Biography

A movie child star at age four, Briton Jack Cardiff acted opposite such visiting American talent as Will Rogers, Adolphe Menjou and Dorothy Gish. Outgrowing his cuteness at 14, Cardiff determined to stay in the film business, and to that end secured a lower-rung job as tea boy at Elstree's British International Studios. He was listed as "fourth assistant director" on the 1929 version of The Informer, though his responsibilities were more of the "gopher" variety. Fascinated with the mechanics of cinematography, Cardiff was camera operator on the first Technicolor film ever made in England, Wings of the Morning (1937). He continued turning out first-rate color and black-and-white camerawork for the Rank Organisation into the 1940s; his finest work in the three-strip Technicolor process can be seen in the indescribably gorgeous Powell/Pressburger productions Black Narcissus (1948) and The Red Shoes (1948). After serving as director of photography for such well-received 1950s films as John Huston's The African Queen (1951) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz' The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Cardiff felt himself sufficiently experienced to begin a directing career. Beginning modestly with Intent to Kill (1958), Cardiff directed such laudable efforts as Sons and Lovers (1960), The Lion (1963) and Dark of the Sun (1968); he also had the dubious honor of filming the first (and last) "Smell-o-vision" epic, Scent of Mystery. At age 55, Cardiff retired to Switzerland, but was coerced back to filmmaking by Kirk Douglas to direct Douglas' Scalawag (1972). Jack Cardiff retired for keeps after 1976's Ride a Wild Pony. He died in 2009 at the age of 94. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi