Welles DP Gary Graver dies

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Gary Graver, a cinematographer who worked with Orson Welles in the final years of the late director's life and fought for decades to see Welles' final film finished and released, has died.

Graver died at his home in Rancho Mirage on Thursday, according to Jillian Kesner-Graver, his wife of 25 years. He was 68.

He was Welles' director of photography on the films "F Is for Fake," "Filming Othello," "It's All True," and "The Other Side of the Wind," a movie Welles left unfinished at his death in 1985 and which Graver unsuccessfully tried to bring to the screen until his own death.

"He was a maverick cameraman who could do anything," said Curtis Harrington, a director who made the 2002 film "Usher" with Graver. "He also was very close to Orson, who recognized his wonderful qualities as a human being."

When Welles died, he left only about 40 minutes of edited footage of "Wind," a film about a gifted director's artistic decline that he had worked on for 15 years. It starred fellow directors John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich.

Graver tried to raise the $3.5 million he thought was necessary to piece together the film from Welles' script and editing notes.

"That's not much money for the film that bookends 'Citizen Kane,' " Graver told the Los Angeles Times in 2004.

Graver recently had untangled the rights to the film and had been working on a deal with Showtime, according to Variety film critic Todd McCarthy, who was making a documentary with Graver.

Graver met Welles in 1970, when he called the director at the Beverly Hills Hotel and asked to work with him. Welles invited him to visit the same day and asked him to shoot early tests for "Wind," Kesner-Graver said.

"I called Orson because I knew we would have the same sense of humor and that we would get along," Graver told the Times. "I knew how to make a movie without much money, and he liked that."

The two men eventually would work on 15 projects together.

Graver also shot several low-budget movies for cult horror director Roger Corman and filmed the 1977 directorial debut of Ron Howard, "Grand Theft Auto."

Graver was born on July 20, 1938, in Portland, Ore. While in high school, he produced and starred in a weekly radio show and ran a 16mm movie theater in his basement. He also held stints as a magician, a circus clown and a still photographer. At 19 he moved to Hollywood and studied acting with Jeff Corey, Lee J. Cobb and Lucille Ball. He was trained as a cameraman by the U.S. Navy when he served in Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines during the early 1960s. When he returned, he began directing and photographing low-budget films.

In all, Graver worked on more than 300 films as a cinematographer, director, screenwriter, producer and actor in a career that ran from the early 1960s until June, when he photographed a short film in France, "Chance Encounter," that premiered at the Amiens International Film Festival in France on the night of his death.

In addition to Kesner-Graver, Graver is survived by two sons from previous marriages, Sean and Chris; his mother, Frances Bolen; and a brother, Jeff.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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