know was fabricated by its author, Lillian Hellman, has fallen out of favor, there is no denying the power of Slocombe’s autumnal and wintry mise-en-scene.

RAIDERS of the Lost Arc: Douglas Slocombe

Stage 4: Indiana Jones

Finally, the Indiana Jones movies 1981, 1984, and 1989. His work on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (third Oscar nomination), Spielberg’s most fantastic film, is excellent and alone, and it would grant him a place in the hall of cinema’s great cinematographers.


FilmDirectorAwards for Douglas Slocombe and other notable facts.Studio
1945ADead of Night* **Charles Crichton Alberto Cavalcanti Basil Dearden and Robert HamerEaling Studios
1946C+The Captive HeartBasil DeardenEaling Studios
1947BHue and CryCharles CrichtonEaling Studios
1948C+Saraband for Dead LoversBasil DeardenThe first Ealing film to be shot in color.Ealing Studios
1949A+Kind Hearts and Coronets*Robert HamerEaling Studios
1951AThe Man in the White Suit*Alexander MackendrickEaling Studios
1952AThe Lavender Hill Mob*Charles CrichtonEaling Studios
1952BMandyAlexander MackendrickEaling Studios
1953B+The Titfied ThunderboltCharles CrichtonEaling Studios
1961C+The Young OnesSidney J.FurieParamount Pictures
1962B-Freud*John HustonUniversal-International
1963A-The L-Shaped Room*Bryan ForbesBritish Lion Films
1963AThe Servant*Joseph LoseyBAFTA Win
BSC*** Win
Landau Releasing
1965D+Guns at BatasiJohn GuillerminBAFTA Nominee20th Century Fox
1967C-The Blue MaxJohn GuillerminBAFTA Nominee20th Century Fox
1967CThe Fearless Vampire KillersRoman PolanskiMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1968B-The Lion in WinterAnthony HarveyBAFTA Nominee
BSC Nominee
AVCO Embassy Pictures
1969BThe Italian JobPeter CollinsonParamount Pictures
1970CThe Music LoversKen RussellUnited Artists

Slocombe had shot several scenes in “Close Encounters” uncredited.
Peter YatesParamount Pictures
1972B-Travels with My Aunt George CukorBAFTA Nominee
First Oscar Nomination
1973B-Jesus Christ SuperstarNorman JewisonBAFTA Nominee
Universal Pictures
1974BThe Great Gatsby*Jack ClaytonBAFTA Win
Paramount Pictures
1975CRollerball*Norman JewisonBAFTA NomineeUnited Artists
1975CHeddaTrevor NunnBowden Productions Limited
(Second Oscar Nomination)
Fred ZinnemannBAFTA Win
Second Oscar nomination
LAFCA Win****
20th Century Fox
1977BClose Encounters of the Third KindSteven SpielbergSlocombe had shot several scenes for “Close Encounters” uncredited.Columbia Pictures
1981A+Raiders of the Lost Ark* Steven SpielbergBAFTA Nominee
Third Oscar Nomination
Paramount Pictures
1984C+Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomSteven SpielbergBAFTA Nominee
BSC Nominee
Paramount Pictures
1989B-Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeSteven SpielbergParamount Pictures

*Slocombe’s cinematography was singled out for special praise.

**An anthology horror film composed of individual segments: The Hearse Driver” (Dearden), “The Christmas Party” (Cavalcanti), “The Haunted Mirror” (Hamer), “The Golfer’s Story” (Crichton), and the “Ventriloquist’s Dummy” (Cavalcanti). Dearden also directed the overarching story at the farmhouse.

***British Society of Cinematographers.

**** Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

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