Philip H. Lathrop

Philip H. Lathrop, A.S.C. (October 22, 1912 April 12, 1995) was an American cinematographer[1] noted for his skills with wide screen technology and detailed approach to lighting and camera placement.[2] He spent most of his life in movie studios. Lathrop was known for such films as Touch of Evil (1958),[1] Lonely Are the Brave (1962), The Americanization of Emily (1964), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Point Blank (1967), Finian's Rainbow (1968), The Traveling Executioner (1970), Portnoy's Complaint (1972), Earthquake (1974), Swashbuckler (1976), The Driver (1978), Moment by Moment (1978), A Change of Seasons (1980), Foolin' Around (1980), Loving Couples (1980), and Deadly Friend (1986).

Philip H. Lathrop
Born(1912-10-22)October 22, 1912
DiedApril 12, 1995(1995-04-12) (aged 82)

He was a long-time member of the ASC Board of Directors, as well as co-chairman of the ASC Awards committee. He also participated in the affairs of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.[3]

Early life

Lathrop was born in Merced, California on October 22, 1912. As a child, the Universal Studios lot was his playground, where his mother was employed in the film lab. Lathrop became a member there in the camera department at 18-years old. There, he watched Gilbert Warrenton, ASC, photograph the first version of Show Boat in 1928-29. On the 1936 version of the film, Lathrop loaded cameras from John Mescall, ASC.[2]

Personal life

Lathrop had two marriages, to Molly Lathrop and Betty Jo Lathrop, and three sons, Larry, Bill and Clark.[3]


Lathrop began his career as a film loader in Universal’s camera department in 1934 for Russell Metty, ASC, on the Irving Reis film, All My Sons.[2]

In 1938, he became assistant to Universal’s top-ranking cinematographer Joseph A. Valentine, ASC, and worked on the Deanna Durbin pictures, The Wolf Man, and two Alfred Hitchcock classics, Saboteur and Shadow of a Doubt.[3] Later, he once again worked as a camera operator with Russell Metty for nine years where he shot the opening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, one of the most renowned boom shots in the history of cinema.[3]

Lathrop becomes director of photography at Universal in 1958. His first feature that year was The Perfect Furlough, which was shot in CinemaScope and Eastman Color, with director Blake Edwards who Lathrop also worked with on Experiment in Terror, Days of Wine and Roses, and The Pink Panther. In 1959, Lathrop and Edwards collaborated on the television series, Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky.[3]

Using the new Panavision lenses, Lathrop shot the 1962 black and white drama, Lonely Are the Brave, with director David Miller in New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains[3]—this is an early example of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Lathrop’s particular visual style seems to epitomize the times, such as in Point Blank, directed by John Boorman in 1967, where a glossy, dense feel was utilized to a tough thriller.[2] In this film, color charts were prepared for each scene—the colors were subdued and desaturated and no scene was ever too bright or showy. After Point Blank, Lathrop worked on Francis Ford Coppola’s Finian’s Rainbow, another unusual color film.[3]

He was inducted into the ASC Hall of Fame in 1974. During the 1980s, Lathrop worked on eight television movies-of-the-week as well as several mini-series,[3] winning him several Emmys.

He died of cancer on April 12, 1995 in Los Angeles, the same year he was honored with the 1992 ASC Lifetime Achievement Award. Services were held at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills where Stanley Cortez, ASC, delivered the eulogy.[3]

Photography in Earthquake

In the 1974 disaster film Earthquake, Lathrop made director Mark Robson’s vision of the motion picture come true. Robson wanted a natural look for the film, without it being documentary-like. But instead of shooting in natural locations, Earthquake was filmed almost entirely on the Universal Studios sound stages and back-lot due to the extraordinary degree of control deemed necessary to execute the required special effects. To bring the earthquake scenes to life, a shaker mount for the camera was created. Lathrop said it “created an amazing illusion. You’d swear that the ground was going up and down and moving sideways, when, of course, it wasn’t moving at all.” Sets were also built on shaker platforms, which is incredibly costly so “in the sets that were not on shaker platforms, [it] was [difficult] to get the actors to move as if they were responding to an earthquake, when there wasn’t one,” he added.[4]

A five-story section of what is supposed to be a 25-story building was made in Stage 12, the highest in the studio, where every floor was used to shoot the action. Lathrop shared that “it was necessary to dig down 20 feet into the floor of the stage in order to accommodate [the building model].” He continued, “[the] photography of this sequence was difficult because of the way [they] had to light the set” to avoid shadows from the hanging lights when the simulated earthquakes took place. So “in order to light it, [Lathrop] went clear up above the grids with four arcs pointed down to simulate the angle of the sun. [He] matched each of the arcs on the way down and didn’t overlap them, nor did [he] use any fill light at all.” [4]

To execute a film like Earthquake, natural sets would have been very limiting. Shooting on set allows for control in the lighting and to “do things with the camera that would have been impossible in a natural set,” said Lathrop. Without a single day off of work after Earthquake, Lathrop immediately began working on his next disaster film, Airport 1975, also for Universal.[4]

Academy Award nominations

• 1965 - Best Cinematography, Black-and-White - The Americanization of Emily
• 1975 - Best Cinematography - Earthquake


  • Primetime Emmy Awards

• 1984 – Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or a Special – Celebritynominated
• 1985 – Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or a Special – Malice in Wonderlandwon
• 1986 – Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Miniseries or a Special – Picking Up the Piecesnominated
• 1987 – Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Miniseries or a Special – Christmas Snowwon
• 1988 – Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Miniseries or a Special – Little Girl Lostnominated

  • American Society of Cinematographers

• 1988 – Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Miniseries or Specials – Christmas Snow - won
• 1989 – Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Pilots – Little Girl Lostwon
• 1992 – Lifetime Achievement Award – won

  • Society of Camera Operators

• 1999 – Historical Shot – Touch of Evilwon


Live Fast, Die Young (1958)
Girls on the Loose (1958)
• The Saga of Hemp Brown (1958) as Philip Lathrop
Wild Heritage (1958) as Philip Lathrop
The Perfect Furlough (1958) as Philip Lathrop
Money, Women and Guns (1958) as Philip Lathrop
Rawhide (TV Series: 9 episodes, 1958) as Philip Lathrop
The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1958) Director of Photography
Steve Canyon (TV Series: 11 episodes, 1959)
Cry Tough (1959)
Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (TV Series: 2 episodes, 1959) as Philip Lathrop
The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960)
Mr. Lucky (TV Series: 4 episodes, 1960; 21 episodes, 1959-1960) Director of Photography
Peter Gunn (TV Series: 61 episodes, 1958-1960) as Philip Lathrop
Hong Kong (TV Series: 24 episodes, 1960-1961) Director of Photography
Perry Mason (TV Series: 2 episodes, 1961) Director of Photography
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) co-cinematographer, uncredited
Experiment in Terror (1962) Director of Photography
Lonely Are the Brave (1962) Director of Photography
Combat! (TV Series: 1 episode, 1962) Director of Photography
Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Director of Photography
Dime with a Halo (1963)
Vacation Playhouse (TV Series: 1 episode, 1963) Director of Photography
Twilight of Honor (1963) Director of Photography
Soldier in the Rain (1963) Director of Photography
The Pink Panther (1963) Director of Photography
The Americanization of Emily (1964) as Philip Lathrop
36 Hours (1964)
Girl Happy (1965) Director of Photography
The Cincinnati Kid (1965) Director of Photography
Never Too Late (1965) as Philip Lathrop
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966) Director of Photography
The Happening (1967) Director of Photography
Don't Make Waves (1967)
Gunn (1967) Director of Photography
Point Blank (1967) Director of Photography
I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) Director of Photography
Finian’s Rainbow (1968) Director of Photography
The Illustrated Man (1969) Director of Photography
The Gypsy Moths (1969) as Philip Lathrop
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) Director of Photography
The Hawaiians (1970) Director of Photography
The Traveling Executioner (1970) Director of Photography
Rabbit, Run (1970)
Wild Rovers (1971) Director of Photography
Every Little Crook and Nanny (1972) as Philip Lathrop
Portnoy’s Complaint (1972) as Philip Lathrop
Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) as Philip Lathrop
The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973) as Philip Lathrop
The All-American Boy (1973)
Mame (1974) Director of Photography
Together Brothers (1974)
Airport 1975 (1974) Director of Photography
Earthquake (1974) Director of Photography
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975) as Philip Lathrop
Three for the Road (TV Series: 1 episode, 1975) Director of Photography
Hard Times (1975) Director of Photography
The Killer Elite (1975) Director of Photography
The Black Bird (1975)
What Now, Catherine Curtis? (TV Movie, 1976) as Philip Lathrop
Swashbuckler (1976) as Philip Lathrop
Airport '77 (1977) Director of Photography
The Feather and Father Gang (TV Series: 1 episode, 1977) as Philip Lathrop
Never Con a Killer (TV Movie, 1977)
Captain Courageous (TV Movie, 1977)
A Different Story (1978)
The Driver (1978) Director of Photography
Moment by Moment (1978) Director of Photography
The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979) Director of Photography
Little Miss Marker (1980)
Loving Couples (1980)
Foolin' Around (1980)
A Change of Seasons (1980) Director of Photography
All Night Long (1981) as Philip Lathrop
Class Reunion (1982) Director of Photography
Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982) Director of Photography
Celebrity (TV Mini-Series: 3 episodes, 1984) as Philip Lathrop
Malice in Wonderland (TV Movie, 1985)
Love on the Run (TV Movie, 1985)
Picking Up the Pieces (TV Movie, 1985)
Between the Darkness and the Dawn (TV Movie, 1985)
Mr. and Mrs. Ryan (TV Movie, 1986) as Philip Lathrop
Deadly Friend (1986)
Christmas Snow (TV Movie, 1986)
Six Against the Rock (TV Movie, 1987) as Philip Lathrop
Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall (Short, 1987)
Little Girl Lost (TV Movie, 1988)

Camera and Electrical Department

The Cat Creeps (1946) assistant camera – uncredited
All My Sons (1948) camera operator – uncredited
Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) camera operator – uncredited
You Gotta Stay Happy (1948) assistant camera – uncredited
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) assistant camera – uncredited
The Lady Gambles (1949) - camera operator – uncredited
Peggy (1950) - camera operator – as Philip Lathrop
The Desert Hawk (1950) - camera operator – uncredited
Wyoming Mail (1950) - camera operator – uncredited
Little Egypt (1951) - camera operator – uncredited
The Raging Tide (1951) - camera operator – uncredited
Flame of Araby (1951) - camera operator – uncredited
The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952) - camera operator
Scarlet Angel (1952) - camera operator – uncredited
Yankee Buccaneer (1952) - camera operator – uncredited
Against All Flags (1952) - camera operator – uncredited
Seminole (1953) - camera operator – uncredited
It Happens Every Thursday (1953) - camera operator
The Man from the Alamo (1953) - camera operator – uncredited
The Veils of Bagdad (1953) - camera operator
All That Heaven Allows (1955) - camera operator – uncredited
Man Afraid (1957) - camera operator
Touch of Evil (1958) - camera operator – uncredited
In Harm's Way (1965) - camera operator: second unit – as Philip Lathrop
Hammett (1982) – cinematographer: other photography – as Philip Lathrop

Miscellaneous Crew

Visions of Light (Documentary, 1992) member: ASC Education Committee – as Philip Lathrop


  1. "Philip H. Lathrop". The New York Times.
  2. Routledge, Chris. "Lathrop, Philip H." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, 4th ed., vol. 4: Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press, 2000, p. 508-509. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 17 Nov. 2016.
  3. Turner, George E. "American Cinematographer (1995) - In Memoriam: Philip H. Lathrop, ASC." American Cinematographer 76.6 (1995): 132. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
  4. Lathrop, Philip H. "THE PHOTOGRAPHY." American Cinematographer 55.11 (1974): 1300. USC Libraries. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
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