Thursday, August 2, 2012

RIP John Harris

John Harris has died at age 87. He had a 53-year career in films, working on movies such as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968), “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974), “Superman” (1978) and “The Running Man” (1987).

He was born in Wimbledon, south-west London, the second son of a solicitor, and educated at King's College school, Wimbledon. From an early age he was fascinated by cameras and he asked for a Zeiss Ikon for his 14th birthday. In 1941, he started work in the camera department at Gainsborough Pictures at "the Bush", their studio in Lime Grove, west London, as a clapper boy and focus puller.

John served in the navy during the second world war, and was an official naval photographer at the Japanese surrender in Hong Kong in 1945. He became a freelance camera operator in 1949 when "the Bush" studio was taken over by the BBC and Gainsborough closed soon afterwards.
Early in his career, he met the cinematographer Bob Krasker and went on to work with him on 20 films over a period of 16 years, including “Another Man's Poison” (1951), “Romeo and Juliet” (1954) and “El Cid” (1961). Harris also worked with such directors of photography as Denys Coop, Chris Challis and Ted Scaife, as well as directors including Carol Reed, Ken Hughes, Guy Hamilton and Richard Donner.

He retired in 1996, having worked on 107 films. In 1976 he was elected an associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers, becoming a full member in 1985. During his retirement, he lived, with his wife Ursula, whom he married in 1954, in West Wittering, West Sussex, where he regularly assisted the local amateur dramatics society with their lighting and the construction of their sets.

He is survived by Ursula and their three sons, Christopher, Michael.

Harris was camera operator on three Euro-westerns: “The Trap” (1966), “Catlow” and “Hannie Caulder” (both 1971).

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