Feb 23, 2016

Douglas (Dougie) Slocombe (1913-2016)


Douglas, or Dougie, as he was known to his friends and co-workers, Slocombe passed away yesterday in West London, where he lived with his daughter, following complications from a fall. He had just celebrated his one hundred and third birthday earlier in the month.

Probably best known for shooting the first three Indiana Jones films with Steven Spielberg as director, I know him better for all the amazing work he did at Ealing Studios. What he shot there at that famous West London studio reads for me like a personal Greatest Films of All Time list: Hue and Cry, Dead of Night, It Always Rains on Sunday, Saraband for Dead Lovers (Ealing's first crack at luscious English Technicolor), The Man in the White Suit, The Titfield Thunderbolt, The Lavender Hill Mob, and, of course, Kind Hearts and Coronets, which he personally believed to be the finest screenplay he had ever read. (He will not get any argument from me on that score.)

He also shot Julia, Guns at Batasi, The Italian Job, The Lion in Winter, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rollerball, Never Say Never Again, and The Servant.

Speaking to the BBC last year, Slocombe recalled working under the Ealing Studio mogul, Sir Michael Balcon, as well as filming on location in a city still scarred by bomb damage.

"I think I'm the last man standing," he said. "All the major technicians and the producers and directors are gone - and that famous repertory company of actors and actresses."

One of my favorite stories about Slocombe is how he shot in camera a half dozen members of the D'Ascoyne family, all played by Alec Guinness, using multiple exposures over a period of a few days. Since the lighting had to be the exact same for every exposure, and the camera could not be moved even a millimeter, he slept in the studio to make sure everything went correctly.

Slocombe, himself, was also a perfect gentleman, who was extremely generous with his time, talking to interviewers about his work and process numerous times, even in his later years.

I only wish I could be at Stage Six in Ealing right now to raise a pint in his honor.

Mr Slocombe is survived by his daughter, Georgina.







-- Ardent Henry


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