British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who has over 160 credits to his name, including the original Indiana Jones trilogy, passed away on February 22, 2016 at the age of 103.
Slocombe was born in London in 1913, but he was raised in France until the age of 20, at which point he decided to return to the United Kingdom. He spent the early days of his career working as a photojournalist for Life magazine and the Paris-Match newspaper. As a young photographer, he captured the events leading up to the outbreak of World War II and then, during the war, he became a newsreel cameraman. The war footage that he shot would later feature in a series of documentaries by Alberto Cavalcanti and Ealing Studios.
Slocombe worked with Ealing on a number of pictures – including madcap comedies such as Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit – and became well known for his unique but realistic vision. However, as his profile started to grow, he ventured outside of the studio to offer his services as a freelancer. Shortly after, he signed on for a number of CinemaScope releases, such as A High Wind In Jamaica and Guns at Batasi.
During the ’60s and ’70s Slocombe worked on some bigger budget films, most notably The Italian Job, The Lion in Winter, and the original Rollerball. He later went on to experience even greater success, receiving Oscar nominations for Travels With My Aunt, Julia and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was famed within the industry for never using a light meter on the set of Raiders, which further highlights his vast knowledge and unparalleled skill.
Furthermore, Slocombe was nominated 11 times at the BAFTAs, taking home the Best Cinematography trophy on three occasions for The Servant, The Great Gatsby, and the aforementioned Julia.
Out of his impressive library of work, Slocombe will be fondly remembered for his collaborations with director Steven Spielberg. He was first enlisted by Spielberg to shoot certain scenes for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and he clearly impressed the famed director behind the camera, as he later filled the position of Director of Photography on the Indiana Jones trilogy. His last film was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. Six years later he won the British Society of Cinematographers’ lifetime achievement award.
Slocombe’s final reel might have been filled but his life’s work will be played out on our screens for many years to come.
R.I.P. Douglas Slocombe: February 10th, 1913 – February 22nd, 2016