Oswald Morris, award-winning British cinematographer, dies at 98

Posted March 19, 2014, at 6:44 p.m.

Oswald Morris, a renowned British cinematographer who won an Academy Award for the 1971 musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and who was known for his innovative color work on films such as “Moulin Rouge,” has died. He was 98.

Morris died Monday at his home in Fontmell Magna, a village in Dorset, England, according to the British Society of Cinematographers. No cause was given.

In a 50-year career that began as a clapper boy at Wembley Studios as a teenager in the 1930s, Morris worked his way up to cinematographer in 1949 on director Ronald Neame’s “Golden Salamander.”

Known as Ossie, he was the director of photography on 58 movies with directors including John Huston, Sidney Lumet, Stanley Kubrick, Carol Reed, Tony Richardson, Jack Clayton, J. Lee Thompson, Franco Zeffirelli and Herbert Ross.

Among his films: “The Key,” “Look Back in Anger,” “The Guns of Navarone,” “Lolita,” “The Hill,” “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Scrooge,” “Sleuth,” “Equus,” “The Wiz,” “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Dark Crystal.”

Morris also was director of photography on eight films with Huston, including “Moulin Rouge,” “Beat the Devil,” “Moby Dick,” “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” and “The Man Who Would Be King.”

In addition to winning an Oscar for his work on director Norman Jewison’s “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1972, Morris received Oscar nominations in 1969 for Reed’s “Oliver!” and in 1979 for Lumet’s “The Wiz.”

He also won three best cinematography awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for “The Pumpkin Eater,” “The Hill” and “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.”

Morris once described his Oscar-winning work on “Fiddler on the Roof” — he shot it through a silk stocking over the lens to create the sepia effect he wanted — as “a cameraman’s dream because it had everything a cameraman could wish for.”

Morris titled his 2006 autobiography “Huston, We Have a Problem,” a playful reference to his work with Huston.

“It’s true,” Morris told Britain’s Daily Express in 2006. “I did used to go up and say, ‘John, we have a problem,’ and he would always say: ‘Well, kid,’ — he always called me kid — ‘what are you going to do about it?’ and I’d go and find a solution. We always came up with something in the end.”

Morris was born Nov. 22, 1915, in Ruislip, a village outside London. Fascinated with movies and photography as a teenager, he landed an unpaid apprenticeship at Wembley Studios in 1932 when he was 16. He moved up from clapper boy to camera assistant two years later.

Morris resumed his career after serving as a Royal Air Force bomber pilot during World War II and was camera operator on films such as David Lean’s 1948 production of “Oliver Twist.”

In 1998, he was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire for “services to cinematography and the film industry.”

His brother, Reginald H. Morris, also became a cinematographer.

Morris’ first wife, Connie, died in 1963; his second wife, Lee, died in 2003.

He is survived by his children from his first marriage, daughters Christine and Gillian and son Roger.

 

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