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Lucien Ballard Biography

  • Profession: Cinematographer
  • Born: May 6, 1908
  • Died: Oct 1, 1988

American cinematographer Lucien Ballard led a hectic existence in his early years; he briefly attended the University of Oklahoma and the University of Pennsylvania, then headed to China in search of newer adventures. Back in the States, Ballard went to work in the lumber business, sawing trees and surveying land. In 1928 he headed to Hollywood to visit a girl friend, who happened to be a script clerk at Paramount. He secured work as an assistant cameraman, then graduated to the exotic, high-priced films of director Josef von Sternberg, who promoted Ballard to camera operator. After a falling out with von Sternberg, Ballard worked steadily at Columbia Pictures, where he toiled as director of photography on the studio's B pictures and two-reel comedies. Ballard's assignments improved at 20th Century-Fox in the 1940s, where he photographed such quality productions as The Lodger and Bomber's Moon; during this period, he also handled second-unit photography on Howard Hughes' notorious The Outlaw.A master of stylized studio photography, Ballard expanded his range with his evocative semi-documentary footage in RKO's Berlin Express. During the 1950s, Ballard came to specialize in Technicolor westerns and outdoor adventure, though occasionally he'd return to his black-and-white roots with such films as Kubrick's The Killing (1955). In Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), Ballard deliberately attempted to shoot the film in a grainy, old-fashioned style, to fully convey the gritty feel of the Prohibition Era. Ballard became a favorite of cultists for his brilliant work on Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969) and The Getaway (1972) -- work which astonishingly failed to win Ballard the Academy Award that had eluded him all of his professional life. Like many cinematographers before him, Ballard ended up marrying one of the actresses he'd photographed: from 1944 through 1949, he was the husband of Merle Oberon. At age 80, Lucien Ballard was killed in an auto accident near his home in Rancho Mirage, California. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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