Krasker, Robert

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Cinematographer. Nationality: Australian. Born: Perth, Western Australia, 12 August 1913. Education: Attended Photohandler Schule, Dresden, and art school, Paris. Career: Assistant at Paramount Studios, Paris; 1932—assistant to Georges Périnal at London Films, England; 1943—first film as cinematographer, The Lamp Still Burns. Award: Academy Award for The Third Man, 1950. Died: 16 August 1981.

Films as Cameraman:


Catherine the Great (The Rise of Catherine the Great) (Czinner); The Private Life of Don Juan (A. Korda)


Things to Come (Menzies)


Forget-Me-Not (Forever Yours) (Z. Korda); Rembrandt (A. Korda); Men Are Not Gods (Reisch); The Man Who Could Work Miracles (Mendes)


I, Claudius (von Sternberg—unfinished); The Squeaker (Murder on Diamond Row) (Howard)


The Drum (Drums) (Z. Korda); The Challenge (Rosmer)


The Four Feathers (Z. Korda)


The Thief of Bagdad (Berger, Powell, and Whelan)


Dangerous Moonlight (Suicide Squadron) (Hurst)


Rose of Tralee (Burger); One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (Powell and Pressburger)

Films as Cinematographer:


The Lamp Still Burns (Elvey); The Gentle Sex (Howard); The Saint Meets the Tiger (Stein)


Henry V (Olivier)


Brief Encounter (Lean); Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal) (co)


Odd Man Out (Reed); Uncle Silas (The Inheritance) (Frank)


Bonnie Prince Charlie (Kimmins)


The Third Man (Reed); The Angel with the Trumpet (Bushell)


State Secret (The Great Manhunt) (Gilliat); The Wonder Kid(Hartl) (co)


Cry, the Beloved Country (African Fury) (Z. Korda); Another Man's Poison (Rapper)


Never Let Me Go (Daves); Malta Story (Hurst)


Romeo and Juliet (Castellani); Senso (The Wanton Countess)(Visconti)


That Lady (Young); Alexander the Great (Rossen)


Trapeze (Reed); The Rising of the Moon (Ford)


The Story of Esther Costello (Miller)


The Quiet American (Mankiewicz); Behind the Mask (Hurst); The Doctor's Dilemma (Asquith)


Libel (Asquith)


The Criminal (The Concrete Jungle) (Losey); Romanoff and Juliet (Ustinov)


El Cid (A. Mann)


Guns of Darkness (Asquith); Billy Budd (Ustinov)


The Running Man (Reed)


The Fall of the Roman Empire (A. Mann)


The Collector (Wyler) (co)


The Trap (Hayers)


Red (Frank—short)


Cry Wolf (Burzynski—short)


On KRASKER: articles—

Lightman, Fred A., on El Cid in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), January 1962.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), December 1972.

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

Obituary in Films & Filming, November 1981.

Filme (Berlin), November-December 1981.

The Annual Obituary 1981, New York, 1982.

Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1985.

Murray, S., in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), April 1997.

* * *

Robert Krasker began his film career as a cameraman by serving an "apprenticeship" with Georges Périnal at London Films, where he worked on several films directed by Zoltan and Alexander Korda. His work on The Drum and The Four Feathers (the location shooting in the Sudan produced footage used in films made 20 years later) gave him the experience he would use in the later epic films El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire, both directed by Mann. Work on the abortive I, Claudius and Rembrandt also stood him in good stead for Olivier's Henry V, which expressionistically merges theatre and film in the opening sequence. Although he lacked experience in Technicolor, Krasker achieved some stunning shots, among them the scene before Agincourt, which critic James Agee described as a "crepuscular shot of the doomed and exhausted English as they withdraw along a sunset stream to encamp for the night." Krasker was equally adept at achieving claustrophobic effects, as in Brief Encounter and The Criminal, in which he used mirrors to double the size of the set.

Although he worked repeatedly with the same directors, Krasker's most productive collaboration seems to have been with Carol Reed. Robert Moss has written that Krasker was "one of the few men whose patient craftsmanship and innovative ideas matched Reed's." In The Third Man Krasker captured in black-and-white the gloomy, corrupt decadence of postwar Vienna, where everything was for sale. Using oblique camera angles, he suggested a distorted world in which buildings loom over characters who seem isolated and vulnerable within the frame. Using shadows he distorted size, as he did with the balloon man, and juxtaposed appearance and reality. The initial appearance of Harry Lime, his lighted face surrounded ominously by blackness, the maze-like sewer sequence mirroring the above-ground moral ambiguity and "waste," and the shot of Lime's fingers sticking up through the sewer drain—these shots were symbolic as well as representational. Even the concluding long take of Anna walking past the waiting Harry Martin comments not only on her rejection of him, but, in its focus on the seemingly endless and almost empty road, also commented on Martin's empty and isolated life.

Krasker's color cinematography for Mann's El Cid was remarkable not only for its fluid long takes, but also for pushing the barriers of color photography to their limits. He shot at dusk and dawn and achieved remarkable results. The most striking shot was the resplendent white image of the dead Cid whose armored brilliance cinematically transports him from history to legend as he emerges from the gates of the city. Not even Krasker's cinematography could salvage Mann's later epic, The Fall of the Roman Empire, a talky, ponderous film, but the film bears the Krasker signature: fluid camera work, long takes, interesting compositions (the Z-shaped procession which begins and ends the film), and the symbolic shot (the tracking camera moves from behind Aurelius's funeral pyre to the crowd and then to the storm clouds over the mountains, thereby linking cause and effect).

In Wyler's The Collector and Visconti's Senso, Krasker shared the credit but in each case the results were excellent. Visconti actually worked with three photographers, each of which had his own tonality, though all three were related to the styles of 19th-century painting. The film, which blends art, (in this case opera), with life, has been cited for Krasker's tour de force opening sequence, which featured diffuse lighting. In The Collector Krasker shot the exterior shots on location, while Robert Surtees was responsible for the interior studio shooting, but the division of labor produces a visual balance between the exterior greens and blues of freedom and the interior yellows, browns, and oranges associated with captivity. Krasker also shot the stalking sequence in which the victim is caught in the "frame" of her pursuer's rear-view mirror.

In both black-and-white and in color films Krasker was a daring innovator, a master of different cinematic styles, and an expert at lighting. Using the camera, he not only rendered reality, but interpreted it for the audience.

—Thomas L. Erskine