Cinematographer Walter Lassally, Oscar Winner for 'Zorba the Greek,' Dies at 90

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Walter Lassally

He also shot the 1964 best picture 'Tom Jones' for Tony Richardson and worked six times with James Ivory.

Walter Lassally, who won an Academy Award in 1965 for his black-and-white cinematography on Zorba the Greek, has died. He was 90.

Lassally died Monday following complications from surgery on the Greek island of Crete, hospital officials told the Associated Press.

Lassally also shot three films in a row for British director Tony Richardson, concluding with the Oscar best picture winner Tom Jones (1963), and worked six times with American helmer James Ivory.

Lassally also did six films for Greek director Michael Cacoyannis, including the lively Zorba the Greek. The movie, about a English writer (Alan Bates) whose life changes after he comes to Crete and meets an exuberant local (Anthony Quinn in a career-defining performance), was ravishingly shot on the largest Greek island.

After his wife died, Lassally retired to the village of Stavros on Crete in the 1990s and lived near the beach that served as the backdrop for the movie's final scene, which had Quinn and Bates dancing to the music of Zorba the Greek.

According to journalist Gregory Pappas, Lassally donated his Oscar to Christiana's Restaurant, not too far from that beach. The trophy remained on display there until a fire destroyed it in 2012.

Born in Berlin, Lassally and his family fled the Nazis and moved in 1939 to London, where he landed a job as a clapper boy at Riverside Studios.

He became a cameraman and met Cacoyannis at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, and they went on to collaborate on A Girl in Black (1956), A Matter of Dignity (1958), Our Last Spring (1960), Electra (1962) and The Day the Fish Came Out (1967).

Associated with the Free Cinema movement that sprang from the U.K. in the 1950s, Lassally shot several working-class documentaries for director Lindsay Anderson, then worked with Richardson on A Taste of Honey (1961) and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) before their partnership on Tom Jones.

For Ivory, Lassally shot the features Savages (1972), The Wild Party (1975), Autobiography of a Princess (1975), Heat and Dust (1983) and The Bostonians (1984) and the 1978 telefilm Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures. He also did The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991) for the Merchant-Ivory company.

Lassally appeared in front of the camera in Before Midnight (2013), the third film in the Richard Linklater trilogy, playing a British writer who welcomes Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) into his home in Greece.

He wrote a 1987 autobiography, Itinerant Cameraman.


 

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