Douglas Slocombe, Raiders of the Lost Ark Cinematographer, Dead at 103

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Slocombe. Photo: Richard Davis/2012 Richard Blanshard

Douglas Slocombe, the versatile British cinematographer who helped give Indiana Jones life onscreen and lensed a slew of timeless comedies for Ealing Studios, died Monday in a London hospital. The 103-year-old shot 80 films over the course of a career that spanned roughly five decades, earning three Oscar noms in the process. "He said the other day that he loved every day of his work, every day on the set," his daughter told the New York Times, confirming his death. "He really enjoyed his work and his life."

Slocombe was born in London, but raised in Paris. His early work included gathering footage of the outbreak of World War II in Europe for Herbert Kline's doc, Lights Out in Europe, and entrenching himself as the house cinematographer in London-based Ealing Studios throughout the 1940s and '50s. At Ealing, during what many consider to be the golden age of British film, Slocombe worked behind the camera on such flicks as Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Titfield Thunderbolt, and The Lavender Hill Mob, among many others. Notable credits after his Ealing days included The Italian Job, Jesus Christ Superstar, and 1974's Great Gatsby, in what was a consistently busy career.

He stopped shooting feature projects at the end of the '80s, with Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies (Variety notes he famously did without a light meter on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark), contributions that closed out a vast and varied oeuvre. "A lot of cameramen try to evolve a technique and then apply that to everything," he had told Variety, which called his style chameleonic, in 2002. "But I suffer from a bad memory and could never remember how I'd done something before, so I could always approach something afresh. I found I was able to change techniques on picture after picture." He netted 11 BAFTA noms for his work, winning best cinematography honors for The Servant, Gatsby, and Julia. Slocombe, survived by his daughter, also received the British Society of Cinematographers’ lifetime achievement award in 1995.