Conrad Hall

Last updated
Conrad L. Hall
Conrad Hall.jpg
Hall working on Jennifer 8 (1992)
Conrad Lafcadio Hall

(1926-06-21)June 21, 1926
DiedJanuary 6, 2003(2003-01-06) (aged 76)
Other namesConnie
Occupation Cinematographer
Years active1958–2003
Title ASC
  • Virginia Schwartz
    (m. 1952;div. 1969)
  • (m. 1969;div. 1975)
  • Susan Kowarsh-Hall
    (m. before 2003)
Children3, including Conrad W. Hall
Awards Academy Award for Best Cinematography
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
American Beauty 1999
Road to Perdition 2002

Conrad Lafcadio Hall, ASC (June 21, 1926 January 6, 2003) was a French Polynesian-born American cinematographer. Named after writers Joseph Conrad and Lafcadio Hearn, he was best known for photographing such films as In Cold Blood , Cool Hand Luke , Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , American Beauty , and Road to Perdition . For his work he garnered a number of awards, including three Academy Awards and three BAFTA Awards.


In 2003, Hall was judged to be one of history's ten most influential cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild. [1] He has been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Conrad L Hall was born on June 21, 1926 in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. His father was James Norman Hall, an ace pilot and captain in the Lafayette Escadrille that fought for France in World War I. James also co-wrote Mutiny on the Bounty. His mother was Sarah ("Lala") Winchester Hall, who was half Polynesian. [2] Growing up during the relative infancy of cinema, Hall never was around cameras, and the idea of going to the movies was a foreign concept. In his early-mid teens, Hall attended Cate School, a boarding preparatory school near Santa Barbara, California.

After graduating, Hall was told by his father to find his path in life. Hall attended the University of Southern California, intending to study journalism, but ended up doing poorly and instead went to USC's School of Cinema-Television (now the USC School of Cinematic Arts). He wasn't sure this was the right decision, but that since this was a new art form it would be interesting to start from the bottom. Hall attended the School of Cinema at a time when Slavko Vorkapić was the head of the program; Hall later recalled that “He taught me that film-making was a new visual language. He taught the principles, and left the rest up to us”. [3] After creating his first shots in school he fell in love with the art and wanted to continue telling his stories through imagery. A few people that visited the school during his education included John Huston and Orson Welles. After graduation in 1949, Hall expected to get a job right out of college. At the time, however, Hollywood only allowed the camera crew to be filled with people that were on the International Photographers Guild roster. [3]


After graduation Hall collaborated with his classmates, Marvin R. Weinstein and Jack C. Couffer, to create Canyon Films in 1949. In the beginning they made advertising commercials and documentaries and did pickup shots for features. In 1956 Canyon Films acquired a short film, My Brother Down There, which allowed Hall to enter into the cameraman position and become part of the International Photographers Guild. However, the Guild made Canyon Films hire an established Guild Cameraman for My Brother Down There, denying Hall credit, even though he shot the entire film. Instead he was credited as the visual consultant, after United Artists released the film under the new title Running Target .

Once Running Target was finished Canyon Films dissolved, and its members went off on their own paths. Since Hall was part of the Guild, he was able to work as an assistant cameraman at the side of many influential cinematographers such as Hall Mohr, Ernie Haller, Burnie Guffey and Ted McCord, who were all part of the ASC. Following a year of working as an assistant cameraman, he was awarded the chance to be the camera operator on the television series Stoney Burke . In 1963, he began filming another television series called The Outer Limits . Then, in 1964, he shot his first feature-length black and white film, Wild Seed , which was made in roughly 24 days with producer Albert S. Ruddy.

Hall's breakthrough came with Morituri in 1965, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. In the following year Hall shot Incubus , The Professionals, and Harper , which was his first color film. His first collaboration with director Richard Brooks on The Professionals was put in motion by assistant director Tom Shaw, who worked with Hall on Wild Seed and recommended him to Brooks; the work resulted in his second Oscar nomination.

Their second collaboration, 1967's In Cold Blood , resulted in yet another Oscar nomination. [3] It is notable for the documentary feel and location shots, which were rare at the time. In that same year, Hall shot Cool Hand Luke and Divorce American Style . Cool Hand Luke is known for being shot in Panavision, which contributed to its lush color palette. [4] In 1968, Hall filmed Hell in the Pacific for director John Boorman, which was not a box-office success but has since become a cult classic.

In 1969, Hall received his first Oscar for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . To make Butch Cassidy visually compatible with the time period, he used experimental techniques, such as overexposing the negatives in order to mute the primary colors when printing it back (Hunter, 2003). The result was considered an innovative success. He made two other films that year, The Happy Ending and Tell them Willie Boy is Here. In 1972, Hall shot Fat City, with director John Huston. Fat City was known for its grainy texture to reflect the harsh reality of the storyline. [3] In 1973 he shot the police thriller Electra Glide in Blue , followed by Smile and The Day of the Locust in 1975, the latter of which earned him his fifth Oscar nomination. In 1976 he shot Marathon Man with director John Schlesinger which was one of the first to use the Steadicam technique (although it was not the first to be released).

After shooting 18 films in 12 years, Hall took an 11-year break. Around the same time he teamed up with noted cinematographer Haskell Wexler to make a commercial production company (Vinson, 1987). This allowed him to not only be the cameraman on his own work, but also the director. The break for him was about understanding and learning from others about their unique techniques. As Hall stated: "At heart I am more than a cinematographer. I'm a filmmaker." [3] This led to his exploration of writing, such as an adaptation of the novel The Wild Palms.

Hall returned to the film industry in 1987 to shoot Black Widow . In 1988 Hall became part of the union crew for Tequila Sunrise after a few complications. [5] His work resulted in a sixth Oscar nomination. Also in 1988, the ASC gave Hall an outstanding achievement award. After his work on Tequila Sunrise, he picked up his old pace, making Class Action (1991), Jennifer 8 (1992), Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) and Love Affair (1994) one after the other. Searching for Bobby Fischer received an Oscar nomination for cinematography, his seventh.

In 1994, Hall was honored with the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers. In 1998 he shot Without Limits and was Oscar nominated for A Civil Action , followed by his second win for American Beauty in 1999. American Beauty, his first collaboration with director Sam Mendes, highlighted his "unique use of the hand-held camera to capture the film's heightened reality and almost dream-like atmosphere". [6] His final film was Road to Perdition in 2002, a second collaboration with Mendes, for which he was posthumously awarded another Academy Award. In total, he won three Oscars throughout his 50-year career.

Personal life

Hall married Virginia Schwartz in 1952. They had three children, Conrad W. Hall, Kate Hall-Feist and Naia Hall-West, before they divorced in 1969. [7] Hall met actress Katharine Ross on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and became her third of five husbands in 1969. Hall and Ross separated in 1973, finalizing their divorce in 1975 so that she could marry her fourth husband. [8] His third marriage was to costume designer Susan Kowarsh-Hall, whom he worked with on Road to Perdition (2002), from an unknown date until his death. [9]


Hall died in 2003 owing to complications from bladder cancer at the Santa Monica Hospital. [10] His Oscar for Road to Perdition (2002), which is dedicated to Hall, was posthumously accepted by his son Conrad W. Hall, also a cinematographer.

Hall was and still is affectionately referred to as "Connie" by his peers and associates.



1956 Running Target Martin R. WeinsteinAlso screenwriter
1958 Edge of Fury Robert J. Gurney Jr.
Irving Lerner
Co-cinematographer with Jack Couffer and Marvin R. Weinstein
1965 Wild Seed Brian G. Hutton
Morituri Bernhard Wicki
Incubus Leslie Stevens
1966 The Professionals Richard Brooks
Harper Jack Smight
1967 Divorce American Style Bud Yorkin
In Cold Blood Richard Brooks
Cool Hand Luke Stuart Rosenberg
1968 Hell in the Pacific John Boorman
1969 Truman Capote's Trilogy Frank Perry Co-cinematographer with Jordan Cronenweth
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here Abraham Polonsky
The Happy Ending Richard Brooks
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid George Roy Hill
1972 Fat City John Huston
1973 Electra Glide in Blue James William Guercio
1974 Catch My Soul Patrick McGoohan
1975 Smile Michael Ritchie
The Day of the Locust John Schlesinger
1976 Marathon Man
1987 Black Widow Bob Rafelson
1988 Tequila Sunrise Robert Towne
1991 Class Action Michael Apted
1992 Jennifer 8 Bruce Robinson
1993 Searching for Bobby Fischer Steven Zaillian
1994 Love Affair Glenn Gordon Caron
1998 A Civil Action Steven Zaillian
Without Limits Robert Towne
1999 American Beauty Sam Mendes
2002 Road to Perdition

Additional photography credits

1955 East of Eden Elia Kazan Ted McCord Camera operatorUncredited
1960 Private Property Leslie Stevens
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Michael Curtiz Uncredited
1961 The Gambler Wore a Gun Edward L. Cahn Floyd Crosby
1962 Hero's Island Leslie StevensTed McCord
Pressure Point Hubert Cornfield Ernest Haller
Mutiny on the Bounty Lewis Milestone Robert Surtees Uncredited
1979 The Rose Mark Rydell Vilmos Zsigmond Additional photography
1999 Sleepy Hollow Tim Burton Emmanuel Lubezki Director of photography: New York


1963 Stoney Burke 3 episodes
1963-64 The Outer Limits 15 episodes
1964The Unknown Television film
Fanfare for a Death Scene
The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre
1966 ABC Stage 67 Episode: "A Christmas Memory"
1977 It Happened One Christmas Television film

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards [5] [6]

1965 Morituri Best Cinematography Nominated
1966 The Professionals Nominated
1967 In Cold Blood Nominated
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Won
1975 The Day of the Locust Nominated
1988 Tequila Sunrise Nominated
1993 Searching for Bobby Fischer Nominated
1998 A Civil Action Nominated
1999 American Beauty Won
2002 Road to Perdition (posthumous)Won

British Academy Film Awards [5]

1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Best Cinematography Won
1999 American Beauty Won
2002 Road to Perdition (posthumous)Won

American Society of Cinematographers

1988 Tequila Sunrise Outstanding Cinematography Won
1993 Searching for Bobby Fischer Won
1994 Love Affair Nominated
Lifetime Achievement Award [3] Won
1999 American Beauty Outstanding CinematographyWon
2002 Road to Perdition (posthumous)Won

Other Awards

1999 American Beauty Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best CinematographyNominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Cinematography Nominated
2002 Road to Perdition Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Won
Satellite Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Won
Gold Derby Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematographer (posthumous)Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography (posthumous)Nominated

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