Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cinematographer Gordon Willis Passes On

Gordon Willis, the cinematographer who worked on such films as The Godfather (1972), The Paper Chase (1973), and All the President's Men (1976), died on 18 May 2014 at the age of 82. The cause was cancer.

Gordon Willis was born on 28 May 1931 in Astoria, New York. His parents were former dancers on Broadway, and his father would later work as a make up man at Warner Bros. Gordon Willis was interested in acting when he was young and even performed in some summer stock productions, but increasingly found himself drawn to theatre lighting and photography. He started his photography career taking portfolio photos for models. His father eventually got him a job working as a gofer on films.

During the Korean War Mr. Willis joined the United States Air Force and served in a documentary motion picture unit. Following the war he joined the cinematographers union in New York. He began work as a second unit cameraman. He was one of the cameramen on the television documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium.

Gordon Willis received his first cinematographer credit on the film End of the Road in 1970. From the late Sixties through the Seventies he served as cinematographer on such films as Loving (1970), The Landlord (1970), Klute (1971), The Godfather (1972), The Paper Chase (1973), The Parallax View (1974), The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Drowning Pool (1975), All the President's Men (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979), and Stardust Memories (1980). He directed the film Windows in 1980, his only directorial effort.

In the Eighties Mr. Willis served as cinematographer on such films as Pennies from Heaven (1981), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Money Pit (1986), The Pick-up Artist (1987), Presumed Innocent (1990), and The Godfather: Part III (1990). In the Nineties he served as cinematographer on Malice (1993) and The Devil's Own (1997).

Gordon Willis was an incredible cinematographer. Indeed, he was a master of lighting. He was not afraid to shoot with minimal light, making full use of shadows. What is more, Mr. Willis could adapt his mastery of lighting to almost any genre, from the stark brightness of The Parallax View to the softer, more naturalistic look of Manhattan. He was a master when it came to camera work, creating some of the most beautiful images ever shot on film.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jerry Vale R.I.P.

Crooner Jerry Vale, who had a string of hit songs in the Fifties, died on 18 May 2014 at the age of 83.

Jerry Vale was born Genaro Louis Vitaliano on 8 July 1930 in the Bronx, New York City. As a teenager he worked as an oiler alongside his father, who was an engineer. With his father he worked on excavations for such projects as a sewage plant in Oyster Bay, on Long Island. As a teenager he also started performing in supper clubs around New York City. He was eventually signed to Columbia Records. His first hit was "You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart", which went to #23 on the Billboard singles chart in 1953.

He would have several more hits in the Fifties, including "Two Purple Shadows", "You Don't Know Me", and "Pretend You Don't See Her". His first album was Girl Meets Boy (with Peggy King and Felicia Sanders) in 1955. He recorded three more albums in the Fifties. Ultimately Jerry Vale would record over 50 albums throughout his career.

Like many crooners Jerry Vale would see his career decline in the Sixties with the growing popularity of rock 'n' roll. While his singles no longer hit the Billboard Hot 100, however, they regularly hit the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. (originally known as "Easy Listening"). His biggest hit of the decade was "Have You Looked into Your Heart", which went to #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. He also made the Adult Contemporary chart with the singles "For Mama", "Tears Keep On Falling", "Where Were You When I Needed You", "Deep in My Heart", "Less Than Tomorrow", "It'll Take a Little Time", "Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)", and others.

Jerry Vale ceased having hit singles in the early Seventies and his final album was Free as the Wind in 1974. He continued to perform live for years. He also made cameos in the Matin Scorsese films Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995).

Monday, May 19, 2014

A New Look

If you're a regular reader of A Shroud of Thoughts, you might notice that the blog looks a little different. In anticipation of the blog's 10th anniversary on 4 June 2014 I decided that it was time to give A Shroud of Thoughts a new look. The most obvious change is the new background colour. I wanted to get away from the black that I've used on this blog for literally years, but at the same time have a colour that would not blind me. After some experimentation I found the sort of light grey that the blog currently has. The only other real change was cleaning up the right sidebar. I might make a few other changes to the blog, but I will have to think on those. Regardless of what I do, I'm keeping the two sidebars, as there just isn't room enough on one!

If you're curious, here is what A Shroud of Thoughts  has looked like in the past: