The man responsible for one of the great closing shots in film history has passed beyond the realm of human understanding.
Douglas Slocombe, the cinematographer best known for shooting Steven Spielberg’s first three Indiana Jones movies, died on Monday (Feb. 22) at the age of 103. Born in London, England, in 1913, Slocombe started as a magazine photographer before working as a newsreel cameraman during World War II. After the war, he joined the UK-based Ealing Studios as a camera operator but soon made the jump to director of photography.
His first assignment as cinematographer was the classic horror movie Dead of Night, released in 1945. From there he went on to shoot a number of well-regarded motion pictures, including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Lion in Winter (1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and The Great Gatsby (1974). Among his genre efforts were the fantastical The Man in the White Suit (1951), Circus of Horrors (1960), Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Norman Jewison's Rollerball (1975).
But it was toward the end of his career that his biggest achievements happened. After working with Spielberg as an auxiliary cinematographer on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), helping to create that film's complex and groundbreaking UFO imagery, he was hired again by Spielberg as cinematographer for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), shooting one of the most gorgeous and visually stunning adventure films of all time.
Spielberg brought him back for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), with the latter featuring one of the great exit shots of all time:
Slocombe retired after that, by then well into his 70s and starting to suffer from failing vision. Although he won three BAFTAs -- the British equivalent of the Academy Award -- and the British Society of Cinematographers’ lifetime achievement award, he was never bestowed with an Oscar, despite three nominations.
But, you could argue, one doesn't need rewards with a body of work like that of Douglas Slocombe, whose achievements will last far longer than any statuette. Safe travels, sir, and thanks for so many indelible images.