Ballard, Lucien

Ballard, Lucien
(May 6, 1904–October 1, 1988)
   By the time he photographed STANLEY KUBRICK’s brilliant FILM NOIR, THE KILLING, Lucien Ballard was already a respected, veteran Hollywood director of photography. Over the course of his 50-year-plus career, Ballard shot more than 100 films, including four films for Josef von Sternberg (two of those starring Marlene Dietrich, with all the actress’s attendant lighting concerns), five pictures with Henry Hathaway, six with Budd Boettinger, and five with Sam Peckinpah (who came to view Stanley Kubrick as his number-one cinematic rival). Other venerated directors with whom Ballard worked included Sam Fuller, Dorothy Arzner, and Rouben Mamoulian. Ballard was best known for the versatility of his cinematographic style. In a New York Times review of Hathaway’s True Grit, Vincent Canby wrote:“Anyone interested in what good cinematography means can compare Ballard’s totally different contributions to The Wild Bunch and True Grit [both 1969]. In The Wild Bunch, the camera work is hard and bleak and largely unsentimental. The images of True Grit are as romantic and autumnal as its landscapes, which, in the course of the story, turn with the season from the colors of autumn to the white of winter. ”
   The movie business originally caught young Lucien Ballard’s fancy when a Paramount script girl he was dating took him to a three-day party thrown by Clara Bow. Ballard enjoyed life in Hollywood, and he married moviestar Merle Oberon in 1945, after her divorce from Alexander Korda. Ballard photographed four of Oberon’s films before their divorce in 1949. For many years, Ballard had worked under contract to Columbia, then Fox, before going freelance in 1956, at which time he was able to take on such projects as The Killing. Ballard’s collaboration with Kubrick yielded its share of disagreements, but despite Ballard’s years of experience and the director’s status as a relative novice, Kubrick held his ground. The first hints of Kubrick’s dissatisfaction came when he sent Ballard and a 10-man crew to get second-unit footage of an actual racetrack for the opening credits sequence. Ballard returned with thousands of feet of exposed film, which Kubrick found to be useless. Later, on the set, Kubrick and Ballard disagreed about camera angles, lenses, dolly moves, and the like. Finally, according to associate producer Alexander Singer, Kubrick calmly threatened to fire Ballard from the production if he didn’t put the camera where Kubrick wanted it, with the lens he wanted. Years later, Ballard told critic Leonard Maltin that the cinematographic style of The Killing was pretty much his own, standard, gritty black-andwhite. He remembered thinking very little of Kubrick as a director at the time, even though Ballard admired Kubrick’s narrative treatment of The Killing.
   Despite his long career and stunning achievements in cinematography, Lucien Ballard never won an Oscar and was nominated only once: for The Caretakers, in 1963. But his importance as an artist of the cinema finds strong testament in the remarks of director Budd Boettinger: “I can put it very simply: My first casting job is to get Ballard. Then I get around to everyone else. ”
   ■ Collins, Glenn, “Lucien Ballard, Cinematographer,” New York Times, October 6, 1988, p. B26;
   ■ “In Memoriam,” American Cinematographer, December 1988, p. 122;
   ■ “Lucien Ballard, Cinematographer,” Cinema (Beverly Hills), vol. 5 no. 4, 1970, p. 47;
   ■ “Lucien Ballard, 84, Made Hollywood Movies 50 Yrs. ,” Newsday, October 6, 1988, p. 45;
   ■ McCarthy, Todd, “Cinematographer Lucien Ballard Dies at 84;
   ■ Had Top Projects,” Variety, October 5, 1988, p. 4;“Obituaries: Lucien Ballard,” The Times (London), October 11, 1988, p. 20.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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