Oswald Morris

Oswald Norman Morris, OBE DFC AFC BSC (22 November 1915 – 17 March 2014) was a British cinematographer. Known to his colleagues by the nicknames "Os" or "Ossie",[1] Morris' career in cinematography spanned six decades.

Oswald Morris
Oswald Norman Morris

(1915-11-22)22 November 1915
Died17 March 2014(2014-03-17) (aged 98)
Dorset, England, United Kingdom
Years active1947–1982

Life and career

Morris was raised in Middlesex (now the London Borough of Hillingdon), and attended the Bishopshalt School. His interest in film began at an early age; during summer vacations, he would work as a projectionist at the local cinema. Dropping out in 1932, he started working in the film industry at Wembley Studios as an unpaid gofer for Michael Powell, among others, eventually graduating to the positions of clapper boy and camera assistant on quota quickies. By his 20s, Morris was a camera operator, first at Wembley, and later at Elstree.[2]

His career was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he served as a bomber pilot with the RAF, achieving the rank of flight lieutenant and winning both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Force Cross.

After his war service, Morris worked at Pinewood Studios as an assistant to such people as Ronald Neame and David Lean at their company Cineguild. He was the camera operator during the shooting of Lean's Oliver Twist (1948). He first acted as director of photography on Golden Salamander (1950). Neame referred to Morris as "probably the greatest cameraman in the world".[1]

Morris collaborated with film director John Huston on eight films, beginning with Moulin Rouge (1952), and also including Moby Dick (1956). Although his previous experience with Technicolor had been limited, for Moulin Rouge he devised many stylish effects - through the use of diffused and filtered light, fog, and bold color choices - for the film, and his innovations drew critical praise from the critics. For Moby Dick, Morris developed what David Peloquin has called a "retro-silvered pictorial" which "was designed to capture the look of nineteenth-century whaling prints with their muted colors and silver sheen".[3] Morris wrote in his autobiography that he and Huston wanted a "soft wash" effect "in which we would etch in the characters". To achieve this, in prints for the original release, colour was effectively printed over a black and white image using two negatives.[4] For the film of John Osborne's The Entertainer (1960), on which Morris was the cinematographer, his name was incorporated into the story in one scene where a radio transmission mentioned the fictional "Sergeant Ossie Morris".

He received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, for his work on the musicals Oliver! (1968), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Wiz (1978), and won the award for his work on Fiddler on the Roof. Morris' brother Reginald Herbert Morris was also a cinematographer based in Canada.

Morris was a Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society and was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1998. He published his memoirs, Huston, We Have a Problem: A Kaleidoscope of Filmmaking Memories (ISBN 978-0810857063), in 2006. In his later years, Morris participated in the film course at Bournemouth University.[2]

Morris was married twice. His first marriage to the former Connie Sharp produced three children, Gillian, Christine and Roger. The marriage lasted from 1939 until she died in 1963.[5] In 1966, Morris married Lee Turner a member of the continuity production staff on the Franco Zeffirelli film of The Taming of the Shrew (1967). This marriage lasted until she died in 2003. His survivors included his three children, 10 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.[2]

He was one of the interviewees in the book Conversations with Cinematographers by David A. Ellis, published by Scarecrow Press.


In June 2009, the recently completed central building of the National Film and Television School was officially named The Oswald Morris Building in his honour.

Additional credits

Awards and nominations

  • 1953 British Society of Cinematographers Golden Camera (Moulin Rouge, winner)
  • 1956 British Society of Cinematographers Golden Camera (Moby Dick, nominee)
  • 1965 BAFTA for Best British Cinematography, Black-and-White (The Pumpkin Eater, winner)
  • 1966 British Society of Cinematographers Golden Camera (The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, winner)
  • 1966 BAFTA for Best British Cinematography, Black-and-White (The Hill, winner)
  • 1967 British Society of Cinematographers Golden Camera (The Taming of the Shrew, winner)
  • 1967 BAFTA for Best British Cinematography, Black-and-White (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, winner)
  • 1969 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Oliver!, nominee)
  • 1971 British Society of Cinematographers Golden Camera (Fiddler on the Roof, winner)
  • 1972 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Fiddler on the Roof, winner)
  • 1972 BAFTA for Best Cinematography (Fiddler on the Roof, nominee)
  • 1974 BAFTA for Best Cinematography (Sleuth, nominee)
  • 1976 BAFTA for Best Cinematography (The Man Who Would Be King, nominee)
  • 1979 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (The Wiz, nominee)
  • 1999 American Society of Cinematographers International Award (winner)


  1. Sweet, Matthew (19 October 2003). "Ronald Neame (2003 interview at the National Film Theatre)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 18 August 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  2. Baxter, Brian (19 March 2014). "Oswald Morris obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  3. Peloquin, David (June 2017). "John Huston's 1956 Film Moby Dick: A 60th-Anniversary Appreciation". Leviathan. pp. 111–4.
  4. Morris, Oswald; Bull, Geoffrey (2006). Huston, We Have a Problem: A Kaleidoscope of Filmmaking Memories. Lanham, Maryland & Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press. pp. 83–4. ISBN 9780810857063.
  5. Hayward, Anthony (21 March 2014). "Oswald Morris: Cinematographer who developed a fruitful relationship with John Huston and worked on a host of classic films". The Independent. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
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