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Ossie Morris, BSC


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#1 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
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Posted 10 July 2006 - 12:07 AM

Just finished reading his autobiography, "Huston, We Have A Problem: A Kaleidescope of Filmmaking Memories". Unfortunately, this title has meant that half the bookstores are filing the book under John Huston's name in the biography section, even at Samuel French.

It's a good companion piece to the Ronald Neame autobiography I read before that, since Neame gave Morris his first big break.

It's a nice book of stories of life on film sets, and his experiences as a RAF bomber pilot during WW2.

Unfortunately, like a lot of cinematographer autobiographies, it only superficially discusses either his artistic views or his camera/lighting techniques, as if book editors out there are telling these guys that nobody wants to read "boring" stuff like that. Or maybe after all this time, they simply aren't interested in talking about it. I remember reading in an old textbook, probably Russell Campbell's "Practical Motion Picture Photography" (a must-read for anyone interested in 1960's/70's British cinematography technique), that Morris used a "hammered piece of glass" or something for the look of "Oliver" or "Taming of the Shrew" but I've never been clear what he was talking about. Filtration is hardly mentioned in his biography other than the use of Fog Filters for "Moulin Rouge" and how controversial it was at the time, at least for the Technicolor folks.

There are so few "definitive" cinematographer biographies / autobiographies that cover both the life and the techniques and artistic philosophy of the cinematographer. Rainsburger's book on James Wong Howe is one; "Man with a Camera" by Almendros is another. Hopefully Pizzello's future book on Gordon Willis will be another.

I got to meet Ossie Morris at the ASC Open House in February 2000 when he was here to get the ASC International Lifetime Achievement Award. He told me how much he admired "Sleepy Hollow" that year (nominated for an Oscar) -- he should have, it borrowed the technique of massive amounts of spacelights that he developed for "Oliver".

Anyway, Morris seemed too young to be retired, I thought. He was healthy, spry, articulate... I didn't realize until now that he was about 85 at the time I was speaking to him. He looked like he was 65 at the most.
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#2 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:13 AM

David,

Keep your eyes peeled for a Criterion release of some of Carol Reeds dvds next year. A Director friend of mine has been comissioned to provide a "Making of" documentary about Reed, and one of the people he interviewed was Ozzie Morris. He had some great storys to tell and was very articulate on screen, hopefully he'll make it to the final cut.
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