GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#1: 1963

#2: [Right] with Alfred Hitchcock and James Stewart - "Rear Window" [1953]

 

   


ROBERT BURKS

 

Born: 4 July 1909, Chino, Calif., USA, as Leslie Robert Burks.

Died: 12 May 1968, Huntington Harbour, Calif., USA. [Burks and his wife died in a house fire.]

Career: Was a member of the ASC.

Awards: 'Oscar' AA nom [1951; b&w] for 'Strangers on a Train'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1954; color] for 'Rear Window'; 'Oscar' AA [1955; color] for 'To Catch a Thief'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1965; b&w] for 'A Patch of Blue'.



Robert Burks was King Chameleon, both in his skill in adopting the type of camerawork or visual styling which exactly suited each film, and in the way his own work could vary in merit depending upon the inspiration (or lack of it) of the director. Thus, he produced, for a constantly on-form Hitchcock, a string of superbly lensed movies which ranged from the entirely convincing, impersonalized, documentary look of 'The Wrong Man', to the spectacular colorful location work of 'North by Northwest' and 'Vertigo', to the claustrophobic, single set restrictions of 'Rear Window'. Compared to the Hitch films, Burks' relatively uninspired work on 'The Great Imposter' and 'The Music Man' (cheerful and well lit, but characterless) or 'A Covenant with Death' (downright gaudy and unattractive), reflects the lack of imagination displayed by the directors concerned. [David Badder in 'Film Dope', #5, July 1974.]

 

#1: With Alfred Hitchcock [right] - "The Men Who Knew Too Much" [1955]

#2: With Alfred Hitchcock [left] - "Marnie" [1963]

 

Robert Burks was perhaps Alfred Hitchcock's most important collaborator on the director's films of the fifties and early sixties. To be sure, of the crucial collaborators from this period, such as the film editor George Tomasini and the composer Bernard Herrmann, Burks worked with Hitchcock most consistently. He photographed Hitchcock's films from 'Strangers On A Train' [1950] to 'Marnie' [1963], with the crucial exception of 'Psycho' [1959], for which Hitchcock attempted to achieve a different visual texture by using his television crew. These are the films on which Burks's reputation as a cinematographer largely rests, and what is immediately striking about them is their visual range. Indeed, throughout the fifties, Hitchcock made two distinct types of films. For Paramount, he made big-budget films in color with established stars and crowd-pleasing suspense tactics. For the more adventurous Warner Bros. studio, he made films with lower budgets, usually in black-and-white featuring lesser-known actors, and exploring forms of irony and pessimism that became the dominant tones of Hitchcock's late work. Amazingly, Burks was capable of shooting both the bleakly neo-realist 'The Wrong Man' [1956] and the jubilantly colorful 'To Catch a Thief' [1954]; both the delicately shaded 'Strangers On A Train' and the deliriously deep-toned 'Vertigo' [1957].

If this set of films illustrates Burks's range, it is perhaps in the later films that Burks's experiments with color are most audacious. It may well be, of course, that Hitchcock was a decisive influence on these experiments. Certainly nothing in the bland colors Burks provided for Morton DaCosta's overblown 'The Music Man' prepares one for the extraordinary palette of 'Marnie' with its feverish color contrasts, its nauseous yellows and bile-greens set against burnished or full-hued auburns and blues. The film was much criticized at the time of its release for its presumed visual clumsiness. Now, however, it seems very much a precursor of sixties art-cinema, especially of such a film as Antonioni's 'Red Desert'. Moreover, the film's visual distinction lies not only in its play with color but in Burks's manipulation of telephoto and wide-angle lenses, particularly in the climactic flashback scene. Thus 'Marnie', Burks's last film with Hitchcock, emerges as in many ways his most extraordinary achievement. [From article by James Morrison.]


 

 FILMS

1943

Jammin' the Blues [Gjon Mili] 16mm/b&w; mus short/10m

1943

Make Your Own Bed [Peter Godfrey] b&w

1944

Escape in the Desert [Edward Blatt] b&w; sfx ph: Willard Van Enger

1945

Star in the Night [Don Siegel] b&w; short/22m; as L. Robert Burks

1945

Hitler Lives! [Don Siegel] b&w; short/20m; newsreels + seq with actors

1945

The Verdict [Don Siegel] b&w; uncred fill-in ph (+ spec pfx); ph: Ernest Haller

1947

To the Victor [Delmer Daves] b&w; spec pfx: Marcel Grignon

 

[Right] with dir Delmer Daves and actress Jane Wyman

"A Kiss in the Dark"

 

1948

A Kiss in the Dark [Delmer Daves] b&w

1948

The Fountainhead [King Vidor] b&w; spec pfx: Edwin DuPar, H.F. Koenekamp & (dir) William McGann

1948

Task Force [Delmer Daves] b&w-c; cph: Wilfred M. Cline

1949

Beyond the Forest [King Vidor] b&w

1949

The Glass Menagerie [Irving Rapper] b&w

1950

The Enforcer/Murder Inc. [Bretaigne Windust & (uncred) Raoul Walsh] b&w

 

 

1950

Strangers On A Train [Alfred Hitchcock] b&w; spec pfx: H.F. Koenekamp; British version has variations in some scenes

1951

Tomorrow Is Another Day [Felix Feist] b&w

1951

Close to My Heart [William Keighley] b&w

1951

Come Fill the Cup [Gordon Douglas] b&w

1951

Room for One More/The Easy Way [Norman Taurog] b&w

1951

Mara Maru [Gordon Douglas] b&w; Bert Glennon was scheduled as ph or uncred cph (?); spec pfx: H.F. Koenekamp

1952

The Desert Song [H. Bruce Humberstone] c

1952

I Confess [Alfred Hitchcock] b&w

1952

So This Is Love/The Grace Moore Story [Gordon Douglas] c

1953

House of Wax [André De Toth] c; uncred fill-in ph (for B. Glennon, who fell ill); ph: Bert Glennon & J. Peverell Marley; filmed in Natural Vision (3-D)

1953

The Boy from Oklahoma [Michael Curtiz] c

1953

Hondo [John Farrow & (2u battle scenes) John Ford] c; cph: Archie Stout; filmed in 3-D and released in 3-D (for one week) and a flat version

1953

Dial M for Murder [Alfred Hitchcock] c; filmed in 3-D, but released in a flat version

 

Grace Kelly - Wendell Corey - James Stewart - RB [striped shirt] - Alfred Hitchcock [right] - "Rear Window"

 

1953

Rear Window [Alfred Hitchcock] c; spec vfx; Irmin Roberts; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; 'Shooting 'Rear Window' necessitated the design and construction of a gigantic, composite set. The set was designed by art director Joseph MacMillan Johnson and built on one of Paramount's largest sound stages, Stage 18. The set was very realistic and comprised some 31 apartments, 12 of which were completely furnished. The rigging and illumination of this complex set was an enormous challenge. The decision was made to pre-light the entire set. Robert Burks: 'I went on the sound stage about 10 days prior to the starting date. Using a skeleton crew, we pre-lit every one of the 31 apartments for both day and night, as well as lighting the exterior of the courtyard for the dual-type illumination required. A remote switch controlled the lights in each apartment. On the stage, we had a switching set-up that looked like the console of the biggest organ ever made!' Following the pre-lighting phase, a large chart was prepared which detailed the set-lighting plan and indicated which switches needed to be activated for a given lighting scheme. [From article by David Atkinson in 'American Cinematographer', January 1990.]; filmed 1953-54

 

[Left] with dir Alfred Hitchcock - "To Catch a Thief"

 

1954

To Catch a Thief [Alfred Hitchcock] vv/c; 2uc: W. Wallace Kelley; process ph: Farciot Edouart; spec pfx: John P. Fulton

1954

The Trouble with Harry [Alfred Hitchcock] vv/c; spec pfx: John P. Fulton

1955

The Vagabond King [Michael Curtiz] vv/c

1955

The Man Who Knew Too Much [Alfred Hitchcock] vv/c; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1955

The Spirit of St. Louis [Billy Wilder] cs/c; cph: J. Peverell Marley; aph: Thomas Tutwiler; spec pfx: H.F. Koenekamp & Louis Lichtenfield

1956

The Wrong Man [Alfred Hitchcock] b&w; addph: Frank J. Calabria

 

 

1957

Vertigo [Alfred Hitchcock] vv (+ 70bu - 1996 restoration)/c; uncred 2uc: Loyal Griggs & Irmin Roberts; process ph: Farciot Edouart & W. Wallace Kelley; spec pfx; John P. Fulton

1958

The Black Orchid [Martin Ritt] vv/b&w; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; process ph: Farciot Edouart

 

[Right] with dir Alfred Hitchcock - "North by Northwest"

 

1958

North by Northwest [Alfred Hitchcock] vv/c; spec pfx: A. Arnold Gillespie & Lee LeBlanc

1959

But Not for Me [Walter Lang] vv/b&w; 2uc: W. Wallace Kelley; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1959

The Rat Race [Robert Mulligan] c; process ph: Farciot Edouart

1960

The Great Impostor [Robert Mulligan] b&w

1961

The Pleasure of His Company [George Seaton] c; spec pfx: John P. Fulton; process ph: Farciot Edouart; title background photographs: Bud Fraker

1961

The Music Man [Morton DaCosta] tr/c

1962

The Birds [Alfred Hitchcock] c; spec ph adv: Ub Iwerks

 

 

1963

Marnie [Alfred Hitchcock] c

1964

Once a Thief [Ralph Nelson] p/b&w

1965

A Patch of Blue [Guy Green] p/b&w

1966

Chubasco [Allen H. Miner] replaced early in prod by ph Louis Jennings & Paul Ivano

1966

A Covenant with Death [Lamont Johnson] c

1967

Waterhole #3/Waterhole Three [William Graham] ts/c; spec pfx: Paul K. Lerpae

 

 FILMS AS SPECIAL [PHOTOGRAPHIC] EFFECTS CAMERAMAN

1936

Marked Woman [Lloyd Bacon & (uncred) Michael Curtiz] co; ph: George Barnes

1939

On Your Toes [Ray Enright] co; ph: James Wong Howe

1939

Saturday's Children [Vincent Sherman] ph: James Wong Howe

1940

A Dispatch from Reuters/This Man Reuter [William Dieterle] co; ph: James Wong Howe

1940

The Great Lie [Edmund Goulding] co; ph: Tony Gaudio

1941

International Squadron [Lothar Mendes & Lewis Seiler] ph: Ted McCord & James Van Trees

1941

Highway West [William McGann] ph: Ted McCord

1941

Kings Row [Sam Wood] ph: James Wong Howe

1941

Dangerously They Live [Robert Florey] ph: L. William O'Connell

1941

In This Our Life [John Huston] co; ph: Ernest Haller

1941

Arsenic and Old Lace [Frank Capra] co; ph: Sol Polito

1943

In Our Time [Vincent Sherman] ph: Carl Guthrie

1943

The Horn Blows at Midnight [Raoul Walsh] co; ph: Sid Hickox

1944

God Is My Co-Pilot [Robert Florey] co; ph: Sid Hickox

1944

Pride of the Marines/Forever in Love [Delmer Daves] co; ph: J. Peverell Marley

1944

The Big Sleep [Howard Hawks] co; ph: Sid Hickox

1945

The Two Mrs. Carrolls [Peter Godfrey] ph: J. Peverell Marley

1945

Confidential Agent [Herman Shumlin] co; ph: James Wong Howe

1945

Night and Day [Michael Curtiz] ph: J. Peverell Marley & William V. Skall

1945

The Verdict [Don Siegel] + uncred cph; ph: Ernest Haller

1946

The Unfaithful [Vincent Sherman] co; ph: Ernest Haller

1946

The Woman in White [Peter Godfrey] ph: Carl Guthrie

1946

Cry Wolf [Peter Godfrey] co; ph: Carl Guthrie

1946

Possessed [Curtis Bernhardt] co; ph: Joseph Valentine & Sid Hickox

1946

My Wild Irish Rose [David Butler] ph: Arthur Edeson & William V. Skall

1947

The Unsuspected [Michael Curtiz] ph: Elwood Bredell

1947

Romance on the High Seas/It's Magic [Michael Curtiz] co; ph: Elwood Bredell

1947

Key Largo [John Huston] co; ph: Karl Freund

1948

Smart Girls Don't Talk [Richard L. Bare] ph: Ted McCord

1948

John Loves Mary [David Butler] co; ph: J. Peverell Marley

1948

The Younger Brothers [Edwin L. Marin] ph: William Snyder

1952

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima/Miracle of Fatima [John Brahm] ph: Edwin B. DuPar

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1932

USC vs. Tulane [?; doc] c.asst; ph: ?

1939

Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet [William Dieterle] spec microscopic efx; ph: James Wong Howe

1940

Brother Orchid [Lloyd Bacon] co-montages (with Don Siegel); ph: Tony Gaudio

1940

They Drive by Night/The Road to Frisco [Raoul Walsh] co-montages (with Don Siegel); ph: Arthur Edeson