Magazine article American Cinematographer

In Memoriam

Magazine article American Cinematographer

In Memoriam

Article excerpt

Lucien Ballard, ASC, who was director of photography of more than 100 films over a period of four decades, died October 1 of injuries received in a traffic accident near his home in Indian Wells, California. Ballard achieved fame through an artistic versatility that encompassed the European-styled romances directed by Josef von Sternberg, the shadowy psychological dramas of John Brahm, the violent beauty of the Sam Peckinpah-Budd Boetticher-Henry Hathaway Westerns, and even the roughhouse antics of the Three Stooges.

Ballard had been riding his bicycle when he collided with a tractor and died two days later at Eisenhower Medical Center in nearby Rancho Mirage. A widower, he was 84 and is survived by two sons, Tony and Chris, two brothers and a grandchild.

Born in Welch, Oklahoma, on May 6, 1904, Ballard, part Cherokee Indian, had well-sculptured features that prompted several directors to suggest that he become an actor. After moving to California he planned a career in the lumber business, but when he dated a script girl from Paramount Studios who took him to one of Clara Bow's three-day parties, he decided the movies were his cup of tea. He found a job as a film cutter at Paramount, which led in turn to his becoming an assistant cameraman. In 1930 he seconded Lee Garmes, ASC, on Morocco, with Gary Cooper, Adolph Menjou and the recently arrived German actress, Marlene Dietrich. The director was Josef von Sternberg, himself a talented cinematographer, who liked Ballard's style. Five years later, Sternberg hired Ballard-who was still an operative cameraman-to photograph the artistic but controversial The Devil Is a Woman, with the director himself as nominal director of photography.

The picture caused an international incident with Spain, which demanded that Paramount destroy the negative and cease distribution. As a result, von Sternberg soon was looking for another studio. The eccentric director then joined Columbia to direct Crime and Punishment (1935), for which Ballard was named director of photography. The picture, featuring Peter Lorre and Edward Arnold, was visually magnificent, but a financial catastrophe. Von Sternberg and Ballard teamed again for The King Steps Out and Ballard photographed two other high budget pictures, Craig's Wife (1936) and The Devil's Playground (1937). Then, for several years, he was relegated to the low-budget unit headed by Irving Briskin. There he photographed 14 features. …

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