Donald E. Thorin, Cinematographer on 'Purple Rain,' Dies at 81

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Donald E. Thorin served as the cinematographer on 'Purple Rain,' starring Prince.

The director of photography, much in demand in the 1980s and '90s, also worked on 'Thief,' 'An Officer and a Gentleman,' 'Scent of a Woman' and 'Midnight Run.'

Donald E. Thorin, the cinematographer on such films as An Officer and a Gentleman, the Prince starrer Purple Rain and Scent of a Woman, has died. He was 81.

Thorin died Feb. 9 at his home in Tucson, Ariz., his son, Donald E. Thorin Jr., told The Hollywood Reporter. Thorin Jr. is a cinematographer as well, with credits including the TV shows AliasCold Case and Blue Bloods. 

On working on Purple Rain, Thorin Jr. said his father "loved doing that one. He really melded with Prince on the film."

Odie Henderson, in a piece for RogerEbert.com, watched the movie in 2014 on its 30th anniversary and wrote: "Until this viewing, I’d completely forgotten how well Purple Rain is shot. Cinematographer Donald Thorin … earned his paycheck on the musical numbers alone. The concert footage is awe-inspiring, both in shot composition and lighting, and somehow Thorin makes Prince’s goofiest dramatic moments look polished and glossy."

Thorin worked with director Albert Magnoli on that film and then again on American Anthem (1986) and Tango & Cash (1989).

Known for his meticulousness, Thorin received high marks for his first film as a director of photography, the Michael Mann action crime drama Thief (1981).

He went on to collaborate with director Taylor Hackford on An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Against All Odds (1984); with Michael Ritchie on The Golden Child (1986), Wildcats (1986) and The Couch Trip (1988); with Martin Brest on Midnight Run (1988) and Scent of a Woman (1992); with Herbert Ross on Undercover Blues (1993) and Boys on the Side (1995); with Hugh Wilson on The First Wives Club (1996) and Dudley Do-Right (1999); and with Steve Oedekerk on Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) and Nothing to Lose (1997).

Thorin's last two credits came on John Singleton's remake of Shaft (2000) and Head of State (2003), directed by Chris Rock.

Born and raised in Omaha, Neb., Thorin attended Creighton University and came to California in 1957. He landed a job at 20th Century Fox and eventually became a camera operator, contributing to such acclaimed films as Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), Bound for Glory (1976) and Annie Hall (1977).

Survivors also include his wife of 40 years, Dagmar; son Jeffrey Thorin, a cameraman on Dick Tracy, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and other films; and sister Sally. 

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