R.I.P. Gordon Willis (1931-2014)

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Gordon-WillisSad news to report as one of my all time favorite cinematographers (as well as one of the best ever, period) has passed away. Gordon Willis died over the weekend at the age of 82. A look at his resume as a DP reveals his involvement in classic after classic…All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, Manhattan, and more. He was a longtime collaborator with Woody Allen, also working on Broadway Danny Rose, Interiors, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Zelig (one of his most underrated efforts) to name just a few. He’s a legend, plain and simple folks. You can read a bit more about him below, but there’s no way around it…he will be missed. The look of cinema in the 1970’s is in a large way thanks to him. He may not have won an Oscar (besides an honorary one), but he’s one of the best, any which way that you slice it.

Here’s the obituary from Variety:

Influential cinematographer Gordon Willis, whose photography for “The Godfather” series and Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” helped define the look of 1970s cinema, has died, according to his close associate Doug Hart’s Facebook page. He was 82.

Willis was known as the Prince of Darkness for his artful use of shadows, and he was the director of photography on seminal 1970s films including “Klute,” “The Paper Chase,” “The Parallax View” and “All the President’s Men.”

He received an honorary Academy award in 2009 at the first Governor’s Awards ceremony.

Among the other Woody Allen films he shot were “Interiors,” “Stardust Memories,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Zelig,” for which he was Oscar-nommed. His other Oscar nomination was for “The Godfather III.”

Regarding his work on “The Godfather,” Variety wrote in 1997, “Among “The Godfather’s” many astonishments, the photography by Gordon Willis — a rich play with light and shadow — confirmed Willis’ genius but was especially striking as an extension of Francis Ford Coppola’s creative intelligence. “

Born in New York City, his father worked as a make-up artist at Warner Brothers, and though Willis was originally interested in lighting and stage design, he later turned to photography. While serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he worked in the motion picture unit and then worked in advertising and documentaries. His first feature was “End of the Road” in 1970, and his last, Alan Pakula’s “The Devil’s Own” in 1997.

Rest in peace