Stanislaus Krantz was born on November 4, 1908 in New York City. He was the brother of director, actor Ricardo Cortez. [1900-1977]. He attended New York University and adopted his professional name, Cortez, to capitalize on the fame of his older brother. He first worked as a designer of elegant sets for several portrait photographers' studios, which may well have instilled in him his great talent: a strong feeling for space and an ability to move his camera through that space in such a way as to embody it in film's two-dimensional format. His first job in the film industry was for Pathé News, which later allowed him to give his films a newsreel-like touch when necessary. During the 1920s and the early 1930s, he worked his way up the usual Hollywood cameraman ladder: camera assistant, camera operator, and cinematographer. He managed to work for some of the great Hollywood cameramen, among them Karl Struss, Charles Rosher, and Arthur C. Miller.
Cortez's early films as cinematographer are not of the first rank, but they often had offbeat subjects that allowed him to experiment. In “The Forgotten Woman” (1939) he did an extreme close-up of the actress's eyes to create a sense of seeing into her mind. Then Cortez had his big chance of working with Orson Welles on “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942). Cortez saw the set for the film before being appointed first cameraman. Much of Cortez's work on the film was cut by the studio. During World War II, Cortez served in the United States Army Signal Corps.
In his later years, Cortez showed skill in filming psychological dramas. Charles Laughton gave Cortez another challenge – “The Night of the Hunter”. The extraordinary film demanded trial underwater shots and expressionistically lighted sets, and Cortez managed to endow the camera movements with a musical quality. “In The Three Faces of Eve” (1957), Cortez found his actress: Joanne Woodward would be to him what Greta Garbo was to William H. Daniels and Marlene Dietrich to Lee Garmes. Cortez's subtle modulations of lighting match Woodward's equally subtle changes of expression, and both together create the sense of Eve, a psychologically split personality, becoming someone else. The labyrinthine hallways and rooms of the studio set representing a mental hospital for Samuel Fuller's 1963 Shock Corridor is transformed by Cortez's camera into a symbol of incarceration and insanity. Cortez was the cinematographer on one Euro-western: “Another Man, Another Chance” (1977).
Cortez died in Hollywood, California on December 23, 1997.
Today we remember Stanley Cortez on what would have been his 105th birthday.