Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Late, Great Cinematographer William A. Fraker

William A. Fraker, the legendary cinematographer who shot such movies as The President's Analyst, Rosemary's Baby, and Bullitt, passed Monday at the age of 86. The cause was cancer.

William A. Fraker was born September 29, 1923 in Los Angeles, California. During World War II he joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific theatre. Following the war he attended the University of Southern California School of Cinema. He took a job as a photographer's assistant. His first assignment was working on a Marilyn Monroe calender.

Mr. Fraker's first work as a cinematographer was on the film Forbid Them Not, released in 1961. In 1962 he began work on the long running sitcom The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet as a camera operator. He worked on the film Father Goose (1964) before receiving his first cinematographer credit on a feature film, the Leslie Stevens horror movie Incubus (1965). From that point on Mr. Fraker would work exclusively on feature films except for a stint on the TV show Daktari in 1966.

For the remainder of the sixties William A. Fraker would shoot such films as Games (1967), The President's Analyst (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Bullitt (1968), and Paint Your Wagon (1969). The Seventies saw Mr. Fraker work on such films as The Day of the Dolphin (1973), Coonskin (1975), Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), and Heaven Can Wait (1978). In the Eighties he shot such film as Sharky's Machine (1981), WarGames (1983), Murphy's Romance (1985), Burglar (1987), and The Freshman (1990). From the Nineties into the Naughts he was cinematographer on such films as Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), Tombstone (1993), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996),. and Rules of Engagement (2000). In the Naughts he shot the films Town and Country (2001) and Waking Up in Reno (2002). His last film as cinematographer, Section B, is set for release later this year.

William A. Fraker also directed three films, Monte Walsh (1973), Reflection of Fear (1973), and The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981). He also directed episodes of TV shows, including such series as Wiseguy, The Flash, and Unsub.

William A. Fraker was nominated five times for the Oscar for Best Cinematography.

There can be no doubt William A. Fraker was one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, although it would be difficult to say he had his own style. Mr. Fraker believed that the look of a film should be determined by the film itself, not the cinematographer. As a result, Mr. Fraker used a different style on each film he shot, depending on the mood of that film. For Rosemary's Baby Mr. Fraker used a crisp style reminiscent of cinema verite, while for Tombstone he used a more romantic style as befits an epic Western. Mr. Fraker would also do nearly anything to get the shot he thought fit the scene. For the famous car chase in Bullitt, Mr. Fraker strapped himself to the front of a Mustang and shot the scene while going 100 miles per hour. The result was one of the greatest car chase sequences in film. William A. Fraker was a perfectionist and a professional, and both were reflected in every film he shot.

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