Albert Bettcher, Cameraman on 'Bye Bye Birdie,' 'The Graduate' and 'Batman,' Dies at 97

Courtesy of Nancy Hurley
Albert Bettcher

He stepped into Dustin Hoffman's flippers as Benjamin Braddock in one scene, a highlight of his long career in Hollywood.

Albert Bettcher, a cameraman who worked on The Graduate, Batman, Blade Runner and Three Stooges movies during a career that spanned nearly a half-century in Hollywood, has died. He was 97.

A recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Camera Operators in 1990, Bettcher died Dec. 21 at his home in Pasadena, his daughter Nancy Hurley announced.

On The Graduate (1967), Bettcher served as a hand-held cameraman for director Mike Nichols and cinematographer Robert Surtees and pulled off a particularly difficult scene — the one where the camera "acts" as Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) as he strides out of his parents' house in a wetsuit, diving mask and flippers, dives into a pool, swims underwater and resurfaces, only to be pushed back into the pool by his father.

Those are Bettcher's feet in the flippers, his daughter noted.

In a 1967 story for Action magazine, Surtees wrote that Bettcher had to rehearse for two days to get that sequence just right.

Bettcher also trained his lens on Kim Novak in Pal Joey (1957), Jeanne Eagels (1957) and Bell Book and Candle (1958), on Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margret in Bye Bye Birdie (1963), on Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket (1964), on Jessica Lange and a giant ape in King Kong (1976) and on William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981).

Bettcher shot 34 installments of ABC's Batman during its first season in 1966 and did the movie that was released later that summer. Earlier, he manned a camera on The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze (1963) and The Outlaws Is Coming (1965).

Born in Chicago, Bettcher served with the 168th Signal Photographic Company during World War II. In 1946, he filmed the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in the Philippines.

Back in the U.S., Bettcher started out in the still lab at Columbia Pictures, where he worked for seven years before breaking in as an assistant cameraman on Over-Exposed (1956). He assisted for nine years before advancing to operator.

Bettcher's film credits also included Pepe (1960), The Mechanic (1972), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Breathless (1983), Howard the Duck (1986) and My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988) and, for television, The Bill Cosby Show in the early 1970s and The Waltons.

His daughter noted that Bettcher continued to keep up with his profession after his retirement. He was working his way through the screeners that the Motion Picture Academy had just sent him and had seen Hamilton a few weeks ago.

Connie, his wife of 75 years, died last year.

Survivors also include a great-granddaughter, Aurelia.