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Waxman, Harry (1912-1984)


Main image of Waxman, Harry (1912-1984)

After starting his career at British International Pictures as a camera assistant, Harry Waxman learned his craft at a variety of studios during the 1930s, including Ealing, Welwyn and Worton Hall. He served with the RAF Film Unit during the war, photographing his first feature, Journey Together (d. John Boulting), for the unit in 1945. His uncredited work on the film led to a contract with Two Cities Films in 1946, and at Denham he later became closely involved with the Boulting brothers, as associate cameraman on Fame Is the Spur (1947) and then as cinematographer on Brighton Rock (1947). While much of the cinematography adopts the characteristic style of the 'spiv' film, with low-key lighting designed to accentuate the viciousness of the teenage psychopath Pinky (Richard Attenborough), it also features some impressive location footage shot in the streets of Brighton and at the race track.

While minor projects tended to come his way, Waxman did photograph some arresting films, notably The Sleeping Tiger (1954), the first British film of blacklisted director Joseph Losey. He was also responsible for the seedy Eastmancolor depiction of contemporary London Sapphire (d. Basil Dearden, 1959), an examination of racism centred on an investigation of a young black woman able to pass as white. An interesting contrast is established between the 'normal' everyday world, with its drab streets and shabby dwellings, with locations photographed in midwinter, and the 'other', secret world inhabited by the dead girl and uncovered during the investigation, represented most dramatically by the dark blues and oranges of the beat club.

During the 1960s and 1970s Waxman worked on several atmospheric horror films, including The Nanny (d. Seth Holt, 1965) and The Anniversary (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1967), both with chilling performances from Bette Davis, and Robin Hardy's cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), in which policeman Edward Woodward gets more than he bargained for while investigating a disappearance on a Hebridean island. Waxman's considerable experience also landed him second unit jobs on major productions such as Khartoum (d. Dearden, 1966) and A Bridge Too Far (d. Richard Attenborough, 1977). Unfortunately, like many others in the industry, he was hit badly by the slump during the 1970s and reduced to mediocre assignments such as TV spin-offs and sex comedies.

Duncan Petrie

This entry is taken from Duncan Petrie's The British Cinematographer (BFI, 1996). Used by permission.

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Thumbnail image of Brighton Rock (1947)Brighton Rock (1947)

Graham Greene thriller with Richard Attenborough as a vicious gangster

Thumbnail image of Day the Earth Caught Fire, The (1961)Day the Earth Caught Fire, The (1961)

Nuclear tests send the Earth hurtling towards the Sun in this SF thriller

Thumbnail image of Nanny, The (1965)Nanny, The (1965)

Hammer chiller which suggests that nanny doesn't always know best

Thumbnail image of Nor The Moon By Night (1958)Nor The Moon By Night (1958)

Africa-set drama about two brothers and a troublesome girlfriend

Thumbnail image of Sapphire (1959)Sapphire (1959)

The murder of a black girl in London reveals widespread racial tension

Thumbnail image of Sleeping Tiger, The (1954)Sleeping Tiger, The (1954)

Joseph Losey's British debut stars Dirk Bogarde as a young criminal

Thumbnail image of Trottie True (1948)Trottie True (1948)

Lavish, Technicolor romance with Jean Kent as a rising music-hall star

Thumbnail image of Wicker Man, The (1973)Wicker Man, The (1973)

Cult favourite about the pagan inhabitants of a remote Scottish island.

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