American filmmaker Haskell Wexler passed away Sunday from natural causes, he was ninety-three years old. He is best known for his work as a cinematographer for the films Days of Heaven, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, American Graffiti and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? During his illustrious career in Hollywood which lasted until 2014, Wexler worked on over seventy films as a cinematographer and two feature films (Medium Cool and Latino). At the time of his death, he was working on the television production of To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine.
Born on February 6, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois; Haskell Wexler became interested in filmmaker after serving in the merchant marines during World War II. He got his start in making industrial films in his native Chicago before making his first documentary short film, The Living City in 1953. Wexler wouldn’t direct another film until 1965 when he made the civil right’s film The Bus which got him much acclaim. During this time, he was working as a cinematographer, creating innovative camera techniques and lighting which would pay off two years later with an Academy Award for the 1967 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Haskell Wexler would soon become a cinematographer in demand, working on such classic films as In the Heat of the Night, The Conversation, The Thomas Crown Affair, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and his second Academy Award for the 1976 film Bound for Glory. Over the years he would continue to divide his time with making documentaries, working on small budget productions or larger Hollywood films. Wexler would only direct two theatrical films, the cinéma vérité influenced Medium Cool which influenced a generation of young filmmakers and the 1985 war film Latino. For his work as one of the Top Ten Cinematographers in filmmaking (as voted by his peers in the Camera Guild) he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only one of six to hold the honor.
During the twilight of his career, Haskell Wexler continued to work as a cinematographer well into his late eighties and early nineties. He passed away in his sleep Sunday morning, leaving behind a legacy of not only being an innovative camera man but one as a social documentarian whose films about life in America will always stand the test of time. Haskell Wexler is survived by his wife Rita Taggert, sons Mark and Jeff Wexler and daughter Kathy Wexler.
For more information about the life of Haskell Wexler please visit these following sites Variety, IMDB, Wikipedia and PR Newswire.