In Memoriam: Richard A. Kelley

American Cinematographer, January 1996 | Go to article overview

In Memoriam: Richard A. Kelley


Richard A. Kelley, ASC, a distinguished cinematographer whose career in motion pictures spanned a half-century, died from complications of a stroke on November 2 at his home in Burbank, California.

Born in Aberdeen, Washington on October 6, 1914, Kelley arrived in Los Angeles with his family when he was six. After graduating from Hollywood High School he worked at various jobs until 1942, then joined the Coast Guard following the outbreak of World War II. Attached to the Marine Corps, he saw three years of combat duty in the AsiaPacific area as a line officer in charge of a landing barge unit. "I made the first invasion in the Pacific, at Makin Island," he recalled. This was the hard-won battle portrayed in the 1944 movie Gung Ho! Before the war was over, Kelley took the Marines on 14 invasions.

Kelley said that "the start of my film career began in the camera department of the Technicolor Motion Picture Company in 1945. My tenure with Technicolor was eight years. I figured it was time to move on then. I got a job as an assistant cameraman at Paramount in 1952, and that got me going in the feature film business."

He worked on many Paramount pictures during the next 31/2 years, including the Western classic Shane, which won an Oscar for his boss, Loyal Griggs, ASC. He also returned to the South Pacific with Twentieth Century-Fox's Bird of Paradise company. In 1956 he joined the Disney studio in Burbank, where he was employed for eight years. "It was a real pleasure working there," according to Kelley. "Walt was such a meticulous man, and his research department always spelled out every detail."Among his Disney features and TV series were Davy Crockett, Zorro, Tonka, Darby O 'Gill and the Little People, Johnny Tremaine, and The Great Locomotive Chase. He also worked on a number of pioneering one-hour TV series at Warner Bros., including Cheyenne, Bronco, Hawaiian Eye, ana 77 Sunset Strip.

Between 1965 and 1967 Kelley flew more than 150,000 miles photographing the Shell's Wonderful World of Golf series each February, March and April. During the rest of that time he was a director of photography on features and television, including two features for Universal, Tammy and Laredo. A rigorous TV regimen began at Twentieth CenturyFox in 1966 with 68 episodes of Felony Squad (starring Howard Duff and Ben Alexander), followed by The Green Hornef(featuring Bruce Lee), 28 segments of The Ghost and Mrs. …

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