Lucien Ballard

Last updated

Lucien Ballard
Lucien Ballard photo.jpg
Born(1908-05-06)May 6, 1908
DiedOctober 1, 1988(1988-10-01) (aged 80)
Occupation Cinematographer
Years active1929–1978
Margaret McLellan
(m. 1928;div. 1944)

(m. 1945;div. 1949)

Inez Ethel Pokorny
(m. 1949)

Lucien Ballard, A.S.C. (May 6, 1908 – October 1, 1988) was an American cinematographer. He worked on more than 130 films during his 50-year career, collaborating multiple times with directors including Josef von Sternberg, John Brahm, Henry Hathaway, Budd Boetticher, Raoul Walsh, Sam Peckinpah and Tom Gries. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for The Caretakers (1963).



Ballard was born in Miami, Oklahoma in 1908. His mother Ada was Cherokee and Lucien is listed on the Dawes Rolls as 1/16th Cherokee by Blood. [1] [2] He attended the University of Oklahoma and the University of Pennsylvania [3] and after graduating, he became a surveyor. [4]

Ballard began working on films at Paramount Studios in 1929 after dating a script woman there. [3] He later joked in an interview that it was a three-day party at the home of actress Clara Bow that convinced him "this is the business for me". He began his career loading trucks at Paramount and trained to be a camera assistant. [3] He was taken on as an assistant to Lee Garmes on Josef von Sternberg's Morocco (1930). [3] Von Sternberg allowed him credit as a second cameraman on The Devil is a Woman (1935), [3] and the two shared a Venice Film Festival award for Best Cinematography in 1935. Von Sternberg promoted him to director of photography on Crime and Punishment (1935) and The King Steps Out (1936), [3] based on the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, both at Columbia Pictures. After filming Dorothy Arzner's Craig's Wife also at Columbia, he settled into making B movies such as The Devil's Playground (1937), Penitentiary and The Lone Wolf in Paris , both 1938. [3] While at Columbia, he also shot several two-reel comedies, including a number with The Three Stooges. In an interview with Leonard Maltin, he said he enjoyed working on them because it gave him the freedom to experiment with different lenses and filters, which likely would not have been permitted on features.

Ballard filmed Let Us Live! (1939) for John Brahm and made more films with him including Wild Geese Calling (1941) and The Lodger (1944). [3] On the set of The Lodger, Ballard met and then married actress Merle Oberon; they remained married from 1945 until 1949. He photographed 4 more of her films – This Love of Ours (1945), Temptation (1946), Night Song (1948), Berlin Express (1948). [3] After she was involved in a near fatal car crash in London, he invented a light which was mounted by the side of the camera, to provide direct light onto a subject's face, with the aim of reducing the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles. Named the "Obie", the device benefited Oberon, who had sustained facial scarring in the car accident. The Obie became widely used in the film industry. [5]

In 1941's Howard Hughes film The Outlaw , Hughes cast Jane Russell in the lead and had numerous shots of her cleavage, which got the attention of the Hollywood censors. The film was shot in 1940 and 1941 but took five years to be released to selected theaters. Ballard was the camera man for the screen tests, did some of the second unit work for director Howard Hawks, and assisted cinematographer Gregg Toland on the first unit crew. [3] He also filmed Laura (1944) for Rouben Mamoulian until Otto Preminger took over as director. [3]

On Morocco, Ballard had also worked with assistant director Henry Hathaway. This relationship with Hathaway came back to benefit Ballard when Hathaway himself became a director. They worked together on five films, including Diplomatic Courier (1952), Prince Valiant (1954), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), Nevada Smith (1966), and True Grit (1969). [3] The last, because of the natural beauty of southwestern Colorado, garnered Ballard acclaim among his peers. He also worked on a segment of O. Henry's Full House (1952) with him.

After working with Budd Boetticher on The Magnificent Matador (1955), they worked together on six feature films, including The Killer Is Loose (1956), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), A Time for Dying (1969) and Arruza (1971) [3] as well as the television show Maverick (1957) and the documentary My Kingdom For... (1985).

He made The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) and The Desert Rats (1953) for Robert Wise; Return of the Texan (1952) and Susan Slade (1961) with Delmer Daves; three films with Raoul Walsh including The King and Four Queens (1956) and Band of Angels (1957); and three films with Roy Ward Baker, including Inferno (1953), often considered the best shot color 3D film of the era. [3] He also worked with Stanley Kubrick on The Killing (1956). [3]

Ballard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for The Caretakers (1963). [3]

Another relationship of importance was with Sam Peckinpah. They worked together on The Westerner (1960 television series), Ride the High Country (1962), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), The Getaway (1972), and Junior Bonner (1972). He won the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Cinematography for The Wild Bunch. [6]

He also formed a partnership with Tom Gries making five films, including Will Penny (1968) and Breakheart Pass (1976). [3] His last feature film was Joan Rivers' Rabbit Test (1978) [3] starring Billy Crystal in his film debut.

Ballard died at the age of 80 in 1988, two days after being involved in a car accident near his home in Indian Wells, California. [7] [3]

Personal life

Ballard had been married before Oberon and was married for a third time in the 1950s to Inez Pokorny, a world traveler and photographer who is sometimes credited as the first woman to explore the Amazon River from the Atlantic to the Pacific, [8] who was killed in an automobile accident in 1982. [3] He had two sons, [3] Christopher and Anthony. Ballard also had two daughters, Zoe and Pamela from his first marriage to Margaret J McLellan.

Partial filmography

Related Research Articles

Henry Hathaway American film director and producer

Henry Hathaway was an American film director and producer. He is best known as a director of Westerns, especially starring Randolph Scott and John Wayne. He directed Gary Cooper in seven films.

John Alton

John Alton, born Johann Jacob Altmann, in Sopron, Kingdom of Hungary, was an American cinematographer of Hungarian-German origin. Alton photographed some of the most famous films noir of the classic period and won an Academy Award for the cinematography of An American in Paris (1951), becoming the first Hungarian-born person to do so in the cinematography category.

Robert Surtees (cinematographer) American cinematographer

Robert L. Surtees, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer who won three Academy Awards for the films King Solomon's Mines, The Bad and the Beautiful and the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. Surtees worked at various studios, including Universal, UFA, Warner Brothers, and MGM, lighting for notable directors Howard Hawks, Mike Nichols, and William Wyler, gaining him a reputation as one of the most versatile cinematographers of his time.

William Daniels (cinematographer) American cinematographer

William H. Daniels ASC was a film cinematographer who was Greta Garbo's personal lensman. Early in his career he worked regularly with director Erich von Stroheim.

Nicholas Musuraca, A.S.C. was a motion-picture cinematographer best remembered for his work at RKO Pictures in the 1940s, including many of Val Lewton's series of B-picture horror films.

Joseph LaShelle American cinematographer

Joseph LaShelle ASC was an American film cinematographer.

John F. Seitz American cinematographer and inventor

John Francis Seitz, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer and inventor.

Burnett Guffey American cinematographer

Burnett Guffey, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer.

Lee Garmes American cinematographer (1898–1978)

Lee Garmes, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer. During his career, he worked with directors Howard Hawks, Max Ophüls, Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, King Vidor, Nicholas Ray and Henry Hathaway, whom he had met as a young man when the two first came to Hollywood in the silent era. He also co-directed two films with legendary screenwriter Ben Hecht: Angels Over Broadway and Actor's and Sin.

Oscar "Budd" Boetticher Jr. was an American film director. He is most famous for a series of low-budget Westerns he made in the late 1950s starring Randolph Scott.

Charles P. Boyle was an American cinematographer.

Hal Mohr American cinematographer

Hal Mohr, A.S.C. was a famed movie cinematographer. He is known for his Oscar-winning work on the 1935 film, A Midsummer Night's Dream. He was awarded another Oscar for his work on The Phantom of the Opera in 1943, and received a nomination for The Four Poster in 1952.

Russell Metty American cinematographer

Russell Metty, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer who won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color, for the 1960 film Spartacus.

Lewis D. Collins was an American film director and occasional screenwriter. In his career spanning over 30 years, he churned out dozens of Westerns.

Oswald Norman Morris, BSC was a British cinematographer. Known to his colleagues by the nicknames "Os" or "Ossie", Morris's career in cinematography spanned six decades.

Joseph Patrick MacDonald, A.S.C. was a Mexico-born American cinematographer. An assistant cameraman from the early 1920s, he became a cinematographer in the 1940s and soon was working on Hollywood productions, mostly at 20th Century Fox. He was usually billed as Joe MacDonald. He was the first Mexico-born cinematographer, and only the second overall, after Leon Shamroy, to film a movie in CinemaScope, as well as the first Mexico-born cinematographer to film a movie in Deluxe Color.

Charles G. Clarke ASC was an American cinematographer who worked in Hollywood for over 40 years and was treasurer and president of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Harry C. Neumann of Chicago, Illinois, was a Hollywood cinematographer whose career spanned over forty years, including work on some 350 productions in a wide variety of genres, with much of his work being in Westerns, and gangster films.

Lionel Lindon, ASC was an American film cameraman and cinematographer who spent much of his career working for Paramount.

George Crone (1894–1966), also known as George J. Crone, was an American director and editor, whose career spanned both the silent and sound film eras. He began his career cutting the silent film Let's Be Fashionable in 1920. Between that film and his final screen credit, editing Arruza, he edited over 40 films, and directed over a dozen more. Arruza was released 6 years after Crone's death. Crone had worked with director Budd Boetticher, on Boetticher's obsession, a docudrama regarding his friend Carlos Arruza, the famous bullfighter. Boetticher had used ten cameras to film 2 of Arruza's bullfights in January and February 1966, and Crone was tasked with editing the different fights together. Crone died shortly after completing the tasks, in June 1966. Earlier in his career, he had been the original editor on Citizen Kane, before being replaced by Robert Wise.


  1. "BALLARD, LUCIEN KEITH (1904–1988)". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved October 16, 2021.
  2. "Search the Dawes Final Rolls". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved October 16, 2021.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 McCarthy, Todd (October 5, 1988). "Cinematographer Lucien Ballard Dies At 84; Had Top Projects". Variety . p. 4.
  4. Robert J. Conley (2007). A Cherokee Encyclopedia. UNM Press. p. 26. ISBN   978-0826339515.
  5. Geoffrey Macnab (April 2000). Searching for Stars: Stardom and Screen Acting in British Cinema. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 66. ISBN   0304333514.
  6. Henryk Hoffmann (2012). Western Movie References in American Literature. McFarland. ISBN   978-0786493241.
  7. Glenn Collins (October 6, 1988). "Lucien Ballard, Cinematographer". New York Times.
  8. "Ballard, Lucien Keith | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture".