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Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
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Jack Cardiff was a British cinematographer and director who, through his mastery of Technicolor technology, elevated British cinema to new heights. He worked for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s production business, making films that broke free from the constraints of European expressionism and American spectacles, elevating British cinema to new heights of imagination and romance. He had a natural talent for telling stories in colors, and he favored the color red for maximum impact. Close-ups of red dresses, red lipstick, and red ballet shoes worn by the female leads in several of his films demonstrated this. He found sexuality in unlikely places and employed close-ups of moist lips and blazing eyes to create passionate depths in even the most modest of women. He rose to prominence while working with Powell and Pressburger’s production firm, which provided him with opportunities to work with some of the best directors of the time. He was known for using his camera and varied colors to make the girls in his films look more gorgeous. Jack Cardiff was supposed to be able to paint the movies in any hue he wanted.

Childhood and Adolescence

On September 18, 1914, John George James Gran was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, United Kingdom. Cardiff was his father’s stage name, which he legally altered.

His father, John Joseph Cardiff, and mother, Florence, were also comedians in the music hall. Jack went to a variety of schools. He had an older brother who died while he was a child.
He made his acting debut at the age of four in a film in which he played a youngster who died after being ran over by a car.

A Career of Jack Cardiff

At a young age, Jack Cardiff starred in nearly a dozen films in minor roles. He began his career as a runner on the sets of ‘British International Studios’ in Elstree and then worked for Claude Friese-Greene as a clapper boy.

He was quickly hired as a camera operator for Rene Clair’s film ‘The Ghost Goes West.’ He made the first Technicolor film in Britain, titled ‘Wings of the Morning,’ in 1937, after mastering the new method of filming in Technicolor.

‘Western Approaches,’ a documentary about the feats of the British Merchant Navy, was filmed by him in 1944 during WWII.
In 1943, he joined Powell and Pressburger’s production firm, for which he shot the film ‘Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.’
In 1946, he directed David Niven and Kim Hunter in ‘A Matter of Life and Death.’ It was a story about a celestial court giving a dead pilot a second chance at life.

In 1947, he used his camera and color mastery to create a stunning setting for Kathleen Byron’s film ‘Black Narcissus.’ Rumer Godden’s work was made into a film. For his contributions, he received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
In the film ‘The Red Shoes,’ which starred Moira Shearer as an obsessed ballerina,’ he employed the camera to great advantage to create staged, realistic, and dream sequences.

In 1951, he was the camera operator for John Huston’s film “The African Queen.”
He collaborated with notable directors such as Alfred Hitchcock on the 1949 film ‘Under Capricorn,’ Albert Lewin on the 1951 film ‘Flying Dutchman,’ Richard Fleischer on the 1958 film ‘The Vikings,’ and Laurence Olivier on the 1957 film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl.’

Cardiff shot the extended combat scenes of ‘War and Peace’ in 1956 for an American-Italian producer named ‘King Vidor.’ He was nominated for an Academy Award for his photography.

In 1968, he made his directorial debut with ‘Girl on a Motorcycle,’ the most funny comedy of the decade. It was also known as ‘Naked Under Leather,’ in which Marianne Faithful starred as a bimbo who dressed up in a black leather costume and rode off on a massive motorcycle in search of the only man who could fulfill her.

In 1960, he published ‘The Scent of Mystery,’ a film shot in ‘Odorama,’ which allowed the audience to’smell’ the aromas generated during the event.
In 1960, his second film, ‘Sons and Lovers,’ was a huge hit, receiving seven ‘Oscar’ nominations and a slew of critics’ prizes. Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller, and Mary Ure were among the cast members.

Cardiff directed ‘The Lion,’ a 1962 film starring William Holden, ‘The Long Ships,’ a 1963 film, and ‘Young Cassidy,’ a 1964 film.
His next ventures were a series of romance films set in exotic settings, including 1976’s ‘Ride a Wild Pony,’ 1978’s ‘Death on the Nile,’ 1986’s ‘Tai Pan,’ and 1980’s horror picture ‘The Awakening.’

In 1984, he collaborated with filmmaker Richard Fleischer on another excellent film, ‘Conan the Destroyer,’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 1984’s ‘Rambo: First Blood, Part II,’ he shot close-up views of Sylvester Stallone’s physique shining with sweat as he travels through muck and thick vegetation for special effects.
In 1988, he made another remarkable picture, ‘Call from Space,’ directed by Richard Fleischer.

Major Projects of Jack Cardiff

In 1996, Jack Cardiff wrote his autobiography, ‘The Magic Hour.’ Martin Scorsese wrote the prologue to the book.

Achievements & Awards

For the picture ‘Black Narcissus,’ Jack Cardiff won a ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Photography’ in 1947 and a ‘Golden Globe Award’ in 1948.
In 1956, he was nominated for a ‘Academy Award’ and a ‘BSC Award’ for the film ‘War and Peace.’

For the film ‘Sons and Lovers,’ he received a ‘NYFCC Award’ and a ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director.’ For the same picture in 1961, he garnered nominations for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ and the ‘Directors Guild of America Award.’

In 1961, he was nominated for an Academy Award for the film “Fanny.”
Cardiff was nominated for a BAFTA Award for ‘The Far Pavilions’ in 1985.

In 1994, he was honored with the ‘BSC Lifetime Achievement Award’ and the ‘ASC International Achievement Award.’
In 2000, he was awarded the ‘Order of the British Empire’ (OBE).
He was given an honorary ‘Lifetime Achievement Academy Award’ in 2001.

He was an honorary member of the British Society of Cinematographers and a member of the American Society of Cinematographers. He was also a supporter of the ‘Brighton Film School & Studio’ and a Fellow of the ‘Royal Photographic Society.’

Personal History and Legacy

He married Julia Lily Dutton, but they divorced later. Mason, John, and Rodney were their three boys from this marriage.
On September 5, 1938, Cardiff married Sylvia Lisette Cecily Manson, whom he divorced on December 27, 1944.

On March 19, 1997, he married script consultant Niki O’Donahue, with whom he remained until his death. From this marriage, he had a son named Peter.
On April 22, 2009, at the age of 94, Jack Cardiff died in Ely, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom.

Estimated Net Worth

According to online sources (Wikipedia, Google Search, Yahoo Search), Jack Cardiff’s net worth is estimated to be $ USD 3 million, with his primary sources of income being as a photographer, actor, cinematographer, and film director. We don’t have adequate proof on Jack Cardiff’s cars or his way of life. These details will be updated as soon as possible.


Jack Cardiff was a painter who was influenced by the French impressionists, as evidenced by his films.