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Ballard, Lucien


Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: Miami, Oklahoma, 6 May 1908. Education: Attended the University of Oklahoma, Norman, and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Family: Married 2) the actress Merle Oberon, 1945 (divorced 1949), 3) Inez (died 1982). Career: 1929–35—general assistant, then assistant cameraman, Paramount; worked with von Sternberg; 1935—cinematographer for Columbia (first film as cinematographer, Crime and Punishment), then for RKO, 1939–41, and 20th Century-Fox, 1941–46 and 1951–55; 1945–49—made several films with his wife, Merle Oberon. Died: From injuries sustained in a cycling accident, in California, 1 October 1988.

Films as Cinematographer:


Crime and Punishment (von Sternberg)


The King Steps Out (von Sternberg); Craig's Wife (Arzner)


The Devil's Playground (Kenton); I Promise to Pay (Lederman); Racketeers in Exile (Kenton); Venus Makes Trouble (Wiles); Girls Can Play (Hillyer); The Shadow (The Circus Shadow) (Coleman); Life Begins with Love (Ray McCarey); Squadron of Honor (Coleman); From Bad to Worse (Lord—short)


Penitentiary (Brahm); The Lone Wolf in Paris (Rogell); Highway Patrol (Coleman); Flight to Fame (Coleman); Rio Grande (Nelson); Home on the Range (Lord—short); Violent Is the Word for Curly (Chase—short); Three Little Sew and Sews (Lord—short)


A Star Is Shorn (Lord—short); Let Us Live (Brahm); Blind Alley (C. Vidor); Coast Guard (Ludwig); The Thundering West (Nelson); Texas Stampede (Nelson)


The Villain Still Pursued Her (She Done Him Wrong) (Cline)


Wild Geese Calling (Brahm)


Whispering Ghosts (Werker); Orchestra Wives (Mayo); The Undying Monster (The Hammond Mystery) (Brahm)


Tonight We Raid Calais (Brahm); Bomber's Moon (Fuhr); Holy Matrimony (Stahl)


The Lodger (Brahm); Sweet and Lowdown (Mayo)


This Love of Ours (Dieterle)


Temptation (Pichel)


Night Song (Cromwell)


Berlin Express (Tourneur)


Let's Make It Legal (Sale); The House on Telegraph Hill (Wise); Fixed Bayonets! (Fuller)


Return of the Texan (Daves); Diplomatic Courier (Hathaway); Don't Bother to Knock (Baker); "The Clarion Call" ep. of O. Henry's Full House (Full House) (Hathaway); Night without Sleep (Baker)


New Faces (Horner); Prince Valiant (Hathaway); The Raid (Fregonese)


White Feather (Webb); The Magnificent Matador (The Brave and the Beautiful) (Boetticher); Seven Cities of Gold (Webb)


The Killer Is Loose (Boetticher); The Killing (Kubrick); The Proud Ones (Webb); A Kiss before Dying (Oswald); The King and Four Queens (Walsh)


Band of Angels (Walsh); The Unholy Wife (Farrow)


I Married a Woman (Kanter); Buchanan Rides Alone (Boetticher); Anna Lucasta (Laven); Murder by Contract (Lerner); City of Fear (Lerner)


Al Capone (Wilson); The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (Boetticher)


The Bramble Bush (Petrie); Pay or Die (Wilson); Desire in the Dust (Claxton)


The Parent Trap (Swift); Marines, Let's Go (Walsh); Susan Slade (Daves)


Ride the High Country (Guns in the Afternoon) (Peckinpah); Six-Gun Law (Nyby)


Wives and Lovers (Rich); The Caretakers (Borderlines) (Bartlett); Wall of Noise (Wilson); Take Her, She's Mine (Koster)


The New Interns (Rich); Roustabout (Rich)


Dear Brigitte (Koster); The Sons of Katie Elder (Hathaway); Boeing Boeing (Rich)


Nevada Smith (Hathaway); An Eye for an Eye (Moore)


Hour of the Gun (Sturges); Will Penny (Gries)


The Party (Edwards); How Sweet It Is! (Paris); Arruza (Boetticher) (co)


A Time for Dying (Boetticher); The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah); True Grit (Hathaway)


The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Peckinpah); The Hawaiians (Master of the Islands) (Gries); Elvis—That's the Way It Is (Sanders)


What's the Matter with Helen? (Harrington)


Junior Bonner (Peckinpah); The Getaway (Peckinpah)


Thomasine and Bushrod (Parks)


Breakout (Gries)


Breakheart Pass (Gries); St. Ives (Thompson); From Noon till Three (Gilroy); Drum (Carver); Mikey and Nicky (May) (co)


Rabbit Test (Rivers)

Films as 2nd Cameraman:


Morocco (von Sternberg)


The Devil Is a Woman (von Sternberg)


By BALLARD: article—

In The Art of the Cinematographer, by Leonard Maltin, New York, 1978.

On BALLARD: articles—

Lightman, Herb A., on The House on Telegraph Hill in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1951.

Harrington, Clifford, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1961.

Scott, Darrin, on Ride the High Country in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1962.

Cinema (Beverly Hills), Fall 1969.

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

Focus on Film (London). no. 13, 1973.

McGilligan, P., in Take One (Montreal), no. 2, 1978.

Focus on Film (London), January-February 1979.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 5 October 1988.

* * *

Lucien Ballard has to be ranked among the greatest of Hollywood cinematographers based on a distinguished career which stretched from the early days of talkies into the blockbuster era of the 1970s. During more than four decades he worked on an extraordinary number of visually interesting films, in particular Buchanan Rides Alone, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, and Ride the High Country. His creative output seems to divide into five periods.

He began his career at Paramount as editor and assistant to the great cameraman Lee Garmes on Josef von Sternberg's Morocco, starring Marlene Dietrich. Taken under von Sternberg's wing as a protégé, Ballard worked on The Devil Is a Woman and Crime and Punishment. It is hard to think of a more inspirational training ground for exploring the possibilities of light and shadow in the cinema than to have worked with Josef von Sternberg in the 1930s.

Ballard then entered the next phase of his training when he struggled to make all forms of genre films a bit distinguished. The late 1930s saw his credits accumulate, even through work on many a tworeeler including the comedies of The Three Stooges, and Charlie Chase. His principal employer, the Columbia Pictures studio, may have been on "Poverty Row," but it afforded Ballard the perfect place to learn to shoot Hollywood films quickly and efficiently.

World War II, with many talented cameramen off working for the military, provided Lucien Ballard with his chance to move up to top Hollywood productions. He jumped from Columbia, the home of the "B" movie to Twentieth Century-Fox, a top studio. In the mid-1940s he became a bit of a celebrity as the husband of Merle Oberon and the cameraman who struggled with Howard Hughes to create the idiosyncratic Western, The Outlaw.

But then his career stuck and he returned to shooting lower-budget fare. He achieved a measure of excellence with The Killer Is Loose and Buchanan Rides Alone for Budd Boetticher, and The Killing for Stanley Kubrick. In 1962 his career took a turn for the better and he began to achieve fame as an exceptional cameraman with work for director Sam Peckinpah. Their Ride the High Country stands as one of the most beautiful of Westerns; The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, and Junior Bonner brought Ballard and Peckinpah much due recognition and acclaim. This final phase of Ballard's career was underlined with greatness for the clean, elegant visual style he brought to the Western just, ironically, as that form was passing from the movie screen.

—Douglas Gomery

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